Freelance copy editing isn’t as publicized a career as freelance writing or design work, but it is another creative and potentially lucrative independent career choice. Freelance copy editors provide style and grammar consistency and fact-checking for publishing companies, writers, organizations and an assortment of private individuals for an hourly rate or flat rate per project, page or word. If you’d like to make a switch to freelance copy editing from your copy editing day job or you’d like to start anew in this career, you’ll need to treat freelance copy editing like a business. This means setting clear goals and following through with actionable objectives to build a sustainable practice.
- Determine the market you’d like to serve. A freelance copy editor can work with publishers and writers looking to be published or with commercial customers, such as businesses and other organizations. A freelance copy editor can specialize in working with a certain business type or company, or he can decide to work on a variety of projects on a gig by gig basis.
- Set a smart hourly rate, whether you’ll work directly with this rate or use it to determine another rate schedule such as per project, page or word flat rates. The rate should account for what you need to earn to cover your expenses and any profit you’d like to make. PR and business writer Jenn Mattern has a long-time popular article that can help a freelance copy editor determine the hourly rate necessary to survive and account for the value of her work.
- Familiarize yourself with style guides and fact checking practices. Determine if you will specialize in working with certain style guides and how that will affect the client you target. An Associated Press (AP) specialist might focus on news sources and an American Psychological Association (APA) specialist might focus on academic copy editing, but many freelance copy editors can work with several style guides, determining the project scope individually.
- Build a platform for your freelance copy editing business by joining professional networking services like LinkedIn to gather networking contacts and vetted testimonials to add to your professional credibility. Work at establishing yourself as a copy editing authority by writing articles about the benefits of a freelance copy editor for your target market and gathering references for past work.
- Improve your business continually to maximize the use of your time. Working more quickly can mean improving your hourly rate and adding to your billable hours. It can also mean you get more work done and can take more time off.
Check with your state Department of Licensing to determine any business licensing needs and be sure you are aware of all local, state and federal tax laws regarding your copy editing business.