How To Become a Freelance Editor

Categories Freelance Writing
Become a freelance editor

How To Become a Freelance Editor

The freelance writing industry isn’t limited to writing, there are plenty of other opportunities out there. For those people with a keen eye for detail and a great grasp of grammar then working as a freelance editor is also an option. Not only is this an excellent option for writers to expand their portfolio, but it also offers the ability to specialize.

What is a Freelance Editor?

A freelance editor is someone who works on a self-employed basis to meet the editing needs of their clients. A freelance editor will make sure that their client’s work is ready for publication, checking it for spelling, grammar, punctuation, and general flow.


Editing is needed on a whole variety of writing, whether it be websites, magazines, books, or many other publications. While writers will do their best to ensure everything is perfectly written, there are always things that slip between the cracks, and this is where the editor comes in.


Of course, the difficulty for the editor is they are the last line of defense between those pesky errors making it into the final publication, so they must have super attention to detail and a methodical approach. Where the freelance writer might be able to get away with the odd mistake, the freelance editor doesn’t have such leeway.

What Skills Will You Need To Become a Freelance Editor?

Just like freelance writing, there are no specific qualifications you will need to become a freelance editor. That being said, you will need to show you have an excellent grasp of the English language, with strong spelling, grammar, and punctuation.


Unfortunately, when it comes to freelance editing, you just can’t hide any mistakes. Even if your mistake evades the consciousness of your client, someone out there is bound to notice it in a document that’s going to be read many thousands of times.


To combat this, most freelance editors will normally be extremely organized, with great attention to detail. When it comes to combing through hundreds of pages to find a single grammar mistake you’ve got to be on the ball, and the best way to do this is to be organized and follow routines (we’ve got some great tips when it comes to organization for freelancers).


So, to become a freelance editor you don’t need any official qualifications, but you do need some solid language skills. It can be a painstaking job poring through documents to find a single error, but it’s an important one and if you can do it well then you will be nicely rewarded.


Here are our 7 key points for making sure you know exactly how to become a freelance editor.

1. Understand That It’s a Business

Before you start off in any freelance venture you have to understand that it’s a business. You may be in it to do editing, but you will find you have to do much more than that. It’s important that you’re aware of the bigger picture of what being a freelancer entails and are ready for the challenges ahead.


Becoming a freelance editor means becoming a one-man team. As business.com says, “from sales, to marketing, to accounting, IT and innovation, there are a number of roles you assume as owner of a new business.” All of these are on top of editing! Now, of course, this makes things more complicated, but it also allows for some of the biggest positives to being a freelancer – you answer to nobody but yourself!

However, if you enter into a freelance editing career without careful planning and don’t address all of your business’ needs, then you’re going to find it much more difficult to be successful. In our article, “7 Ways To Start Ahead of the Competition,” we say that planning and understanding your strengths and weaknesses is key, and it’s true. You might be the best editor out there, but if you can’t get your other business practices in order then you’re going to find it difficult to get the jobs you need.

The best way to avoid this is to always be aware of the fact that you’re running a business. The reality is you won’t be spending 100% of your time doing editing. If you split your time wisely though, you will be able to spend plenty of time editing, but most importantly, you will get paid handsomely to do it.

2. Figure Out What Your Time Is Worth

Part of running a business is figuring out how much your services are worth. This can be a difficult thing to do when it comes to freelancing, but it’s something you’ve got to be on top of. Of course, you can just pick out a figure that you want to make per hour, but we find it’s much more effective to dive into things a bit more deeply.


The first part of this equation is going to be your expenses. When you’re just starting out as a freelance editor it can be hard to know what your expenses might be, but just make your best guess. Find out exactly what you need to make to cover your expenses and use this as your base.

dollar bill

Once you know your expenses you can then work out what you want to earn per month, week, and hour. For us, we find the hourly rate is most useful because it allows us to easily work out how long a job might take us and therefore how much we need to charge. An important thing to remember here though is not all your time is going to be spent editing.


Say you get a job that’s going to take you 30 hours. There will be the time you spend coordinating with the client, perhaps some research, and the main editing time that adds up to 30 hours.


However, if you’re dedicating 30 hours in a week the chances are you’re going to spend the remaining hours in that week working on other tasks such as your marketing, bookkeeping, and networking – jobs that you’re not going to get paid for.


So, you’ve got to remember that not 100% of your time is going to be spent working for the client, and factor that in when you’re evaluating how much your time is worth. Being a freelance editor means you have much more to deal with than just editing and you have to factor that into your equations.


Once you’ve come up with a figure, make sure to check it against what other people in the market are offering, but, at the same time, don’t let it sway your decision too much. As long as you’re in the right ballpark then you have the opportunity to use your great marketing skills to make it work.


Obviously, you’re not tied to any decision you make here, but it’s always a good first step to understand what you need to make as a freelance writer. With time, you will get a much better feel for what you can earn, but make sure you give this question some serious thought before you begin.

3. Invest In Yourself

Depending on your level of experience it might be a good idea to refresh your skills a little bit. If you’re considering a career as a freelance editor then I assume you already have great English language skills and an eye for detail, but it’s always worth adding to those skills.


As we mentioned earlier, as an editor, you’re the last line of defense against something embarrassing potentially being published so you have to be on top of your game at all times. Letting errors slip through is an easy way to sour your relationships with your clients, so you’ve got to feel confident in your skills.


If you’re new to editing then we definitely recommend taking some editing courses. Groups like the Society For Editors and Proofreaders offer very comprehensive courses at reasonable prices, money that will come back to you through your improved work.


Even if you’re a more experienced editor it might still be worth taking a little refresher course just to make sure you’re up to date with everything. These things might cost a little bit of money up front, but they’re certainly worth it in the long run.


It’s easy to get bogged down as a freelancer with all the things you have to do, but sometimes it’s a good option to simply take a step back and work on your skills.

4. Marketing

Ahhh, the forgotten part of being a freelancer. You may be an editor at heart, but I assure you, you’re going to have to spend a lot of time on marketing. At the end of the day, if you don’t get jobs then you’re not going to make any money, and marketing is going to be key to this in one form or another.


Luckily, there’s tons of information out there that can really help you with marketing (check out Marketing Yourself as a Freelancer). In the past, much of a freelancer’s marketing would be word of mouth, but today, the internet has opened everything up. To be successful as a freelance editor, you’ve got to be able to make the most of all these new marketing platforms and bring them together with a strong marketing plan.


In our opinion, your website is always going to be the centerpiece of your marketing efforts. While you will use all platforms to market yourself, the idea is to use them to drive people to your website. Once you’ve got people to your website, you’re in complete control of how you portray yourself.


If you’re worried about setting your own website up then let us put your mind at ease, it’s really not as hard as it sounds! You can set up a website that looks professional without having to spend too much money and you don’t need to be a tech whizz to do it. Once you’ve got your website set up it will grow with you and be crucial to your marketing efforts.


What you choose to put on your website is up to you, but the best place to start is probably a bit of a bio and a portfolio. Put some of your past work up there and show the documents before your editing and after.


It’s probably a bit easier to come up with content to put on your website as a freelance writer than it is a freelance editor, but still, there are plenty of things you can put on your website. Invest some time into your website at the beginning of your career and it will help you earn jobs for years and years to come!

5. Communicate

Being able to communicate with your clients is extremely important when it comes to “how to become a freelance editor.” If you can nail this part of freelance editing then you’re going to find that you get a lot of repeat work, and trust us, repeat work is a wonderful thing!


Being an editor, you need to make sure that your client’s vision is accurately expressed through the piece of content that you’re editing. That document needs to be accurate, well written, have the correct voice, and be error-free, and you’re the person who makes sure this has all been taken care of.


The only way that you can understand your client’s vision for their content though is through good communication. You need to learn to ask the right questions and really get a good handle on what it is that your client wants. If you don’t understand what it is your client wants then your job becomes much more difficult.

man talking on the telephone

This communication needs to be ongoing throughout the project for the best results, so it’s important to keep regular contact with your client throughout. The more you understand what your client wants, the better you can meet their needs.


As someone who has used the services of freelancers in the past, I know that one of the biggest worries is finding someone who will get the work done in a punctual and professional manner. One of the ways you can assure your clients that you are going to do this is through good communication.


If you can nail the communication part of this job then you’re going to make your life much easier, and we guarantee you’ll see some glowing feedback for your troubles.

6. Network

There are tons and tons of people out there who need editing services so why not get out there and talk to some of these people? There are bound to be lots of business networking events in your local area that you can attend and you never know who you’re going to meet at these things.


Even if you don’t find people who are looking for editing services, if you make the right impression then they’re likely to recommend you to people they know who are looking for editors. As Susan Ward says in her article What is Business Networking and What are the Benefits? “You need to meet and communicate with potential clients and business partners on a regular basis to maintain your business relationships. Attending business luncheons and other networking events raises your personal profile and can help keep you front and center in the minds of the right people.” We often get a bit carried away with digital networking these days, but the power of a face to face interaction cannot be underestimated.


Once you’ve made a personal connection with someone the chances are they might remember you next time someone they know is looking for an editor and guess what? You might just pick up some work!


The other nice thing about networking is it gets you out doing something slightly different that is still beneficial for your business. It’s easy to spend all day every day stuck in your office sat behind a computer as a freelance editor, so doing some networking is a nice way to break that up.


It may get forgotten in the modern world, but face to face networking is still a thing, and it’s still a very effective way to market yourself.

7. Remember You’re an Editor

When you’re an editor, everything you write is going to be scrutinized to a higher standard than everyone else. This means when you’re writing things like bios, job pitches, and blogs, your work has to be absolutely spot on. If you make errors in a pitch, then the chances are, you’ve failed the first test, and there’s no coming back from that.


Make sure that whatever you write, you go over it as if it’s a piece of work for a client. You’re going to be held to a very high standard, but on the flip side, you’ve got a very high level of skills when it comes to editing, so it shouldn’t be too hard. Take the time to go over your work and make sure you don’t fail at the first hurdle!

Conclusion

If you find yourself wondering how to become a freelance editor, the answer is there is nothing stopping you. Like any job, you’re going to need some specific skills but you don’t need any qualifications, and as long as you have good grammar, spelling, and reading skills, there’s nothing to hold you back.

If you want to be a successful freelance editor then we recommend these simple steps to get your career off to the best possible start:

  1. Understand that it’s a business.
  2. Figure out what your time is worth.
  3. Invest in yourself.
  4. Market yourself.
  5. Communicate with your clients.
  6. Network.
  7. Remember you’re an editor.

Going it alone as a freelance editor isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but the rewards are well worth the sacrifices. Getting to be your own boss is something that few people achieve, and freelance editing is a career that can allow you to do just that.

If you’ve got great language skills and an eye for detail then why not give it a go and see if you can make it as a freelance editor?

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