I started working at the age of 11. My first boss was my old dad, a successful business owner who was born nine years before the stock market crash of 1929. Driven by the fear of ever living in poverty again, he worshipped hard work. I credit him for my strong work ethic, which made me a successful employee in the corporate, nonprofit, and education sectors. Despite his influence, it took a life-changing virus to put me on the path of business ownership.
Even though I have been editing for more than a decade, I didn’t officially launch Erica Williams Editorial Services until January 2021.
And here is how the year went:
I chose my own projects. Ditching the employee mindset wasn’t as simple as I thought it would be. I was offered so many opportunities this year. Here is what I worked on:
And I declined the work that didn’t interest me, didn’t work with my schedule, or didn’t meet my rate.
I was in charge of my own professional development. I love learning, and I work in an industry that has fantastic educational opportunities. Here is how I grew as an editorial professional this year:
And I didn’t sit through any courses that didn’t serve me or my business.
I created the lifestyle that suits me. Being on someone else’s schedule, setting an alarm for an early start time, and driving to work before dawn are not things I miss about my old life. Even though I did experience the feast and famine of this profession, I also created a healthy balance. Here is how I managed stress:
And I took lots of naps.
I set my own financial goals. I went into this year with a modest financial goal, knowing that many first-year freelance editors struggle to find clients. Here is how I did financially:
And I didn’t work full-time.
Other than not getting to complain about my boss, I have zero regrets. If you are thinking about starting your own business, do it. As my dad always said, “You won’t do it any younger.”
Most last names take an s to make them plural.
If a family’s name ends in s, sh, x, or z, add es.
If a family’s name ends in y, add s. Never change the y to i.
the Abernathys (not the Abernathies)
the Kennedys (not the Kennedies)
the Skys (not the Skies)
While it is grammatically correct to say Mr. and Mrs. (husband’s first name) (last name), may I ask you nicely to stop? It is sexist and exclusive. Get into the holiday spirit and include all people, not just those in heteronormative marriages.
I would like to take this a step further. Although many sources say to use a formal title, please consider ditching Miss, Ms., Mr., and Mrs. These can misgender trans people, exclude nonbinary people, and distress people who are upset about their marital status. If you really want to add a formal title, please consider the gender-neutral Mx.
And for the love of (insert appropriate nonreligious reference here), unless your friend spells their name with an apostrophe—think D’Angelo O’Connor—there should be zero apostrophes in the name field. Even if you really think you need an apostrophe, you don’t. Now, if you are from St. Louis and you are sending a card to Imo’s Pizza (or another business anywhere in the world whose trademarked name includes an apostrophe), that is okay.
In this time of the Great Resignation, many teachers have asked me why I decided to leave the classroom.
The answer surprises them—and me. I didn’t decide this for myself; a microscopic virus made the decision for me.
At a morning staff meeting in May 2017—my ninth year in the classroom—the world started to spin. After three months, 11 medical professionals, nine misdiagnoses, several ER visits, a brain MRI, dozens of vestibular rehabilitation therapy sessions, and much more, I found out what was wrong with me: a virus had damaged my inner ear, which is responsible for balance. I had Vestibular Neuritis.
I was too sick to work for a couple of years. I walked like I was drunk. Everything made me dizzy: bad lighting, shiny floors, crowds, and patterns. My brain would not let me walk toward anything in motion. A quick left-to-right head motion (think monitoring a classroom or a hallway) caused me to puke. I was exhausted all the time because my brain used most of its energy to keep me upright.
Having an illness that won’t let up is more than frustrating. It challenges your mental health. Your body is always on high alert because your brain is constantly sending distress signals.
One activity that made me feel “normal” during this hopeless time was reviewing my friends’ writing. I have always been the go-to person anyway, and now it was giving me life—a purpose. Need someone to proofread your resume? Ask Erica. Need someone to provide feedback for that college essay? Ask Erica. Need to make sure that email to your boss has the right tone? Ask Erica.
Eventually, I was well enough to work part-time, so I started applying for remote jobs. This was before most companies admitted that remote work was a thing. After 75 rejections, I was offered a part-time position with an online college as a writing tutor. I loved the work because it allowed me to help others improve their communication, something I have been passionate about my whole life.
In fact, I’ve loved grammar rules since the third grade. In September 2019, I discovered the copyediting program at the University of California – San Diego. I thought I would go there to review the grammar rules I already knew and maybe learn some new ones.
And I did learn a bunch of rules, but I also learned how to break them. I learned that the English language is nuanced and constantly evolving. I learned how to use the Chicago Manual of Style, em dashes, and inclusive language. I learned that no one likes the grammar police. I learned style. I learned to advocate for the reader. Rules are important, but does your reader understand your message? That’s what matters.
I know many teachers who are ready to leave the classroom. I was devastated when I had to leave, especially because I didn’t get to do it on my own terms. I am here to tell you that there is life after the classroom. Your skills will be valued in other fields. And you can stay in education, while staying out of the classroom.
I am an education copyeditor. I use my master’s degree every day. I call upon the decade of experience I have reviewing students’ writing assignments. The work I do helps kids. Clarifying the directions helps kids access the curriculum. Querying an incorrect historical date helps kids learn the correct information. Revising an example to make it gender neutral helps kids be inclusive thinkers. And I get to advocate for the teachers as well.
While battling that microscopic virus has been one of the darkest times in my life, it led me to a career that I absolutely love, and I don’t know that I would have left teaching on my own.
To find out more about my services, visit EricaWilliamsEditorialServices.com.
My battle with Vestibular Neuritis has been nonlinear, but overall, I am so much better today. If you want to learn more about Vestibular disorders, visit VeDA.