Written by Iola Goulton

The idea of being a freelance editor is appealing to many booklovers, especially those who notice errors in the books they read. What’s not to like about getting paid to read and find errors? Freelance workers get to work from home and choose their own hours, which means it’s an ideal occupation to work around family life.

The fact that editing is an attractive work-from-home option means a lot of people set up as editors but don’t deliver a quality result for their clients. So what does a keen reader and error finder need to do to become a good editor?

My recommended first step is to do some online research into the different types and levels of editing:

  • Do you want to edit magazine and blog articles, academic papers, novels, or nonfiction books?
  • What genres do you want to edit?
  • Do you want offer manuscript critique, developmental/substantive editing, line editing, copyediting, or proofreading services?

Editing long-form fiction or nonfiction means understanding the genre’s expectations around content and format so you can best advise your clients. Correcting the spelling and punctuation in a novel but ignoring the head-hopping and telling is not helping the author (or you).

Remember that many new authors don’t understand the different levels of editing, and may ask for copyediting or proofreading when their manuscript actually needs developmental editing. How will you manage the conversation if a client has requested a proofread but the sample edit shows fundamental writing issues?

Once you know what you want to edit, you will need to invest in the necessary tools of the trade:

  • A computer and internet connection (while you can work offline, most client interaction will be via email and some checking is done online).
  • Microsoft Word (including a solid knowledge of how to use Track Changes and Comments). Some authors and editors use Google Docs, but it’s often slower and the editing tools aren’t as good as in Word.
  • The latest edition of the relevant dictionary for the genre/s and locations you edit for (e.g., Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary for the USA, the Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary for Australia). These could be the hard copy or online versions.
  • Relevant style guides (e.g., Chicago Manual of Style for fiction; Christian Manual of Style for Christian works; specialised style guides, e.g., for medical editing).

You’ll also need to investigate local rules around starting your own business. Yes, getting paid to edit is a business.

  • Do you need a separate bank account?
  • Do you need to set up as a business or can you be classified as self-employed?
  • Do you need to register with the tax department or other governmental authority?

Do I Need Training?

I do recommend undertaking some professional training because we don’t know what we don’t know.

If you’re a Christian who is looking to get into proofreading or editing, I recommend the online courses offered right here at the Christian PEN.

If you want to gain a recognised editing certification, consider these professional organisations:

And, of course, join The Christian PEN!

About Iola Goulton

Iola Goulton is a New Zealand-based book reviewer and editor specializing in adult and young adult Christian fiction. She won the 2016 ACFW Genesis Award (Novella), and copyedited Then There Was You by Kara Isaac, which won a RITA Award from Romance Writers of America.

Iola holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree majoring in marketing and has a background in human resource consulting. When she’s not editing, Iola is usually reading or writing her next book review. Iola lives in the beautiful Bay of Plenty in New Zealand (not far from Hobbiton) with her husband and cat.