#78: Building Your Community as a Newish Freelancer, with Alicia Chantal

Today’s guest is Alicia Chantal, from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She is an editing and writing consultant and the owner of Fresh Look Editing. Alicia is passionate about helping individuals and small businesses create messages that resonate with an audience. She specializes in non-fiction copy editing and proofreading and has a background in public relations.

A couple of cool projects Alicia has worked on lately include two articles that she wrote for the Alberta Cancer Foundation’s summer issue of Leap magazine. And she recently proofread the first book from Laberinto Press, which promotes diverse literature and world lit in translation. That book is “Beyond the Food Court,” an anthology that explores the intersection of cuisine, geography, politics and nostalgia.

I know Alicia from Twitter, but I also saw that she was recently selected as a featured volunteer of Editors Canada, and that’s when I realized how new she was to freelancing. She only started freelancing in 2019, and yet she has already built this great networking community by getting involved in various volunteer opportunities and taking advantage of social media.

In fact, she is the co-coordinator of the Edmonton chapter of Editors Canada, and she is a member of Editors Canada’s Task Force for Statement of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

Alicia began freelancing in 2019 after her father died and she realized life is too short and that she should be doing something she loves.

As a new freelancer, one of the biggest challenges was trying to find a consistent time to work at her desk. That only increased during the pandemic when all three of her sons were now at home after schools shut down in-person learning. This fall, her children are back in in-person school, which allows her to focus on her business during the day again.

Alicia loves having a career that lets her focus strictly on editing and writing. She has discovered that she loves getting to know clients, figuring out what they need and helping them put their best words forward.

Alicia is surprised she’s a freelancer. She never envisioned being her own boss and having a head for business (Melanie can relate!). She did as much research and planning as she could before she launched her business, researching how to set up a business in her province and tapping into local business resources.

She has a tendency to second-guess herself, but reaching out to other freelancers for advice and building her freelance network has been helpful. She also finds podcasts about freelancing helpful.

She took an editing certification course and, through that, she took advantage of a business course for freelancers. She said that solidified what direction she was heading in because she had to create a business plan and think through how she was going to find clients.

Alicia is involved in Editors Canada, similar to ACES–the Society for Editing in the U.S. She joined because she thought the organization would be great for both professional development and building her network.

She wanted to be a volunteer for Editors Canada, not just a regular member, to gain more editing knowledge and experience. Fellow editors there encouraged her to join Twitter to connect with editors across the world. That worked and was even more helpful when the pandemic lockdowns began and she couldn’t go to editing conferences and events.

She has found so many editing resources and a community on Twitter. (See Resources list below.)

Alicia joined Editors Canada’s Task Force for Statement of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI). This is a newer task force that was started to provide recommendations to Editors Canada’s national executive council on ways the group can meaningfully implement the EDI statement, which was approved in 2019.

She and the other four task force members are currently researching what EDI barriers members may feel exist in the organization. She says you need evidence to make recommendations, not basing them on gut feelings or guesses or by talking to only one person of color.

Alicia says that while the membership of Editors Canada may not be that diverse, there are diverse editors who may be unknown to the organization.

Alicia is a Black woman and a first-generation Canadian and says that as a member of the BIPOC community, she believes that being able to make effective change starts at home. (BIPOC stands for Black, Indigenous, Person of Color.)

Freelancers can bring about change on issues of diversity and inclusion in their own industry and in their clients’ work. And you don’t have to be a writer or editor to make a difference through content. You can talk through these issues with your clients, such as whether you should capitalize black and/or white when talking about race.

Consider the images you and your clients use, such as on their website. Melanie talks about how one association did an audit of the diversity of their content, sources, writers and images. One thing they discovered is that a lot of stock art shows hands and those hands are almost always white. So, switching up stock photos to show other skin tones of hands is one “small” way to make a change.

As Alicia considers how her business can grow, she wants to post more often to her blog (a common tale!) to use it partly as a marketing tool. She is researching how to make her blog work better for her business.

She also wants to figure out how to automate more of her processes, such as accounting tasks.

If you’re considering becoming a freelancer or are fairly new to freelancing, Alicia recommends just diving in, not putting it off. That said, she doesn’t recommend saying yes to every project because that will lead to burnout. Also: reach out to others, learn from your successes and don’t be afraid to reach beyond your comfort zone.

Biz Bite: Make work fun.


Alicia’s website, Fresh Look Editing

Alicia on LinkedIn

Alicia on Twitter

Editors’ Association of Earth Facebook group

Editors Canada Facebook group

Editors Canada website

ACES–the Society for Editing

Grammar Girl

Outside the Book on Twitter: interviews editors of color and discusses how to increase the number of people of color in editing.

Editors of Color on Twitter

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