Tips on Becoming a Freelance Editor

This should have been Publishing Friday, but my Tumblr took precedence, so I’m going to provide you with tips on how to become a freelance editor. I’m going to do my best not to be too critical with my tips, but all of these tips are from experience in regards to how I got my start as one. *Note: you actually just want to refer to yourself as an editor and not a freelance one, but for the sake of this post, I wanted to differentiate between an in-house editor and an out-of-house one.

  1. You have a desire to become a freelance editor? Awesome! Try to receive some editorial experience before taking on projects from people (or at least be an author with a well-rated book of 50 or more reviews). Okay, so I know there are editors out there who started having no editorial experience at all but end up receiving good testimonials from their clients. However, sometimes their clients are new and so can’t judge what good editing is from bad editing, which is why I myself would only go with an editor who has some type of editorial experience–be it editing for a magazine or what have you. I would also look at books of the clients, assuming they published them. If the ratings are bad because of the editing, I’d stay away from the editor in question. Also, I would even accept an author with a well-rated book, as this author has obviously gone through the editorial ring and knows what good editing looks like. My editorial experiences before becoming an editor were being with two magazines and apprenticing underneath Georgia McBride, who I learned the actual craft of novel editing from. Now she started out with no experience herself, but she has been contracted by major publishers when their in-house staff was flooded with projects. At the same time, I believe she started out ghostwriting before becoming one.
  2. This probably should have been number one, but really look at why you want to become a freelance editor. You want to become one because you see all sorts of grammatical fudge-ups in self-published titles? Probably not the best reason to become one. I’ve seen one editor that became one for that reason, and from the grammatical mistakes on the website alone I could tell this was an editor no writer should ever hire. Not to mention that I’ve seen the work this editor has done for published indie books, and the editing was severely subpar–and this led readers to believe no editing had been done, even though the service was in the acknowledgements. There is far more to editing than grammar, and you need to know how to do all types–content editing, line editing, copy editing, and proofreading–if you want to be seen as a legitimate editor. If you don’t know what these are, then you definitely need to find some experience before jumping headfirst into the editorial waters.
  3. You feel like you’re qualified? Great! Now create a contract. I have the rough draft of a contract I’ve done for myself. I’ve learned over time that I need one in order to protect myself, and you should get one too. It isn’t necessarily for the sake of legalities, but it’s something you can point out if a client is complaining about something that breaches what is in the contract. It’ll be your fastest rebuttal for a particularly argumentative client who insists his book was for adults when he signed a contract stating you were editing a book for young readers. Failure to read the contract is on him. And if you have to take legal action because of a serious breach, like a client refusing to pay, do so.
  4. Start a website. I would go with a platform like wordpress or weebly and actually buy the domain. Or if you can create one from scratch or hire someone, go with that. Choose a crisp, professional template that is easy on people’s eyes. I would then figure out a name for your services and maybe create a logo out of it. Mine is simply Amber’s Editorial Services, and I have an opaque ballerina with a tagline  that basically says let me take your manuscript from rehearsal to performance. Make sure you have tabs detailing all of the services you provide, like line editing and proofreading, with descriptions on what these services are–these should be sub-tabs. Then you’ll want a tab on pricing, and I would have a tab with a PDF version of your contract and an explanation of some of the clauses contained therein. Then obviously a tab about you, why you started it, and your qualifications. And if you can, have a tab on testimonials.
  5. Start finding clients. This one isn’t easy. Since 2010, I have had clients simply contact me. I never made an effort to push myself out there because I never wanted to become overwhelmed. Now that I’m in the process of putting things together, I want to get at least one client a month to help build up my business so that by the time I graduate, I can really put myself out there to get at least one client a week. So I don’t have too many tips on what to do to get yourself noticed. Many editors who are pushing themselves out there say word-of-mouth has been the best tool for them. Until then, you can start a blog on writing advice that can help push your services out there. Make sure you use strong SEO terms, too. Facebook groups are probably another way to get your services out there, as there are a lot of indie authors on there seeking editorial services. It can be competitive, so make certain you offer the best sample edit possible and make your services seem more enticing than anyone else’s. You will be able to find your competition in these FB groups, so look at their websites, use theirs to make yours more enticing, and try to make your prices competitive or justify why your prices are the way they are.

There you have it! Any questions, feel free to ask.

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Author:

Also known as The Dancing Writer, she is currently working on The Stars Trilogy, among other works.

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