In October, the Editorial Freelancers Association’s Boston chapter hosted a roundtable discussion of editors’ favorite tips, tricks, and tools. Attendees left the meeting with pockets stuffed with new tools and tasks to try to make our workdays a little easier.
Try out one or more of the following tools discussed at the meeting.
Most copyeditors work in Word, thinking that it’s the only option. While in many cases that may be true, there certainly are exceptions, and we heard about two during the meeting.
Warniers is comfortable with the design program and makes it work for his clients. He assigns styles to the copy and highlights text to show his edits. When he’s done, he creates a PDF for his clients to review. Clients can then mark up the PDF without altering the original file.
I don’t know that most copyeditors would like working in InDesign, but we might not blanche as much at editing in Google Docs, which one magazine editor does. The magazine’s copy must be approved by several people; using Word would mean either one person can review copy at a time or someone else has to merge all those comments—comments made in ignorance of other comments.
Google Docs allows several users to view and comment on the document at once. There is the opportunity for quicker back and forth to settle issues, getting the approval process done faster. Then the editor simply applies the final decisions to the copy.
Time Management Tools
Time management is a huge concern for freelancers, who need to deliver edits on time (or early!) and don’t have a supervisor to help them stay on task. It starts with planning your time.
My own system is fairly simple: I use ToDoist to track all my projects. The free version is straightforward and has a companion mobile app. The paid versions allow you to add more team members to a project, set up reminders, upload files, and more. I add major deadlines and meetings to my work Google calendar, which is integrated with my family’s Google calendars.
The next step, of course, is actually tracking your time. Karen Wise told us about Toggl, time-tracking software for individuals and teams. With the desktop or mobile app, you can track your time. Go to your account on the website and download timesheets and reports. The reports are available with some cool graphics.
As cool as the graphics are, though, I prefer FreshBooks for time tracking because it has accounting features built in. I can send branded invoices and expense reports from the software, as well as download reports that allow clients to pay via credit card using PaylPal, Stripe, and other payment gateways.
Heather Saunders encouraged us to get serious about time management by using a chronodex to plot out how we spend our time and then track how well we did. For Saunders, the goal is to maintain a healthy work-life balance, so she includes items that freelancers tend to neglect, such as fun and relaxing, sleep, and exercise. The color coding allows her to see immediately how well balanced her day is. If you’re not up to drawing your own, there are lots of free templates online.
By now, every editor has a collection of links to favorite resources, and some of the big ones, like The Chicago Manual of Style Online, were mentioned during the meeting. Worth noting were the sites for viewing scanned pages in published books, allowing copyeditors to fact-check quotes:
- Google Books. Google gives users access to scanned books whose copyrights have expired or whose publishers have granted permission. You can now view some magazine content as well by using Advanced Book Search.
- Amazon. Users can preview pages in many of the books sold by Amazon, making it a fair resource for checking quotes.
- WorldCat. When you don’t know which edition of a book you need, check WorldCat. You’ll find different editions, plus links to preview the text, buy the text (such as to Amazon, where you could get a preview), or borrow the text from a library.
Tools are changing all the time, and no one could possibly use them all. Choose tools that work for you, and don’t be afraid to change them up once in a while.