Thursday, 12 April 2018 15:11

Building an editing business

Written by Claire Bacon

businessThe more editors I meet, the more I realise that many of us fall into the profession by ‘accident’. I certainly did not set out to become an editor – my background is in neuroscience and human genetics and I thought I would wind up being a professor with my own research lab.

But three years after leaving research, I am the proud owner of an editing business that is doing pretty well and I love my work. Changing career path can be pretty daunting. Sometimes it helps to hear what people in the same boat have to say. In this article, I share what I have learned in the last three years.

Finding work

Starting out as a freelancer, the big question on my mind was: where will I find work? As a native English speaker working in a German lab, I had been editing papers for my colleagues for years so already had a handful of clients. But I didn’t have enough work lined up to pay the bills.

To ensure a reliable source of income, I joined an editing agency. They sent me regular assignments and although the editing rates were not great, I was gaining valuable experience, earning some money, and was free from the pressures of self-marketing. 

However, I realised that the client can learn a lot more from the editing process when he/she has direct contact with the editor. So after a while, I decided to take the leap, quit agency work, and invest time in building up my own business: Bacon Editing.

Online presence and content marketing

Most people search the Internet for products and services, so I created a website for Bacon Editing. At the SENSE Professional Development Day last September, Theresa Truax-Gischler talked about how to build your content marketing strategy around a hub-and-spokes model.

The spokes (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) can all be used to drive traffic to the hub (your business website). I began to use my Facebook and LinkedIn accounts to share content and promote my business.

To enhance my marketing efforts, I started to write a blog. A good blog needs a defined niche and target audience. I edit pre-submission research papers for ESL scientists and clinicians and was coming across the same issues again and again with my clients’ writing. I decided that my blog posts would tackle these common problems.

Writing a blog has promoted my business. Sharing my articles on social media drives people to my website and connects me with other editors. It also gives me a reason to touch base with my existing clients; each month, I email them my blog articles and usually get a job or two in return.

Training and mentoring

Nobody is too talented to learn more. I have the necessary scientific expertise to understand my clients’ work but I was no grammar expert when I started editing.

To strengthen my profile as a language editor, I took an online editing course. Professional training is not essential for freelance editing, but most experienced editors strongly recommend it. The editing course was a good choice for me; it gave me the knowledge I needed to explain and justify my corrections to clients and motivated me to continue with more advanced courses.

One of the best ways to learn how to build a successful editing business is to talk to people who already have a successful editing business. Curtis Barrett took time out of his busy schedule at the SENSE Jubilee conference in 2015 to explain how he made a success of English Editing Solutions in just a few years.

One valuable piece of advice was to have confidence in your abilities as an editor and not compromise on your rates. Curtis encouraged me to quit agency work and go after clients who are willing to pay the fees I deserve, which was definitely a push in the right direction.

If you are very lucky, you will connect with someone who is prepared to invest considerable time in your success. I met Ragini Werner (owner of NEEDSer and former eSense editor) at the SENSE Jubilee conference and she has gone above and beyond to help me become a better editor and writer.

Ragini checked through several of my completed edits, encouraged me to write for eSense, gave feedback on my website, and provided invaluable support when I set up my blog. She also trusted me enough to leave her clients in my hands while she recovered from knee surgery earlier this year.

This mentor-mentee relationship has boosted my professional development and I am extremely thankful to have Ragini on hand to offer advice. That’s what networking can do for you.

It’s all about networking

We all know that networking is one of the best ways to find clients. That’s why we join societies, go to conferences, and participate in online forums. Sally Hill talked in depth about the hidden value of your personal network at the Professional Development Day last year.

‘Prepare a few choice phrases about who you are and what you do,’ Sally told me over lunch, ‘then you will be able to give a good answer when people ask about your work in social situations’.

This was excellent advice, particularly because I have most of these conversations in German (my second language). After Sally’s talk, I decided to explore my personal network a little more.

At the playground, I started to talk to other mums about my work instead of just teething problems and tantrums. I live in Heidelberg, one of the top research cities in Germany, and it occurred to me that some of the mothers building sandcastles and wiping snotty noses could be research scientists on maternity leave, or know people who work in research.

Sure enough, I gained two regular clients from chatting to mums. I also exploited my husband’s connections as a maxillofacial surgeon to get work (now he always attends conferences with a pile of my business cards). As Sally promised, capitalizing on my personal network was a great way to generate business.

A local professional network – people you can meet with face-to-face to discuss work-related issues – is also important, particularly if you work from home. I met some fellow language professionals at a networking event run by the Heidelberg International Professional Women’s Forum, and initiated an informal language meet-up.

Our small group now includes editors, translators, interpreters, and teachers and we meet up regularly for informal work-related discussions and to share our services.

The road to success

Starting a business from scratch may seem daunting at first. Hopefully, some of the tips outlined in this article will help you make the jump from beginner to successful entrepreneur.


Claire BaconClaire Bacon is an editor and writer for the SENSE blog and a research scientist turned editor who runs a business called Bacon Editing.

Friday, 19 May 2017 21:43

GUEST BLOG – Not English, not Dutch, but a language apart

Written by Rogier Willems


Marianne Orchard muses on the pernickety niggles of being coherent when speaking Dutch or English... or both at once 


There’s a wok restaurant with an all-you-can-eat buffet in the next village. The kids love it. It has sushi alongside stuffed eggs alongside huzarensalade alongside loempia’s alongside chicken nuggets alongside babi pangang alongside chips alongside soesjes alongside chocolate fondue alongside lychees alongside ice cream. It’s a Chinese restaurant that caters to Dutch tastes. It’s safe exotic without being too apart, as my mother-in-law would call it. So it’s a Dutch version of Chinese, which means that, in contrast to British Chinese, babi pangang is a standard part of the buffet. The main thing is that there is no meat-and-two-veggery and not a boerenkool in sight.

And I think this is a good light in which to see the version of English that often crops up in the Netherlands, which we native speakers like to laugh at, because it isn’t the English we speak.

Marianne Orchard sm workshop2

Marianne Orchard (2nd left) schmoozing with fellow SENSE members at a recent Social Media workshop. Besides writing the odd entry for her blog, Like A Sponge, Marianne runs  her business Orchard Text (translation/editing/copywriting) from her home in Leiden  
Exotic but not too apart

You know the kind of things; Albert Heijn’s now discontinued Euro Shopper line is a classic at them – ‘Puff pastry with meat filling’ for saucijzenbroodjes, when sausage rolls would be what the British native speaker would say; ‘Short cake biscuits’ for spritsen, when the British native speaker would say Viennese swirls (and the Austrian in turn would probably say something else); and ‘rusks’ for beschuit.

And there’s the insistence, HEMA is a particular offender, in using the term ‘Old Dutch’ when it doesn’t have any significance to native English speakers because we don’t know – and if we do know it’s a sign we’ve been living here too long – that it’s a literal translation of Oud Hollands and for a Dutch person invokes nostalgic images of when life was simpler, when we were less druk, when we wore newspaper trousers and clogs, and when we counted our blessings.

But these products aren’t aimed at the native speaker of English, so it’s none of our business whether it means anything to us because that’s not the point. It’s just like the Chinese restaurant isn’t aimed at Chinese people. It’s about giving a feeling of something being exotic but exotic within reason, exotic that we can understand.

It’s within these kaders that we should attempt to understand that old Dutch Eurovision entry, ‘Birds’ by Anouk. The whole time I was thinking ‘huh, I don’t get why she’s singing about birds falling from the roofs’, even if I disregarded the niggle that surely they can’t fall down the rooftops but should be falling from the rooftops. They could fall down the roofs but not down the rooftops, but that wouldn’t scan in the song.

Anouk birdThis was just a pernickety niggle compared with the bigger one of what’s going on with all those birds?  My husband solved that conundrum by saying in one of those voices that imply that what he is saying is obvious, ‘It’s a saying: vogels vallen dood van het dak. You say it if it’s really hot. Then it’s so hot that the vogels vallen dood van het dak.’

However, now I’ve looked up the lyrics to the song it still doesn’t make much sense to me. But maybe there are whole layers of meaning that a native speaker of Dutch would understand just as they would understand why you need stuffed eggs and huzarensalade with your sushi.

Exploding rookworst

wurst01We had rookworst recently. It wasn’t just any rookworst but an ambachtelijke rookworst. As an ambacht is a trade or craft, it would have been a pleasant surprise if Sir Ambachtelijke Rookworst of the Poiesz had been wearing a codpiece and carrying a gourd in true tradesperson fashion (in my anachronistic view of medieval fashion).

But let’s step away from talk of sausages and codpieces before it all degenerates into something unseemly and instead turn our attention to the word ambachtelijk. As I said already, ambachtelijk comes from ambacht, as in trade or craft. So it has the same meaning as the English artisan, as in an artisan bakery. However, it has reached a point in its evolution where if it is being used about rookworst sold in a supermarket we can be sure it doesn’t hold much meaning but is being used instead to convey an emotion.

Ambachtelijk can therefore signify a product that has been handmade by a skilled tradesperson. But it can equally signify one that has been carefully developed in an industrial process to resemble a product that has been made by hand by a skilled tradesperson. Or it can signify any old crap that the marketing department thinks will sell better with its addition.

Our ambachtelijke rookworst ended up looking less than ambachtelijk after it exploded in the pan because I forgot to prick it. Which is symbolic of the word ambachtelijk because it has become so full of meaning that it has exploded and now means nothing.

Words don’t come easy

kettle of fish 1 thumbI thought this post could do with some musical accompaniment from the 1980s. So here it is: Words by F.R. David. And, how apt, words not coming easily is the focus of this post. Because they don’t. Come easily. Words, that is. In conversation anyway. Writing is a different kettle of fish because it gives me time to think and revise and think and revise and leave things to stew for a bit. With conversations, though, I find that if I’m speaking English, Dutch words (and the occasional German word, but this is very rare) will jump in and try to clothe my thoughts – a bad metaphor perhaps because it makes it sound as if my thoughts are obscene when they’re probably not obscene enough.

It’s the same if I’m speaking Dutch, but this time it’s the English (and occasional German) words that are doing the decent thing. What I’ve concluded is that when I speak Dutch I’m pretending to be someone who speaks only Dutch and when I’m speaking English I’m pretending to be someone who speaks only English when really I’m someone who speaks both languages and needs both of them to come out with anything coherent.

So if we look at the process, a thought forms and it wants to be clothed in some words. Like in that sinister Amazon warehouse in the UK where the workers are treated like robots, the order arrives and the message goes out to the workers that some words need to be picked.

The system and drones in my brain, however, are a lot crapper than the Amazon system. So the order comes in and the workers scurry off without bothering to check whether the product needs to be in Dutch, English or, on rare occasions, German. They scramble and come up with anything in either language that looks like it might just do, often producing a word that doesn’t match the original request anyway. And this is OK if I’m talking to someone like me who functions in both languages, because I can then say things like, ‘Yeah it was the avondvierdaagse last week and it wasn’t too vreselijk and was actually quite gezellig but we’ve got a verjaardag this weekend and that’s going to be really doomy and all oh lekker kopje koffie-ish…’

Marianne OrchardSo we actually have our own language, which is neither Dutch nor English but both. And it’s a lot easier to speak than Dutch or English separately. I don’t know how polyglots do it.◄

Source: eSense 42 | 2016


Marianne Orchard lived for years in Appelscha on the edge of Nationaal Park Drents-Friese Wold, one of the biggest nature reserves in the Netherlands. Not so long ago she swapped rural village life for the wild westen delights of Leiden. These days she is zodanig ingeburgd that she takes her own potatoes along with her on family camping holidays yet she hasn't altogether given up her English roots. She still can’t drink tea without a wolkje melk
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