by Karin Beery

How do I get paying gigs?

That’s probably the most-asked question by new freelance editors. It’s a valid question. Editing is like any other profession—clients want you to have experience, but how do you get experience if no one will hire you?

There are ways to get those first jobs, but you might need to think outside the box. Here are the best suggestions I received and options I took to build my editing business.

  • Start small. I wanted to edit novels, but my first paying gigs were for the chamber of commerce, small businesses, and a township board candidate. I built my resume with small jobs to prove my reliability and ability.
  • Get involved. I joined professional organizations to meet other editors and writers. A few editors in one group subcontracted me to help with overflow work; I gained experience while they were able to help more clients. In the writers’ groups, I gained a reputation for understanding the business, so people reached out to me.
  • Take classes. This may sound odd, but hear me out. The PEN Institute provides certificates of completion for classes you take and pass; you can use those to demonstrate your education and knowledge in a particular area. If your work is good, you’ll stand out with the instructor. I know of more than one instructor who’s recommended a student for a gig based on their classwork and work ethic.
  • Work on commission. I was stuck on the experience hamster wheel for years. I taught authors how to write fiction and I taught editors how to edit fiction, but none of my freelance clients had been published (mostly because they ignored my advice), so I didn’t have a portfolio. That’s when I took a job with a small publishing house and agreed to take commission. I didn’t see any money for a year until after I finished my work, but each book I edited was under contract, so in two years I had five books in my portfolio.
  • Offer contest rates. There are lots of unpublished writing competitions available to new writers. Those contests usually accept the first chapter or 10–15 pages and require a synopsis. Create a contest editing package for those items. Sometimes it leads to a contract for a full edit. Other times it helps spread the word about your skills and services.

There are lots of other ways to find your first gigs, but these worked the best for me. If you have some other ideas, let me know!

Owner of Write Now Editing, Karin Beery is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers and the Christian Editor Network, where she teaches several editing classes through the PEN Institute and serves as the coordinator for the Christian Editor Connection. She is the Managing Editor of Guiding Light Women’s Fiction, an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Her sophomore novel, Practically Married, is a 2020 INSPY Award semi-finalist.