With a love of reading and an aptitude for spelling and grammar, I completed a course in proofreading in the mid-90s while working in Manchester’s professional darkrooms as a photo printer. I quickly won a flow of work from a local typesetter, working on titles from John Murray, Cambridge University Press and Sweet & Maxwell among others.
In the late 90s there was this flash-in-the-pan piece of tech called “the interweb” hovering around, so I thought of an unregrettable name for my business and set up a fledgling website. I added editing and copywriting to my list of services, and did some English-language editing for some translator friends. Jumping on the internet bandwagon turned out to be a great move, as I started getting found and employed by publishers, designers and web developers.
The next few years was spent building up the business, and I started working regularly in Manchester’s creative sector. JD Williams has multiple businesses in the city, and I found myself writing hundreds pieces of direct mail and catalogue copy. I also formed a relationship with a publisher of English educational books in Switzerland, and for a few years I’d be jetting off to Neuchâtel every couple of months to work on their titles.
Around 2004/5, I worked on the Shipman Inquiry, which took a team of three proofreaders over a year to check (mainly thanks to the inquiry constantly growing, and numerous rewrites). The Inquiry administration was so impressed with the team that we were re-assembled for a separate inquiry a few years later.
Another project I took on was writing my own proofreading course. The course I had done back in the day was OK, but was quite expensive, and didn’t really teach me how to proofread – it was really just a series of exercises. My course was online, and for about £30 you could pick up the skills needed to elevate you from an enthusiastic reader with an eye for detail into a work-ready proofreader. I sold more than a thousand courses, and ran an accompanying forum where I met great proofreaders like Kate and Louise.
I also started ghostwriting in the mid-noughties, and have since written five full-length books that now sit on shops’ bookshelves and not under the letter H. (Ghostwriting full-length books is quite an involved and time-consuming task, so I’ve scaled back this service until I can devote more time to it – or until someone comes along with a very good offer. I’m still open to ghosting shorter work, however.)
I continued to work freelance full-time until 2013, when one of my clients, a digital marketing agency, offered me an in-house role. I took it on, and quickly got used to agency life: working with teams, and focusing on the work, not the admin and self-promotion. Working in a digital marketing agency, taught me lots about marketing and SEO, which has proved invaluable since.
In 2018 I returned to freelancing with a renewed vigour. I scrapped the old name and built a new website, and started reaching out to old and new clients to win work. And that’s where I am now.