From passion to profession: a freelancer’s journey

Written by Emma Lawson

February 5, 2020

It’s pleasing putting a face to a name, isn’t it? As I grow my business, I want to take a moment to properly introduce myself so that you can get a better idea of the face behind my business. I hope that my passions and interests resonate with you in some way and that you can understand my journey to writing, proofreading and editing. Perhaps this will in turn inspire you to take the necessary steps to turn your passion into a profession and *cliché alert* bite the bullet.

It’s hard to know where to start – there are so many tributaries that trickle into the mighty river of ‘where I am today’. I’m not going to tell you my A Level results because you probably don’t care, and I wouldn’t be surprised. I could reel off a list of my favourite reads and why they’re important to me. Or, now that I’ve introduced this post, I could just dive right into the heart of the matter.

Let me take you somewhere for a moment: We’re in a carpentry workshop. The air is thick with dust and the smell of fresh wood shavings. A few machines are humming away in the background, but we’re mostly surrounded by a small band of men working with simple tools and quiet contentment.

A stocky man in a red baseball cap and blue overalls pulls up his trouser leg up to reveal a prosthetic limb. His leg was blown apart by a landmine when he was younger. He thought his life was over; in Rwanda, disability can practically amount to the same thing. Employment prospects are limited. Stigma stains the horizon of hope and ambition.

But he turns over a carved wooden ornament that he’s made with his own hands and you run your fingers in the smooth curves and grooves of an expertly chiselled hut carved from the log of a Jacaranda tree. He looks up and smiles confidently at you. He tells you about his children with pride and you see how his wedding ring catches the sunlight streaming through a break in the roof. How do you feel, knowing what happened to him and seeing him now?

When I worked in Rwanda gathering ‘impact’ stories to share with people from different cultures, I came across countless scenes like this: bright, ambitious men and women using their talents, overcoming their weaknesses, and refusing to let circumstances dictate their future. It was endlessly inspiring.

My husband was working with beekeepers in a social enterprise that sold fair trade honey, candles and other beeswax products. He rode to the middle of nowhere on his motorbike and chatted with the beekeepers and their families before they went out to inspect the hives amid the buzz of disgruntled African honey bees. When he came home, we’d tuck our little boys into bed as the sun went down at the same time it did every month come rainy season or dry season. As time went on, I focused on proofreading and copy-editing while training a team of local storytellers who now share inspiring stories in their own voice and style.

Living abroad was one of the hardest and easiest things to do. The irony of our lives was that we left friends and family and all that was familiar, only to go about constructing the comforts of home in a new country; brick by brick, coffee shop by pizza joint, each one a small victory. We straddled two worlds and glowed in the luxury of being able to slide between them like chameleons, our colours changing with the culture.

The transition from living for several years in another culture to setting up a new life in the UK again was difficult. There are still things that I miss immensely about Rwanda – most of all the wonderful people I worked with; the fierce heat of the morning sun in dry season and the way it warms you through to your bones; the way the wind picks up all of a sudden just before a storm and the clouds roll in; the breath-taking beauty of the landscape; the taste of fresh fruit from the local market.

It seems strange to imagine that life now, living as we do in Wales and taking the boys to see medieval castles at the weekend or walking in the Forest of Dean. But I won’t forget the stories I heard. Stories are the touchstone of who we are as human beings. This is why I wanted to take the experiences I had and continue finding inspiring stories. I believe that words can do the world of good, from framing our conversations, to galvanising communities and changing the world around us. Some of the most famous abolitionists were inspired in part by stories from the Bible that spoke of humans of all tribes and tongues being equal and made in the same image; stories of slaves being set free and captives being released (see the book of ‘Exodus’: the clue is in the title).

I joined the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) as an entry-level member and passed their industry-recognised training in proofreading, as well as taking further training in copy-editing. I can’t recommend the SfEP highly enough. The generous support that the proofreading and editing community offers is fantastic, and I have benefited hugely from it. If you are considering professional training, the Publishing Training Centre is another brilliant, industry-recognised source of training to jumpstart your career or enrich your skills. Training in proofreading and copy-editing is also sharpening my writing. I haven’t been doing so much recently as I’ve focused on growing my business, but I did try my hand at ‘Flash Fiction’ recently, and found that I rather enjoyed it!

Now it’s your turn to introduce yourself. Don’t be afraid to say hello! Whether it’s sharing proofreading and editing tips or simply sharing your love of words and stories, let’s connect. Why don’t you share your ‘how you got to where you are now’ story? I’d love to hear it!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may also like…