Wednesday, February 24, 2021

How to be a Freelance Editor

 How to be a Freelance Editor

A Few Tips and Ideas about the Freelance Editing Game

Seamus King

I have been messaged a few times lately about my experiences as a freelance editor; how I got started, what it's like, and how others could pursue it as a career.  I've been doing this gig for nearly twenty years now, ever since I was a young man who simply read all the time. I have done contract work for big publishers, edited dissertations, articles for scholary journals, short stories and books both fiction and non, and I have picked up a few things along the way. Today we'll start with the basics: Building the Skillset.

Building the Skillset

  • The first thing, and I think the most important, is being an avid reader.  You need to be reading all the time.  This immerses you in the written word and helps you develop an eye for what's right and what isn't.  You can know all the grammar and punctuation rules in the book (Purdue's Writing Lab is a gold-standard resource that you should bookmark RIGHT NOW) but you are doing you and your clients a disservice if you do not develop an ear for the music and rhythm of good sentences.

  • Study up.  The Purdue link above is pure gold and you're going to need it.  Citations will happen, unless you restrict yourself to only fiction (have you thought about what genres you're going to be editing?  Are you going to edit both fiction and non-fiction?  What sort of lengths are you willing to edit?  These are all opinions and plans you should start developing).  This should not be limited to the objective rules.  Get a copy of The Hodges Harbrace Handbook and Strunk and White's Elements of Style .  These are bibles.  Use them, and use them regularly.  Online classes like what Udemy offers are good to pick up, too, even for experienced editors. We should never stop learning and honing our skills.

  • Focus.  The other essential skill is Focus. Editing, especially copy editing and proofreading, requires an intense amount of focus. Do memory games. Practice giving your attention to one thing and one thing only, which can be a rarity in the days of endlessly available media. You need to be able to focus down and see the minutiae, and that takes very very (very very) close attention. You're eventually going to be billing your clients for your time- you may go hourly, you may go by the word (decisions again), but either way you want to squeeze the most value out of every minute you can.
These are just a few basic tips about how to ready yourself to be an editor. None of these are a guarantee of finding work, but they give you the skills you will need to do the job. As for finding work, well... that's a topic for next week.  Stay tuned!


1 comment:

  1. Great post, Seamus! I can tell I’m going to love reading about your journey in being a freelance editor. ~Erin Quill



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