How to become a Freelance Editor

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Do spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and poor punctuation jump out at you and ruin your reading experience? If written errors and bad writing style make you crazy you might make a great editor! An excellent grasp of language, style and word choice, plus a keen eye for detail are all the beginning ingredients for a solid career as an editor. If you have ever considered trying your hand as a freelance editor here are some of the steps you can take to get from just thinking about it to being a successful solopreneur.

Step 1: Develop your Skills

If you haven’t already worked as an editor before deciding to transition to freelancing, the most obvious way to learn editing skills is to take relevant courses from a local college or another institution that offers professional training. If you don’t have the time or money to get a degree, check out the wealth of online courses available on sites like udemy and skillshare. You’ll want to be sure that your grammar and proofreading skills are up to par before starting to look for work as an editor. Depending on what type of editing you are going to do, it might also help if you have good storytelling skills or a strong command of the acceptable formats in your niche area.

Once you feel confident in your editing skills it is time to gain some experience as an editor and work on some projects. Try and find people who needs help editing and offer to trade skills or you can help them out for another type of non-monetary payment. Even offering your services for free at first can help you gain experience.

Step 2: Choose a Niche

Identify where your strongest editing skills lay or what type of work you are most interested in editing. If you have a background in science, perhaps editing scientific research papers or journal articles will be your niche. Perhaps fiction manuscripts are what you are passionate about and you want to make that your niche. There are so many kinds of writing that need editing so try and pick a niche which interests you and where your strengths lay so that you can become an expert in your arena. When you know what niche to build your business in, what type of editing services you want to offer, and who your potential clients are; then you can build your portfolio, as well as draw-up your business plan and marketing strategy accordingly.

Step 3: Build a Portfolio

An editing portfolio should consist of samples from pieces you’ve worked on: a couple pages from each will do. Try and show before and after versions of each piece to give your potential clients an understanding of just how great your skills are and how you took a piece from primitive to polished. While building your portfolio you are also developing your marketable skills as an editor by doing the work you wish to get paid for and learning as you practice. Remember you only want to show off your best work that has been perfectly edited. At this stage it might be a good idea to offer to do some free work for testimonials to build your portfolio and reputation. You can use any feedback and criticism from your free work as a way to to learn and improve your skills.

Along with your portfolio, it is a good idea to make sure that you have a flawless resume prepared if someone asks to see it. One tiny typo is game over for an editor! Sometimes it is hard to edit your own work, especially if resumes aren’t even close to your niche area, so at this stage you could consider using a fellow freelance editor to edit your resume.

Step 4: Develop your Business Plan

You have decided on your niche and know your target clientele and you have the training and portfolio to become a freelance editor, but how will you take your vision and make it a reality? You need to make a business plan. Making a business plan seems daunting and complicated but it doesn't have to be. There are a few step-by-step guides available online and plenty of books written on the subject. An easy way to get started is to outline your short term, medium term, and long term goals using the S.M.A.R.T system of goal setting, in which your goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based.

While you’re making your business plan you should check into what kind of business license you might need and what kind of insurance to get. You may want to set up a legal entity for your business to avoid personal liability. At this stage you should also decide how you are going to charge for your services: Hourly? Results based? Per project? A retainer fee? Now is a good time to write a general contract that you can adapt for each client and project, decide on an invoicing plan, and create a process for project management so that you are totally prepared to take on your first client.

All solopreneurs need to figure out how to deal with taxes and decide if they need to budget for an accountant. If you have the funds to meet with an accountant early on in your endeavors, they will be able to tell you what type of business you should set yourself up as for tax purposes and such. If you do not have the money to hire an accountant, plan to spend some time researching small business taxes.

If all this seems a bit overwhelming, why not check out these 5 Sources for Online Courses to help you with the business side of freelancing.

Step 5: Build a Website

You’ve found your niche, you’re building a portfolio and now it’s time to build and invest in your online presence. In order to do that it is time to set up your business’s website. If you aren’t confident in your website building abilities, it might be worth it to hire a fellow freelancer to do it for you. Or you can check out some online resources for advice and guidance, but whatever you do: be sure that your website is professional looking and showcases your best work in order to entice clients to hire you. A good business website includes the following: what it is that you do, what makes you stand-out from others who do what you do, where you are located, what your rates are, how you can be reached and a few personal touches to draw people in. It is a good idea to include a blog on it to keep people up to date on your projects, add a little personality, and give them a reason to keep returning to your site even before they’re ready to hire you.

Step 6: Promote Yourself

When you’re just starting out as an editor, you can add your profile to freelance marketplaces to help clients find you easily. When using these type of sites, it might be tempting to lower your rate in order to get more jobs. Once more clients can find you, you will get more jobs; the more jobs you get, the more indemand you will become and the higher you can raise your rate. However, do not get stuck in the habit of working for low pay and selling yourself short, offering services too cheaply is bad for business, feel free to say no to poorly paying jobs.

Anyone starting out in business knows that importances of networking, get out there and start connecting people. Let everyone from friends and family to former colleagues know what you are up to by sharing your progress across appropriate channels, it’s time to get serious about linking your social media to your business. Once your business website is up and running, be sure to include links to it on your social media platforms. Find and choose the best social media platforms to increase your exposure in your niche area: you want to be able to follow and tag relevant businesses that relate to what you do, it’s an integral part of online networking.

Aside from cultivating your online presence, you should have business cards ready to hand out in real life when you meet prospective clients or other people who can pass your information on to someone who is looking for your services. If you’re not sure where to meet people to had out your business cards to, try attending local business events, workshops, and conferences related to your niche, as well as joining local business associations. Join writing and editing groups to network with people in your area of expertise.


The road to becoming a successful freelance editor can look daunting but we hope these tips will help you on your quest. We don’t have many editor profiles yet on SageGroupy, the freelancer’s friend. Why not sign up and make a profile to start reaching potential clients today?

Author: S.Suzuyama

Posted in Freelancing For Beginners, Business Tips on Jan 25, 2019

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