Do you set yourself goals, either in your personal life or in your business?
It's not something I've even really thought about, to be honest, but this year it's come much more sharply into focus through my membership of the Content Marketing Academy (CMA).
In June I attended the CMA conference in Edinburgh, and at the end of it we were encouraged to fill out an accountability form. Six months later, Chris Marr posted them out to us so we could see what goals we set ourselves and, more to the point, whether we achieved them! There's mine in the picture!
I also wrote a blog afterwards, Working as a freelance editor – the next five years, where I set out three goals for the year. The year end is always a good time to think about how things have worked out and how we'd like the next year to be. But how many of us actually write anything down?
We're not a year down the line yet, so this is my six-month review. I think the end of a calendar year is as good a place as any to reflect and plan.
For CMA members, those orange envelopes dropping though our letterboxes have been a prompt for retrospectives, reviews and generally assessing how we've been doing.
Writing my goals down definitely galvanised me into action, along with being a member of the CMA and having an accountability group to (in the nicest possible way) make sure I get on with it!
Overall I think I've done fairly well with goal number 1 – I've published 27 blog posts in six months, which is almost exactly one a week. They have been well received, and there's been a noticeable increase in traffic to my website. This is blog number 28!
With goal number 2, I think I'm more engaged with my communities – both editorial and business. I'm using social media regularly, particularly Twitter, to talk to colleagues and potential clients, and I've also set up a Facebook page for my business. Being in two accountability groups has also really helped me to think further ahead and, dare I say it, think more strategically about my work, rather than being reactive.
Goal number 3 is a work in progress. I'm definitely clearer on the type of work I enjoy and what I'm not so keen on, and in 2017 I plan to shift the balance more in favour of work that gives me pleasure and pays better. Who wouldn't want to do that?
Overall, not too bad I'd say. There's definitely room for improvement, and over the Christmas and New Year break I'll take some time to plan for 2017 (in between Christmas films and chocolate oranges, of course!)
I'm now off to do the final preparations for Christmas AND my son's Christmas Eve birthday. I hope you enjoy the festive season, however you choose to celebrate it, and that 2017 brings you health and happiness.
How has 2016 been for you? Has it gone to plan? Do you have bigger plans for 2017? What's the one thing you'd like to change in your work next year? Let me know in the comments!
The Apprentice: Proofreading isn't just about the words
It's happened again.
For the second time in this series, BBC's The Apprentice has provided me with the perfect example of how a proofreader can save your brand from embarrassment.
A few weeks ago, episode 5 saw one of the teams get the spelling of their product name wrong (see my post The Apprentice: Spotting the spelling error in your marketing copy), but in this week's episode, 'Gin', the problem wasn't with the words.
Well, not entirely.
Dubious wording, wrong image
Team Titan, (yes, the same team that made the spelling error in episode 5) had social media in an uproar when they chose the name Colony Gin for their product, with people pointing out the inappropriate link to colonialism and slavery.
That's something that should never have made it past a brainstorming session, never mind onto the label of a bottle of gin.
But the problem that caught my eye this week was the map on the label.
Why don't these things get checked? Because in The Apprentice speed is of the essence and the teams are under huge pressure to come up with the goods to brutal deadlines. So mistakes get made.
(And, of course, in this particular case, Frances was working with the designer (poor designer – who'd want to work on The Apprentice, with their bonkers ideas?) and couldn't get hold of Trishna and Grainne, who were 'testing' the gin. Nineteen missed calls suggests a bit too much testing went on!)
So, once again, we see the result of facts not being double checked. Frances had total – misplaced – confidence in her mastery of geography ('I got an A star', she announced), and didn't think to look it up, just to be sure.
Look beyond the words. Double check everything.
Proofreaders and editors deal with so much more than words. We also look at any images you use to check they are appropriate and relate to what is said in the text.
If the text on your company website refers to your offices in Seattle, is the accompanying image really the Space Needle, or has someone used a picture of the CN Tower in Toronto by mistake?
In a recent project I worked on, the art brief asked for a full-face picture of a fox, and the picture researcher had supplied a full-face picture of a wolf. A requested image of a traffic jam in Dubai was actually of Beijing. When hundreds of images are in the brief, it's inevitable that mistakes will happen.
But sometimes the issue isn't with the words or the text, but with the layout. A proofreader can be the first person after the designer to see how everything sits together. They can spot problems with captioning and positioning which won't have been obvious when the page was being written.
But for everyone's sake, not to mention your bottom line, it's vital to pick up these errors at an early stage, when it's still easy to make changes.
Not when your website is live, or your labels are on the bottles, or your books on the shelves.
If you don't have the time, or lack the confidence to check your copy, consider getting professional help to look over your writing before it goes live.
Proofreaders have a good grasp of general knowledge and will query anything that looks suspect. We will either do a quick fact check ourselves, if it's a straightforward issue that can be clarified online, or we'll flag it for you to check. For example, if the figures in a table don't match the accompanying discussion in the text we will ask you to confirm what the correct numbers are.
If you need some ideas for how to proofread your own writing, look up my blog post How to proofread your own writing: Ten tips to clean up your writing for tricks you may not have considered.
And please, the next time you're using images, charts or tables in your copy, make sure that they are proofread properly too. Your readers will thank you for it!
Do you have any stories about mistakes with pictures or captions that were wrong or inappropriate? What happened and how was it corrected? Why not let me know in the comments?
OK, it's the first week in December and you're surrounded by smug, organised people who've had all their presents bought and wrapped for weeks.
Every year I harbour this idea that I'm going to be super-organised and have everything bought, if not wrapped, by the end of November.
Not once have I managed this. Not. Once.
I often turn to lists of ideas in the hope of finding inspiration. So, in order to spare you the horror of a last-minute desperation dash around the shops, here are some literary suggestions for the budding writer or book lover in your life. And you don't even need to leave the comfort of your chair (or the mince pie that's keeping you company) if you want to avoid the crowds!
For aspiring writers
On Writing, by Stephen King
The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century, by Stephen Pinker
Troublesome Words, by Bill Bryson
What shall I read?
When you struggle to find something to read, it helps when someone has thoughtfully written a book giving you plenty of suggestions!
The Novel Cure: An A-Z of Literary Remedies, by Ella Berthoud
For foodies (and cocktail lovers) who read ...
A perfect size for a stocking filler or an easy-to-post gift for someone far away, these books are also a great stand-by for those moments when you need a gift unexpectedly!
Scone with the Wind: Cakes and Bakes with a Literary Twist, by Miss Victoria Sponge
Tequila Mockingbird (Rough Cut), by Tim Federle
Send me a letter ...
I just love peeking into someone else's life, and nothing allows you to do that quite like the letters they write.
Letters of Note: Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience
I hope you found something useful here that appeals to your bookworm! Do you have other suggestions for interesting last-minute book gifts? Let me know in the comments.
In the interests of being open and honest, this page contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you purchase through them. I only ever feature books that I have read and would recommend myself.