How To Become A Freelance Editor (Guide For Beginners)

Freelance editing allows you to work with a variety of clients, from authors and businesses to students and bloggers, to refine and enhance their written content. It’s a flexible and rewarding role, but breaking into the field requires some deliberate steps. In this guide, I’ll walk you through the process of becoming a freelance editor.

  1. Acquire strong language skills
  2. Develop your editing expertise
  3. Build a portfolio
  4. Establish a professional online presence
  5. Network and connect
  6. Set your rates
  7. Market yourself

Below, I’ll dive into each of these steps in more detail. I’ll also talk about what a freelance editing role involves in more detail, drawing from my own experience of editing millions of words for various freelance clients over the last few years.

What Is A Freelance Editor?

A freelance editor is someone who assists writers in improving the quality and clarity of their written work. This can involve a range of tasks, including:

  • Editing for clarity: Ensuring that the text makes sense and flows smoothly
  • Grammar and spelling: Correcting errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling
  • Style and consistency: Maintaining a consistent writing style and adhering to a particular style guide if required
  • Structure and organization: Helping the author structure their content logically
  • Content development: Suggesting changes to enhance the overall quality and impact of the writing
  • Fact-checking: Verifying the accuracy of facts and references in non-fiction works

Freelance editors are not just grammar police! They are also partners in the creative process, helping writers express their ideas effectively. This role is not limited to books either, as it extends to various forms of content, including articles, websites, reports, and more.

My Own Freelance Editing Experience

Much of the freelance editing I have personally done involves blogs or other websites. This is common as many people use websites to talk about the things they love, but they might not have the writing skills to go it alone. That’s where you come in as a freelance editor!

But you can definitely find more ‘traditional’ editing roles too. These might involve editing books/ebooks, or even more technical pieces within a specific niche.

How To Start Freelance Editing

1. Acquire Strong Language Skills

Becoming a successful freelance editor begins with honing your language skills. You should have an excellent command of grammar, punctuation, and spelling in the language of your choosing.

You may want to brush up on your knowledge of style guides such as APA, MLA, or Chicago, as different clients may have specific style preferences. But your clients will likely give you a style guide to follow anyway, but some may say it’s “based on AP styling” or something similar.

I also recommend reading a lot of content in that niche, as this will help you become more familiar with the common words and phrases used. This can help when you come across those “is that the right way to say it?” moments (of which there will be many!).

2. Develop Your Editing Expertise

Editing is a skill that requires practice and continuous improvement. Start by editing your own work and seek feedback from others.

Consider taking courses or workshops in editing to learn about different editing techniques and tools. Familiarize yourself with editing software like Grammarly or ProWritingAid, which can be valuable aids in the editing process. But as a freelance editor, you should never rely on tools too much, as they’re often wrong!

3. Build A Portfolio

To attract potential clients, you’ll need a portfolio showcasing your editing skills. Create a collection of edited pieces that demonstrate your range and expertise. You can use samples of your own writing or volunteer to edit content for friends, family, or local organizations to build your portfolio.

You can create a website (more on that below) or use a dedicated portfolio maker like Contently. These are great ways to get your work online with minimal effort.

4. Establish A Professional Online Presence

In today’s digital age, having a professional online presence is essential. Create a website or blog where you can showcase your portfolio, provide information about your services, and share your expertise through informative articles or blog posts. Creating your own website gives you full control over how your work is displayed, but you can hire developers if you’d rather not take on the project yourself.

You could even use a site like Medium to get some pieces out there (which can also act like your portfolio). It’s free to write on the platform.

Finally, use social media platforms like LinkedIn to connect with potential clients and other professionals in the publishing and writing industries.

Freelancer Tip: You can also find potential clients on these platforms by searching for things like ‘hiring editor’ or ‘editor jobs’

5. Network And Connect

Networking is a vital aspect of freelancing. Attend writing conferences, join online writing and editing communities, and participate in relevant forums or groups. Building relationships with writers, publishers, and other editors can lead to valuable opportunities and referrals.

6. Set Your Rates

Determining your rates as a freelance editor can be challenging (the same applies to any kind of freelancing really). Research industry standards and consider factors like your level of experience, the complexity of the work, and the market demand.

Be transparent with clients about your pricing structure and provide clear estimates for your services. If you want to learn more about setting your prices, check out my guide to choosing your freelancing rates.

You’ll also need to decide whether to charge per hour or per project. Some freelance editors also charge per word, but it really depends on the client in most cases. I’ve worked for some clients that invoice per hour, while others prefer per word.

7. Market Yourself

Finally, effective marketing is crucial for attracting clients. Create a compelling elevator pitch that succinctly explains your services and their benefits. Use online platforms, such as job boards, freelance marketplaces, and social media, to promote your services. More on them in the next section.

That’s the whistle-stop tour of becoming a freelance editor – but how do you actually find freelance editing jobs?

How To Find Freelance Editing Jobs

Freelance Job Platforms

Freelance job platforms are an excellent place to start your search for editing gigs. Some popular platforms where you can find freelance editing jobs include:

  • Upwork: Create a profile, browse job listings, and submit proposals to potential clients. Upwork offers a wide range of editing opportunities, but it can be tough to build up your credibility on the platform.
  • Freelancer: Similar to Upwork, Freelancer allows you to bid on editing projects posted by clients worldwide.
  • Fiverr: You can create a profile showcasing your editing services on Fiverr and wait for clients to hire you through your gigs. You can find out more about that in my guide to using Fiverr as a freelancer.
  • Guru: Guru hosts various job listings for freelancers, including editing and proofreading jobs.

Freelance Writing Websites

Some websites dedicated to freelance writing and editing also list job opportunities (these are where I have found some of my most lucrative clients):

  • ProBlogger: This job board specializes in writing and editing jobs, making it an excellent resource for freelance editors.
  • BloggingPro: Similar to ProBlogger, BloggingPro lists writing and editing gigs, particularly in the blogging niche.
  • Smart Blogger: Like the two above, this is a writing-focused freelance job board, but there are often some editing roles advertised as well.
  • Peak Freelance: Breaking the trend of having ‘blog’ in the title, Peak Freelance is another one to consider for finding freelance editing jobs.

Content Agencies

Content agencies and marketplaces often hire freelance editors to work on projects for their clients. There are lots of these out there, unfortunately of varying degrees of quality. As with any new potential freelancing opportunity, I strongly recommend doing some due diligence before joining any of these.

Job Search Engines

General job search engines can also be valuable for finding freelance editing jobs, although often these jobs are part-time or full-time roles. Use keywords like ‘freelance editor,’ ‘proofreader,’ or ‘copy editor’ when searching on websites like:

Social Media & Online Communities

Joining social media groups and online communities related to editing, writing, and freelancing can provide leads to freelance jobs. Platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Reddit have groups and forums where job listings are shared, and networking opportunities abound.

Don’t be too self-promotional in these kinds of communities though – it’s a sure-fire way to get booted out of them.

Professional Associations

Consider joining professional editing associations, such as the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) or the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA). These organizations often have job boards and resources for freelance editors too.

Build A Strong Online Presence

I’ll reiterate my point from earlier on – maintaining a professional website and active social media profiles can attract potential clients. Share your expertise, engage with your audience, and make it easy for clients to find and contact you. In the modern age, it’s a must.

Okay, now you know how to find freelance editing work. But can you do it without any experience?

Can You Be A Freelance Editor With No Experience?

You can become a freelance editor with no experience, but it demands a purposeful approach and dedication to developing your skills and portfolio. You’ll also need to be a good editor to start. You’ll be able to learn and improve, and to adapt to client guidelines. But without basic editing chops you’ll struggle to maintain a steady flow of paying clients.

Begin by assessing your language proficiency, focusing on grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Identify your strengths and areas that may need improvement. Nobody is perfect when they first jump into a freelancing role – and you’ll always be learning and improving as a freelance editor.

Practice Your Editing Skills

Practice by starting with your own writing or offering your services to friends and family, either for free or at a reduced rate. This initial experience will help you hone your skills and create a small portfolio. This goes back to the idea of creating a website or using a platform like Medium – you can create content and edit it for the world to see!

Once you feel confident in your skills and have a portfolio that demonstrates your abilities, start searching for small freelance editing jobs. Consider offering your services at a lower rate initially to attract your first clients.

Reality: You’ll need to charge lower than your dream rate when you’re first starting out. You can gradually increase it as you improve and gain more recognition in the industry.

Request feedback from clients and peers to continually enhance your editing capabilities. You may even be able to use this feedback as testimonials on your website – another reason to have one!

Be Patient

Keep in mind that establishing a freelance editing career takes time and perseverance. Be ready for rejection and obstacles along the way, but remain persistent. Over time, your skills and reputation will grow, opening doors to more substantial opportunities as a freelance editor!

Let’s now discuss the important question for many newbies – how much can you earn as a freelance editor?

How Much Do Freelance Editors Make?

How much you can make as a freelance editor varies a lot, but numbers like $20 per hour are not far-fetched for beginners. This can rise to $50+ per hour once you gain some recognition and start taking on bigger clients. Your earnings will vary depending on your level of experience, the type of editing you specialize in, the complexity of the projects you take on, and the demand for your services.

Experienced freelance editors with a well-established reputation can obviously command higher rates for their work. Editors who focus on specialized niches, such as medical or technical editing, may also earn more due to the specialized knowledge required.

Average Freelance Editor Earnings

On average, freelance editors can earn anywhere from $20 to $50 per hour. Some experienced editors may charge even more, particularly for substantial editing projects like book manuscripts or corporate documents. Of course, you’ll also find lower-rate jobs, and some of my early freelance editing yielded $15 per hour or less.

As for per word figures, this can really vary a lot. You might see some freelancers saying they charge $0.02 per word, which might not seem like much.

But when the project is fairly light on the editing requirements, you might get through 2,500 words or more per hour. That would net you an hourly rate of $50! So, there are plenty of factors to take into consideration when setting your rates.

Freelance Editing Resources

1. Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA): The EFA is a professional organization for freelance editors and writers. They offer resources, job listings, and networking opportunities to help editors grow their careers.

2. American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA): ASJA is an organization that supports freelance writers and editors. They provide resources, professional development opportunities, and a community of fellow freelancers.

3. The Elements of Style by Strunk and White: This classic book is a must-read for editors and writers. It offers concise and practical advice on writing and grammar.

4. The Copyeditor’s Handbook by Amy Einsohn: A comprehensive guide to copyediting, this book covers various aspects of the editing process, making it a valuable resource for freelance editors.

5. Online Editing Tools: Consider using online editing tools like Grammarly and ProWritingAid to assist in your editing process. These tools can help catch grammar and spelling errors, improving the quality of your work. But as I mentioned earlier, never rely solely on these tools!

6. Professional Development Courses: Look for online courses and workshops that focus on editing, proofreading, and grammar. Websites like Coursera and Udemy offer editing and proofreading courses.

Is Freelance Editing Right For You?

Freelance editing can be a very lucrative career path if you have the right skills. It offers the ability to work remotely, read a lot of content from lots of different people, and help them improve their content. I love being a freelance editor, and I’d really encourage anyone with a passion for finding errors and improving their own writing to consider it as a potential career.

You could also do it as a side hustle, freelancing while working full-time. It’s also possible to freelance as a student! If you want to learn more, check out my guide to becoming a freelancer.

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