Four years ago today, I applied to join the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. And in just a few weeks, I will no longer be a member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. No, I’m not abandoning my editing career or flouncing from the society in a huff. The SfEP has been granted chartership, so on 1 March it will become the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (I just had to look that up AGAIN. I promise I will remember the new name properly by March). Woop! Party poppers all round!
So to celebrate my SfEPiversary, and the end of the SfEP as we know it, I’m taking a look back over what membership of this society has meant to me over the last four years.
Doing things properly
Joining the SfEP was one of the very first things I did when I decided to become an editor. Like, really, one of the very first things: I quit my old job at Christmas, and one month later I had joined. I stumbled across the existence of the SfEP during one of my epic googling sessions as I tried to figure out how the hell I was supposed to change my whole career in my mid thirties. The truth was, I’d wanted to be an editor for a long time, ever since my sister asked me to look over her friend’s book “to check the spelling and stuff” (said friend is now a successful author and regular client, so I must have done something right). But I didn’t know how to achieve that dream. Part of my inertia had been because I’m the kind of person who likes to do things properly. I could have just got myself a website and called myself an editor and started taking bookings, as many people do, but that’s not me. The thought of making it up as I went along filled me with terror. I wanted to do things right. Of course, I’ve since learned that there is no one right path to building a business, and there has to be a certain amount of making it up as you go along, but at the time I needed some kind of framework. The SfEP, with its reassuringly professional acronym, its standards and its training courses and its reputation, was just what I was looking for.
But joining the SfEP doesn’t make you an editor. I might have had experience of “checking spelling and stuff”, but that wasn’t enough. I needed to learn some shit. So I started with some of the SfEP courses – they were short, online so I could complete them at my own pace, and relatively inexpensive compared to some others out there. I invested in Proofreading 1 and Copyediting 1, both of which solidified for me that I wanted to be an editor. I was quite surprised to discover through these courses that proofreading wasn’t for me – I like to get my hands a bit dirtier, editorially speaking. The courses showed me I had some skills already, but hoo boy did they show me how much I had to learn, too.
As well as providing that initial training to get wannabe editors started, the SfEP also provides its members with a framework for continuing professional development. There are courses designed to develop your skills and help you learn new ones, professional development days, local CPD events, and of course, the annual conference. (I love conference. Have I ever mentioned how much I love conference?) The SfEP encourages its members to keep learning and progressing. This is reflected in its system of membership grades, from Entry level to Advanced Professional. One of the proudest moments of my editing career, maybe my entire career, maybe my actual life, was last spring, when I found out that after amassing hours of experience, gathering references, completing training, and passing the editorial test, I’d been awarded Advanced Professional status. Well, I was proud for about half an hour (there was shrieking). Then I checked the date, realised it was April Fool’s Day and spent the next few hours convinced this was some kind of evil joke.
Through the SfEP, I’ve also reconnected with some of the skills that had been lying dormant somewhere in my brain for a long time. I rediscovered my public speaking skills to lead sessions at conferences. I dusted off my event organising skills to plan the north east mini conference. I’m currently channelling the me who used to love writing up procedures to help out with revamping some SfEP guidelines. And, most importantly, my pop trivia skills have been brought of out retirement to smash the first-lines round of the SfEP conference quiz two years in a row.
But the absolute bestest, most wonderfullest thing about the SfEP is the community. I know, I’ve banged on about it before. And I’ll never stop, ever. From the moment I first posted on the SfEP forums, everyone there made me feel nothing but welcome. Established editors gave me their time, advice and support for free, and without those people I’d be nowhere. If there’s one thing about the move to chartership that’s a slight shame, it’s that “institute” doesn’t feel quite as homey as “society”. Because that’s what the SfEP has been for me – a place to call home, with people who make it feel that way. But I’m sure that as we move forward into this new chapter, that sense of community won’t change, because all those awesome, generous, kind, talented people will still be there, for me and for all the lost, frightened newbie editors who find their way to the CIEP.
Thank you, SfEP, for everything.