How To Become A Freelance Editor (33 Best Tips)

become a freelance editor - featured image

I work as a freelance editor, and in this article, I’ll share my top tips on how you can become one.

In the past, I was also working as a content manager, overseeing the development of 650+ web articles a month. The content came from freelance writers and editors, so I know how things work on both sides.

Below you’ll find in-depth info on how to start your editorial path, set yourself up for success, get clients, get paid, use the best tools, and much more.

Being a freelancer is liberating because you can work on your terms from anywhere around the world. You can be at home in your jammies, at a beach cafe in an exotic destination. It’s a digital nomad dream come true. So let’s get straight to it, shall we?

“So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.” – Dr. Seuss


Here’s How To Become A Freelance Editor:

1. What does a freelance editor do?

The main job of a freelance editor is to make sure that the copy you’re responsible for ends up being readable, smoothly flowing, high quality, written according to specific guidelines, with enhanced language and vocabulary, correct syntax, clear expressions, no inconsistencies, and maximum impact.

This requires you to analyze the copy thoroughly and then correct it within a deadline. There are many work arrangements possible for freelance editors.

Here’s a list of gigs from beginner to advanced level:

As you can see, there are many options, so think about which one is best for you. If you’re a newbie, the surest way to succeed is to work with a blog, online publication, or as a part of a content marketing agency. This will give you the experience you can use to branch out and earn more if you so desire.

editing quote 2

2. Freelance editing vs. proofreading – an important difference

Freelance editing is about style, tone of voice, internal structure of the copy, language, etc. It’s usually a more advanced and more expensive service.

Freelance proofreading is about spelling, grammar, fact-checking, typing mistakes, text formatting, consistency, and getting the copy ready for publication. This kind of service usually requires a lower level of skill, and it’s less expensive.

Keep in mind that these jobs are different, but you’ll often perform both of them as an editor.


3. How much money can you make as a freelance editor?

It all depends on your level of skill, commitment, types of clients, and time availability. If you’re working on a part-time basis, and do it as a side-hustle, you can still make $500-$1000 per month.

But if you want to go full time and turn it into a career, you can make $5000 per month or more. It’s difficult to give you specific numbers because many variables come into play here.

With that said, you can consult this table from the Editorial Freelancers Association, to get a better idea about the rates. I agree with the $40 per hour rate stated there, but as a beginner, you’ll probably earn less (more like $20-$30 per hour).

how much editors make per year

Important: As a freelancer, you will be mostly paid per job, not per hour. For example, you can earn $15 per simple editing job, so if you’re able to do three of them per hour, you make $45 per hour. If it’s a large project, you may earn $500 for the whole thing, but it can take you 10h to finish. In this way, you earn $50 per hour. There are many possibilities, and it’s a productivity game which makes it more exciting!

How much you earn will depend on:


4. First, meet the requirements – be well read, develop text editing skills and the rules of online publishing

Here are the basic requirements you need to meet if you want to be a freelance editor:

You don’t have to meet all these requirements. But it would be great if you covered 80% of them to set yourself up for success.


5. What if you have no experience in editing?

It’s common that at the beginning of your editing journey, you won’t have almost any experience. What should you do then?

If you don’t have a degree, sign up for your local college and start studying journalism or communications. It’s not only about the degree, though. Being in college allows you to get internships at a publishing company. You can then put on your CV. Plus, you can join your school’s paper and start editing there. This will help you build your first small portfolio of editing projects.

You can also volunteer to edit for a local church, neighborhood newspaper, or nonprofit organization. The requirements for this kind of job are minimal, so you can get experience quickly.

You can read books about editing. You can start with something like The Editor’s Companion. I also recommend my list of 20 Best Books on Writing.

You can start your website and publish your work regularly. Having a decent site immediately proves you have the skills necessary for the job. Also, you don’t need anyone’s permission to do it, and it will give you a ton of experience. Again, you can start for as little as $3.95 per month with Bluehost.

You can go through an editing course online or check my article on 5 Best online writing courses for new writers. The goal here is to gather a few samples of your work and present yourself as an untrustworthy professional.


6. What do content managers, publishers, or senior editors expect from you as a freelance editor?

Besides meeting the technical requirements, there are a few other skills you need to develop to work with your first clients.



This is the number one characteristic that will ensure your long-term success as a freelance editor. You cannot ghost on your clients or avoid responding for over 12 hours. Other people depend on you, so you need to answer fast. The faster, the better.

Communication skills

Being an excellent communicator is a prerequisite for a great freelancing career. You need to express your thoughts clearly and concisely. You also need to know how to type fast and solve problems on your own.

Ability to meet deadlines

This one is crucial. Most publications have strict publishing deadlines and content calendars. You need to deliver work on time, 99% of the time. That’s how you build long-lasting relationships and get more work in the future.

Working well with others

Being kind is so underrated. It’s not enough to do your job well and within a timeframe. You also need to know how to make others feel understood and appreciated. Above all, never complain or make excuses. You need to be a problem solver, not a problem generator.


7. Know the key editing terminology

You need to speak the lingo and know basic editing terminology to communicate better with your clients. Here are a couple of examples:

Boilerplate – A piece of text that can be reused without changes.

Caps – Capital letters

Figure – An illustration within the text

Hard copy – printed text

Layout – how the images will be integrated with the text to create a cohesive whole

Lowercase – small letters

Manuscript – the original text of an author submitted for publication

Specs – specifications regarding formatting, spacing, margins, etc.

Typo – typographical error

Lead – the first few sentences of the story that catch the reader’s attention

If you’re looking for a full list, you can check this article with 140 copy editing terms.


8. Types of work you can get as a freelance editor

Editing roles are diverse, and so are the types of work you can expect to get from clients.

Here are the ones you can get as a freelancer:

Knowing about these possibilities will help you choose your niche and do the work you enjoy. If you want to start fast and get clients, aim to be an online editor and a proofreader. The other roles will come later as you get more experience.


9. Set yourself up as a freelancer (taxes, baby!)

Now that you know the job requirements and types of editorial work, it’s time to set yourself up as a freelancer.

You will need to pay taxes (on a progressive scale) and social security – it’s inevitable. The particular rates and tax laws will depend on where you live, so make sure you do your research before you begin.

The good news is that in most countries (including the US), you can register yourself as a freelancer in a single day. Don’t let laws and regulations stop you from fulfilling your dreams. Grit your teeth and just do it!

The best part is that you can become a freelancer while still working at your full-time job. This is the best way for you to get started. It will allow you to get your feet wet while minimizing financial risk at the same time.

In certain countries, you don’t have to declare your freelance income up to a certain threshold (for example, $1000 per year). Contact a CPA to get all the correct info regarding your specific situation. Once you do that, you are ready for the next step.


10. Set your monthly income goal and determine how much work you need

A lot of freelancers fail to set income goals, and then they get by without making much progress. Don’t let this be you!

You should have a specific goal to know how much work you need to get done each month to reach it. Your goals should be ambitious, yet realistic.

You should also keep in mind that at the beginning, you will probably have to tighten your belt for a while and work over a few months to reach your desired income level. It may take you 6 months or more to reach your desired income level.

That’s why it’s a good idea to treat freelance editing as a side hustle at first. And once you get your first paying clients, you can make the leap to full-time.

Let’s say that you want to earn $3000 per month (humble, but a good start). To keep your eyes on the prize, you need to calculate exactly how many editing jobs you need to do to reach that level. You should also know how much time on average do you spend per editing job (always track time!)

What you want to end up with is your hourly rate. Let’s say that it’s $25 per hour. So if you want to reach $3000, you would need to work on average 120 hours a month.

You can’t hit a target you can’t see, so do your best to know your numbers. The main factors that will affect your income level are time spent at work, types of clients you’re dealing with, and of course, your editing rate, which comes next.


11. Set your basic editing rate and increase it over time

If you don’t have a lot of experience, you will probably need to accept what is given to you, just to get in the game. But this will change with time as you gain prominence.

There are two compensation models you can work with:

First, you can get an hourly rate. As a freelancer, you will use time tracking software such as Time Doctor. This will allow your clients to calculate your billable hours. Because you’re not sitting in an office and don’t get any perks, your hourly rate should start with at least $20-$25 per hour.

However, you can only earn so much if you’re getting paid per hour. That’s why it’s much better to get paid per job (or per number of words). Let’s say you have to edit a 1000-word article and send it back with corrections and comments in the margins. You could easily charge $20 for this kind of task, but it may only take you 30 minutes to finish it. In this way, you can earn $40 per hour, instead of $20. Now it becomes a productivity game which is more exciting than sitting around and punching the clock.

If I were you, I wouldn’t work with clients who want to give you an hourly rate (unless it’s relatively high, like $40+ per hour). You should always aim to work on a “per job” basis. It will allow you to earn more and get more satisfaction from your work.

The crucial thing is to negotiate a good rate at the very beginning of the relationship with your client. A difference of even one or two bucks per job can make a significant impact on your earnings. That’s why you should be persistent about getting the rate you need to meet your monthly income goals.

You should increase your editing right. Inflation (the rising costs of goods and services over time) hovers at around 3% per year. That’s the minimal increase you should get at the beginning of each year.

But don’t stop there. After proving that you’re a trustworthy editor, you can ask for a 10%-20% raise within a couple of months. You can also ask for more lucrative projects and more work.

Pro tip: After a couple of months of consistent effort, ask for more responsibilities. You can also ask: “what would I have to do to earn more with you?” Sometimes you’ll get the exact steps on the spot.


12. How to get ongoing work as an editor

This is a biggie. If you’re just getting a few editing jobs here and there, you can never become a full-time freelancer.

That’s why you should make it a rule to only work with clients who can provide you with an ongoing stream of editing tasks. Make sure you’re clear on that when you sign up with new clients to avoid disappointment later on.

You should always ask: “how many jobs on average can I expect from you per month?” This will help you calculate your potential income from a particular client. You’ll also know how many other clients you need to reach your income goals. Ongoing work is best because it gives you stability and consistency.

Pro tip: It’s much easier to work with a few clients who keep you busy than having to hunt for new ones continually will only give you a bit of work.


13. Have great samples of your work and a polished CV – this is super crucial

I can’t overestimate the importance of having great editing samples and a beautiful CV.

While working as a content manager, I was receiving dozens of job applications from editors each month. I quickly discarded 90% of them because of a lack of good samples or a decent resume.

That’s why should have at least a couple of “before and after” samples to present to your prospects. You can either have two files where in the first one, you show the original text and in the other one, the edited text.

Or even better, you can have a single docx file with all your editing comments in the margin. You can find these features in the “Review” tab in Word, which you should know inside out. Having samples will allow your potential clients to estimate your abilities quickly.

Another thing to consider is your CV. First, it should contain some proof of editing experience and literary education. But above all else, it should be professionally designed, and show a lovely image of you. Nowadays, you can get a neat CV design for as little as $20 with services like Fiverr. This kind of small investment can pay.

Pro tip: often, potential clients will give you an editing task as a test. If that’s the case, make sure you complete it at lightning speed and with the utmost attention to detail.


14. What if you don’t have samples?

The easiest way to get around that is to create your own samples. You can take some articles that you are your friends wrote, and then diligently edit them while leaving comments in the margins. You can also contact a few bloggers and volunteer to edit a few pieces for them. This is even better because you’ll have links to the published content.


15. Get basic freelance editing experience on UpWork and Fiverr

These two freelancing services are perfect for newbies in the editing business.

You can create a free account on both of them and start getting new clients within a couple of days. You will still need to present yourself well. But the requirements are usually far lower than for a freelance position with an established publisher.

The editing rates on these platforms are definitely below average and can go as low as five dollars for a 1000-word piece of copy. But if you’ve never been an editor before, you should still grab these jobs to gain experience.

Document the work you do and start collecting before and after samples. Within a single month, you can earn a few hundred dollars and at least get in the game. This will give you the skills and confidence to pursue higher-paying clients, which you should do next.


16. Do cold outreach email to find your first REAL clients

You may think that you should only contact clients if you see a job posting somewhere online. Nothing can be further from the truth.

Sending cold outreach emails is one of the best ways to get amazing clients that will supply you with an ongoing trickle of jobs.

First, do your research and create a database of publications, magazines, content marketing agencies, advertising agencies, or other organizations you want to work for. Include the name of the company, the contact person, their email, the date of contact, and extra notes. Use Google Sheets for that.

Then, send targeted emails, introducing yourself and asking if there are any editing jobs available. Understand that this is a numbers game, and that’s why you should keep your contacts in a Google Spreadsheet. This will allow you to see patterns and track your progress.

You’ll see that perhaps one client in ten will show some interest and that one in twenty will hire you. You may also realize that a prospect that didn’t need your services one or two months ago is now eager to work with you. Maybe they lost their previous editor or they’re expanding their operations. So stay on it and keep polishing your approach until you find what works.

The idea here is to cut the middlemen and work directly with clients. This will enable you to negotiate better terms and get more ongoing work at higher rates.

Pro tip: Never rely on a single source of income. One is the worst number in business. That’s why you should always work with two, three, or more clients. If one of them fails (which will happen), you will have a backup plan and maintain an income while looking for new opportunities.


17. Sign a contract that will spell out rules of engagement between you and the client

When signing up with a client, you need to protect yourself to avoid getting scammed or receiving payments late. That’s where a well-written contract comes into play.

Your contract should at least include:

In the contract, you can even state that the rights to the edited copy belong to you until you get paid in full. Only then the rights are transferred to your client. This, more than anything, will ensure that you get paid on time.

Here you can find an agreement template for editing services. Change it to your heart’s content and then get it signed by your new clients before you edit.


18. Be clear about the client’s expectations

To become a successful freelance editor, you need to understand precisely what the clients expect. This should be included in your contract, but usually, there are more rules you need to grasp to keep your clients happy.

Be sure to inquire about:


19. Style guidelines – your new best friend

There are shelves of books available on editorial guidelines. There are ones for general writing, legal documents, government, academic papers, journalism, electronic publishing, business, computer industry, and preparing a book for publication.

These guidelines contain rules you should respect in terms of style and formatting. The single book that contains 95% of all knowledge in this department is The Chicago Manual of Style. It’s over 1000 pages long, but you should familiarize yourself with it if you want to treat editing as a career.

But more often than not, your clients will have the so-called “house style. This is a separate document containing info about the style and formatting rules of a particular organization. Make sure to always ask your clients for that document and follow what’s in it.

It will tell you what kind of audience you’re addressing, words, topics, and expressions that are prohibited, the length of copy that is acceptable, how to format documents, and much more.


20. Upgrade your LinkedIn account to attract new business opportunities

When you send outreach emails asking for editing gigs, your clients will first ask for your CV and samples. If you pass through this first filter, they will type in your name in Google and check your LinkedIn account (and other social media profiles as well).

A LinkedIn profile serves as your digital business card, so make sure it’s neat and 100% complete. Search online to find out how to do it or model profiles of other successful editors you find on the platform.

Collect points for skills, as well as recommendations from your previous employers. And above all, get a professional-looking profile picture. Updating your profile may take a couple of hours, but it will help you convert more clients and build authority as a freelance editor.


21. Network, Network, Network on LinkedIn

Once your profile is set up, start networking with people in organizations you want to work for. This is often more effective than sending out cold outreach emails. That’s because there’s a certain level of trust between people contacting each other on LinkedIn.

Send out contact invites to as many users as you can but target them well. You’re looking for editors in chief, managing editors, content managers, copywriting managers, publishers, etc. These will be the people who can get you new, ongoing projects.


22. Set up your office and get the necessary gear

Once you get your first few clients, you need to set your office up for maximum productivity.

First, put your desk in the place where you actually like to work. It should have lots of natural light and a pleasant atmosphere.

Second, take care of ergonomics. This includes buying a nice office desk, chair, and a decent lamp.

Third, get proper hardware that will allow you to keep your productivity high. This includes a decent computer, a sizeable 24-inch monitor, a microphone, and an ergonomic mouse.

To learn more about setting up your freelancing office, read my article about how I spent almost $5000 on my online business.


23. Know the basics of working from home

As a freelance editor, you will spend an awful lot of time at home. Besides setting up your office properly:


24. Install and learn how to use the best editing tools

There are specific tools you can use to improve your productivity as an editor. They will allow you to get more jobs faster and hence, earn much more money.

The tools you should master are:

a) Microsoft Word – it’s a must-have for the vast majority of editing tasks.

b) Google Docs – it’s a fantastic tool that lets you collaborate on documents in real-time.

c) Grammarly – It’s the best tool for spotting grammar and syntax mistakes.

d) Hemingway Editor – it’s an excellent tool for improving readability.

e) Scrivener – it’s a top tool for book editing.

You can also look at my list of the best tools for online writers and bloggers.


25. Niche down to maximize your earning ability and freedom of time

Most editors who reach a higher income bracket do so because of specialization. Perhaps you’re a master at editing book manuscripts? Or maybe you’re great at getting online content SEO-ready?

Whatever it is, keep getting better at it because this will maximize your profit potential. It will also help you attract the right clients because you can show them experience in a particular field. It’s best if you concentrate on what you already know, and go deeper into it.

Here are some of the editorial niches you could focus on:


26. Always respect your clients and other freelancers (respond fast!)

If you behave like a jerk, you won’t get much work in the freelance world. Always be respectful towards others and show your best side in every situation.

Just because you have authority (let’s say, over writers), doesn’t mean you should flaunt it at every step. Be friendly, and you’re on your way to long-term success!

Another thing that’s crucial in this game is your average response time. So respond to emails fast and do your best to finish editing assignments before the deadline. This will show your commitment to your clients and guarantee more jobs for you.

Imagine a scenario: A company has two editors…

One is always slightly late and takes over 12 hours to respond. The other one is getting assignments done as soon as they arrive, and is always there to help. Which one will get more jobs and opportunities for advancement?


27. Implement a simple accounting system for getting paid, invoicing, and keeping records

Keeping tabs on your income is super important. After all, you’re running a freelance business here, so you need to know where every penny goes.

Track all the income for taxation purposes. You also have to track your business expenses because these will allow you to lower your actual tax rate.

You can create a folder on your desktop and store your invoices and business receipts there. Then, at the beginning of each month, you ship these docs to your CPA (unless you want to do taxes by yourself which I don’t recommend).

You should have a spreadsheet where you put all your incomings and outgoings. You can do it with Google Spreadsheets, but as time goes by, invest in simple accounting software like FreshBooks, which starts at $15 a month.

A few useful features of this software:


28. Set up your website that will serve as a flashy business card

This is quite obvious. Editors who have a website will be favored over those who don’t. You can set up a simple website for as little as $3.95 a month. It can be one of the best investments you ever make in your online business.

First, you’ll present yourself as a pro who’s serious about his or her career. Second, a website allows you to say why you’re a great candidate for a freelance editing position. It lets you talk about your experience, preferred niches, and even show some of your samples. Third, if you post new content regularly on your blog, you’ll start attracting organic traffic from search engines. This will help you attract more clients.


29. Become a great online communicator

Master the art of online communication, and you’ll be rewarded generously. Start with these tips:

a) Learn how to type faster – this will save you hours.

b) Use dictation software like Nuance Dragondictation is 30%-50% faster than typing, and you’ll save your wrists as well.

c) Get a proper email client. Gmail is fine for starters, but as you grow, you’ll need something more advanced that will help you categorize things in a business-like manner. Here I recommend Microsoft Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird.

d) Learn how to use text and video chat software. Skype and Slack are the best tools that will allow you to interact with clients in real-time.

e) Learn how to use project management tools. As an editor, you’ll manage projects in apps like Trello, Basecamp, or something else altogether.


30. Hone your editing skills

To get paid more, you need to know more. Otherwise, you’ll hit a plateau and stay at the same income level for a long time. That’s why you should take 30-60 minutes each day to improve your skills.

During the study sessions, you may:

a) Learn how to use a new type of software

b) Work on developing your website

c) Learn about the basics of HTML and CSS (web coding languages)

d) Learn about search engine optimization (SEO), which is now more relevant than ever for editors

e) Learn new vocabulary with a spaced repetition app like Anki or Anymemo.

f) Learn a new language to understand your native tongue better

g) Attend your local college (or online college) and get a degree in journalism or communications

h) Learn about worldly affairs and become a cosmopolitan internationalist

i) Learn about how to use social media (especially LinkedIn)

These are the basics, but here you can find a list of over 80 books for editors. You can also check my list of the 20 best books on writing.


31. Know the rules of editing productivity

There are a couple of ways in which you can vastly improve your productivity:

a) Always use a timer during your work sessions and keep track of how much you work

b) Use dictation software to communicate faster.

c) Use a large 24-inch monitor. This will enable you to split your screen (super useful) and see everything more clearly.

d) Take regular breaks. I recommend working for one hour straight (with no distractions), and then taking a 5-10 minute break.

e) Increase the mouse cursor speed to complete tasks faster.

f) Get yourself a proper computer mouse with extra buttons.

g) Batch your tasks – do all similar jobs at the same time.


32. Start new projects and grow professionally to earn more money as a freelance editor

When starting your editing career, you’ll want to keep your business afloat and reach a stable level of income. But as you progress, you see that at some point you’ll reach an income ceiling that will be hard to breakthrough.

To increase your income and grow professionally, you may:

a) Get prestigious, wealthy clients.

b) Aim for a higher position in the organization (for example, go from editor-at-large to editor-in-chief).

c) Take up writing assignments and become a contributing editor.

d) Work on developing a passive income stream by starting a blog. This is great because it allows you to earn some money while you sleep. Publishing new content will enable you to make money through advertising, affiliate marketing, digital product sales, and the promotion of your upscale services.

e) Build a virtual team and expand your business. You can hire other editors and teach them what you know. In this way, you will crunch through more work while still keeping a good profit margin.


33. Keep a social life and go outside

When working remotely, it’s easy to forget about the outside world and spend the whole day at your home office. But this can make your life dull and predictable.

Schedule regular outings with your friends, invite some people over, go on trips, spent some time in nature, do some sports outside, and hang out with other people during social events.

This will keep you sane, happy, and extend your longevity. Don’t neglect that part and be a part of this world physically, not only digitally!

Rafal Reyzer

Hey there, welcome to my blog! I'm a full-time blogger, educator, digital marketer, freelance writer, editor and content manager with 10+ years of experience. I started to provide you with great tools and strategies you can use to achieve freedom from 9 to 5 through online creativity. My site is a one-stop-shop for freelance writers, bloggers, publishers, content enthusiasts who want to be independent, earn more money and create beautiful things. Feel free to learn more about me here.