Welcome back, friends. In my last article, I discussed my long and difficult road to becoming a freelance editor. In this part, I’m going to give you some tips and tricks that I’ve learned over the last year and a half about what it takes to run your own freelance editing business. If you haven’t read part one, click here! I promise you will want to read it first.
Maybe you want to do some freelance work, or maybe you are a writer considering hiring a freelance editor to help you with revising your manuscript for self-publishing or traditional publishing. Or maybe you’re just reading this article because you are curious about what life as a freelance editor looks like. Whatever you’re here for, I’ll give you the inside look into how I do things! But remember, just like how publishing can be subjective, my experiences and tips might not resonate with you.
One of the most important things I want you to take away from this article is how to be innovative and not cast your dreams aside in the face of failure. If we did this every time we failed, there would be no books in the world and certainly no editors to help them shine.
Pick a Home for Your Clients
One of the first things you will need to do is research the different freelancing platforms where you can advertise your editorial services.
There are lots of freelancing platforms out there, and not all of them operate the same way, so be sure to research what each platform offers, the pay percentage they take, and how you will receive clients. Some platforms take a percentage of your income. Others will ask for money and find gigs for you after you’ve paid them. So, you’ll need to determine what you want and what you are comfortable with.
I would not suggest the route of simply setting up a website and sharing it once on social media. You might get a client or two that way, but it’s highly unlikely. Trust me. I’ve tried. But, please do set up a website as an alternate way for clients to find you and learn more about you! (More on that later.)
Make Your Home Stand out from the Neighborhood
I know, it’s kind of a cheese analogy, but I’m really into those home design shows, so cut me some slack.
When you’ve picked your platform and built your website, you need to put some real effort—and maybe a little money—into making yourself stand out.
Remember, your clients are writers, and they have worked hard on their work. If they are coming to you for editing services, they want to see that you put the same care and attention into setting up your profile and making it look professional.
Consider hiring someone to do some design work for you if you need graphics made. I hired a friend of mine to make picture graphics for each of my editorial packages, and it made my profile pop. Investing a little in your business can go a long way.
Know Your Specialties and Stick to Them
If there’s one thing I could tell you not to do, it’s this: don’t solicit work for areas you don’t feel comfortable editing.
When I started, I offered “safe gigs.” I put up things like “resume editing” and “essay editing.” I thought that this would drum up easy, reliable clientele. The thing is, it didn’t, and I wasn’t excited about doing that work anyways. I knew I could do it, but I didn’t really want to.
But, I was also aware of the areas that I could do really well. My specialty lies in manuscripts, especially fiction. And, if we are being really specific, I get really geeky and excited about editing kid lit because it’s what I write.
What is your specialty? What isn’t your specialty? Ask yourself these questions as you are setting up your editorial services.
Expect a Slow Start and Keep Sharing Anyways
Like I mentioned in my last post, it took me half a year to get a real client. Your first job might not come right away, and it could be because of things that are out of your control like people just aren’t looking for an editor now or your profile doesn’t rank as high in searches because you have no reviews. Brace for those first few months of “famine” by making sure you have other plans in place.
Whatever you do, don’t stop sharing your editorial services. Share them on your social media. Share them with your friends and family, even if none of them are writers. They may know people that are interested. If nothing else, it helps make your work feel real until the day it is and you can celebrate your first official client.
Show Off Your Skills by Writing
Remember how I mentioned that you’ll probably want a website even if you pick a freelancing platform as your main way of attracting clients?
Here’s why: clients want to see proof that you have the skills you say you have. Why wouldn’t they? They are about to invest their money in you and trust you to edit the manuscript, blog post, business proposal, or whatever piece of writing they have put together. Setting up some proof of your skill beforehand can be beneficial.
I did this by creating a blog on my website, then I linked my website on my profile. I was surprised at the number of clients who told me they had clicked on my website and liked what they read on my blog. My blog became a way for clients to see both my personality through my writing as well as my editing skills. Having a blog of your own to link to your profile can be a huge advantage for you, giving you a way to give clients physical proof of your skills.
The Pay Reality
Alright, here it goes. I’m going to be very honest with you. I can’t live off my freelance editing income. Not yet at least. In my family, my husband is in med school, so our main source of income is the lofty student loans we take out each semester.
What my freelance editing job does provide is consistent income to cover a variety of bills and expenses as well as slow-growing savings. It’s not enough to cover all our bills right now, but since I started at the end of 2019, my monthly income has more than tripled thanks to a steady clientele.
Don’t expect to replace any other job you have with freelance editing just yet. But, also don’t be afraid to dream big!
Your Freelance Editing Business
There is no right way to become a freelance editor, but I think that’s what is so nice about freelancing. You can be as creative, or organized, or personal, or professional as you want to be. You are looking for the right clients for you.
Just like how in traditional publishing not every agent is the right fit for an author, not every client is right for you. Your goal—and it may take a while—is to find the clients that are right for you.
Don’t give up on your dream of being a freelance editor! Just work on finding your clients.
Olivia Fisher is a writer and editor who loves to read and write middle-grade fiction. When she isn’t imagining living in a treehouse or chasing down her two young boys, she enjoys curling up with a book, writing her next epic adventure, or fighting off the ghosts of the Bermuda Triangle while hauling up the untold treasures and hidden histories of the civilizations deep within its secretive waters. While only some of that is true, she does love animals, babies, and trying to live in the state of child-like wonder that we all secretly, or not so secretly, miss. Follow along with her adventures on Twitter or hire her for your next writing escapade on Fiverr.