Saturday, September 15, 2018

How I Became a Freelance Editor

Not too long ago, I covered why I edit. Now I'm going to give y'all a look at how I got here. (Hint: it's not as hard as you think.)

First, I'm going to define "freelance editor." I think that's become a term for any editor who isn't employed by a publishing house. A nice way to put that is "freelance" means "entrepreneurial."

Thus, the whole point is that there really is no set recipe on how to get there kind of like chili. So I'm going to give you my recipe, but don't feel like all of these are requirements. Personalization is part of it.

While I know some people go to college, take courses (like this one), or even apprentice, I find that the most important thing to have as a freelance editor is experience.

I've gotten experience in three different ways:
  • beta reading // This is how I started out. I beta read friends' books for free and basically practiced my edits on them. I had actually already begun doing this just "for fun" before considering editing as a career. Enjoying alpha and beta reads is part of what helped me decide I would like editing.
  • read writing craft books // This might not be for everyone since I'm a reader. But so far, DIY MFA by Gabriela Pereira and The Irresistible Novel by Jeff Gerke are my absolute favorite writing craft books. They're so much more than that and taught me a lot of things from masters much quicker than I would have learned them myself.
  • received edits from others // Whether this was beta reads (not for everyone!) or paying for a freelance editor, I learned the most the fastest by having other people give me feedback.

I did all of those things before ever charging a dime. When I felt ready to make the transition to a freelance editor, I did several things:
  • collected "editing" reviews from the more prestigious people I'd beta read for (all you have to do is ask!)
  • stopped alpha/beta reading for everyone but my closest writing friends
  • chose affordable pricing so I could reach the same group I'd already been helping
  • let people know I was editing through a blog page (now on my website) and post
And really, it's been fantastic! I've had an average of at least one manuscript a month since I began editing almost two years ago. Since then, I've only raised my prices once to match my growing skillset. Through word of mouth, I've ended up with some college-level papers to edit as well.

I don't try to sound more accomplished than I am, and I always intend to have under-market pricing. My target clients are young/new writers who need an encouraging edit and more experienced writers who need a once-over final proofing. I think those are key things to make me stand out from the crowd. (We all know every writer and their second cousin edits on the side.)

I've really enjoyed freelance editing, and hope to continue to build it as a steadier source of income. (If anyone has any tips on how to get any faster, that would be spot on! xD)

The hardest part for me was knowing how to transition to charging. Would people be all right with that? Would any of my friends want to pay for my feedback? The truth is we all have to start somewhere, so putting that self-doubt aside and stepping out there was hard. But it's what allowed me to gain experience and confidence.

I'd say the best part of it all for me has been knowing that I'm helping other people. People whose shoes I've been in. Publishing is scary and professional edits are a must (in my opinion). So I love being able to get writers one step closer to fulfilling their dreams.
Thanks to my reading accountability partner Lisa for giving me the idea for this post! I hope you found it helpful. Have you ever considered offering editing services?


  1. Wow, this post is perfectly timed for me XD I LOVE critiquing novels, so I've been planing to start up my freelance editing business pretty soon. And you nailed it with the hardest part about wondering how people will react to prices, because I'm already worrying about that ;)
    Great post!

    1. Oh good!! Both enjoying critiquing and worrying about prices are normal. ;) Prices are totally up to you. With a lot of critiquing under your belt, I'm sure you'll have some friends who will be willing to pay for you. I'd charge it lowball for the first 6-12 months to build it up a little. Then you'll have a better idea of what your services are worth based on how long it takes you and such. That's when you can adjust and really charge what your time is worth. But of course you may already have an idea with critiquing, so it really is up to you. People who know you're talented won't flinch because chances are you'll still be way under crazy market prices ;)

  2. I started a freelance editing business fairly recently, and I've basically followed the same procedure. How do you promote your business and gain clients after you've gotten several reviews? That's my main problem at this point; few people know that I edit. :P

    1. Haha that's awesome! Getting the word out can be tricky as with anything. I had a blog page for a while (now a website page) that said "Editing." Anyone who visited could see it. It wasn't vague like "Services." People knew immediately what I offered and where to find details.

      I also did a blog post for when I started offering services. Any time I mentioned something about editing in a blog post, I'd provide a link to that page. And because I had beta read and critiqued beforehand, I let those people know I was now offering editing services. Don't be afraid to say what you offer when people mention looking for an editor, struggling with grammar, or whatnot.

      If the few people who have already used you liked your skill and your prices, chances are they'll recommend you. People get asked who they use for things all the time! As always, word-of-mouth is the most powerful. But having the info (like pricing) readily available is helpful as well. :)

    2. OH! And something I find really helpful is showcasing (see my interchange with Madison in the comments below). The only way I've found to showcase my editing work is to edit an opening paragraph or blurb for someone for free. That way they get a taste of what they'd be getting for their money without you sacrificing too much time to prove yourself. :) Best of luck as an editor!!

    3. I'm doing a lot of that already, so it seems like I'm on the right track. :) The only thing on the list I'm not really doing yet is linking from blog posts, so I'll try to remember to do that too. I don't actually write a whole lot about editing, more about prewriting and drafting, so I don't know how often I'll have a chance to share links, but I'll definitely keep it in mind.
      Thanks for the tips!

  3. Thanks for the post! I've been trying to figure out, on and off, if freelance work is "the thing" for me, so I appreciate any advice/experience that I can find. :) Best of luck with growing your business!

    1. Yes, I don't think freelance is for everyone, but I'm glad you found this helpful from a freelancer POV. ;) Thank you! Best of luck with your decision-making. :)

  4. That's awesome you've had a consistent feed of manuscripts! So cool. And I totally understand the charging problem - I have no clue what to charge for my photography. You want to charge enough to make your it worth your time (because you have awesome experience!) without breaking the writer's bank.

    1. I was honestly really surprised at the steady stream?? But yes, very blessed in that regard.

      Yay, someone who understands xD The pricing is totally a self-doubt thing for me because I don't want to rip people off or lose business. But it HAS to be worth it. I think you having your photography Instagram is a great idea because people see the work and can decide whether that's what they want without thinking "how long has she been doing this?" The work speaks for itself. I gotta find a good way to showcase feedback ;P

  5. Great post! And I wanted to say, I just got "Martin Hospitality" in the mail today. I AM SO EXCITED TO READ IT!!!!! *throws lots of confetti*

    1. Thanks! HOORAY!!! I hope you enjoy it. This is a great time of year to read it ;D Can't wait for your review ^.^

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