Author: Janice

My Top Five Criteria for the Perfect Job

Have you ever made a big decision, (and I mean BIG – house move, car purchase, ditching a job – the kind of thing you don’t decide on a whim) and within a short time after signing on the dotted line, you realised it was a mistake?

I have.

I’ve made two Big Decisions in the past 3 years:


The first was deciding to leave “a good job” and work for myself instead

My time in the big City, commuting daily to where I could earn big bucks, began to pall after a few years; the gloss wore off. The free lunches and the after work Prosecco and canapés became commonplace, I began to prefer getting away by 5pm to be able to chill out at home, and not have to worry that one Prosecco too many might cause me to miss the last train home!

It dawned on me that I was spending the equivalent of two full working days every week, just travelling to and from the office. I noticed that I barely had time at the weekend to stock up the fridge, change the beds, and spend an hour with my grandchildren before I flopped into bed on Sunday night, only to do it all over again the next day!

OK, the salary and the holiday that my annual bonus paid for were nice, but it’s true that you live to your means, and I was just spending the money because it was there. But what was also slipping through my fingers was my TIME! Suddenly, I began to hear the word RETIREMENT and realised I was reaching a certain age and yet I felt I hadn’t done anything with my life.

So I considered my options, inspired by the phrase, “Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life” and back in 2015, I resigned to launch my own copy-editing business – because picking apart bad grammar is fun and entertainment to me, not a job at all!




If this sounds like total geekery to you (ok yes, I admit I’m a grammar geek), hop over here to consider why proofreading is essential in every aspect of our daily lives.


The second was deciding to go back to “a proper job”

Two years on, I’m still loving it, but I have struggled to do all the necessary to ensure a steady flow of work comes my way. I know I’m good at what I do, but marketing and self-promotion don’t come naturally to me. I didn’t want to admit defeat so I kept my ears open for a little part time job that would keep me ticking over, while allowing me time to do high quality work for the clients I had found.

I found the perfect part-time job: three hours each evening, walking distance from home, and a salary just beneath the Income Tax threshold.


But that wasn’t my Big Mistake

Just as I was approaching the end of my probationary period, a big fat, juicy carrot was dangled in front of me: a role not dissimilar to the one I had left back in the City, a similar salary but just 3 days a week, about 20 miles from home by car. This time, I forgot to use my checklist that I usually applied when considering a new job: three out of these five criteria had to exist:

  1. attractive salary
  2. easy travel
  3. a job I knew I could do
  4. nice people to work with
  5. ideally with a French connection (as I love anything language-related)

I took the plunge and resigned for the second time in two years, and found myself in a job-share PA role in financial services.

A month into the job and I was hating the journey – along an arterial road at rush hour, morning and night. The job itself proved challenging – all new equipment and programmes and software, but all a bit much for me, an admitted technophobe.

Together with that, an absent boss who needed a mindreader to organise him. My colleagues were nice, but why spend two thirds of my life with complete strangers? And of course, no French connection.


Ironically, while I was facing bumper to bumper traffic en route to the office, more proofreading work was piling up in my Inbox at home! I think I’d reached that stage where the efforts I had put into building a good reputation were beginning to pay off, and people were recommending me.

I had stopped at the shiny, glittery, attractive salary and ignored the other important things that for me, constituted “a good job”. I had put aside all the planning and thinking that had first brought me to the decision to go freelance – and was on the verge of throwing away all my efforts of the past four years!

I reminded myself that money isn’t everything, and taking a wrong turn to go after THAT had been my big mistake.


I’ve always admired Steve Jobs, the man who refused to listen to the naysayers, and look at the huge success that is Apple today. Here are a couple of quotes that resonate with me:

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only

way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” Steve Jobs

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” Steve Jobs


The big lesson I’ve learned is not to take my eyes off the prize. It was always to find TIME, not wealth. I have grandchildren I adore, amazing friends and family to spend precious time with, a loving and attentive husband (who never moans about dinner being late!) Plus, I still have my job for life, my freelance proofreading – my Perfect Job!


So I’m sharing this little tale with you in the hope that it will encourage some to keep focussed on what REALLY matters in life… and surely, for most of us, it’s the simplest of things: time for friends and family.

Must go now, I have to write another resignation letter…

I resigned from the 9-5 and then changed my mind!

When I first started thinking about setting up a freelance business, I signed up on a course to learn all the ins and outs of being self employed, finding my own clients and making money.

I had met the course tutor, found her to be very charismatic and clearly successful in her own business, and after attending a weekend taster course, I was ready to invest in myself. Parting with over £1000 for a 12 week distance learning course was a risk I was prepared to take, and I felt able to commit to it. Hadn’t I only recently completed a two-year degree course? Done the homework and submitted a lengthy dissertation?

It should have been easy. I connected with others on the course and made friends in the Facebook support group. I started on Module 1.

The first part was simple: it involved visualising and writing down how I saw my future, where I would love to be if money were no object. This was what the course would enable me to achieve.

But I found I had a huge handicap.

Body art – love it or loathe it?

Does it matter what your body language says?

The type of art that uses the body as a canvas to express someone’s feelings about something important in life. Some use it just to adorn themselves, like a permanent necklace or a bracelet. I’m not talking about piercings here, but tattoos, which are by no means a new fad – people have been applying permanent etchings to their skin for thousands of years.

In the past ten or twenty years though, this has become almost a fashion, like the mini skirt of the sixties or the ruffles and bows of the New Romantics in the eighties. But this is a fashion that you can’t discard: you can only embellish, add to or remove painfully.


Tattoos for cosmetic purposes

Maybe tattoos are a Marmite thing – love them or hate them. Opinions are definitely divided, and while some regard them as beautiful works of art, others see them as a

Love networking, hate mornings?

I love networking! It gets me out from behind my computer and I meet people – some are old friends, some will become familiar faces the more I network.

Until now, I have veered towards free or cheap networking groups in Essex, for obvious reasons. But after a while I began to realise that the lack of commitment to these regular meetings was not helpful in keeping me structured in my proofreading business. Then a Virtual Assistant friend, Stella, recommended to me 4Networking, which is membership only. She told me that since she had joined 4N four months before, her whole life and business had turned around after nearly two years of hard slog.


Your invitation

So let me get straight to the point: I have signed up! Yes, I have had to invest in myself, but if as a direct result of being in this group, I manage to sell just two of my new 2017 packages, I will have re-couped my annual fee with change to spare!

How a proofreader saves you embarrassment!

A proofreader’s skill goes further than just being good at spelling, deeper than knowing when he should or shouldn’t use an apostrophe. At WordPerfect, we never stop at proofreading alone – copy-editing is an essential component of perfecting each and every document.

From Christmas presents to packages!

It’s been a busy year, and I’m making big changes for 2017!

Clients often ask “How much does it cost to proofread my article?” and it’s hard to give them an instant answer. It’s like asking “How long is a piece of string???”

Well, to make it easier for all of us, I have found a way to make it clear just how much my proofreading and copy-editing service is likely to cost you from the moment we meet.

In 2016, I have been charging by the number of words I can edit in one hour – and that may vary from client to client, depending on the type of project, and how tricky or how good the writing is.


In 2017, I will be offering PACKAGES!

new year pine cropped 2That’s right, instead of having to get the calculator out, I will be able to say straight away, “This package will cost you this much.”

No ifs or buts, the package will detail everything you can expect from my service, including an agreed completion date.

However, I am not introducing packages until 2017, so for now you have the opportunity to take advantage of my 2016 rates, which will be specifically per word, per hour.


Pick up the phone and talk to me today to see if I can fit your work in before my 2017 price review. I’ll ensure no embarrassing typos slip through your marketing, no grammar-fails that mean expensive re-prints, and no dreadful ambiguities to leave you red-faced this year!

6 DIY tips for proofreading your own blog

Ok, it’s not going to be War & Peace – you just want to get your blog out there! No reason why you shouldn’t proofread your own work before it goes live.  But a word or two of advice:

How to spot invisible typos

You’ve read it and re-read it, you left it a day or so to see it with a fresh eye, you even got your partner to proofread it. And before that, you were responding to the red and green wiggly lines screaming at you from beneath your typing. But, you wonder, does it really matter?

So you publish it. It’s your latest blog or a new page on your website. Or it’s a novel that you’ve finally, FINALLY, managed to send to a publishing house.

And then the shame!

Why web designers need proofreaders

When did you last search the shelf for that dusty encyclopaedia or reference book?

And when it comes to shopping, do you still browse a glossy, but heavy catalogue for your winter wardrobe or this year’s Christmas presents?


Unlikely. When we want to find out about something, we go straight to the web, via our smart phone (which these days is more or less attached to us!) or via our computer at home. It’s all there at our fingertips – and it’s instant!

But it took someone’s skill, effort and time to put it there and make it so easily accessible:

I am talking about you: the web designer!

Yours sincerely! The challenges of a freelance editor

Thoughts from a punctuation pedant.

It’s now over a year since I went fully freelance as a proofreader / copy-editor, and I have learned so much in that time – things I would never have learned purely from research and planning: my EXPERIENCE of how I cope (or don’t cope!) without the structures I used to have imposed on me from schooldays, and later in working for big businesses.

It’s also been revealing to discover WHAT MY CLIENTS NEED FROM ME in my new guise as a freelance member of the grammar police!

On the plus side, I’m really enjoying:

  • waking up naturally without an alarm – bliss!
  • the freedom to switch my plans from Monday to “Anyday” if I’m called upon for “Nanny duties”Hammock
  • getting a seat on the train because it’s after rush hour when I travel into London for business or pleasure!
  • being able to work remotely (in a hammock even!)
  • and most of all – the work I’m doing because it’s fun! It’s what I love and do best!

But there is a cost for these:

  • sitting at my desk in my dressing gown makes me lazy … I’m still there past lunchtime without having had any exercise = yes, I’m gaining weight!
  • if I had assigned myself two days to complete a job, but I then prioritise family, my clients may not get their work done within the promised timeframe = stress for me!
  • I no longer have a season ticket for travel into London, whether for business or pleasure = I need to think about the cost if I want to go to business events
  • although I love the work I’m doing, I can unwittingly spend hours longer over the course of a day than I would have done at the 9 – 5, where the working hours are defined = family life can suffer


Hence, some reflection on the past year, and some commitments to self:

I no longer stay in my PJs: I “get ready for work” during the weekdays, so that my mind is in focus and I am prepared for whatever may happen – it might be a Skype call so I’d rather have my professional face on!

Now the summer has reached us at long last, I am going to fulfill a promise I made to myself, to go for a lunchtime walk every day, to keep supple and burn off some of those pounds!

Nanny-duties have to wait till the afternoons or the end of the week (unless it’s an emergency) and I stick to my task schedule as far as I can.

When social occasions or meet-ups with ex-colleagues are planned, I have to think carefully if I can combine the trip with a networking event or a trade show that is likely to benefit my business, and then I can legitimately add my fares to my business travel expenses.

About the business – putting things right

One of the misconceptions about what I do is that people think proofreading is the same as copy editing, and copy-editing is the same as copy-writing.

Uh-uh! Not the same at all!

Proofreading is the very least that needs to be done to a piece of writing – it needs to be checked for correct spelling and punctuation, and for correct basic grammar.

But to be true to myself, I can’t do JUST that!

I would be extremely unhappy to just return a book manuscript to an author having done no more than run it through a spell-check in Microsoft Word. In fact, probably the writer has already done that himself if he has taken notice of the red and green squiggly lines underneath his work.

There are even tools that point out where you have tapped the spacebar twice instead of once, or where you have written U.S.A. and then later USA, or where you have spelt a character’s name Michelle and then Michele, all tremendously useful.

But I do have to wear my copy-editor’s hat on top of the proofreader’s hat, as I will spot things that are not necessarily WRONG, but with a little tweaking, just make the writing NICER, or GENTLER ON THE EAR, or more RELEVANT.

Without intruding too far into the writer’s own words, I consider it the very least I should do to bring a draft to a more professional level, and this might include listening to the style or tone of the writing and ensuring it is consistent, and quite likely a little restructuring will be necessary to achieve that.



Some have made enquiries of me for copywriting. Now I don’t mean to say I can’t write, but copywriting means WRITING, not EDITING, (although that will be a skill a good copywriter has), and at the moment, I prefer to focus on perfecting content that’s already written.

While I have the technical skill to ensure someone’s writing is grammatically correct, I am not offering to write the CONTENT itself. Every topic has its experts – whether the subject is fishing, needlecraft, travel, baby-care, tropical plants, stand-up comedy, photography – I might have a little experience in some of those areas, but not enough to write the copy for an article or a publication.

Copywriters often have to be resourceful and do a fair amount of research into a topic they are unfamiliar with – so it might be worth writing your content yourself since you have the insider knowledge, and then having it checked over by a proofreader for the grammar side.

abc squareAsk me to write about being female, or about my last holiday, or about working for a corporate organisation and I will write reams and reams – in fact I’d have a lot of trouble trying to stay within the prescribed word count!

So, no, I have to make it clear that I am the one with the metaphorical red pen, who will cross out your mistakes and try to teach you how to get it right next time, so that maybe

YOU WILL NEED TO PAY ME FOR LESS TIME on the next manuscript I copy-edit for you!


So here’s what I’d like to know from you:

  • do you write newsletters or a blog?
  • if not, why not? not enough time? worried about your spelling and grammar?
  • would you read a newsletter with simple tips and tricks for getting punctuation right every time?
  • would you consider having a blog “ghost-written” for you?

Let me know in the “comments” below!


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