by Lesley-Anne Longo
Published at 2018-03-01
Recently at TEC, I celebrated something of a milestone – my 100th invoice to the company! Maybe it doesn’t seem like that much of a big deal, only 100 invoices, but I invoice every two weeks, so (with vacations and other things) that’s over 200 weeks spent here at TEC. In fact, my four-year anniversary with TEC is coming up in a month.
I started at TEC on April 1, 2014. When I first started, I was hired on to work five hours a week to maintain TEC’s social media accounts and help out with any other proofing projects that happened to pop up. Pretty much right away, my hours doubled to 10 hours a week, since there were projects available that I could help out with. Over time, my duties expanded to include more marketing work, more social media management, more copy editing, and just more work overall! My hours went from 5, to 10, to 15, until I arrived at my current position of 28 hours per week.
Having my hours grow so much over the years I’ve spent here has been great because, over time, it’s allowed me to improve and refine skills I had when I got here, enhance skills I hadn’t worked with as much, and learn completely new skills to expand my abilities even more. I’ve worked with layout and graphic design elements both in a marketing context and an editorial context, I’ve learned ebook technologies and development, and I’ve practised new marketing techniques to grow our audience. The variety of projects we work on here at TEC allows me to always keep my editing skill set updated, fresh, and relevant. I’ve even had the opportunity to work on fun projects such as redesigning our office layout and creating mock-ups for TEC’s new website revamp (look for this fresh update in the coming months).
The way I’ve been able to build my role here at the company has been to just say “yes” as often as possible. When an existing client of TEC mentioned that they lost the person they used to lay out their online journal in InDesign, I mentioned I knew how to work with InDesign and volunteered for the job. When Beth wanted to place an ad in an industry publication, I volunteered to try to create one in Photoshop. When Beth gave me the opportunity to learn how to create and work with ebook technology and programming, I jumped at the chance. When a client needed her dissertation fully laid out for publishing, I said I could do it. In the earlier instances, maybe I wasn’t an expert in InDesign or Photoshop, but I knew how to work with the program, had experience with it, and the projects I was accepting weren’t too complicated. I trusted in my skills and knew that if any issues came up, there were many resources I could consult with to figure out the problem.
While sometimes this process was unnerving, if you never push the limits of what you know you can do, you’ll never grow – as an editor and as a person. Everyone has to start somewhere, and for me, the best way to advance my skills and my usefulness here at TEC was to try new things, new projects, and to challenge myself in what I could do. I found that when I struggled with an unfamiliar problem, it helped me learn more for the next time. So, whether that was trying to figure out why my InDesign footnotes were going all wonky, how to best work with layers in Photoshop, or even what that symbol for a new paragraph is in hard copy editing (it’s a pilcrow, by the way), I thought about it, figured it out, and knew more for the next time around. Gaining new skills by stretching my limits is how I built my position from five hours a week to what it is now.
As a bonus, editing as an industry is always changing, whether it’s keeping up with technological advancements, adapting to new forms of publishing, or even figuring out what exactly changed in the newest edition of the Chicago Manual of Style. Keeping up with these changes, adapting to them, and learning from them is a great way to ensure you stay relevant as an editor. The more you know, the more you can offer your clients.
So, from 1 invoice to 100, it’s been quite a journey of learning and testing new things out. But building my position this way has enabled me to take on projects I would not have otherwise been able to work with, and every time my skill set increases, I’m able to look at something else to try out. If you are a freelance editor, you can do this too – all editors can (in fact, this applies to all professions). In Canada, Editors Canada offers seminars, webinars, and lots of learning opportunities to keep your editorial skills on point, and most industries will have a similar organization that offers opportunities for advancement. See what yours has to offer, and you can thank me later.