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The Ultimate Guide on How to Become a Freelance Copy Editor

  • 01 May, 2021
The Ultimate Guide on How to Become a Freelance Copy Editor

The first draft is black and white. Editing gives the story color,” Emma Hill.

Does your spider-sense tingle when you scan a block of text and notice all the errors? Do you enjoy a sense of satisfaction when you give feedback on your friends' essays?

Working as an editor gives you the best of both worlds if you enjoy reading and writing. You get to read fantastic new literature while also assisting writers in producing remarkable content that engages readers.

The best thing is that you can do well as a freelance copy editor if you have the knack for spotting and fixing errors and add allure to the content. Sounds interesting? Let's take a detailed look at how you can become a successful copy editor.

Who Is a Freelance Copy Editor?

Freelance Copy Editor

A freelance copy editor is in charge of reading and reviewing different kinds of text to ensure that they align with grammar standards, spelling, style, readability, speech, and other factors. 

From content to structure to grammar, freelance copy editors focus on various aspects of a written piece depending on the type of text they are editing.

Their job is to ensure that all writing produced by a writer meets a high standard of quality, ensuring that written material effectively expresses an idea.

What Does a Freelance Copy Editor Do? 

Freelance copy editors flick through the style and organization in a written text. They correct minor errors on their own, such as adding punctuation marks or fixing typographical errors. 

In case of bigger problems, freelance copy editors jot down thorough feedback, such as organization and tone of the writing, so that the writer can make the necessary corrections.

Freelance copy editors may also sometimes rewrite a certain piece of text to enhance its flow. A freelance copy editor's other responsibilities include:

  • Double-checking claims

  • Inserting links and verifying sources 

  • Adding titles and subtitles

  • Making useful recommendations for future 

  • Fine-tuning page layout and formatting

How Much Does a Freelance Copy Editor Make?

freelance copy editor jobs

According to ZipRecruiter, the average freelance copy editor salary is $52,748 a year. 

Payscale presents a breakdown of the freelance copy editor salaries according to their expertise level. 

  • An Entry-Level Freelance Copy Editor with less than 1-year experience may expect to earn an estimated overall salary of $39,068 (including tips, bonus, and overtime pay). 

  • A Beginner Freelance Copy Editor with 1-4 years of experience may expect to earn an estimated overall salary of $44,718. 

  • An Intermediate Freelance Copy Editor with 5-9 years of experience may expect to earn an estimated overall salary of $52,523. 

  • An Experienced Freelance Copy Editor with 10-19 years of experience may expect to earn an estimated overall salary of $58,955.

Freelance Copy Editor Rates

freelance copy editing jobs

While determining the freelance copy editor rates, it’s pretty evident they set their own rates. The more experienced they are, the more they can charge. Let’s look into the general freelance copy editors' rates gathered from different sources. 

Hourly Rates

According to the Editorial Freelancers Association, freelance copy editors charge between $30-60/hour depending upon the complexity of the editing projects. 

Per Word Rate

Some freelance copy editors charge by the number of words they edit. For professional and qualified copyeditors, you can expect to pay $0.25-1.00 per word.

For example, if a freelance copy editor charges $.25 per word and edits 1,000 words, the total cost would come out to be $250.

Per Project Rate

Some freelance copy editors charge a flat fee on a per-project basis. 

Their rates may vary from simple to complex editing assignments. They may charge from as low as $20 to as high as $100 per 1000 words.

Now that you’ve got a good grip on what freelance copy editing entails and how profitable it is, let’s take a look at how to actually become a successful freelance copy editor!

6 Tips and Tricks to Become a Successful Freelance Copy Editor 

  1. Make Reading Your First Rule

freelance copy editor rates

Reading, reading, and reading is the first and most practical thing you can do to hit the road of freelance copy editing. Of course, if you want to be an editor, you're probably already an avid reader. But that doesn't rule out the possibility of further improving your reading habits!

In particular, you should begin reading more articles in your specialty. For instance, if you want to work as a literary fiction editor, look at the New York Times Best Seller list for the newest novels and short story collections. 

If you want to work as a lifestyle magazine editor, subscribe to Vogue Magazine to stay on top of the new voices and trends.

It's fine if you're not sure what you want to specialize in. The main goal is to hone your editorial senses – and every book, post, and essay you read will help you better understand what constitutes good writing. 

Try to analyze and articulate the components of works that are particularly effective so that you can use them in your own projects in the future.

  1. Secure A Bachelor’s Degree or a Certificate 

freelance copy editor salary

Although copy editors tend to major in subjects like English, Journalism, or Communications, yet there are no formal education requirements to work as a freelance copy editor. 

Take editing classes at a nearby college or show up for a writer's workshop to familiarize yourself with the editing process and gain the skills you need.

Even if you're already an expert in the technicalities of the language you want to work in – a copy editing course never hurts to refresh your skills. You might come across some unheard rules or you might find a flaw in your methodology that you can fix until it destroys your credibility.

Furthermore, having a copy editing certificate from a verified course shows employers and clients that you are a trained, knowledgeable professional. It’s not a requirement, but it can enhance your résumé and boost your chances of getting hired, especially as a brand-new editor on the scene.

Additionally, securing a copy editing certificate from a recognized course proves to employers and clients that you are a skilled and knowledgeable professional. 

It's not an obligation though, but it can help you stand out and increase your chances of landing a good freelance copy editing job, particularly if you're new on the scene.

  1. Maintain Consistency

hire freelance copy editor

Consistency is just as critical as accuracy in freelance copy editing. For instance, if you're doing academic or journalistic copy editing, you'll need to be well-versed in the Chicago Manual of Style and AP Stylebook. 

Similarly, when it comes to fictional editing, consistency is equally crucial. This mostly applies to descriptions in fiction: making sure a character's hair isn't black in one scene and grey in another. 

Moreover, make sure that the author's tone remains consistent throughout the writing.

  1. Hunt Out for Freelance Copy Editing Jobs

how much does a freelance copy editor make

Most copy editors go towards freelancing, which means they must find and contract their own freelance copy editing jobs. So where to look for editing projects? The following are the most popular sources:

  • Freelance marketplaces like TaskShift, Upwork, and Fiverr

  • Job postings on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Reddit 

  • Major publishers (For publishers to consider you, you'll have to grab their attention by doing other jobs first)

Starting with a freelance platform is the easiest way to get your copy editing career off the ground. It's especially stress-free to find freelance copy editing jobs on these sites, which you can use to build your portfolio without delay.

As a beginner freelance copy editor, even an appealing profile may also not help you land a perfect editing job. For example, you may want to specialize in book editing, but in your first few jobs, you may end up doing dissertation editing. 

But if you can get through it all, you'll be rewarded with a wealth of information and experience that will serve as the base for your freelance copy editing career.

  1. Narrow Down your Niche

what does a freelance copy editor do

The greatest benefit of working so much in different niches is that you'll start to develop a strong sense of your own editing niche: where your natural abilities lie and what you enjoy doing the most. 

So, after a few months of practice, you must decide on the kind of freelance copy editor you want to be in the long run!

Let's take a look at some of the most popular types of editors so you can decide which way you want to sail your boat. 

Book editors work on standard-length books that are at least 50,000 words or even more. This is why it is the most time-consuming aspect of copy editing.

Nonetheless, book editing also provides a huge range of projects to choose from, including fiction, nonfiction, and all of the various genres they include.

  • News and Magazine Editors 

These types of editors are responsible for working on news, feature, and opinion pieces for magazines and newspapers on articles that are usually 1,000-2,000 words in length.

While the tasks are relatively simple to complete, as a news or magazine editor, you'll be asked to edit several articles per day, sometimes going through multiple rounds of editing for each piece. 

  • Academic Editors 

Academic editors typically work on research papers, theses, and dissertations. These can range in length from 20 to 200 pages, depending on your field of study.

  • Web Editors 

Web editors are in charge of creating and editing content for a wide range of online sites.

As a freelance web editor, you'll need to know how to use search engine optimization (SEO) techniques and how to publish your work using tools like WordPress and other content management systems.

  1. Work on Personel Branding

freelance copy editor website

Working as a freelance copy editor requires self-marketing so promoting your technical skills will help you stand out as a top candidate for freelance copy editing jobs. 

For this, you can create your own freelance copy editor website to highlight your professional abilities or use social media to connect with other writers and publishers.

Make contact with clients and organizations who create the type of content you want to edit, and discuss how you can help them improve their writing process

You can also look for websites with errors in writing and provide an editing sample to demonstrate how you could help them boost their online presence.

Final Thoughts

You might have settled on the idea that being a pro at content creation is no simple task. But, it is for sure that with the right amount of passion, dedication, and attention to detail, you'll excel as a freelance copy editor even before the ink is dry on the page.

On top of everything, helping others bring in the full potency of the written word will give meaning to your unrelenting efforts. 

So, without further ado, get your ball rolling to become an expert freelance copy editor in a jiffy.