"Walk By Faith, Not By Sight" 2 Corinthians 5:7

How I Became a Freelance Editor

It’s everyone’s dream to get really good at what they do.  But, often times, the mountain tends to loom above us eerily, and makes reaching the top scary.

I’ve been freelance editing for 4 years now.  What started off as more-so a hobby has developed into a passion of mine, and I don’t even have a PhD (and you don’t need one either!).

This past week, I have been able to seal in two contracts, each for a book.  That is a huge success in my book (no pun intended), and it shows me that not only am I on the right path, but I am closer to becoming solely dependent on my freelance work.  And, here’s how you can too!

How I Became a Freelance Editor

Start Small

I started off my editing as part of an internship I had in college.  I became an editing intern at the Student Veterans Center of Florida State University.  My position was actually made up on the spot.  Thanks to connections (we will get to that later), I had a skill that would help out students on campus.

What did I do?

As an editing intern, I worked along student veterans and assisted them with academic papers.  My subject matter varied widely, of course, because everyone had a different major.  When I talk about editing, I not only corrected sentence structure and grammar, but I also helped formulate a strong thesis for each paper, and brainstormed with students regarding their topics, their voice, their standpoint on the subject matter, and even helped them get their diction onto paper.

This worked two-fold for me.  As an intern, I had to reach a certain amount of writing, or editing, or even a combination of the two to include in my portfolio to submit at the end of the semester for class credit.  To the student veterans I worked with, I became their go-to person.  Any time they had a paper to work on, they would give me a call, whether I was in the office or not.  After awhile, they started buying me lunch, or dinner, and even started referring me to their friends on campus.  So, not only did I start to make some sort of income (hey, food to a college student is just as good as money, if not better, especially if its free), and I got class credit for it that was required for graduation.

I did start off editing for free, but as you can see, recommendations started to pay off.

Network, Network, Network

Word of mouth led me to some of my bigger scores, if you will.  I started to advertise my expertise online via social media, and began getting contacted for dissertations.  Mind you, I only have a BA in English, but my biggest advice is: DON’T SELL YOURSELF SHORT! By just having the experience, and the confidence based from my experience, others were impressed and sought me out.  Wherever you are, make sure to hold on to your connections.  You never know when they will come in handy.

Be Willing

Be willing to edit works out of your interest area.  Remember that dissertation I mentioned?  The first one I edited was about monorails.  Yes, 200 pages on monorails.

Be willing to work with people whose level of writing is not, ahem, a college level or more.  Not everyone will have as much knowledge or experience as you, but everyone has something to say, and sometimes they need help saying it.

Don’t Give Up!

Just like blogging, writing, or any other entrepreneur goal, there will be ups and downs.  You will experience months of little-to-no work starting off.  Other times, you will have more than five clients to work with at a time.  It’s okay, too, to put a limit on what you can handle at one time.

When I was editing on campus at FSU, the two weeks before finals week were some of the busiest times because of final papers and projects.  I had to include a new line in my contract, stating that I would charge an additional $20 or more dollars if I agreed to edit a paper 48 hours before it was due (if this was the first time I saw it, excluding already working drafts).  This goes back to not selling yourself short.  You are putting just as much work into editing as they are into writing.

Continue to Learn

Again, just like blogging, web design, publishing, and more, the rules constantly change.  Continue to learn.  Read up on the latest publishing trends, or editing trends.  Even if you aren’t a publisher, you may be able to direct your clients to someone who is, or give your client insight on the process.  Be sure to know the difference between beta reading, proofreading, and the many stages of the editing process (there are quite a few).  When dealing with a client, understand what they are looking for, and based off of what you have learned, you can explain what you offer.


You can rock your knowledge, and if you have the passion, you can pursue your goals and dreams! Take it one edit at a time.

What is your editing story?  What questions do you have about the process?  Leave me some love below, and let me know how I can help you or answer some questions!



About Shannon Thomas

Hi! I'm Shannon, a new momma to a little girl, a lover of dogs, coffee, books, words, and Jesus! I hold a Bachelor's in English, with a minor in Communications from Florida State University (Go 'Noles!). Take a peak around, meet the family, and say 'Hi!'

Talk to Me

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This entry was posted on May 2, 2016 by in Life, Work, Writing and tagged , , , , .


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