“Instead of asking others to complete initial and revised submission checks on manuscripts, I was now the one doing the work, and I’ll be honest, it was a bit of a shock to the system.”

Nicola Davies, Managing Editor, Royal Pharmaceutical Society

Guest Blog from Nicola Davies, Managing Editor, Royal Pharmaceutical Society, exploring what she has learnt working for Editorial Office and the advice she has for making the most of an outsourcing partnership

A view from the other side…

In summer 2019, I left London and my role in publishing at a scientific society to relocate to be closer to family. This was before Covid-19 hit, when working from home wasn’t an option. Having taken some time out on maternity leave, I was approached by Editorial Office (EOL) to support a special project on a 6-month contract. I had worked with them in the past, as the ‘customer’, but working on ‘the other side’ was a real eye opener – in a good way!

Instead of asking others to complete initial and revised submission checks on manuscripts, I was now the one doing the work, and I’ll be honest, it was a bit of a shock to the system. I used to spend a lot of my working week in meetings and ‘managing’.

Getting the most from an outsourcing partnership

I was with EOL for six months, so what did I learn? 

Now, some of these points may be obvious, and, perhaps, I really should have known some of this already, but for those of you working with third parties, or thinking about outsourcing work, I hope this may be of use, or at least get you thinking about how you work with third parties, and how to get the most out of your partnership.

1. Provide clear and detailed instructions 

Third parties can only act on the notes and guidance you provide. In the past, I’ve been guilty of presuming that certain things were ‘common sense’ or thinking ‘isn’t it obvious?’ – it’s not! Of course, I knew that every publisher and every journal worked differently, I just didn’t appreciate just how different(!) some journals worked, until I began freelancing. When outsourcing any work, I now appreciate the importance of providing clear and detailed instructions, whether that’s written or verbally communicated, which brings me on to my next point.

2. Be aware of ambiguity

Notes can be interpreted differently. Before sending any changes/updates to procedures, I will now always ask a colleague to run through desknotes to ensure there is nothing ambiguous. As a rule of thumb, ensure that anyone could do the work that you’re asking to be done, using the notes you’ve provided.

3. Speak up and offer feedback

It always comes back to communication, doesn’t it?! A bit obvious I know, but it is important that you feedback on the work being done – and not just the negative.

If mistakes are being made – which does happen – it is important to try and identify why. It could be simply that a freelancer has missed something by accident, or it could just be that there’s something in the notes that with hindsight wasn’t clear or had just been misinterpreted. But unless you say something, third parties won’t know if anything is wrong and won’t be able to do anything about it.

 And of course, if you’re happy with how things are going, say so! Why? Because…

4. Appreciate what goes on ‘behind the scenes’

Everyone works really hard. As I write this 82,166 hours have been worked so far this year at EOL – that’s about 2,570 hours a week. 

I had a few freelancers train me as I worked across several different journals, and they worked so hard every day to make sure the queues were cleared and yet still had time to answer my many questions and check my work, whether that was first thing in the morning or last thing at night. 

And finally…

5. Make the most of their experience

EOL have lots of experience, from the Directors, Editorial Assistants, to Freelancers. Use them!

Final reflections

As I look back at my time freelancing, it wasn’t just a ‘stopgap’. I learnt so much from it and it has completely changed the way I approach working with the editorial office in my new position. 

I think it was six months well spent!  

Nicola Davies, Managing Editor, Royal Pharmaceutical Society

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Making the most of an outsourcing partnership

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Written by Our freelance team, Over 130 experienced and highly trained freelancers