Career Focus - The World of Writing

Proofreader - Shena Deuchars

Shena Deuchars is a professional Proofreader and Copy Editor. Shena fits her work around her life as a single Mum who home educates her two children.


The Interview

Name - Shena Deuchars

Location - Swindon, Wilts

Family - A girl (14y) and a boy (11.5y)

How did you become an Proofreader/Copy Editor?

I wanted a job I could do from home and part-time after my son was born. I was working as a trainer for an IT company at the time and I moved sideways into the production side, editing and proofreading the course materials. After a while I decided that I wanted the additional flexibility of working for myself and I went freelance. Initially, in 1996, I took on freelance projects alongside my part-time employment. Once I knew I could make a living from copy-editing, I resigned from the IT company.

Did you have formal training?

The IT company sent me on the introductory courses run by the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP, and also paid for me to take Basic Editing by Distance Learning by the Publishing Training Centre (PTC,

There are lots of courses for training advertised - are they all genuine - is it easy to tell those that are?

No, they are not. Professional editors and proofreaders regularly gnash their teeth at adverts which say "If you can spot the fvie glarring erors in this advert, you can ear money just for reeding!". The SfEP recommends only its own courses and those run by PTC.

How are you employed? Do you work as a freelance Proofreader?

I am self-employed and work, mostly for publishers such as Wiley, Hodder and Pearson Education, as a freelance.

If you are freelance - how do you find the jobs?

The SfEP has three categories of membership: Associate, Ordinary and Advanced. The progression through these levels is by supplying references and evidence of training, experience and competence. Ordinary and Advanced members may advertise in the annual SfEP Directory of members' services, which is also available on the web. Publishers and other users of editorial services (such as private companies or public bodies who produce handbooks, reports, publicity material, etc.) search the Directory when they need to find a freelance.

How many hours do you work a week?

I work only about 20 hours because I am a a single parent and am also home-educating my children. I regularly turn down work and have no doubt that I could work a full 40 hours if I wanted to.

Do you work from home?

Yes. Almost all my work arrives electronically and I return most of it that way as well.

How does the job fit round your family?

I work mostly in the evenings and weekends and other times when my children do not require input.

What exactly does the role encompass?

For editing, a publisher sends me the files for a manuscript that they have received from an author. I then go through the files correcting various types of error (spelling, grammatical, factual) and ensuring that the files are in an appropriate state for the typesetter to be able to turn them into a printed book (headings clearly marked, images in the correct places and correctly referenced, bibliographical entries correct and complete).

Do you work in a specialist area?

Yes, mostly IT. I work on school texts (GCSE and A-Level), academic works, "how to" books, programming manuals and books for IT professionals. I also work on CD-ROMs for e-learning. However, I have also recently worked on legal documents, business-to-business newsletters, a newsletter for early years practitioners, and a bid for an engineering project.

Is the work interesting?

Mostly! The sixth ICT GCSE book in 2 years can become rather boring, but I often learn things I didn't know before.

What is the earning potential?

The SfEP website gives recommended minima for rates of pay of £17.50 per hour for proofreading and £20.50 per hour for on-screen copy-editing. I normally achieve in excess of this (around £25 per hour), however newcomers to the job often find it difficult to achieve those rates.

Do you enjoy the job?


What is the best bit of business advice you have been given?

Always quote a rate for the job, rather than an hourly rate. As I work accurately, efficiently and quickly, I achieve a better rate of pay per hour than I would if I was billing only for the hours I do.

Do you have any words of wisdom for Mums (or Dads!) who would like to become Proofreaders or Copy Editors?

If you spot errors while reading newspapers and books, then you may have an aptitude for the work. However, you also need to be methodical and have a good attention span. Increasingly, good IT skills are also important. One of the SfEP's one-day Introduction courses will give you some instruction and feedback on your ability, as well as introducing you to other people who are also starting out.

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