7 January, 2016
For professional editors, climbing to the top of the field and staying there is challenging. You need to be consistently good at your job so that your clients will come back to you again and again, and will refer others to you. But many editors are working in isolation, so have no one to share problems with and to learn from. The skills required are diverse, including marketing, networking and administration as well as editing techniques. And the discipline itself is always changing. So how can professional editors find time to learn and keep up with developments without losing focus on the job itself?
There is no better solution than to attend your local editorial conference. Conferences take place all around the world. The advantage of attending one is that it gives you the chance to:
And conferences are fun too! Here’s a full explanation of what they offer.
Networking is the most obvious purpose of conferences. It’s a chance to meet some of the people who might want to use your services (or to discover first hand who might be a useful addition to your outsourcing team).
Conferences are also a chance to meet others who work in the same field as you. Other editors are more like your colleagues than your rivals. They’re the people who will understand better than anyone else what it is that you do, and who will be able to share experiences, ideas and advice. It’s a chance to develop personal connections and build a network that you can call on for assistance and support, or maybe to subcontract work.
Conferences include workshops, seminars and talks to enhance your skills. If you are new to the industry you can start to develop advanced skills; if you are looking to diversify, this is your chance to find out whether academic editing, fiction editing (or working on websites, cooking books, television scripts, or other different areas) is going to be for you. It’s a concentrated burst of new, interesting and exciting information to enhance your professional development.
Do you have a wordsmith hero? Perhaps Carol Fisher Saller, David Crystal, John McIntyre, Geoff Pullum, or Katherine Barber? These are the kinds of people who are brought in as guest speakers. Conferences are your chance to see and learn from them in person.
Many editors are new to running their own business and have no formal training in financial management or marketing (among other things). But these are vital skills that any small business needs to be effective. Training in these areas often does not come cheap, but at a conference, sessions in these specialist areas are usually included in the price. Even small improvements in business efficiency can make the entire conference worthwhile.
Conferences also address other aspects of running a business such as ergonomic work practices and maintaining a good work–life balance. All editors are in business of some sort or another – whether working for themselves or someone else – and conference planners try to make sure that all aspects of the business, including the well-being of the worker, are catered for.
The publishing industry is changing. More and more publishers are adopting electronic workflows to make their production systems more efficient, and conferences are a chance to find out about the latest developments in more detail. If you’re representing a company, conferences help you find out how your systems can be improved. If you’re a freelancer, conferences improve your knowledge of systems in place so that you can easily adapt and fit in with your clients’ needs.
Every year there are software developments created for the publishing industry. Keeping on top of these will make you more in demand and employable, and will increase your efficiency too. Conferences give you the opportunity to improve your skills on industry standard software, such as Word or InDesign. Moreover, you might also learn about some of the great secret weapons in the editor’s arsenal, such as PerfectIt.
Among all of this work and serious business talk there is also fun to be had. There’s nothing like spending a few days with people who share your passion for words. Sometimes there are sessions on different topics such as book-binding or paper-folding. And there will be at least one social event, such as a gala dinner, if you enjoy that sort of thing. But even if you don’t, conferences are often held in cities that have much to offer visitors. There will always be an opportunity, either formal or informal, to be a tourist and see some local attractions.
The outlay for a two- or three-day conference is not inconsiderable. However, you can’t talk about the cost of a conference without considering the benefit. Attendance is an investment in your business. It’s a tax-deductible expense, which helps you increase revenue and cut costs. Conferences help you attract more, better-paying clients, and bring increased visibility and efficiency to your business. Every year hundreds of editors attend conferences because it is a sound business investment with a financial benefit that outweighs the cost.
Editorial conferences are everywhere. A few of the best-known ones include:
And if you’ve already visited your local conference, here’s one final thought: publishing is now a global marketplace. If you think you have seen all there is to see at your local conference, why not consider looking further afield? You might find just the thing you need to give your business a boost.