Q&A with Editor Sophie Davies

By Jantien Abma |

Sophie Davies has worked in writing and editing roles at Thomson Reuters and the British Museum, among others. In 2013, she went freelance upon moving abroad, settling first in Buenos Aires, then in Rio de Janeiro. She has provided freelance editorial services including editing and copywriting to a number of clients, and has also written for a diverse selection of media from South America, including The Economist, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, S&P Global Market Intelligence and The Art Newspaper­­. Sophie also edits an independent arts and culture magazine called The Kurios.

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1. How did you come to start a career in professional freelance editing? Where did it all begin?

I started freelance editing more than ten years ago not long after leaving university. The industry magazine I worked for at that time, which focused on the performing arts sector, sent me to evening classes in London to undertake training in editing and proofreading because I needed both skills for my job. I actually went freelance by accident when the magazine was later bought out by a Manchester-based publishing house and I decided to take redundancy rather than relocate.

My first freelance editing job was with the British Museum where I worked for several months on-site, to help with the re-launch of the museum’s online shop. Around that time I also worked on freelance projects for other clients including Somerset House and Sky Sports. However I found it hard to sustain a freelance career in London at that time, probably because I was a recent graduate without much experience or many contacts, and so I went to work in offices again for several years, until I moved abroad three years ago.

2. You currently live in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. What drew you to this city in particular? What is the best thing about working a freelance job in Rio?

Before Rio, I lived in Buenos Aires for three years with my partner. Due to the independent nature of his job we have a degree of flexibility over location within South America. Buenos Aires is an exciting city with lots of co-working spaces and great cafes – meaning it’s pretty well set up for a freelancer. However, it’s also a sprawling city that is hours from the nearest beach or mountain. Rio on the other hand has wonderful beaches and nature spots right on our doorstep so I was glad to relocate here in the end. Compared to London, both cities are more affordable for someone starting out as a freelancer, and the climate is considerably sunnier!

I’ve always combined freelance journalism alongside editing work, and have found that more clients are approaching me now too – probably because Brazil is in the spotlight at the moment, what with the approach of the Olympics, Zika and the economic crisis the country is facing.

3. Was the decision to move abroad an easy one to make? If you initially had misgivings about making it work, have any been proved right or wrong?

It was an easy decision to make but perhaps it shouldn’t have been! The first six months to a year of living abroad and going freelance were a challenge. Though exciting in terms of new experiences and cultural discovery, it takes time to get your name out there and build up a client list. I think I was possibly naive to the risk I was taking with my career at the time, but I was excited by the opportunity of living abroad and in the very fortunate position of being supported by a partner.

To succeed as a freelancer, you need to be patient, persistent and self-disciplined. You also have to be flexible because projects and clients come and go – and income differs from month to month. A few years down the line, I definitely think it was worth the initial difficulties because I now have a more varied, stimulating working life than I ever had in an office. I’m also no longer tied to a desk, meaning I can work from home, shared co-working spaces or cafes depending on the day. I really appreciate the freedom of movement that being a freelancer allows me.

4. What do you think is the key to keeping a freelance career afloat? Do you think it’s becoming easier to work remotely in this day and age?

I think a freelance career is far easier and more manageable if you can get one or two key clients to give you regular work. I work for a few clients on a weekly basis, and then add projects to my workload when they come up. This way of working gives me a certain amount of control over my working life, meaning I can pick and choose projects to a certain degree, without sacrificing financial stability.

I do think it’s easier to work remotely in this day and age. There are many websites where freelancers can advertise their services, and in the current economic climate a lot of companies would rather engage an external contractor than take the financial risk of permanently employing a new member of staff.

5. What are your thoughts on the future of London and New York as publishing capitals of the world?

London and New York will continue to be prestigious centres of publishing on a global scale, however they may not remain the ‘capitals’. As the internet allows smaller publishing companies to start up outside of the traditional centres of publishing, there could be a shift towards less conventional locations. Companies that operate from outside these locations, without the associated high operating costs, can afford to take more creative risks, which in the end could make them stand out.

I set up an independent art and culture magazine last year, known as The Kurios, which is currently a mobile app and digital magazine but will hopefully later be a print edition. Living outside of the London rat race gave me time to focus on doing something that I love and which involves a bit more creative risk. I probably would never have tried such a project in London.

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