There’s nothing quite like taking text and polishing it to bring out the best in a writer. If you’re a person with a talent for spotting inconsistencies, then perhaps you’ve considered freelance editing. This aspect of freelancing, while among the most gratifying, can also be especially competitive, so you’re going to need a game plan if you want to quickly become a freelance editor.
Begin by understanding that the term “editor” can mean different things to different organizations. You’ll also come across the term “proofreader.” So, you’ll definitely be at an advantage if you go into a job search knowing the difference between the two:
- Proofreading involves reviewing text for the basics – formatting, syntax, spelling, punctuation, and grammar.
- Editing involves all of the above, plus a deeper evaluation of how well ideas are presented to the readership.
Embrace the excellence that comes with experience…
Unlike with freelance writing, you’re going to need some sort of experience in order to be considered for freelance editing jobs. A degree in an English concentration, or even online editing/proofreading courses would be helpful, should you have the budget to accommodate them.
Success is in the style guides…
In your travels, you may come across the occasional freelancing opportunity that requires a successful score on an editing test. These editing tests can be difficult, necessitating a thorough understanding of an organization’s house style, which can also include standard style guides AP, MLA, APA, and the Chicago Manual of Style.
Although it’s helpful to have an actual printed style guide in hand, the Purdue OWL (more specifically, The Purdue University Writing Lab and Purdue Online Writing Lab) is an excellent online resource for both writers and editors looking to learn more about various style guides:
- AP (Associated Press) Style is used for journalism; many freelance writing and editing jobs require knowledge of it.
- If you have a college degree in the liberal arts, chances are you’ve had to use the MLA (Modern Language Association) Style for research papers. Knowledge of this style is a must if you’d like to pursue a freelance career in academic editing.
- APA (American Psychological Association) Style is also often necessary to know for academic editing, particularly for text involving social sciences.
- It’s probable you’ll need The Chicago Manual of Style to edit text involving the humanities.
The necessity of networking…
If you’re truly serious about a career in freelance editing, then you might want to participate in the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA). As to social media, consider researching and joining several editing (and writing – sometimes writers are looking for editors!) groups on LinkedIn.
Here’s the thing: you can network on a cursory level with freelance editors all you like when it comes to discussing editing processes, resources, or just day-to-day general discussion. However, the competitive nature of the industry is such that if editors have good leads or high-paying clients, they’re usually going to jealously guard that information.
Prepared for a purpose…
So, you have the background, you have the tools, and you’re going to network. Great! Except, how do you actually get work from all of this?
- Search engines are your friends; use them wisely via combinations of the term “freelance editing jobs.”
- Research SEO writing companies, make a list of the ones that seem the most promising, and contact them to see if they need editors.
- Consider offering free initial editing services to local businesses; if you impress them, paying projects might soon follow.
Also important: as you build your freelance editing career, realize that pay can be low, and erratic. Be sure to make responsible employment and financial decisions.
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