With the invention of the internet and—even more recently—with the acceptance of self-publishing and platforms like Kindle, CreateSpace, Amazon, and others, more and more authors are choosing the DIY approach to publishing.
It is no longer necessary to go through a publishing house and a cadre of in-house editors in order to publish a book. And as well as making life easier for authors, this trend has created a demand for people who can provide freelance editing services to those authors and to anyone else looking to forego traditional publishing.
If you are wondering whether or not freelance editing is something that you might be able to make a career out of, here are some tips:
1. Proofreaders Correct Spelling and Grammar; Editors Correct Much More Than That.
Being a professional editor demands a deeper understanding not only of language and grammar, but also the best way to organize content so that readers will remain engaged throughout. Being an editor can involve researching to verify facts, making sure quotes are properly cited and referenced, writing bibliographies, and fixing formatting. Editors don’t just read and correct writing. Many times they make or suggest changes in organization, layout, and style.
2. Education Isn’t Required but it Can’t Hurt
There really are no educational degrees required for you to become a freelance editor, although many editors do have English, Communications, or Journalism degrees. As an editor, you will definitely want to understand and be familiar with the Chicago Manual of Style as well as any other accepted style guides for your subject area or industry, but besides this, you can acquire the skills you need without a degree.
3. A Great Website Can Fuel Your Career
If people who need freelance editors cannot find you, then they can’t hire you. Simple as that. Make your presence known. Invest in a well-presented website and make absolutely sure it represents your editing ability. Include testimonials from satisfied clients and provide before and after samples if possible. A top ranking website isn’t as easy to get as it used to be and you may need to invest some dollars in having this done by an expert.
4.Stay Abreast of Industry Trends
If you are based in the United States, you will want to join the American Copy Editors Society or the Editorial Freelancers’ Association. In the UK, the Society for Editors and Proofreaders is a great resource and in Australia consider the Institute of Professional Editors Limited. Being involved in these professional associations not only helps you stay on top of changes in your industry, it also is a great way to network with others in your field. Think referrals, referrals, referrals.
5. Get to Know Your Colleagues
As with brick and mortar jobs, sometimes the best job openings are filled before they can even be posted or advertised. Writers and publishers find their editors through their circle of colleagues, friends, and business partners.
If you want to be thought of when someone has an editing job, then you must be well-known in your industry. Get out into the content world not just with your website but by attending live conferences and participating in live webinars.
6. Position Yourself as an Expert on Social Media
Social media is exploding right now and it can sometimes be difficult to know where to focus your efforts. Most experts recommend that you focus on building a presence and staying active on two to three social media platforms. Not many people realize it, but Twitter is expected to decline in numbers of users so choose wisely.
The power platforms that I recommend for editors are Facebook and LinkedIn. Both of these provide an opportunity to not only create a presence but to join and interact casually with others across multiple industries.
There are also great opportunities to position yourself as an expert on Quora, Yahoo Answers, and Reddit through their “Q&A” forums. Answer questions for writers about how to approach editors, what editors look for, editor pet peeves, etc.
Marketing is about relationships. People hire experts they trust. Be seen as an expert and be trustworthy, and when your audience needs an editor they will think of you over an unknown.
7. Don’t Discount Third Party Freelance Platforms
I know some more experienced editors are cringing as they read this tip but it’s a perfectly viable option for anyone who is new to the freelance editing world. If you need to gain experience or are having trouble finding clients, then consider third-party freelance sites such as UpWork, Freelancer, Guru, Fiverr, or People per Hour.
There are hundreds of editing jobs posted on these sites daily and it’s a good way to gain editing experience that you can use to get better gigs later on. You will pay a commission fee of up to 20% to the third party platform so keep that in mind and plan for it when you negotiate your rates.
Many third-party platforms may have a “non-compete” clause which prevents you from working with a client you located through their platform for a designated period of time without the client paying a buy-out fee. It’s easier and faster to find work through these third-party sites, but it can be restrictive if your business takes off and you want to ditch the middle man after a year.
8. Volunteer Your Editing Services
If you are really struggling with getting clients to give you a chance because you just have zero professional editing experience, then consider volunteering your services so you can gain valuable experience and testimonials.
Approach local businesses and offer to edit their written content in exchange for their testimonial. You can send a note off to websites that you visit regularly, pointing out a mistake you noticed and offering to give them a complementary edit of 200 to 500 words.
9. Curiosity Doesn’t Kill the Editor
Although the popular saying is “curiosity killed the cat”, this is not the case for those who want to try their hand at a freelance editing career. The more experience and knowledge you have in different subjects and the more curious you are about how things work, why they work, and when they don’t work, the better you will be able to edit your client’s work. Really good freelance editors work more like a partner with their clients and therefore, the more you know about different topics, the better and more accurate edits you can make for your client.
This is actually a great time to consider a freelance editing career. The demand is out there. The number of professional editors with experience, not already working full-time for in-house publishers, is limited. So if you are intrigued by this field and think it might be for you, get out there and start gaining experience and building your professional presence. And remember, potential customers are everywhere, so always put your best foot forward, whether you are in an editing role or not at the time.