Athletes do this all the time: train in one sport to increase skill in their primary sport. Weight lifting is pretty common cross-training. What can editors train in to boost their muscle mass and stamina, editorially speaking?
For the mid-career or senior editor, cross-training can offer some of the best opportunities for professional development.
Where to cross-train
What could you learn from another medium? Look into spoken words such as film, radio, speeches.
Learn about another genre or task. Fiction or non-fiction, instruction manuals and lesson plans, academic journals, screenplays. Or how about indexing or design? Looking at your work from a new point of view nearly always leads to insight. You can start here.
Look into other professions that have similar business models. Lawyers often work for themselves. What could you learn about the way they find clients, bill for their time, or continue to learn within their profession?
Examine business models that are completely different. I gained tremendous insight by learning how franchises work. Fast food franchises, no less.
Build knowledge within your subject-area expertise. You’ve probably already picked up a lot from the manuscripts you work on; delve a little deeper or more broadly into the subject, to gain understanding of your clients and their readers.
How to cross-train
Read a guide. Start with one related to the area in which you want to cross-train. Pick up Engineering for Dummies, for example, if you edit a lot of engineers' work.
Take a course. Your local college might have an extension course in a subject area of interest if you’re not up for a full-credit workload. Or you could sign up for one of the many free MOOCs online. Those are “massively open online courses” and they’re free, via some pretty renowned educational institutions like MIT and OISE on platforms such as Coursera.org. You can choose to dedicate yourself to the course work or dip in and out as much as time and desire allows.
Attend a conference. This has the added bonus of connecting you with more potential clients as well as learning about the subject and community, if you go to your clients’ event. Conferences related to editing can let you dip your toe into a new subject, skill, or product before putting more effort into that new area.
Hire a tutor. Just someone with skill who can teach you. Find such a person in an online forum, within your network, or at a conference. Set a goal, a time limit, and a fee, then see where it takes you.
Write about it. Interview experts and read resources so you can write a piece for your professional association’s newsletter, your blog, trade publicaiton, or other venue.
Read the other posts in this series, listed here.