Namely blogs (especially blogs) and other business-related marketing communications copy: website content, marketing collateral, email newsletters, press releases.
Over the last few years, I tried to diversify by taking on some fiction and academic work … and the projects, though small, were hard.
I have the utmost respect for editors who specialize in these fields. And I learned a hard lesson: these are not my niche areas, and because of the level of difficulty (and my inexperience) I wasn’t able to truly enjoy the process.
If this ongoing (sigh) pandemic has taught us anything, we should take a clear-eyed look at our professional lives and embrace our strengths. Working on what we’re truly good at – and that we want to learn more about to increase our expertise over time – gives meaning, motivation, and purpose to our professional lives.
Editing and proofreading business content is not exactly sexy … but it is my particular superpower. And you know what? That’s cool.
What’s your professional superpower? Share in the comments below!
The gist? Blogs are time consuming, from creation to publication to promotion. And while the hours spent will certainly vary, you still need to schedule your blogging activities accordingly. Here’s a typical breakdown of my processes:
Writing a rough draft;
Putting the copy aside for a bit;
Edit, proof, and rewrite as needed;
Putting the copy aside for a bit;
Final editing and proofreading;
Searching for / choosing an image;
Placing website URL and logo on the image;
Format the copy in a new post on website (WordPress);
Upload image to website and insert into post;
Test any links;
Decide upon blog categories and tags;
Save draft and put aside for a bit;
Load preview for final reviewing and proofing;
Write social media posts for promotion; and
Post promotional copy to social media.
That is a LOT of steps! But this is typical, even for a bimonthly / quarterly blog like mine.
Add every part of the blog – from start to finish – to a dedicated portion of your workday calendar. This will alleviate frustration by making the process routine and efficient, which in turn will actually save time and help limit grammatical errors and other embarrassing mistakes!
How do you handle your blogging practices? Share in the comments below!
Do I want to remain a freelance editor? Apply for full-time positions … or maybe part-time? Onsite or remote? Perhaps a combination of these?
These are questions I’ve been mulling over daily in the last few months while job searching, as described in my last blog post.
Then I got an interview for a content editor position, and made it to second round interviews. That morning before the interview, I wrote out my daily to-do list. What jumped out was how much the shelter-in-place routine was … still the same. And how much those items filled the day.
When would I complete these responsibilities and chores if I took on a full-time job? What about the volunteerism that I value? Answer: after or before. Or not at all. Ugh.
Sometimes, the path to take is clear as a cloudless blue sky. This was one of those times. I bowed out of the second interview, and resolved to apply to part-time, remote editing positions only as well as one-off freelancing projects.
I felt lighter afterwards, a sure sign that I made the right decision for right now.
Pam’s Pearls on Editing and Grammar: Repurposing Previous Communications
Are you copying and pasting the content of a previous email (text, direct message, social posting, etc.) into a new one, and just changing a few relevant details? That’s perfectly OK and something I often do to save time.
Once that copy is, well, copied and pasted, the next step is to … STOP!
Do not press “send” without double checking your final communication. That entails:
Proof your work.
Run the text through spell check. (If a text / direct message / social posting, paste the copy into Word or Google Docs and use that program’s spell check function.)
Put the copy aside for least five or 10 minutes.
Reread one final time.
Does the message convey exactly what you want and to whom you want, without errors or embarrassing gaffes? Excellent! NOW you can send with confidence.
If there is an editing or grammar topic you’d like “Pam’s Pearls” to feature, leave a comment below!
This pandemic and blog series has blown past the nine-month mark. There is light at the end of the proverbial tunnel (as the saying goes) in the form of several different vaccines … but resolution is still months off. So I will keep on…
Keep on Editing
Editing is at the core of everything I do professionally, whether for clients on their projects or for myself in emails, social media, and other communications or writing.
I’ve been editing (and proofreading and writing) for a while. Often, I don’t give much thought to the process; but there are other times when I become conscious of myself editing (and proofreading and writing). This is a good thing!
Every skill requires both practice and active awareness to keep maintain a high level of competence. Even if one is extremely proficient at the skill, having welded it for years in a variety of settings.
So as I look forward to 2021, I will keep on editing and strive be mindful of the method in any number of moments.
Navigating a new work-life reality of son/husband/myself in our house 24/7 and my home office no longer mine (which I fully agreed to) … well, job hunting fell out of the top-10 of the to-do list for months. I applied to permanent jobs and freelance gigs here and there, but didn’t really pick up the search until late November.
Because coronavirus is still with us for the foreseeable future – even as the vaccines roll out – I’m limiting my applications to fully remote positions … and within those positions, I’m focusing on editing / copyediting / proofreading.
One thing this pandemic has reinforced: work at something you enjoy, because life is seriously too short to spend working on something you don’t. In my case, that means a primary professional focus as an editor.
Keep on Sheltering … for Now
Our family has no preexisting conditions of note, so our turn to get one of the vaccines won’t occur till sometime later in the spring of 2021.
Until then, we’ll mostly keep sheltering in place with occasional socially-distanced forays outside – full masked, of course. This Editor’s Shelter-In-Place Diary series will likewise continue, for at least a little while longer.
I wish all of you a happy and safe New Year. See you in 2021!
Working remotely – as many of us are continuing to do eight months into the COVID pandemic – means that many of our communications will continue to be digital. I’m referring to written exchanges. We all use Zoom, Skype, WebEx and similar platforms for virtual meetings, of course, but those are generally not ongoing over the course of the workday. Discussions with team and coworkers take place via chat during virtual meetings, text messages, direct messages (DMs) via social media, emails … the list is really endless.
Knowing that I primarily edit business copy for a living, people increasingly ask if it really matters if work emails, text / chat / DMs error-free and grammatically correct? My super-short answer: YES!
Your written communications, no matter how brief, are a reflection of work commitment and professionalism. Even if the recipient says nothing about a typo-filled message, such errors do make an impression. If you didn’t care enough to proofread an email, will you truly focus on the details of the task at hand?
Keeping copy error-free is not rocket science. Here are a few straightforward tips to help:
After writing something … even the briefest of texts … let that copy sit before pressing “send”! Walk away, do another task, for at least five to 10 minutes (or longer if possible) and then check for typos.
Get someone else to review your messages! A second set of proofreading eyes is always indispensable.
Spell check! While far from perfect, the spell check function is a good backup to catch basic grammatical and spelling issues.
Slowly read the copy OUT LOUD. Repeat! Your ears may catch what your eyes missed.
If you’re feeling really ambitious, try reading the text backwards. A neat little trick that works wonders.
And, finally, an essential and often overlooked action that helps globally with regard to business communications of all types:
Reducing eye strain!
Staring too long at that laptops, tablets, smartphone screen is not a new issue. But add in Zooms, Microsoft Teams, Google Meets, etc. to replace in-person meetings during COVID and eye fatigue increases exponentially. Unsurprisingly, eye strain also impedes your ability to accurately and effectively edit and proofread your messages (and all other copy, too).
Remedies include changing the angle of your laptop as well as your posture and distance from the computer, filter screens and apps, eye drops, and even glasses that block blue light!
Here are articles with these and other easy-to-implement solutions that will help both you and your partially or fully remote K-12 child:
You have a goal in mind, a task to complete. A well-thought out course of action to follow. And everything goes according to plan.
Then there are the times when the opposite occurs, and you just have to roll with the changes.
When a Domain Name Change Becomes a Website Theme Change (and More)
This is the tale of the end-point of my website revamp, and how the exercise – very unintentionally – became a full-on theme change.
The last phase of my website revision / reorientation (i.e. editing and proofreading as the main professional focus, and short-form writing as a secondary offering) involved a domain name change. But the transfer proved challenging. In an effort to resolve this issue, as well as to save some money and streamline processes, I switched web hosting providers … which, happily, did allow for BarrowayEditing.com to become PamelaBarroway.com.
But my website’s existing theme from 2018 did not transition well. Sigh.
In frustration – and with encouragement from a good friend and virtual teammate Jess Dewell of Red Direction – I tried out a couple different, cost-free themes supported by the new hosting services … and, surprisingly, rather quickly found a really great option!
This change also necessitated another: much as I liked my previous logo, it just did not work with the fresh theme. And I actually created a new logo myself using an online design site called DesignEvo. It and the new theme look pretty nifty together:
I am still tweaking the new site, because some elements of the previous one did not make it through intact. But that’s pretty much cosmetic, and now that my son’s middle school is in session I will have the time to put the finishing touches on PamelaBarroway.com.
Fall school openings the perfect segue to that second unexpected project…
Creating a Second Home Office for Your Kid and Yourself, from Scratch!
My husband is still working from home – in what used to be my home office. (Another sigh.) Over the summer my son and I were driving him to distraction whenever entering the office to retrieve something we just printed. Then in early August, my husband and I chose the fully remote school option for our son through January.
All three of us. At home. Through the beginning of January, at least.
We required a second home office setup, pronto … or at least, in place before school began! The procurement and setup of the necessary accessories is a short saga in and of itself.
Printer for my 8th grader (and myself). After much research, I decided upon an updated version of the current printer – an Epson WorkForce ST-4000. The ST stands for “Super Tanker” for the large quantity of toner ink it holds – up to two years’ worth. (We’ll see.)
And apparently every other parent and everyone else still working from home since March snapped up this printer (and every other brand and model too). At the first retailer I ordered from, the printer was on backorder, a fact I didn’t learn till over a week later. Luckily I found one left at GCTECH, and after checking via chat that it actually was in stock I ordered … and they shipped out the very same day. Great service!
Not so great: the printer connectivity on my kid’s computer. But that was an issue with the computer itself, not the printer. After SIX HOURS, though, I got everything. (Seriously, I should get paid for this.)
Printer stand with organizer drawers and castors for all of my son’s school binders and materials).
Ordered one online that never arrived. Couldn’t get through to their customer service line, so I called a local brick-and-mortar location to get help. The store actually had the stand in stock – they didn’t before – so I did a curbside pickup. Set it up … and the next day the online order arrived. Sigh.
(The tardy one is now in my former home office, filled with my husband’s business files. A definite improvement over the unsteady tray table and fold-out chair he was using.)
Low-profile power strip / surge protector for the four different items now plugged in at my son’s schoolwork / study area: computer, printer, iPhone, iWatch. Did you know that some low-profile power strips come with screws to be attached out the way, on a wall? I didn’t either, but now I do!
Second desk for my son’s room. Sometimes I need to speak with my editing / proofreading clients at length; other times my son will need to study with zero interruptions. For that eventuality, I purchased a small, fold-up desk for my son’s equally small room.
Why fold-up? My kid didn’t want the desk out all the time. Why? Who knows. He’s 13. But I found a very good option on Amazon that required no assembly; once you fold the legs inward, the desk is only three inches wide and can be stowed behind a door.
I set up my own laptop on this fold-up desk several times this past week while editing / proofing blogs and other copy, and to be able to speak during Zoom meetings without disturbing my son during school. In fact, that’s where I’m writing this blog post, right now!
Chair for the second desk in my son’s room. My grandmother’s old folding chair with a comfy padded seat that was in the basement. Easy and cost-free!
Whew! Reading through this narrative really brings home how much unplanned work went into this now (thankfully) finished endeavor.
But that’s how work and life often are during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. So we adapt to those changes, with sometimes unexpected and amazing results!
Everything moves forward with time. Adapts to new and changing circumstances.
We adjust as well – right now to the realities of work and life during the evolving coronavirus pandemic.
New Jersey began reopening in a limited way throughout June and July. As a result my routine has shifted … somewhat. Such as getting takeout favorite restaurants once or twice a week. And bike riding at trails within the tristate area (more on that later). When in public it’s all masks, all the time. But mostly my family and I are still sheltering in place for a good part of the work day. And the work does indeed continue, including on this website.
Ongoing Website Overhaul: Supplemental Pictures
The latest updates here on PamelaBarroway.com involve a couple of small but important housecleaning tasks: replacing the images that do not incorporate photos of myself. These contain include words, messages, and objects that enhance my brand and professional focus (i.e. editing, proofreading, short-form writing).
As with profile pics, you should refresh the other website images periodically. Finding suitable candidates need not be as costly or time-intensive as having a professional business photoshoot. Still, give some serious thought about what you want to convey with regard to your business, messaging, branding, etc.
For example, don’t choose just for the sake of beauty; instead, first consider:
How does the image truly relate to your product or service?
Can website visitors “get” the underlying meaning right away?
Will the picture serve as an effective CTA (call-to-action) for existing / potential clients?
Once you answer questions like these, the search can begin!
I considered stock images on several fee-based websites including Shutterstock and iStock, as well as free sites such as Pixabay. (Bonny Clayton / Your Web Chick provides an excellent rundown of Pixabay and other no-cost options on her blog.) Eventually I purchased a package of five nifty images from Shutterstock, including the one below now appearing on my Portfolio page:
Summer Riding on the Rail Trails (and Other Bicycling Adventures)
My kid’s sleepaway camp was cancelled due to coronavirus, and one of the hodgepodge of summertime socially-distanced activities is bicycling.
Since mid-June I’ve been venturing further afield for weekly bicycling half-day trips with my son. I load our bikes onto the Kuat Sherpa 2.0 rack the night before, because we start early – by 7:00 a.m. – as the temperature soars to the 90s by late morning. We travel to local rail trails and other bicycling paths within a two-hour radius.
We opt for trails that are four-plus miles in one direction, so riding lasts anywhere from one-and-a-half to two-hours. A couple favorites so far in New Jersey and Delaware:
Going early means sparse crowds (though we always wear face masks, of course), and being outdoors somewhere other than the backyard is glorious.
I recommend the TrailLink.com app / website to plan your trip. There you will find detailed descriptions of local trails, as well as detailed, interactive maps. The app is free, but a yearly subscription comes with the bonus of downloading maps for offline use.
How are you adapting to work and play this summer during COVID-19? Please share in the comments below!
But, finally, my family found a fairly good rhythm – a schedule that works for us all, without driving each other batty (mostly). And so I was able to focus … in fits and starts … on making much-needed website updates.
What Every Business Website Needs Periodically: An Overview and Overhaul
Editors, writers, proofreaders – we all need to periodically reassess and update our websites, regardless of the site’s simplicity or complexity. This should happen in concert with an evaluation of business goals, at minimum once or twice a year, if not quarterly. (A good practice for all businesses, actually.)
My last website overhaul occurred in the summer of 2018. (I know, I know.) The current round of changes include:
New profile pics from a January business photoshoot in January. (Check out my photographer, Artistry By Danielle K – she is crazy talented!)
Other new complementary website images.
Home (“About”) and Services pages copy revisions reflecting my professional focus at this time – primarily editing, proofreading, evaluation, and – to a lesser extent – short-form writing (250 words or less) of business content.
That’s right! I am retiring “Barroway Editing.” A number of factors informed this decision (this is where reassessing business / professional trajectory and goals comes into play). Though still freelancing, I’m also looking for more permanent remote work. Since – professionally speaking – I am also my brand in either case, changing the website to “Pamela Barroway” was a natural progression.
Still working out the kinks in actually switching URLs, though. Protip: never attempt changing the site address in the WordPress Settings section if uncertain of the process. Let’s just say I deleted the website from existence for several hours. (Thanks Jess Dewell, for fixing the mess.)
More changes to the website will be forthcoming; again, business website maintenance and upkeep should be an always-evolving process. In the meantime, please take a look around and see what’s new. Let me know what you think in the comments below!
Bulbs: They’re Alive! (Mostly)
Our surviving tulips are still numbering five, but a total of seven Narcissus have grown, breaking through the earth. One tulip has truly bloomed, but a few more appear to be close to showing off actual flowers!
Not bad for a bunch of bulbs spending the winter in the garage, in a mesh bag on top of a garbage can, and then planted very late (in early April).
I hope your stay-at-home efforts – professional and personal – are bearing fruit as well!
Like so many, I’ve been sheltering in place this spring due to coronavirus. In my case this began partially on March 16, 2020, the first day that my son’s public school became fully online.
The boom lowered fully the following Monday, March 22, when my husband brought his entire business home (after the stay-at-home order went into effect for the entire state of New Jersey).
The following week my husband took over my home office (a fair trade, since his is the full-time business). My son does his remote schoolwork in the den, and I’ve set up shop on the kitchen table … though my part-time editing, proofreading, and writing business has become part-time in the extreme. My focus is all over the place, and definitely not on my professional trade; no, it’s work of another sort that is all-consuming.
The diner is open 24/7, and I’m the head chef (with occasional significant assists from my seventh grader). Laundry, housecleaning, and grocery processing – thanks Instacart shoppers, I’m upping your tip as we speak – fill my days … as does a LOT more time spent in the afternoons with my son once his schoolwork is done.
On the Monday marking the seventh week of this COVID-19 stay-at-home saga – which I gladly do, to keep others safe – I decided to write … and edit / proofread that prose, of course … about our activities.
These blog posts will be different from my previous ones, by necessity and design. The topics will touch on both the business and the personal.
The Bulbs: Tulips and Narcissus
To that end, I will briefly share today the results of an impromptu and very, very late bulb planting effort. Background: last December I got two free bags of bulbs from the local farmers market as they were trying to clean out leftover stock before winter hiatus. I promptly put the bags in the garage and forgot about them.
Flash forward to April. During Spring Break my son had even more downtime, and like so many parents I was looking for activities (other than the Xbox) for my son. I remembered those bags, and went to inspect them. Each contained 10 bulbs: one bag of tulips and one of Narcissus. Some were already sprouting (in my garage!) and only one seemed completely dry and desiccated.
On two separate days during the week of April 6 we planted the bulbs. Because my previous attempt at bulb-planting ended up a feast for our friendly neighborhood squirrels, we planted the bulbs nine to 12 inches deep. Our plant markers consisted of colorful stirrers, plastic knives, and a red plastic spoon that was for I-can’t-remember-what.
I am happy to report that, after three weeks, five of the tulips and one of the narcissus are sprouting!
I am way more excited about this than my son. (His reaction? “That’s nice.”) I’ll report back with more pictures in the coming weeks.
I’d love to hear what stay-at-home endeavors you are growing. Please share in the comments!
One of my go-to Twitter chats is Debra Eckerling’s #GoalChat (which everyone should totally check out). When she mentioned her forthcoming work on goal setting on the chat in 2019, I immediately knew an author interview and book feature was on my blogging horizon.
A writer has to be creative and entrepreneur; an entrepreneur has to be a writer and creative; and a creative needs to be a writer and entrepreneur. Which is exactly what Your Goal Guide is marketed for!—Debra Ecklering
What prompted you to write this book?
I started leading goal-setting and productivity groups at Barnes & Noble after college, relaunched them in Los Angeles [in the early 2000s] and then over the years it become this hybrid of live group and online support. Somewhere along the line, people started asking me to coach them.
My business background is communications and project management and everything that I do [contains] one or both of those elements, so I started doing workshops and was one-on-one coaching. For example, someone who [struggled to complete] their book for several years – and working with me finished it in three months!
If you can’t figure out your goals in your head, you need to do the work to figure out what you want and then … plan how you’re going to get it.
I got to the point where I was coaching people on writing books, and I wanted to write a book! That’s how Purple Pencil came about. I wrote my second book, Write On Blogging: 51 Tips to Create, Write & Promote Your Blog(2016) because I’m a firm believer in the power of the blog. I was born to blog because I’ve always written like I talk, and I felt that would be a great way to get information out there.
I also did a survey [during the process of writing Write On Blogging] so the examples are from real bloggers, not powerful, big names. They’re examples that [readers] can relate to.
[The D*E*B Method] is for people who need to make a change by choice or circumstance. Usually that change is a career change or job change, grow or start a business or side-hustle, become a known expert, or achieve work-life balance. Those are the four paths I talk about in the book.—Debra Ecklering
Explain the origin of “The D*E*B Method,” which forms the core of Your Goal Guide.
Almost two years ago, my primary client was outsourcing what I did to someone else. I had to make a change; [that] change was making a decision to go all-in on the goal coaching.
Around the same time, my mom – who follows #GoalChat – suggested I use “DEB Goals” … [which] totally works for what I teach because:
D = Determine your mission;
E = Explore your options;
B = Brainstorm your path.
I got this brilliant idea and started playing with The D*E*B Method as a brand. Another reason I [developed the concept] is because when you say Write On Online, some people say “I’m not a writer!” The D*E*B Method really takes into account all the major possibilities for a career path.
Provide readers with a brief overview of Your Goal Guide.
It’s a road trip theme. The first half of the book is setting up your road trip [by taking] the reader through The D*E*B Method. Determine where you want to go, Explore different destinations, Brainstorm your route.
The second half [contains] tips for success … a successful trip, car maintenance and troubleshooting.
My GoalTopia is helping people finding THEIR GoalTopia!—Debra Ecklering
I love the “GoalTopia” concept. How do your readers achieve GoalTopia within the framework of The D*E*B Method?
I made up this word for my book!
Even if you know what your goals are, you should go through the “D” to determine your mission because the first step is to visualize. When you close your eyes and think about what you want, what does that look like? What is your “GoalTopia”?
Then you need to look at your starting point: what is your current bio, what is your future bio. Because you need to take an inventory of where you went versus where you want to go, because you’ll see what tools you have versus what you’ll need.
[Next is] the mission statement. That’s why I always have missions and mottos as the first #GoalChat of the year, because you need a focal point. You need to know what you want, why you want it, and how it helps others. That’s the driving force, that’s the gas that gets your car to the destination.
Once you have your mission, you need to create a short motto, something to use as a compass in making your decision. For example, if someone asks me to speak, I weigh that. My motto is “goal-setting simplified.” Everything that I do involves goal-setting, simplifying life, and if [another action or goal] falls out of that realm it’s got to fulfill me in another way – that’s why the motto is important.
Even if you think you know your GoalTopia, going through … that first bit of introspection [in Your Goal Guide will] help everything make so much more sense because it’s your starting point. And that’s what the book is! It’s designed for introspection to help you really consider all of the options.
So once you come up with your mission, you have to think about the options and do the research to figure out what you want to do first, and then brainstorm your path. There are also different exercises to map out the different points.
From the moment I said, “OK this is my path,” everything fell into place. I mean, who gets a book published a year after their first conversation?—Debra Ecklering
Your other books are self-published. How did you come to use a publisher for Your Goal Guide?
I love this story – [essentially] I re-met an agent!
One of the women in my live groups … [told a] book agent at a networking event about my group [and] connected us. I figured out that I met the agent before because he spoke at a workshop I attended! After discussing my two self-published books and the upcoming one, [our conversation went something like this]:
Book Agent: “What is your objective [in the new book]?” Debra: “I believe everybody deserves to be happy in some of, if not all of, their life. What my book does is help people come up with their own plan, figure out what they want and how to get there. And even if it’s an hour a week working towards something, you’ve got that hour a week as something that you’re really excited about and that can fuel you for the rest of the time.” Book Agent: “If that’s your plan, you shouldn’t self-publish. Let me try to sell your book. Where’s your book proposal?” Debra: “I have an older incarnation that doesn’t have my current branding.” Agent: “Great, do you want me to give you a deadline?” Debra: “Sure” Agent: “How about two weeks.”
So I rewrote the proposal, sent it to him, and two-and-a-half hours later he called and said, “When do you want to meet?”
After one minor revision, he sent the book proposal out in two batches; after the second batch my publisher, Mango, expressed interested. It’s very exciting to me because Mango is a wonderful, up-and-coming publisher that focuses on innovative ideas and fresh voices. It’s even listed on Publishers Weekly’s 2019 list of “Fast-Growing Independent Publishers.”
Would you like to share other details about Your Goal Guide, or anything else percolating?
Right now my primary focus is getting this book in as many hands as possible, because I know it can help a lot of people. The book is needed – everybody has something going on in their life that is not quite right. At least one, right? Do you know anyone whose life is perfect?
There’s always something you can do to bring more happiness, fulfillment [into your life]. Or, maybe your life is a mess because of some external or internal force; you can use the book to say: “I may be having all these problems, but what is the one thing, the one personal goal I can put in my life to bring at least a little joy into it.”
And this is another thing! You and I met through Twitter. How cool is that? And here you are interviewing me. That’s the power of the age in which we live. We can basically do anything we want because the resources are out there. It’s just … figuring out what that is, and putting in the time and energy to make it happen. Maybe it’ll take a little bit of time, maybe it’ll take a long time – but if you’re working toward something, [anything is] possible.