Tips to break into the freelance editing industry

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March 15, 2021
5 minute read

Working as a freelance editor can be an incredibly rewarding and lucrative experience. However, it’s not always an easy market to break into. A lot of the time, people don’t know they need an editor or aren’t sure how to vet for one. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. If you’re thinking of becoming a freelance editor, here are nine tips to help you break into the industry.

1 - Transition from writing to editing

If editing is your ultimate goal, consider taking on clients that are hoping to hire a full-time writer down the line. Take on writing while the company looks for a full-time writer, then transition to editing and managing that writer once they are on board. You might find that some prospects are happy to have you write a bit before transitioning into editing because they get to see you in action.

2 - Upsell existing clients with editing services

If you’re already working with freelance clients, book a high-level business strategy call with them. Ask about overarching business goals and challenges beyond the work you’re doing to see if there’s a potential editing need.

In these calls, listen for key phrases around:

  • If the client talks about feeling their copy quality is low.
  • If they feel their messages aren’t resonating.

Use these phrases as a wedge to introduce your add-on services as an editor.

3 - Be up front that you’re an editor

Make sure all of your sales, brand, and marketing materials clearly state you are a freelance editor.

In particular, check:

  • How you introduce yourself (on sales calls, on social media, in emails, etc.).
  • Your LinkedIn profile and headline.
  • Your personal website and resume.

If you ensure consistency across all your web properties and in the way you introduce yourself, you’re more likely to get referrals from your network.

4 - Consider multiple different types of editing

Freelancing editing takes a lot of forms:

  • Copy editing for ads, social media, and email.
  • Journalistic editing for blogs or landing pages.
  • Conversion editing for conversion rate optimization (CRO) techniques.
  • Story editing for longform blogs or brand content.
  • And more.

If you’re not having any luck getting clients with one type of editing, try another. Since many prospects may not know they need an editor, tying your editing services to specific business problems (like CRO or brand storytelling) can help make it feel more tangible.

5 - Create multiple editing service levels

No matter what kind of content you edit (blogs, ads, emails, etc.), you can offer different service levels:

  1. Quick skim for grammar and spelling.
  2. In-depth proofreading for sentence structure.
  3. Overall story arc editing to ensure the piece flows.
  4. Subject matter expertise editing.

Multiple service levels—with varying prices to match—makes it easier to match your offerings with specific client needs.

6 - Join a marketplace or managed service

If you’re having trouble finding leads through your network, consider joining a freelancer marketplace or managed service.

Marketplaces like Upwork or Fiverr have hundreds of freelance editing jobs you can pitch and apply for. With marketplaces, you’re in full control of your business just like you would if the client came from your network. On the flip side, managed services like The Virtual Gurus or Marketer Hire sources the work for you from their roster of clients. Managed services handle all the administration for you, which can be helpful if you just want to focus on editing and nothing else.

7 - Build a separate editing portfolio

An editing portfolio is a great way to showcase your work without any client recommendations. For newbie freelance editors, there are two easy ways to build up a portfolio:

  • Volunteer with nonprofits and charities.
  • Write your own content (more on this next!).

One note: don’t work for free. If a company won’t pay you and claims that you get value because you can put it in your portfolio, walk away. If you do free work for companies, it devalues your overall offering. Free work for charities and nonprofits is different because you’re supporting a worthy cause you believe in.

8 - Write your own content

One of the best ways to prove you can edit is with your own content. While client content might be further re-touched after you finish editing, your own content is 100% yours.

The benefit of writing your own content is also that you can produce any kind of content you want: interviews, longform, landing pages, social copy, emails… truly anything. You can also cover any topic you want, leaving you room to explore your passions and interests.

Not only does this help your portfolio but can also be a fantastic source of marketing, branding, and inbound leads for your business.

9 - Build a focus (not a niche)

A lot of advice suggests finding a niche, but we think finding a focus is better.

  • A niche usually limits you to a specific industry (“I edit for plumbers”) or specific type of work (“I edit blogs”).
  • A focus, on the other hand, gives you more freedom to do all your work in a broader topic (“I edit sales copy for companies that want to increase conversion rates”) or a broader type of company (“I edit all content for startups”).

This broader focus gives you a wider net for capturing business without pulling you in too many directions. Once you settle in your focus, you can narrow down from there if you find one type of editing is more successful or in demand than another.

Get ready to break into editing

The editing world can feel vague and hard to break into, but it doesn’t have to be. As you think about your foray into the world of freelance editing, give these tips a try.

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