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by Bridget Blair AE 

Presentation by Lauren Bevilacqua at the IPEd conference

As a freelance editor, I found self-identity became a big issue for me. Unlike when I worked in-house, where expectations were clear, I began to question the value of my work, both financially and professionally. As freelancers receive very little feedback, I also find it hard to know whether I am doing a good job and whether I am growing and learning.

Lauren’s talk dealt with exactly these issues. Her presentation was based on her own experience of changing professions and on some research she conducted by interviewing a sample of editors from the online groups she is a part of. So much of what she said rang true to me.

Self-identity is important psychologically, but also because it allows you to articulate and project a professional identity to clients and the world at large. It gives focus, purpose and direction to your work. And it is constantly evolving.

The influences on our self-perception include education, experience, work context including job title and employer, memberships, awards and recognition, and our interactions with others. Lauren particularly recommends joining online groups, whose benefits include:

  • collegiality and support (sharing a joke or a frustration with people who understand, who are always there no matter your editing level or timezone)
  • benchmarking and refining (by seeing and responding to the issues others are experiencing, you come to understand where you sit in terms of expertise and strengths and to appreciate your own growth over time)
  • confidence and professionalism (seeing yourself as part of a valued profession, countering imposter syndrome, identifying as a business owner as well as an editor)
  • enabling professional development (connecting you with ideas and resources that you would not have come across on your own).

Lauren also offered a list of practical suggestions for growing your self-identity as an editor:

  • Seek out other editors, in person or online.
  • Find groups that meet your interests and that work for you.
  • Join professional organisations (IPEd and others) and importantly, be active in them — you will get far more out of membership if you are involved.
  • Talk to non-editors about what you do — this allows you to define and articulate your work identity for yourself.
  • Reflect on your progress — consider which projects you have enjoyed, determine where you want to go and what skills you need to get there, and also work out what you are not, as well as what you are.
  • Add qualifications and other professional development (such as accreditation). 

While Lauren neatly tied her presentation to the theme of edges in several ways, it seems to me for freelancers the topic is really at the centre of what we do. Thanks to Lauren for recognising this and laying it out so clearly and succinctly. 

Bridget Blair AE is a nonfiction generalist freelance editor and the Communications Officer for Editors Victoria.