How to Become a Freelance Editor in 6 Steps
In this era where content is produced at unprecedented rates, editing has risen to the top of in-demand skills. According to HubSpot, at least 70% of marketers are actively participating and investing in content marketing, which is further proof that content has become integral to branding. Organizations are now working with large teams of independent copywriters to produce content in the form of blog posts, case studies, and more.
Accordingly, there is currently a significant opportunity for freelance editors, especially in 2021’s digital information economy. However, you’ll need to fully understand what the role entails and its facets in the world of modern business. This guide will act as a step-by-step explanation of how you can begin and thrive as a freelance editor.
Working as a freelance editor: Duties and opportunities
An editor’s primary goal is to ensure that copy has improved language and vocabulary, correct syntax, and maximum impact. Hence, being an editor requires an in-depth knowledge of spelling, grammar, and punctuation—basically, a good editor should have quality writing skills.
A bachelor’s degree is generally not required. However, most editors should have work experience in journalism, communications, public relations, marketing, literature, or related industries before setting up their freelance business.
As a freelance editor, you’ll be working as a contractor on a per-assignment or per-project basis with your clients, which means you can choose the type of editing, projects, and where you work. However, freedom can be a double-edged sword because working with more than one client means you may need to know more than one type of copywriting. You’ll have to be flexible and adapt your approach to accommodate different platforms, as well.
From editing marketing content to proofreading website copy and improving product instructions, freelance editors can help organizations in many facets of their work. Here are the different types of editing you can choose to offer:
- Proofreading: Proofreading is the final polish before the copy goes to publication. Proofreaders look for any remaining typos and errors in tense, grammar, spelling, or punctuation, and consistency across design elements, such as page numbering or line breaks.
- Copy editing: Copy editing checks for grammar, sentence structure, punctuation, and spelling errors and ensures consistency in style. It also includes checking for references to ensure the facts and statistics mentioned are accurate and valid.
- Stylistic or line editing: This type of editing is used for manuscripts—both fiction and nonfiction. Line editors aim to enhance the writer’s voice and tone, including clarifying what the writer wants to get across, polishing dialogues and descriptions, and checking that the material’s reading level matches the target audience.
- Developmental editing: A developmental editor works with authors to write a book from start to finish, including theme and character development, plot design, and dialogue. This is a very involved type of editing that you may offer if you have experience writing books and developing story arcs, structure, and flow.
- Structural editing: This type of editing involves guiding authors with their story structure and style. It includes copy editing and making sure the story is coherent and compelling. You may choose to offer this type of editing if you’re familiar with story arcs and structure, have experience evaluating manuscripts, and know the rules of writing a good fiction book.
Upwork can help you launch your freelance proofreading and editing services by finding interested clients and highlighting your relevant skills.
6 steps to becoming a freelance editor
There are many roles available for freelance editors to fill, such as managing editor, freelance editor-in-chief, and book editor. Depending on your education, work experience, and interests, you’re sure to find an industry or specialization where you can put your love of words to good use. Below is a step-by-step guide to setting up your freelance editing business in 2021.
1. Research the industry and type of content you want to work with
It’s true that editors are needed anywhere written words are published. But if you enjoy a specific media platform, medium, or publication, you may want to start there. For instance, if you enjoy romance novels, you may want to look at what you need to do to become a romance novel editor.
Different editorial jobs will also require certain experience and knowledge. Additionally, some industries and specializations may be easier to break through than others. For example, editing scientific journals and medical literature generally requires higher education and significant years of experience.
2. Gain relevant education or training
From your research, you probably know there’s more to becoming an editor than the love of reading. Generally, editors need to possess knowledge of text editing and an understanding of publishing environments. Depending on the type of content you plan to work with, you also need to be familiar with social media platforms, search engine optimization (SEO), and content management systems (CMSs).
You may even need to familiarize yourself with style guides, such as The Chicago Manual of Style or The Associated Press Stylebook. Below are some organizations that offer editing courses, training, and seminars you may want to check out.
- The American Copy Editors Society
- The Editorial Freelancers Association
- The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading
While you’re getting your training and building your portfolio, you should also start networking. Take advantage of social media platforms to build an online presence. Make sure to create a professional profile (separate from where you share pictures of your family and pets).
LinkedIn and Twitter are also great ways to connect with other freelance editors and freelance writers. Don’t think of other freelancers as competition, but colleagues who may have an experience or two to share with you. They could even refer you to your first client.
4. Build your portfolio
If you’re just starting as an editor and may not have a lot of experience for your portfolio, offer your services to those who might need an extra set of eyes to look over their documents. You can also ask around your community and volunteer to edit your homeowners association newsletter, for example. You can look online for internships or volunteer opportunities where you can gain editing experience. Don’t forget to ask for testimonials.
An online talent platform like Upwork is a great starting point to gain freelancing experience. You can start part time and build your portfolio while getting paid. Create a compelling profile and start offering your editing services. With a global market, you’re sure to connect with someone who needs the editing skills and expertise you possess.
5. Determine what you’ll charge
Establish your price point by tracking how many words you can edit in an hour. From there, determine how much you need to make an hour to cover your expenses. In the beginning, you may not get a lot of freelance work that pays the amount you want or need, so set an amount that will motivate you to work and start there.
You can also check the pricing guides set out by the editing and proofreading organizations listed above. A trick that most freelancers utilize is to raise their rates with each new client. You will eventually be able to determine which types of editing jobs require more or less time and effort so that you can charge accordingly.
6. Niche down
Since publications and platforms have different standards and rules, you may benefit from establishing a niche you want to specialize in. Your niche could be a type of content, such as novels or blogs, or an industry, such as technical editing for medical journals.
Having a niche, such as being a copy editor for science fiction novels or autobiographies, will also help you gain authority as an expert on that particular type of editing and publication, which will help you attract potential clients and ultimately command a higher rate.
Find editing opportunities on Upwork
If you’re looking to start and grow a full-time freelance career in editing, Upwork is the best place to begin. Simply create your profile and start connecting with authors, publishers, bloggers, and business owners who are looking for your skills and expertise.