Featured Freelancer: Sharon Gray, Copyeditor and Proofreader

Sharon Gray is a copyeditor and proofreader based in Caerphilly, South Wales. Sharon retrained in 2019 and now works freelance to enjoy a more flexible lifestyle. She has copyedited and proofread books, contracts, and articles across a range of genres, but feels most at home when working on fiction and food.

Get to know Sharon in this week’s Featured Freelancer Interview:

What is your name and what do you do?

My name is Sharon Gray, and I’m a professional copyeditor and proofreader, specialising in fiction and food writing for self-publishing authors.


How long have you been freelancing and why did you decide to become a freelancer?

I’ve been doing this since 2019, and I retrained and switched career because I needed to be able to be at home to do more childcare for my grandchildren.


What strategy do you find most effective for attracting new clients?

That’s something I haven’t cracked yet. I have some great regular clients who contacted me on one of the online freelancer platforms, and I’ve had a couple of clients come to me via my professional body, the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP). I also get enquiries via South Wales Editors, a website set up to market the editors working around South Wales. But, I’m yet to get to a stage where I’m generating organic enquiries from my own efforts.


What app or social media platform could you not run your business without, and why?

I work mostly on Word using a Microsoft 365 subscription every day because most of the writers I work with also use it. And within that, a subscription add-on called PerfectIt is absolutely essential. I also have various online dictionary subscriptions, which are great because, without them, I’d have to be buying then replacing the hard copies all the time.


Do you research prospects before a call or meeting? If so, what information do you look for?

If they are already published authors, I check to see whether I can find their previous publications online. If it is a business, I have a look at their website to see what their core products are, and to get a feel for their culture. I like to know how relaxed about their business they are.


What do you do to help maintain positive mental wellbeing?

It’s not something that troubles me a great deal, but I take regular breaks for a walk around the garden. Or I have a 30-minute practice of something I’m meant to be learning for my choir, then get back to work. Or I go and have a chat with my husband, who is working at his own desk elsewhere in the house.


Is being a freelancer what you expected? Do you work more hours (or less) than you had first anticipated?

When I have a project, I work about the same number of hours that I expected to, but I am finding marketing myself much harder than I thought it would be. My ideal client is also not all what I expected them to be.


What are the most common objections you’ve had from potential clients? How did/do you overcome them?

Most of the objections I get aren’t things that can be, or should be, overcome. They are usually my prices, from people who are looking for a cheap-as-chips service (I don’t work with those people), or they are writers and authors with whom I haven’t really clicked. And that’s okay; an author’s editor should be the right editor for them, and sometimes that’s not me.

Have you ever turned a prospect away? If so, why and how did you do it?

Sometimes an author, especially a first-time self-publishing author, doesn’t really understand the process and doesn’t realise that their work isn’t ready for my kind of editing yet – it usually needs more writing or rewriting. Or sometimes, a writer wants an editor to work on a topic that I don’t have enough background knowledge of, which would make the project a hard slog with lots of research involved – it’s hard for an editor to charge for that sort of background work. In those situations, I advise the writer that I’m simply not the right editor for them, and I supply them with plenty of information on how to go about finding their editor.


What do (would) you do when a client ghosts you?!

It depends on the situation. If I’ve already worked for them and they are ghosting me now that I want to be paid, I chase with increasingly stern communications warning them that I’m going to add interest to the invoice. It usually works. If I haven’t done any work with them yet, I let it go. Time is too short to waste chasing someone who obviously isn’t that committed to their project, and sometimes they come back anyway, when they really are ready to progress it.


Are your motivations now the same as they were when you started freelancing?

No, I don’t think so. Back then I just wanted work, now I want to enjoy the work I’m doing, so it has to be the right work.


What is it about being a freelancer that you most enjoy?

The flexibility, and not having to make up excuses for not working on days when I need, or prefer, to be doing something else. Also, not having to exaggerate symptoms to pull a sick day when I’m not feeling up to it.


What do you enjoy the least about being a freelancer?

Marketing, marketing and marketing. I’m lucky in that I’m not dependent on the income, but it would be good to have a steadier stream of projects; I really don’t want to spend time twiddling my thumbs and pretending that I do really have something more pressing than marketing to do.


What one thing do you wish you had known before you became a freelancer?

That I should consider specialising from the outset. I think I would have done a much better job of picking a name for my business. Then I wouldn’t have to go through the process of deciding on a better one later on, which is where I am at the moment.


What is your ONE top tip or piece of advice you would offer to other freelancers?

Find and join the leading professional body for your sector. Without the training, support, networking and technical advice I get from the CIEP and its members, I would still be floundering about and working on the types of project that I’m not suited to.


You can connect with Sharon on Twitter, LinkedIn, and website.  

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Sharon Gray

Sharon Gray