How to Grow Your Freelance Editing Career: 3 Next Steps

by Lesley-Anne Longo

Published at 2022-05-12

So, you’ve taken your first steps to starting your career as a freelance editor—that’s great! You may have just finished your first paid project or two, and now you’re looking ahead to how you can grow your career. Before you make any big decisions though, read on, because there are three important things you may want to focus on as you take the next steps in your editing career: scheduling, marketing, and quoting.



Scheduling: Find a System that Works for You


As your business grows, you will find that at some point you’ll be working on multiple projects at the same time. How can you schedule these projects so that nothing falls through the cracks and no deadlines are missed? Well, there are a few ways you can start a project scheduling routine, but really, it’s all about what works best for you.


One route is using project management software. Monday is a good one to start with if you’re trying this option out. It’s free, so you can easily check it out and see if the setup works for you. You can add individual projects and then create lists of tasks for each project, along with deadlines for each task. So, tasks might be “read through manuscript,” “compile reading notes into developmental report,” or “copy edit chapters 1 through 12.” Each task can have its own deadline, and once you finish a task, you change its status to “done.”


If you prefer a more bird’s-eye view of your projects, a calendar might be a simple but effective option for you to try. You can plan out your schedule for each project, then simply add those tasks and deadlines to the calendar, using different colours for different projects. You can use a large print calendar, or use something like a Google Calendar to keep track. Google Calendar has the added benefit of being able to easily move deadlines if needed, plus you can program in reminders to send to yourself so you don’t miss anything. This is actually my preferred form of project management!


Lastly, if you’re into formulas, you can use Excel (or Google Sheets) to track your projects. Here’s an Excel template you can try out if you think you want to go this route, complete with formulas to tell you when payments are overdue, plus a lot more.


Keeping a close eye on your deadlines and where they fall will help you to flow new clients into your existing schedules. This level of project management will tell if you have the time available to accommodate new clients and their requested completion dates.



Quoting: Know Your Worth!


Quoting for projects as a new editor can be difficult. It’s hard to figure out what a fair market value for your skills and time might be. Yes, there’s always going to be an editor on Upwork who charges crazy-low rates for a copy edit, but don’t feel the need to compete with those kinds of lowball offers. You put a lot of time and effort into acquiring and honing your editorial skills—now it’s time to stand tall and know your worth.


So, the most important thing you need to remember when quoting is to not undervalue yourself! Yes, you’ll likely encounter lots of potential clients who balk at the quotes you provide, and that’s okay. Don’t ever feel embarrassed or that you need to lower your quote. Not everyone understands how expensive a good editor can be, and not everyone will have accurately budgeted for editing services. If someone tells you “that price is outrageous!” simply respond with warmth: “I totally understand that my services just aren’t in your budget right now, which is disappointing because it sounds like an interesting project! I hope that we can work together in the future, and best of luck to you.”


The reason you don’t want to lower your price is because that sets a precedent that you’re willing to work at that lower rate, which will make it more difficult for you in the future if that person becomes a repeat client. Provide the quote that you feel is fair compensation for your time and skills, and don’t worry about the people who don’t want to pay you what you’re worth.


You may also hear that if you receive a request-for-quote for a project that will involve more work and effort than you can give right now, that you should give your “pie in the sky” rate; that is to say, shooting back with a crazy-high quote as a sort of brush-off technique. I just want to caution you that if you do this, you need to be prepared that, at some point, someone will look at that crazy-high quote and say, “Well, that seems fair,” and accept the quote.


This has happened to me, and while the extra money was nice to receive, it did involve a lot of extra-long workdays and working weekends to flow that project in with my existing schedule. So, if you give out a “pie in the sky” quote, be aware that there’s always a chance it might be accepted. If you truly don’t want to work on a project or just don’t have the time, simply decline the project kindly and move on.


Also, if you’ve given out a “pie in the sky” quote a couple of times and those quotes were accepted by the clients, maybe take that as a hint that you’re often undercharging!



Marketing: Tap into the Right Communities


Finding new clients can be tricky as a new editor—how do you access the writing communities that are looking for your types of services?


Well, you can start by setting up a website to advertise your services. You might not find that you get many (or any) clients from your website to start out with, but it’s a helpful thing to have. Sites like Foursquare and Wix can make setting up a website easy, and not too expensive either. It can also be helpful to be active on Twitter, as Twitter’s algorithms can help tailor the types of content and contact suggestions you receive, which can help you discover new circles and communities of authors and writers.


Next, you can trawl job sites such as Google Jobs and Indeed, highlighting jobs that might be a good fit for you using the “freelancer” and “remote” filters to sift through the postings. You can also check out sites like Fiverr, which can help match you with appropriate clients, and Upwork, which allows you to search for jobs and then submit quotes. Having tried Upwork, I don’t really recommend it, as there are just too many people quoting $50 to proofread an entire book, but take a look anyway if you’re interested—you might get lucky!


If you’ve worked on a few projects that have been published and have acquired at least three years’ experience in the industry, you can also check out Reedsy, a marketplace for editors and authors. Editors create profiles that outline their skills, previous projects, and their personalities. Authors create job postings based on what they’re looking for (copy editing, ghostwriting, proofreading, etc.) and they can search the marketplace for editors they think might be a good fit for their book and invite them to provide a quote.


Lastly, you can often find job boards included with membership in industry groups such as Editors Canada. You will have to pay a membership fee, but the case of Editors Canada, you’ll be able to list yourself in a directory of editors available to take on work, and you’ll also be able to access their job board. You just have to decide if the fee is worth it to you right now.



Good Luck!


Navigating any new career can be difficult, especially when it involves learning new skills such as project management and quoting best practices. I hope that the advice and tips above give you some confidence to go forth and quote what you’re worth, track down those new clients, and schedule them accordingly!



For more tips on how to make life easier as a freelance editor, check out our recent blog on tax tips for freelancers—it’s got some great tips that will help you have your ducks in a row come next April.



Want a great tip in your inbox each month? Sign up for our enewsletter today!