If you’re the type of person who makes a terrific editor, then you likely already know it. Maybe you have a knack for spotting typos and awkward phrasing when you read.
Or perhaps you’re already an amateur content creator who really enjoys the written word and would love to turn that passion into a viable way to earn a living.
If that sounds like you, then you’d likely make a fantastic freelance editor. Here’s a closer look at not only what a freelance editor does and needs to know to succeed, but how to become a freelance editor today’s clients would find indispensable.
What Is a Freelance Editor?
A professional editor is someone who looks over written content, improving and correcting it in various ways. Although job responsibilities may vary from position to position and text to text, an editor likely:
- Reads over the text several times
- Applies what they know about language, writing, and grammar to correct editorial issues
- Adjusts word and language choices to help the text flow
- Offers the writer feedback on various points
- Steps in as a partial ghostwriter when and if a text needs major restructuring
A freelance editor is a self-employed independent contractor who does editing work on a case-by-case basis for various individuals, companies, or clients as needed.
What Types of Freelance Editors Are There?
One decision you’ll need to make after learning how to become a freelance editor is what type of editor you’d like to be. Here’s a look at the most common types and a few of the duties of each.
Also sometimes called line editors, copy editors oversee the mechanical aspects of a piece of written text. Among other things, they may polish a writer’s grammar, word choices, and sentence structure.
If they’re editing a non-fiction text, they may also do some fact-checking or possibly even additional research.
Developmental editors typically deal with ideas and text concepts while still in the brainstorming phase. They can (and often do) apply what they know about the industry to help writers structure and organize their ideas.
They may also look at existing or in-progress manuscripts with the bigger picture in mind, helping to improve the flow of the content as it comes together.
Proofreaders are similar to copy editors in that they go over a text in search of grammar issues, typos, and similar problems. However, theirs is often the last set of eyes to look over an otherwise finished text or manuscript before it’s finalized.
Think of a proofreader as the person responsible for applying that final layer of polish before a piece of writing goes live.
What Skills Does a Freelance Editor Need?
A good freelance editor planning a career in today’s digital space needs a good mixture of hard and soft skills. (Hard skills are measurable, teachable skills necessary to perform a job correctly, while soft skills are critical personal traits someone brings to the table as an individual.)
Hard skills a freelance editor will need include:
- Strong spelling, grammar, and language skills
- Working knowledge of current best SEO practices
- Robust research skills
- Familiarity with key writing and editing programs
Some of the soft skills needed include:
- Excellent communication abilities
- A friendly, personable way with people
- Great critical thinking abilities
- Reliability and attention to detail
In addition to skills like these, any freelance worker must also be a self-motivated individual who is good at managing time, staying organized, and staying on task.
All freelancers need solid business management and basic marketing abilities, too.
How to Become a Freelance Editor
Working as an editor no longer necessarily means working directly for a traditional magazine, newspaper, or publishing house.
Written content is a massive part of how digital-age businesses of all types reach an audience and grow their brands.
That said, there are many opportunities out there for self-starters with the right skills. Here’s what you need to know to become a freelance editor in 2022 and beyond.
Decide what type of editing you’d like to do
Behind every set of written words is a terrific editor who worked hard to make those words sing, so consider what content types you’re most interested in editing.
Maybe you particularly love adventure novels or fashion articles. Or perhaps you’re exceptionally knowledgeable about business management, animal care, personal finance, or food.
Decide what type of editing work you’re most interested in and best suited for. Then look into developing the unique skills needed to succeed in those positions.
Obtain the necessary training
Although being an avid reader who loves the written word is a great place to start when it comes to how to become a freelance editor, that’s not enough on its own.
You also need a professional working understanding of publishing in general and text editing in particular.
And if you’re planning on hiring yourself out as a freelance online content editor, you’ll also need to understand SEO, content management, social media, etc.
Developing a working knowledge of standard style guides (like The Associated Press Stylebook, to name just one example) is also a good idea.
Although there are plenty of self-taught editors out there, it’s worth signing up for formal training to give yourself a competitive edge.
College editing courses, workshops, and online programs are great ways to build your skills and prepare for your future career.
Start working on your portfolio
When you’re just starting out, the most important thing is building your portfolio and accumulating work experience. Many beginning freelance editors do this by volunteering their services or participating in internships.
Finding beginning freelance work via online marketplaces like Upwork, Guru, and similar platforms can be helpful for learning the ropes and adding to a growing portfolio, as well. Beginning editors may also choose to build experience with writing jobs and similar options.
Work on building your network
Aspiring freelance editors should also be working on their professional networks as they build their portfolios. Social media profiles, especially on business-friendly platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn, are terrific places to meet new clients and rub elbows with others connected to the industries you’re interested in.
And don’t shy away from the idea of connecting with fellow editors and others in the freelance publishing industry.
Think of them less as competitors vying for the same work you’re after and more as peers who can help you learn the ropes, build experience, and build a client roster.
Set your prices
Setting pricing is among the most challenging tasks for a beginning freelancer, but it’s a crucial step when it comes to how to become a freelance editor.
Start the process by determining how many words you’re capable of editing in an hour on average.
Use that as a benchmark for coming up with a starting hourly or per-project fee that’s affordable enough to attract new clients but high enough to feel like a fair rate for your time and labor.
You should also check out what other freelance editors are charging for the type of work you’re interested in doing.
Eventually, you’ll have a better feel for which projects and content types are more or less challenging to complete and can charge accordingly.
You should also raise your rates accordingly as you accumulate experience, skill, resume credits, and client testimonials.
Market your services
Every modern business, including one-person shows, needs a website and a digital marketing plan, so don’t leave those things out of the mix.
Profiles on freelancing platforms or social media can be helpful but should not be considered substitutes for a proper website.
So start by creating a dedicated business website. (You can either hire someone to do this for you, or you can build a solid starter site yourself via a platform like Wix or WordPress.)
Fill your site with solid standalone content, add a frequently updated blog, and optimize everything using current best SEO practices.
Then shop your services around to companies, publishers, or individual clients who could use your services.
If you plan on offering your services locally, it’s also a great idea to have business cards made so you always have something to offer leads you might meet in your day-to-day life.
Carve out a niche and move into it
Once you’ve been working as a freelance editor for a while, you’ll likely find you far prefer some types of work to others. That’s when most editors start to niche down and decide what specific areas they’d like to specialize in moving forward.
Niching down comes attached to several benefits. To begin with, you’ll spend more of your time doing work you’re truly passionate about – something every self-employed person should shoot for. You’ll also develop authority and expertise in your niche of choice.
More specialized experience adds up to a stronger resume, higher rates that reflect your expertise, and a growing roster of high-profile clients who need true aces on their team.
Take the Next Step by Embracing Important Digital Trends
Learning how to become a freelance editor or another publishing pro in the digital age is only partially about developing a robust set of practical skills. It’s just as crucial to stay on top of emerging trends in SEO, social networking, digital marketing, and more.
For example, visuals are crucial in how well online marketing content does these days. That’s precisely why working digital-age freelancers should stay on top of relevant design trends in social media and elsewhere.
It’s the key to creating visual assets like logos, social media posts, and more than grabbing a viewer’s attention and generating results for your business.
Get started by checking out our detailed overview of the most important graphic design trends to know in 2022. You’ll learn what makes a design stand out, discover how (and when) to break the rules and more.