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Thread: Should I Try Freelance Editing?

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW Pearl's Avatar
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    Should I Try Freelance Editing?

    I'm not sure if this has been asked already, but I would like to know what it takes to be a freelance editor. While I have no copywriting experience, I have a background in journalism - I have a MA and BS in the field, have been published, and run a couple of solo news blogs. So I am wondering if I have what it takes to branch out into freelance editing. I would like to edit and proofread novels, non-fiction and articles.

    If its possible, where I can go? How do I advertise my services?

  2. #2
    Cultus Gopherus MacAllister SuperModerator Medievalist's Avatar
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    Some things to keep in mind: editing, copy-editing, and proofing are different tasks with different skill sets required for each of them, in a similar fashion editing fiction and non-fiction are two different skill sets.

    You might start looking at job ads on Media Bisro and similar sites.

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  3. #3
    insert witty title here kimberlycreates's Avatar
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    I recommend doing volunteer editing first to get some experience under your belt. There are plenty of e-zines that use volunteer editors, and even some e-publishers who hire editors and pay them based on the sales of the e-books they edit. If you want to get into fiction, you might even want to spend some time in a critique group like SFF/OWW or Critters--not just to get experience reading fiction with a critical eye, but also to learn from what other critters are saying in their critiques.

    I also highly recommend taking some courses in editing. The Editorial Freelancers Association offers excellent courses and several booklets to help new freelancers get their start in the business. Katharine O'Moore Klopf (also a member) maintains an extensive copyeditors' database on her Web site.
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  4. #4
    insert witty title here kimberlycreates's Avatar
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    One of my colleagues posted some information and links on her blog that might be helpful to you, and others who are thinking about getting into editing: http://editor-mom.blogspot.com/2012/...ow-enough.html
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  5. #5
    practical experience, FTW
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    Hello! Full-time freelance editor here.

    My advice:

    First, you need to gain experience in the publishing world. Get an internship at a literary agency (that's where I started). The things you'll learn there are invaluable.From there, you'll want to try to work at a few publishing houses. While working as an EA or whatever position you've landed, you can start your business. At first, to gain experience, testimonials, and a client base, you will want to do that work for free, followed by low rates. Be honest with clients - tell them you are new to the job and want to gain experience - your reputation is on the line, and reputation is a freelance editor's greatest asset. You can start on e-lance - there are plenty of writers there looking for cheap editorial work (cheap = inexperienced, but that's okay). Take a few copy editing and proofreading classes through well-respected organizations.

    In the meantime, get a professional website up and start a blog geared specifically toward editing. Internet presence is invaluable.

    One big don't: Do NOT work with a big online "corporate" editorial company or any vanity or "self-publishing" company that is obviously pulling a fast one on desperate writers. You don't want that on your conscience or on your Google search page!

    Best of luck!

  6. #6
    practical experience, FTW eward's Avatar
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    Wow, that EditorMom blog is REALLY helpful, she has lots of links and resources! Thanks for the link!

    I've been interested in freelance editing, too. . .I know it will take a while for me to gain experience, though, so this thread is helpful.

  7. #7
    Holed up in the revision cave Niiicola's Avatar
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    I work in nonfiction editing and have a friend who freelances, so I can't comment on the novel editing stuff, which I would imagine would require a different background. But in terms of nonfiction/articles, you'd probably want to start with some kind of editorial job, as mentioned above. There's a lot of dry corporate stuff out there that people want edited and will pay for, and there are a lot of websites looking for people to work on stuff for free.

    But you really need to establish your credentials first if you want to do this as a career. I second the recommendations to take courses through reputable places. There's a whole world of stuff you'll want to be familiar with (again, for nonfiction at least) such as AP Style, Chicago Manual of Style, etc, etc, and it takes a while to pick it all up.

    Once you've got all that, it's all about establishing connections and getting repeat work from places and referrals. It takes a lot of effort to keep the work rolling in.

    Good luck to you!

  8. #8
    practical experience, FTW
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    I am just now starting to do freelance developmental editing. I got my foot in the door through a crit group, where I edited fiction. Someone there liked my work and alerted me to an opportunity in academic editing.

  9. #9
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin desinty's Avatar
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    Thanks

    Thanks for the post. I have batted around the idea of freelance editing as well. I have searched for opportunities to beef up my skills - I have started beta reading and critting for fellow authors and have contemplated taking a writing course. I feel the more I understand the novel writing aspects, the better I'll be able to edit them. I'm focused more on content editing - scene consistency, plot, character development, etc. I have looked for internships and keep running into a brick wall. I'm finding they offer internships to college students which I am not.

    If any one has any more insight on the subject, I'd be grateful. I'm off to check out the aforementioned sites.

  10. #10
    Formerly Phantom of Krankor. AW Moderator Torgo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by desinty View Post
    Thanks for the post. I have batted around the idea of freelance editing as well. I have searched for opportunities to beef up my skills - I have started beta reading and critting for fellow authors and have contemplated taking a writing course. I feel the more I understand the novel writing aspects, the better I'll be able to edit them. I'm focused more on content editing - scene consistency, plot, character development, etc. I have looked for internships and keep running into a brick wall. I'm finding they offer internships to college students which I am not.

    If any one has any more insight on the subject, I'd be grateful. I'm off to check out the aforementioned sites.
    Editing a novel is one thing I really feel you need an apprenticeship of some kind to work at professionally. Beta reading and critting might help develop your critical skills, but that's only a part of the job.

    The other important part of the job that you can't really develop in isolation is the ability to relate and converse productively with an author. You get better at this over time; when you're doing it for the first time, you probably aren't good enough at it, which is why in a trade publishing house you would tend to shadow and assist an editor for a couple of years before being let loose on actual live writers.

    You also learn efficient methods of editing - little processes you can run through to minimise the amount of work you need to put in. I won't say tricks, exactly, so much as just good habits - doing things in the right order, keeping style sheets, organising your work. You only learn this stuff if you have slightly too much to do, and you won't get that starting out as a freelancer.

    I would highly recommend persisting with trying to get some trade publishing experience. Not only will it equip you with essential skills, it'll help your CV in selling you as a freelance, and will give you contacts so that you can work freelance for trade houses now and again.

  11. #11
    Lost in mental space. Namatu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Torgo View Post
    You only learn this stuff if you have slightly too much to do


    I agree with Torgo. When learning content editing, it helps to have others you can go to for advice and to take tips from. And you certainly figure out the best way to approach a project when you have an overflowing plate.

  12. #12
    recovering pantser aus10phile's Avatar
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    What about just copyediting?

    Saw this thread, and I'm wondering if anyone knows what kind of training you need specifically for copyediting novels (as a freelancer)? I read the thread and a lot of the discussion seemed to be more around developmental editing/content editing.

    I have experience copyediting, but not fiction.
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  13. #13
    crazy mean SuperModerator Old Hack's Avatar
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    I think you get the best training working in a big publishing house, with lots of mentors around: the thing about copy editing (and as the term isn't used consistently I mean the editing pass which looks for errors and omissions rather than the editing pass which tightens up a book's structure, plot etc) is that it's a very particular skill: you need talent to do it well, as well as training, and that talent can best be spotted and nurtured in-house.

    There's a good post in the Publishing FAQs room about how to find a good copy editor. You might find it useful.

  14. #14
    recovering pantser aus10phile's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Old Hack View Post
    I think you get the best training working in a big publishing house, with lots of mentors around: the thing about copy editing (and as the term isn't used consistently I mean the editing pass which looks for errors and omissions rather than the editing pass which tightens up a book's structure, plot etc) is that it's a very particular skill: you need talent to do it well, as well as training, and that talent can best be spotted and nurtured in-house.

    There's a good post in the Publishing FAQs room about how to find a good copy editor. You might find it useful.
    That's a good list of questions for a copy editor. Thanks for the recommendation.

    I think if this is something I'm interested in pursuing, I'm going to have to find a different path than a big publishing house, as moving to NYC is not going to happen right now.
    "You have the itch for writing born in you. It's quite incurable. What are you going to do with it?" - Lucy Maud Montgomery

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  15. #15
    Wordsmith and shoechick alexaherself's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pearl View Post
    Should I Try Freelance Editing?
    I offer the same answer I usually offer to "Should I try freelance XYZ?" ...

    You should try it if:-

    (i) You already have enough experience of professional XYZ;
    (ii) There's demand for it;
    (iii) You need to earn money and would rather do that than any of the other available options.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pearl View Post
    While I have no copywriting experience ...
    You don't need any copywriting experience to be a professional editor. (Writing experience, perhaps, but not copywriting experience).

    Quote Originally Posted by Pearl View Post
    I have a background in journalism - I have a MA and BS in the field, have been published, and run a couple of solo news blogs. So I am wondering if I have what it takes to branch out into freelance editing.
    I think you need both training and experience in editing, before trying to earn money by freelancing at it?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pearl View Post
    How do I advertise my services?
    I don't think you're ready to ask this question yet? (I wouldn't be anywhere near ready to ask that, in your position)?

  16. #16
    The cake is a lie. But still cake. shaldna's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pearl View Post
    I'm not sure if this has been asked already, but I would like to know what it takes to be a freelance editor. While I have no copywriting experience, I have a background in journalism - I have a MA and BS in the field, have been published, and run a couple of solo news blogs. So I am wondering if I have what it takes to branch out into freelance editing. I would like to edit and proofread novels, non-fiction and articles.

    If its possible, where I can go? How do I advertise my services?

    Soooo, you have no background in editing but you want other people to pay you to edit their work?

    Editing is a very specific skill set, it requires an almost obsessive attention to detail, both technical ability and artistic flair. A good editor needs to understand the mechanics of a book, but also be able to see and enhance the great painting that is the story.

    Unless you have training or experience, and I'm sorry, but honestly, writing a blog really doesn't amount to much, then I wouldn't recommend you take this path. It's nothing personal, if a writer was to ask if they should hire an editor with your experience level I would tell them no too.
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  17. #17
    figuring it all out
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    I started with a Chapterhouse UK proofreading distance course. But perhaps that should be 'ended with'!

    Before that, I had completed a BA(Hons) degree in Creative Writing as part of a Creative Arts, Combined Studies degree course. During this, I learned to write and craft my own writing which, although I had already had articles published locally, led to articles and features, stories, radio, etc., being published nationally.

    After finishing my degree, I gained a Further and Adult Teaching Certificate.

    Then I taught writing-related courses part time, first at local night school classes, then later at a University. During this, I would have to 'mark' the work of my students - pointing out the errors, suggesting improvements, etc., - basically doing what an editor does.

    Then came the Chapterhouse course, which I did mainly out of curiosity!

    Then I taught basic proofreading at the university as well as the other courses, and helped other people to become proofreaders.

    So that was the way I became an editor and proofreader. It took about 6 years altogether. And I should also mention that I went to an English Grammar school, where we studied English grammar to the nth degree. I hated it at the time!

    I suppose what I'm trying to say here is that you will need some sort of qualifications to prove you can actually do the job.

    Edited to add: You don't need all the qualifications I have to become a good editor or proofreader, but you do need to prove that you can do the job well! OP - you have the right background, you just need some specialist training, whether that be a correspondence course or night school classes.
    Last edited by Jay365; 03-23-2014 at 04:53 PM.

  18. #18
    crazy mean SuperModerator Old Hack's Avatar
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    I wouldn't recommend ChapterHouse courses to anyone interested in professional editing: the courses offered by the Society for Editors and Proofreaders are much better.

  19. #19
    figuring it all out
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    Quote Originally Posted by Old Hack View Post
    I wouldn't recommend ChapterHouse courses to anyone interested in professional editing: the courses offered by the Society for Editors and Proofreaders are much better.
    ...and also more expensive! But yes, I agree, the SfEP courses are better, if you can afford them.

    I suppose it all depends on where you're coming from. I did the Chapterhouse course (which years ago was on real paper with a pen - and sent back and forth by post!) which gave me plenty of practice at spotting errors and learning the proofreading symbols. That, together with my degree and writing and publishing experience, gave me enough qualifications to be taken on by a local publishing house, and later, the national publication houses.

  20. #20
    crazy mean SuperModerator Old Hack's Avatar
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    Where have you worked, Jay? I'm always happy to meet up with fellow editors especially since I no longer live in London. We might have worked together. Wouldn't that be funny?

    When I was hiring, I was never impressed by the applicants who had taken the ChapterHouse courses. There's no real comparison between them and the ones offered by the SFEP, which are superior in content, depth and breadth.

  21. #21
    recovering pantser aus10phile's Avatar
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    Any course recommendations for US editors?
    "You have the itch for writing born in you. It's quite incurable. What are you going to do with it?" - Lucy Maud Montgomery

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  22. #22
    figuring it all out
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    Quote Originally Posted by Old Hack View Post
    Where have you worked, Jay?...
    It would be funny if we had! I've PM'd you.

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