You’ve got a keen eye. You enjoyed the challenge of getting your college papers formatted. Your colleagues and friends constantly ask you to look over their work to find typos. You cringe when you see spelling and grammar errors in the books you read. You have an opinion on the Oxford comma and you might even have a preferred style manual of choice (like Chicago or AP).
You always wondered if maybe you should be an editor… and if that first paragraph describes you, your hunch might be right!
One of the neat things about finding editing jobs from home is that you can go in a few different directions to get what you want. Some companies hire traditionally with work-at-home editors on board as employees, while others hire contract workers for editing and proofreading. And when it comes to editing, there’s a huge opportunity for you to do well for yourself as a freelancer if you’re willing to put in the work.
What to Expect As a Work-at-Home Editor
Editing is a bit of a funny thing. Most people tend to see things in black and white, with grammar rules and style guidelines and a right-vs-wrong mentality. The truth, however, is that editing is in large part subjective. The way you edit a term paper is going to be vastly different from the way you edit a textbook, which will also be very different from the way you edit a memoir or a fiction story.
There are some fundamentals that don’t change no matter what you’re editing, but you also need to be aware that the grammar rules you learned in 7th grade English class aren’t necessarily the ultimate law in all of grammar… they’re simply one set of rules. Different writers, publications, and publishers follow different sets of rules. If you ever wrote a paper for an English class and also wrote a paper for a science class, you probably had to learn both MLA and APA style — two different, but equally “correct,” methods of grammar and punctuation. Neither one is wrong, but they’re definitely different.
As an editor, you’ll need to be prepared to be accused of making mistakes that aren’t actually mistakes. Editing is subjective, after all, and that means that readers will come to the table with their own opinions on what’s correct and what’s not, and it’s entirely possible that both opinions can be technically correct. It gets a little fuzzy sometimes, in other words.
The key to your success as a work-at-home editor is to know the specific grammar rules (called the “in house style guide”) for the organization or individual that hires you. If you’re working with someone who doesn’t have a preferred style guide, you’ll need to be ready with your own.
Editing vs. Proofreading
While editing and proofreading are often used interchangeably, they’re two different things. Arguably online editing jobs should be broken down even further, based on the type of editing that’s being done. In short, though, an editor is someone who works with a manuscript (or draft) and recommends revisions and changes in addition to correcting things like word choice and punctuation (also called syntax).
A proofreader, on the other hand, acts as the “last eyes” on any draft. it’s the proofreader’s job to catch any errors, from page numbers to word choice to missing punctuation. Proofreaders don’t make recommendations to improve the text in any way — they just catch the typos. (If you want to learn more specifically about proofreading, my friend Caitlin Pyle has a great proofreading workshop for you right here!)
As you start scanning for editing jobs from home, keep in mind the distinction and be mindful of the type of work you want to do, whether it’s just one or both. For the purpose of simplicity, I’m just going to use “editing” in this post, when really these tips can apply to both editing and proofreading.
Finding Work-from-Home Editing Jobs
If your goal is to work with a company that will send you editing work, then you’ve got plenty of options. Many times traditional publishers will turn to at-home editors to work on their manuscripts. Academic journals (i.e. research publications) also employ at-home editors, though they often want their editors to have specific training in a particular style guide (usually MLA or APA format) and/or a Masters degree in something related to the journal’s subject matter.
Not all editing jobs require that level of education, though! These companies are known to hire at-home editors, and not all of them require specialized education:
- Book in a Box
- Editor World
- Hello Essay
- Polished Paper
- Proofreading Pal
- Proofreading Services
You can also find great editing job leads on sites like FlexJobs. I love FlexJobs because it brings such great job opportunities right to your fingertips, and many of them are for remote work.
Getting Freelance Copy Editing Jobs
If you’re the type who would rather go and find your own clients (and generally make a much higher hourly rate), you might want to consider going into freelance copy editing.
Many of the freelancing principles that apply to other freelance work also apply to copy editing, including getting clear on who your ideal client is, what you can offer, and how to price your services. My favorite place for information on the business and practice of being a freelance editor is the Editorial Freelancers Association’s website. I especially love their rate chart to give you an idea of what you could be charging as a freelancer.
If you want to dive deep into your new editing gig, consider joining the Editorial Freelancers Association. When you join, you’ll get to add your name to their freelancer directory, join their robust email list where you can get to know colleagues from all over the US and world, learn more about the business of being a freelance editor, take valuable online training, and (this is a great benefit) get access to their job board, which sends out job leads frequently.
Getting credentialed isn’t the only way to be a freelance editor, though. You can set up a website for yourself and start marketing yourself as one. Tap into your natural network and let people know that you’re an editor for hire! You never know who will pop out of the woodwork.
If you’re looking to get some experience under your belt, you can sometimes find paying editing gigs on sites like Upwork, though I’d recommend that you avoid the “race to the bottom” and just get the editing work that you need to build a portfolio. You may be able to find clients who are willing to pay decent rates on those sites, so it’s worth a shot in the beginning to see if you can get some traction there.
One Last Tip for At-Home Editors
There’s one tidbit I couldn’t recommend highly enough if you want to become an at-home editor: join the copy editing listserv here. It’s called CEL for short, and it’s going to be a goldmine of support, information, job leads, and more. Many at-home copy editors don’t know about this list, but if you subscribe and start learning from people who are already in the field, you’ll be able to leapfrog your competition.