Freelance Editing: What Do You Do; How Do You Do It?

desk, courtesy of Pixabay
Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

Prior to my editing class, I thought that freelance editing would be like chasing the wind, not knowing who my clients would be or if I would get any work at all. But after hearing guest speakers and full-time freelancers, I felt assured that freelancing can be a steady, full-time job. The speakers gave specific steps for how beginning writers and editors can freelance full-time: 1) make connections, whether by cold-calling, visiting the client’s office, or scheduling informational interviews; 2) do any work that would help the potential clients, even grunt work such as proofreading; and 3) schedule projects two or three weeks ahead of time.

There are four main levels of editing, and the latter three may regard the freelancer depending on whether the company or client allows the freelancer these duties: acquisition, substantive, copyediting, and proofreading. Acquisition is done by an in-house editor, one who is hired by the company. Often, the acquisition editor has been with the company long enough to know the company’s preferences and book selections. Other editors may complete substantive editing, copyediting, and / or proofreading, depending on whether they are hired by contract or they are freelancing for the company. Substantive editing includes a broader and deeper level of editing that replaces or reorganizes paragraphs and chapters to make the book flow coherently. Copyediting and proofreading are very similar; whereas the former stage simply makes changes at the sentence level, the latter makes changes only regarding punctuation. Beginning freelancers are often given jobs to copyedit or proofread, and long-term freelancers or in-house editors may be given jobs to make substantive editing.

As I was calculating my options, I figured that getting a freelancing job in the editing world would require more than connections and networking. It also requires a change of attitude. If I’m going to freelance, I’m going to have to believe that it’s possible to sustain my career and income on it, and I’m also going to have to ask for opportunities. Cold calling and informational interviews may be part of the steps to get me there, but it’s going to take more than the steps to keep me there. I’m going to envision the job: the desk at home, the clients calling me, the company paying me, and so forth. If I want to stay in the job, I will ask myself: “Does it bring me pleasure? Will I like it? Do I perk up at the thought of grammar and punctuation, or do I shirk at the thought of handling someone else’s book?” My visions and expectations may change depending on whether the job changes, but regardless of the opportunities and the market, I know that whatever I do, I’m going to have to expect the best possible situations to happen.


2 thoughts on “Freelance Editing: What Do You Do; How Do You Do It?

  1. Hi Hannah – I just ran across your blog today and I think we are following each other now. Just to let you know a little bit about myself – I’m a freelance writer, and when I spotted this post, I thought I’d respond and let you know that I have worked as an editor for writers (and many nonwriters!) over the years, and I enjoy it, especially book projects. I just worked with a writer who wrote a memoir about her ship captain father (I live on Lake Superior), growing up in the 1940s and 50s in our smallish town, and it was thrilling to see her get a publisher at the Wisconsin Historical Society Press. Just wanted to share my experience. By the way, I love your writing. So smart and clear. Good luck!

    1. Thank you so much, Gail! I appreciate your support and love your blog as well! Your experience is exactly what I’ve heard our freelance guest speakers talk about in our editing class. Best of luck to you, too!

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