How I Became a Freelance Editor and Proofreader

Since I became self-employed six months ago, several people have asked me how I ended up working as an editor and proofreader. I’ve been meaning to do a blog post on the subject for a while.

Before I start, you should know that the road that got me here was not smooth. There was a lot of trial and error, internships, student jobs, temporary jobs, and so on. I also have some health issues that mean working in an office/commuting daily is hard for me. This year, at the age of twenty-six, I finally accepted that a “normal” job—at least in the sense of working in an office—was out of the question for me. I needed something that worked with my health problems, not against them.

So how did I go about getting freelance editing/proofreading work? It happened in stages, really.

  • I got an English degree

I studied English and Creative Writing at university because I write fiction. I want to be a published author, and I love reading. I also wanted to work in publishing (although I knew moving to London was out of the question, so at the time I wasn’t sure how that would work out).

  • I got experience (in various ways)

I took on an editing role with the student newspaper when I was a student. It didn’t pay, but it was experience. My university also hosted a book festival during the summer, and I managed to get a paid position working on the media team. I went to bookish events and wrote and edited articles. Since my degree was split between literature and writing, I also gained experience giving critique in writing workshops. I beta read for online writer friends.

  • I took a temp job

This was after I graduated. It was short-lived (less than two weeks), but it involved proofreading for a science company. More experience!

  • I utilised the internet

I joined Fiverr (or FiveSquid if you’re in the UK) and did some odd jobs (this is more of a springboard, I wouldn’t recommend it as your main source of work). I posted on Reddit in /r/forhire and /r/hireawriter (this actually led to me gaining a client who provided me with continuous work for six months!) I scoured job boards for freelance editing roles, including the words “freelance” or “remote work” (again, this eventually led to me working with an IT publisher who now provides me with continuous copy editing work).

  • I talked to people on Twitter

I followed people in the industry. I followed writers (this was also helpful to me as someone who hopes to get traditionally published someday, as my feed is always full of useful information!) This led to some odd jobs, and also a freelancing lead, which resulted in a permanent source of work from a publishing house.

And that’s pretty much how I got started! I’m able to work as a freelance editor and proofreader full-time, but I also needed to do it, because traditional jobs weren’t cutting it for me. It seems simple, boiling it all down to steps like this, but it was a mixture of all of these things, plus a little luck and a LOT of perseverance. According to the internet, it’s hard to make a living relying on freelance work alone, but that wasn’t my experience. It can be done!

There were plenty of other things that helped me, so here are some BONUS TIPS!

  • Read a lot. Seriously. I am book obsessed. This is important if you want to work in book publishing.
  • Keep up with the industry you want to work in—freelance editing and proofreading applies to many industries outside of traditional book publishing including marketing, healthcare, law, and government.
  • Join a professional group. I joined The Society for Editor’s and Proofreaders after I’d been self-employed for a couple of months, and I was able to do some training courses to back up my experience. Societies are a fantastic resource and I can’t recommend the SfEP enough.
  • Make sure you know about taxes, expenses, and invoicing. That’s crucial, and it’s easy enough to find all the information you need about this online!
  • Be active across social media. I mentioned Twitter and Reddit, but LinkedIn is great, too.
  • Google is your friend. You can use it to search for publishers or companies who hire freelance editors and proofreaders.

Remember, if you have the determination and drive to become a freelance editor or proofreader, you can do it!

Hopefully, this information about my own journey was helpful to you! Here are a few other great resources I’ve come across that might help you:

  • The Proofreader’s Parlour – Great blog from Louise Harnby, a professional proofreader. She covers a wide range of topics: editing, freelancing, marketing, money, software, and more.
  • /r/freelance – A great sub-reddit for communicating with other freelancers and asking questions.
  • The SfEP recommended minimum rates – Helpful when you’re setting your rates!
  • BookBrunch – News related to book publishing. Also has a jobs board.
  • The Bookseller – Book publishing news. They have a careers/jobs section too.
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2 thoughts on “How I Became a Freelance Editor and Proofreader”

  1. Hi Rachel. Great post :-) The beginning of your journey sounds a lot like mine! I wanted to work in publishing but didn’t want to live in (or commute to) London. I have a few health issues that make 9–5 office work a bit of a struggle. I did a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing, with aims to one day write and publish a novel. Makes me feel strangely less strange to see someone else follow a similar path!

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    1. Thanks so much for your comment Sophie! That’s such a coincidence, and it seems like we have a lot in common! I’ve also never really heard of anyone who got started in the same way I did, so it was really interesting to read this. :)

      Like

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