How to Succeed as a Freelance Copy Editor

Freelance copy editors can earn up to $40 per hour and have the freedom to work from anywhere they want. If this line of work catches your interest, check out our handy guide to discover what skills and tools you'll need for the job, how to find one-time and regular clients, and more.

a woman freelance copy editor sitting at her desk editing

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What is a Freelance Copy Editor?

A freelance copy editor reviews content to ensure that it is clear, engaging, and free from grammatical and spelling errors. 

They may also be asked to fact-check manuscripts. In the case of fictional books, they review the storyline. Their goal is to find plot holes and other errors.

While newspapers, magazines, and book publishing companies have long employed full-time copy editors, professionals in this field can also opt for freelance work.

Freelance copy editors are free to pick their clients, jobs, and work hours. Some still work for large corporations but many work with individual bloggers, authors, and influencers.

    What are the Six Core Copywriting Skills?

    You don’t need a college or university education to become a freelance copy editor. 

    However, there are some important skills and abilities you should have before you start trying to find work in this field.

    The most important skill for the job is an excellent command of the English language. You must be familiar with spelling and grammar rules to ensure all content is properly written. 

    You should also have a large vocabulary to create engaging content, as in many cases you may need to change a writer’s original text to make it more appealing and engaging and/or easier to understand.

    The ability to focus and pay attention to detail is yet another important skill. Even small spelling and grammatical mistakes can have huge, irreversible consequences for your client. 

    Make sure your work area is quiet and there are no distractions that would prevent you from fully focusing on your jobs.

    Good communication skills can also come in handy. As a freelancer, you’ll likely be working with people of all ages and walks of life. 

    What’s more, you’ll be working on content that may have taken them weeks or even months to create. You’ll need to know how to suggest changes and point out mistakes in a tactful yet honest manner.

    Strong research skills are important as you’ll need to fact-check both fictional and non-fictional content. Research is more than simply Googling a question; rather, you’ll need to make sure all your information comes from authoritative sites.

    Self-disciple and initiative are two more important skills. 

    You have to pay attention to deadlines, but you can’t rush through content without making mistakes. 

    The ability to pace yourself is imperative to ensure your jobs are completed without undue delay. You won’t have a boss looking over your shoulder, so you’ll need to take on that role for yourself.

    Are Copy Editors in Demand?

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that job growth in the copy editing field will decline by 5% over the next eight years. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t profitable work available in this field, but it does mean that it may take time to build a successful career as a copy editor.

    Some work in this field is in higher demand than others. 

    Book and website copy editing are the most in-demand freelance copy editing jobs. Freelance copy editors that can handle news and political content are also in high demand. Those are editors who can create and manage content for social media sites.

    How Much do Freelance Copy Editors Make?

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median salary for freelance copy editors is $63,350 a year. Which comes to $30.46 per hour. 

    Copy editors that work for scientific, technical, and professional services earn a mean annual wage of $78,270. While those who work for religious and grant-making organizations earn a mean annual wage of $77,000.

    Your ability to promote yourself and attract clients will also impact how much you earn per year. 

    Time is also an important factor. It may take months or even years to build a reputation for yourself and attract clients who can provide you with a steady stream of work.

    How Can Freelance Copy Editors Find Clients?

    Start by asking people in your network if they or someone they know requires a freelance copy editor. 

    People who already know and trust you are more likely to hire you than those who don’t know you personally. 

    Once these people have seen your skills first-hand, they will likely leave positive reviews online and/or refer you to other potential clients.

    LinkedIn is yet another great tool for connecting with clients. Take some time to set up a professional page! Complete with a recent photo and a summary of your skills and abilities. 

    Don’t discount expertise that isn’t directly related to copy editing; for instance, if you’ve worked in healthcare, you may be the perfect copy editor for a medical facility. Or even a blogger who needs someone with skills in both fields.

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    Freelance websites such as Upwork, Indeed, and Fivver are good places to find copy editing jobs. 

    Once you find jobs that you think are a good fit for you, create a resume designed to appeal to the client and send it in along with information about how much you charge per job and when you’d be able to complete the work.

    Alternatively, a content writing site such as WriterAccess can be an ideal place to find work. WriterAccess has thousands of clients from multiple industries who use the site regularly to find talented copywriters and editors. 

    You receive 70% of the money the client pays for the job and Writer Access handles all the communications to ensure clients pay on time and in full.

    Bear in mind that you can use as many avenues as you want to find work. Working with one site or business does not preclude you from working with others. 

    However, be realistic about the amount of work you can handle. If you take on too much at once, you may lose clients if you’re unable to do a good job on all the content you’ve agreed to edit.

    Tools Every Copy Editor Needs

    Every copy editor should have a reliable computer. It should be easy for you to use, load quickly and have ample storage space.

    A good internet connection is also a plus. Trust us, the last thing you want to do is waste precious minutes waiting for pages to load when trying to fact-check a document or send in a completed job.

    A subscription to a grammar-checking website such as Grammarly is also a plus. Such sites don’t take the place of strong English skills but can help you catch mistakes you may have otherwise missed.

    There are also SEO sites that help you create content that is not only accurate and properly written but also SEO-friendly. 

    Clients who create content online may request that you use one of these sites to ensure that the content has all the relevant keywords it needs to perform well in Google and other search engines.

    A comfortable work area is also important. It should have proper lighting and good ventilation. A comfortable chair and desk help you maintain good posture as you work.

    Seven Important Tips to Succeed as a Freelance Copy Editor

    Remember that it will take time to build a successful career as a freelance copy editor. If you have a regular job, don’t quit it until your work is going well, and you have a steady stream of clients. 

    If you don’t have a nine-to-five job, bear in mind you may need to do other online or offline work while you build your editing career.

    Have a clear payment system in place, so clients can pay you with ease. You should also have rules regarding when a job should be paid, so there are no misunderstandings. 

    At WriterAccess, we require clients to pay upfront, so you never have to worry about being paid once a job is done.

    Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and take on copy editing jobs in industries you haven’t worked with in the past, or try out different types of copy editing work. 

    It will take extra research to do new jobs well, but the end result is worth it as you’ll expand your skill set and meet new clients.

    Upgrade your resume and social media pages regularly to reflect new skills and accomplishments. Doing so can help you attract new clients looking for someone with experience and expertise in certain fields.

    Learn from your mistakes to improve your work and your career. Perhaps you took on a job that was far outside your skill set. 

    Maybe the particular client you agreed to work with isn’t someone you want to keep working with in the future. 

    Alternatively, you may have rushed to complete a job and thus failed to catch mistakes. Assess what went wrong, how to avoid future mistakes, and then move on.

    Take some time to assess your daily schedule to make sure you are using your time as efficiently as possible. If you are a morning person, for instance, try to get the most challenging jobs done early on, when you’re alert and fresh after a good night’s sleep.

    Invest in your professional growth and development. Take an editing course on a site such as Coursera, learn more about an industry that you do a lot of copy editing for, or join a professional organization such as the Editorial Freelancers Association. 

    Improving your skills will help you stand out from the competition and enable you to do your work better and faster than ever before.

    Wrap Up

    Freelance copy editing can be a rewarding field. You’ll be helping writers make their dreams come true by empowering them to present their content in the best possible light. 

    Additionally, there is a lot you can learn and discover as you edit different types of content from multiple industries.

    At WriterAccess, we take pride in helping aspiring and experienced freelance copy editors connect with clients who need their particular skill set and expertise. Plus, we combine human creativity with the efficiency of AI-powered tools.

    Get in touch with us at your convenience or check out our free trial to discover why thousands of freelancers and clients alike work with us to create winning content.

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