How to Become an Editor: The Contra Guide for Freelancers 🧐

  • Writing
Contra Tips
· 8 min read

Discover how to become an editor with our comprehensive guide — a rewarding career with opportunities in books, blogs, and more.

If you’re an avid reader with a passion for words and an eye for detail, the editing world might be for you. These skills are in strong demand, and not just for producing high-quality books — editors also work on blogs and magazines and in marketing and advertising. Our comprehensive guide will discuss how to become an editor and provide a roadmap to excelling in the field, including the skills you need to succeed and potential specializations. Plus, we’ll introduce you to the ideal platform for landing your first remote editing gig: Contra.

What is an editor? ✏️

An editor is a skilled professional who refines written content for publication across various formats, including books, newspapers, blogs, magazines, and advertisements. They use their sharp eye for detail to polish and perfect any piece of writing, including its content, style, organization, spelling, grammar, and punctuation. A great editor ensures that every piece effectively communicates its intended message. 

What does an editor do? 💻

An editor’s exact responsibilities vary across industries, and some tasks are unique to specific domains. Some of an editor’s most important daily duties include the following: 

  • Correcting errors. Editors ensure that each piece of writing is error-free by correcting grammar, punctuation, and spelling mistakes.
  • Checking facts. Editors verify the information used in each piece of writing to maintain credibility.
  • Reviewing formatting. Editors ensure that the layout and presentation of each piece of writing conform to the appropriate style guidelines.  
  • Establishing tone and voice. Editors develop consistency in the content’s linguistic style and ensure it’s appropriate for the intended audience, objective, and medium. 
  • Ensuring coherence. Editors assess the overall flow and structure of each piece of writing, revising to improve clarity, readability, and coherence.

In today’s digital age, editors have more opportunities than ever to offer freelance services. The internet has expanded the scope and reach of their work, allowing them to connect easily with clients worldwide. 

Types of editors ✍️

Did you know there are different types of editors? Each variety specializes in another aspect of the editorial process, so understanding these unique roles is crucial.  

The most popular types of editing include the following:

Line editors ➡️

Line editors assess manuscripts' clarity, coherence, style, tone, and flow. Adopting the target audience’s viewpoint, they work closely with the author to enhance the writing to ensure the text reads as smoothly as possible. Line editors make structural changes to a text, carefully selecting the proper verbs, nouns, and adjectives to improve the overall quality of the writing. 

If necessary, line editors bring inconsistencies to the author’s attention for them to fix. Some line editors may also create a style guide or sheet for the author to adhere to ensure the text is conveyed effectively and appropriately to the audience.

Developmental editors 🌱

These content editors evaluate a project or manuscript's overall framework or “big picture” aspects, focusing on the project's structure, organization, and coherence. Developmental editors collaborate with authors to refine the project's style, scope, and pacing. They may also advise on narrative elements, such as the plot and characters in a piece of creative writing. 

Copy editors 🔡

Copy editors are surgical in their focus, specializing in the technical aspects of writing. They review the text for grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors and check for consistency in the writing’s language, formatting, and overall style. These editors can also work closely with the author or writer to resolve inconsistencies and errors in the writing. 

Copy editor duties occasionally intersect with those of line editors since the latter also focuses on elements of consistency. When a text includes informative or creative visual elements, copy editors ensure they’re accurate and aligned with the text. 

Proofreaders 🧐

Proofreaders are the last line of defense before a piece is published. They meticulously review text for any remaining errors, scrutinize the technical aspects of the writing and the formatting, and ensure the correct citation of external sources. They play a vital role in catching last-minute typos, misspellings, and punctuation mistakes. 

Understanding these distinct roles help aspiring editors determine which specialization is right for them, paving the way for a successful career. 

Requirements to become an editor ☝️

Excelling as an editor requires a deep-rooted passion for reading, writing, and grammar. You must possess these essential skills to succeed as an Independent offering editorial services: 

  • Excellent writing skills. A strong command of English, or other languages, is vital for refining content, ensuring clarity and readability, fixing mistakes, and more. 
  • Depth of knowledge. The best editors leverage a nuanced approach to skillfully and thoughtfully refine written pieces. They invest time in comprehending the author’s unique style and creative prowess to help reveal the work’s optimal potential.
  • Creative thinking. Great editors think outside the box to enhance the overall impact of a written piece and offer feedback to writers in easy-to-digest formats.  
  • Attention to detail. A meticulous nature is necessary for getting into the nitty-gritty editing work to spot errors, inconsistencies, and areas for improvement.
  • Superb communication. Collaborating with clients requires clear, concise communication and the ability to provide constructive feedback.
  • Self-control. A good editor remains objective and sets aside personal preferences to maintain the author’s voice and style. 

6 tips for becoming a freelance editor 🖋️

So, you want to become a freelance editor. Embarking on the path to land an editor role is exciting and rewarding, especially if you’ve always loved reading, writing, and editing. 

Here’s how to get a job as an editor: 

1. Read, write, and learn all the time 🤓

As a freelance editor, having a passion for the written word is a precursor for this career. Develop and hone your craft by seeking new knowledge to become a better writer. Strengthen your editing skills by practicing editing different types of content; this provides a solid foundation for your editing career.

2. Get educated 🧑‍🎓

Attain a degree or editing certificate, or take additional training courses to learn the basics of editing. While this is only sometimes required to land freelance editing jobs, formal education and training are great ways to enhance your credibility and skills. Pursuing a formal education also shows potential clients that you’re committed to your craft and possess a solid understanding of the industry’s standards. 

3. Choose your area of expertise and set your freelance rates 🤑

From developmental, line, and copy editing to proofreading and other specialties, it may take some time to figure out what you’re best at. Once you’ve assessed your strengths, select your niche and set competitive service prices. You can also consider using a scheduling service to streamline your workflow. 

4. Start gaining experience 💪

Build your reputation and develop your skills by gaining practical experience through internships, volunteering, and freelancing to build your reputation and hone your skills. Doing so will help you gain insight into the industry, hone your craft, and help you stand out from the competition. 

5. Create or enhance your portfolio 📖

Your portfolio is more than just a collection of your past editorial work; it’s an extension of your personality and personal brand. Every element you include in your portfolio, from the content you include to the layout and colors, speaks volumes about who you are as an editor.

Enter Contra’s Portfolio tool. This intuitive and easy-to-use tool imports your Contra information into a professional, customizable portfolio that highlights your expertise and showcases your skills and personality. 

When it comes to differentiating yourself from your competitors, standing out with a portfolio that truly reflects who you are as an editor and as an individual can be the deciding factor in your next Independent opportunity. 

6. Build client relationships and request referrals 🤝

Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool. When you’re collaborating with clients, be sure to forge strong connections and ask for future referrals. This helps you expand your network, generate new business opportunities, and establish a positive reputation for your industry.

How to become an editor without a degree 🎒

Although some clients prefer professional editors with bachelor’s degrees in English, journalism, or communications, the job market is ever-evolving. There is growing recognition that a degree isn’t always necessary for success in freelance editing — you just need the right skills and experience. 

If you build a strong foundation in the basics, continually hone your abilities, and seek out opportunities and projects with tangible results, you’ll thrive as a freelance editor – even without a bachelor’s degree.

Find freelance editing jobs on Contra ✨

Are you ready to embrace the world of full-time or part-time freelance editing? Contra’s commission-free platform lets you do what you love — reading and writing — while enjoying the flexibility and other benefits of freelance work. Here’s how it works.

As an editor on Contra, you can showcase your services and discover various freelance editor jobs. We aim to empower editors to manage their independent businesses and connect with ideal clients, allowing you to start your editing journey today.

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