Bio: Louise Harnby is a UK-based professional proofreader with 21 years’ experience in the publishing industry. Freelance since 2006, she is also a mother, a wife, and a Labrador owner.
Web address: http://www.louiseharnbyproofreading.weebly.com
I became a freelance proofreader in 2006 when my daughter was two years old. I’d worked ‘in-house’ for a couple of publishing companies for 13 years prior to giving birth. Holding my tiny child in my arms, I realized that the concept of working ‘in-house’ was going to take on an entirely different meaning if I was going to earn some money and bring up my daughter in the way that I wanted to. Two years on, I was officially a work-at-home mother (WAHM).
One of the things that riles me most is when people ask me if I work now that my little girl is eight years old – as if I’m not working when I’m not proofreading!
Proofreading is never going to make me rich but it’s financially more lucrative than the other work I do on a daily basis: feeding the dog; feeding the child; feeding myself; driving said child to school; walking the dog; washing last night’s dishes; vacuuming all the previous day’s dog hair; proofreading; loading up the washing machine; more proofreading; hanging out the washing; back to proofreading; collecting the child from school; feeding the child; feeding the dog; updating my website and blog, as well as my LinkedIn and Facebook status, all usually while watching TV; feeding myself with the food that my husband has prepared (yes, he’s a gem). That’s my day in a nutshell.
I’ve chosen to focus on publisher clients and my publishing experience and training have allowed me to generate a core group of clients from whom I am regularly commissioned to proofread. This means I don’t have to spend a great deal of my day on marketing myself. In the beginning I sent out a lot of prospective letters; these days, new clients usually come through recommendations from current publisher clients or via the advertising I do in the freelance directory of the UK-based Society for Editors and Proofreaders’ (SfEP). The social networking I do is mainly about information sharing with other editors and proofreaders from all over the world. I’m happy to do this in the evening so that my proofreading work isn’t interrupted during the day.
Of course, when my daughter is on vacation, all the proofreading work has to be done in the evenings, too, but that’s the thing I love about being a WAHM – the flexibility is wondrous. I couldn’t conceive of going back into a structured office environment. I get to do a job I love without missing out on the school nativity play, the summer vacation trips to the beach, and my smiling girl’s arms around me after she’s walked out of the classroom at the end of the day. I didn’t miss out on her first words, her first steps, her first day at school, or her first (and last, actually) ballet lesson. And I get paid to read books.
It takes time, commitment, patience, and flexibility to build up a successful freelance business, but it takes all of the same things to be a parent, so perhaps it makes perfect sense to marry the two!