A week in the life of an editor

A week in the life of a non-fiction editor

What does an editor actually do?

Ever wondered what editors actually do every day? I know that I love to take a peek behind the scenes of other people’s lives – I’m always curious to know how they structure their week and what their days look like.
For me, no two weeks are the same, and my schedule is pretty flexible, but this week was busy and fun so I thought you might like to have a look at what I got up to. Let’s take a peek at how it went for this editor!


9.15 a.m. I’ve got a busy week, with some days when I won’t be able to do any client work. So, after the school run, I get my head down on a book I’m proofreading for a large educational publisher. I’m using stamps of the BSI proof-correction marks to mark up the PDF, which I don’t get a chance to do too often, and I enjoy the change from the Adobe comment tools.
3.30 p.m. I work with Pam Laird, owner of Fin & Co hair salon in Carnoustie, who writes great blog posts to help people understand their hair. Today I proof-edit a new blog post and resolve some comments from the previous two I had done. We work in Google Documents, which is an easy way of collaborating on straightforward text documents like this.
4.30 p.m. I do some admin tasks: among other things I reply to an email enquiry about my availability for an upcoming project, chase a client for a purchase order number for a report I edited and issue a couple of invoices.
7.30 p.m. Social media also claims some of my time, as I reply to comments and shares of my last blog post about an editorial conference I attended on Friday.
A productive start to the week, and I feel on top of most things!


9.15 a.m. More work on the education book – I’m making good progress through it, as it’s a pretty straightforward  text with some references, and there are no illustrations, tables or displayed elements to check.
A conference call about a different project is rescheduled, clashing with a Skype call I had arranged with another client. Fortunately she is understanding and able to reschedule for tomorrow.
11 a.m. My accountability group has its fortnightly call today, but as one member is currently lounging about in Portugal and another has a medical appointment, we decide to cancel it. We’re in regular contact through Slack, anyway, so everyone’s happy to leave it until next time.
1.30 p.m. I take part in a conference call about an ongoing project. We resolve some technical issues around uploading content to the CMS (I have nothing to contribute here as there is a lot of technical chat!) and then discuss the workflow processes and how they could be streamlined. There are also some decisions to be reached with the editorial director about the content, including some additions to the evolving style guide.
3.30 p.m. I resolve some more blog post queries from Pam and chat on two Slack communities I’m part of – one editorial and one marketing.
7.30 p.m. I pop out for an interview for a volunteering role at the upcoming TEDxGlasgow. It’s always oversubscribed with volunteers, so it’s a bit of a lottery whether I’ll be one of the lucky ones – keep your fingers crossed for me!


9.15 a.m. Today I won’t get too much client work done as I’m going out to lunch. First up I have my rescheduled Skype call – this company is rebranding and wants my help to improve their web content and make it consistent. It sounds like an interesting project and I agree to get back to them with a quote once I’ve reviewed the existing content.
9.45 a.m. I make a start on another project, proof-editing letters of reference for students who have completed a blended learning course I’ve worked on – it’s interesting to see how they’ve benefited from materials I’ve been involved with!
12.30 p.m. Next up, lunch with the Glasgow group of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP). We meet monthly for peer support, chat and cake, but today is a social event as we have a special guest joining us. Laura Poole, an expert editor and trainer from North Carolina, was one of the headline speakers at our Scottish mini-conference last week, and we have invited her to join this month’s meeting and see some of Glasgow before she heads home tomorrow.​
Twelve of us meet at the Ubiquitous Chip, a well-loved Glasgow institution, for a lovely lunch with lots of entertaining editor chat. Next up is a walk around Glasgow University and a quick visit to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, but I have to miss out on this because of school pick-up (boo!).
It was great to welcome our international visitor and to meet up with my editor friends. The Glasgow group is a really important part of my working life – being around other editors helps me to remember that I’m not alone and there is support, advice and friendship out there for freelance editors (and of course our in-house colleagues are valued group members too!). I look up to many of the members who have been editors much longer than me and have so much experience and advice that they are willing to share.
4 p.m. Back home to work through some more of the letters of reference and spend a bit of time on social media, reading other editors’ blogs and some articles that people have shared.


9.30 a.m. After making sure that my son gets to school in good time for his Higher English exam, my morning starts with two video calls with the Content Marketing Academy (CMA). First up is a weekly round-up call, where Chris Marr, director and founder of the CMA, chats about news, developments and wins in the membership community this week. A lot of the conversation is about CMALive, the annual conference that is now only a few weeks away. I keep my video off for this one and listen in while I clean my kitchen!
10 a.m. I’m done with cleaning in time for the next call, which is for CMA members who are taking part in a 90-day challenge, so I make some tea and switch my video on for this one. We’re into week 10 and the last stretch of the challenge, which will finish just before CMALive. My challenge is to be consistent in producing useful content – one blog post a week – and make sure it is relevant, helpful and optimised for SEO and sharing.
10.30 a.m. I finish up the letters of reference and send them back to the client, who is very happy with them. There were 25 in this batch, and there are 250 altogether, so I’m glad to have made a dent in them – only 225 to go!
2 p.m. I watch part of a private webinar for CMA members. Kevin Anderson of The Story Edge talks to us about using case studies in our business. It’s really interesting, but I have to leave halfway through to do that pesky school pick-up. Fortunately it’s being recorded, so I can watch the replay later.
8.30 p.m. Remember what I said about having a flexible schedule? Another regular client is Caroline McKenna of Social Good HQ, who does fantastic work to support, guide and educate people working in charities and social enterprises. She gets in touch today to ask if I can do a proof-edit of a blog post with a quick turnaround – she’d like it done for tomorrow. I’m always happy to help Caroline, and I would normally do it first thing in the morning, but as I’ll be out all day tomorrow I sit down for an hour in the evening and get it back to her. She’s really happy with it, even though I chopped out the entire first paragraph!


5.15 a.m. What fresh hell is this? I’m not a morning person at all, but today I make a special effort. I’m interested in being a trainer for the SfEP, so I’m going to observe my colleague Lucy Metzger teach the Introduction to Proofreadingcourse in Edinburgh. I’m just about awake enough to tweet from the taxi on the way to Queen Street. Look at the time!

Introduction to Proofreading is aimed at people who are interested in proofreading as a career and want to learn more about it and those who do some proofreading as part of their job but have had no formal training.
The course is held at the Edinburgh Training and Conference Venue, an easy walk from the station; we arrive in good time for breakfast and set up.
8.30 a.m. Before the course starts I write my biography and session summary for the SfEP annual conference in September, where I’m running a session on setting up and making the most of an accountability group.
9.15 a.m. There are eight participants on the course, all with different backgrounds and levels of experience, and the day goes well with lots of interaction, questions and chat about proofreading as a career. Lucy and I take the opportunity to promote being a member of the SfEP as a great move when starting out. Joining was one of the first things I did when I changed career and moved into editorial work, and I still say it was one of the smartest things I did!
4.45 p.m. After the course we have a well-deserved (well,I think so!) gin and tonic before getting the train home. We’re so busy chatting that Lucy almost misses her stop, but she manages to get off the train in the nick of time!
9 p.m. I’m contemplating an early night (it was a very early start for me, don’t forget!) when I see a message on Slack – one of the CMA members is in Glasgow for the weekend and she’s wondering if anyone’s around. I haven’t met Rachael in real life, bit she’s staying in a hotel only 15 minutes away from me, so I throw on my shoes and head off for a quick drink with her. It’s always good to meet face to face with someone you’ve only ever known online!


1.30 p.m. Some weekends I have to work, especially if I’ve had a week with a lot of time away from my desk. This happens pretty often, but I honestly don’t mind as I have the privilege of choosing my own work hours – no one is telling me to work on a Saturday; it’s my choice. Today I spend a few hours finishing the education book I’m proofreading, and I write this blog post!


8 p.m. Sunday evenings are when I do some planning. I write out my Bullet Journal planner for the week ahead and have a think about how work fits in with my other planned activities. I also top up Buffer, which I use for social media scheduling, with posts for my TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn accounts. I take some time to look through blog posts and articles that have been published over the previous week and make sure I’m sharing any relevant and interesting articles written by friends and colleagues, as well as shareable writing from various websites and blogs I follow. I use the news aggregator feedly to curate all this in one place for me to read.
And now we’re back to Monday again, with another week to look forward to!

There’s no such thing as a typical week!

So there you go – seven days in my life as an editor. Of course, not all weeks look like this. Sometimes deadlines loom and publishing schedules shift, leaving me with no option but to power through. When that happens I feel like I barely look up from my screen all week!
But this week I had events planned well in advance, so I knew I wouldn’t have as many billable work hours available as usual. Which is fine – I enjoyed the mix of work and social time that I had.
This week shows the variety in my work life, and I hope you enjoyed a wee look behind the scenes. You can see how admin tasks, marketing, networking, meeting colleagues and, hopefully, teaching are all part and parcel of my work, and every other editor’s, too, I imagine.
What about you? How did your week shape up? Did you have a nice mix of tasks and activities to keep you interested and motivated? Let me know in the comments – I’m nosy about stuff like that, remember?

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The Editor's Note

Monthly updates on writing and editing non-fiction, from my desk to yours.

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