Finding Joy in Freelance Copyediting

There are many challenges when it comes to freelancing. Finding clients, setting your rate, and navigating communication channels can be daunting. While most of these difficulties can’t be avoided, some of the stress they cause can be offset by making freelance work a joyful pursuit. Allow me to share what my part-time freelance copyediting experience over the past four years has taught me.

Communicate Clearly and Constantly

I don’t think there’s a limit to how much stress can be avoided by communicating clearly, both upfront and throughout your professional relationship with your writer. Things that are highly important to discuss initially include:

  • Your rate and payment method.
  • Time needed to complete the edits.
  • Type of edit desired and style guide preferred.
  • Means of delivering materials to one another.

I have also found it useful to ask my client questions early on about their familiarity with Track Changes and markup language, and there are some technical questions I ask as well, like whether they use a PC or a Mac computer, which helps me know how to respond should they have trouble with formatting after I’ve returned the draft.

Favor Compassion Within Professional Boundaries

Once you have parameters set and feel at ease about everyone’s expectations, it’s important to maintain a compassionate approach to the editing process and your relationship with your client. It is easy to grow annoyed when a writer “checks in” just a tad too often or if they continue reaching out with follow-up questions after your initial agreement has been met. But chances are your client, especially if they are debuting their first book, is just nervous, and that’s an opportunity for you to be a professional source of guidance and acceptance.

Pay attention to how you communicate in your comments and edits. Use uplifting language and ask questions rather than making assumptions. Cultivating your author-editor relationship takes constant care, but if you do it right, you may wind up with a lasting connection.

See Greater Returns on Your Investment Through Referrals

I’ll be honest. Before coming into the Ooligan program, I didn’t have a professional website or portfolio anywhere on the internet. I haven’t even marketed myself as a freelancer on social media. All of my business has come through the referrals of authors I have previously worked with in some capacity and their networks, and projects have varied from self-published novels and memoirs to children’s books, from essay anthologies to sales copy.

This has been successful through keeping up with former clients, following their book projects, and celebrating milestones alongside them. Because of our connection, when they go on to attend writing conferences and meet other aspiring authors, there is always a chance that could turn into more editing work for me.

(Disclaimer: I actually would recommend setting up a website or e-portfolio for yourself if you’re just starting out or want to freelance full-time. Do as I say, not as I do, eh?)

Play to Your Strengths and Passions

I believe that any job can be exciting if you can modify it to fit your personality. For me, as a former high school teacher and computer tutor, this looks like being intentional in my efforts to clear up any confusion my writers may be experiencing. Whether it’s providing insights into obscure grammar rules or showing them helpful tricks in Microsoft Word, I use my background in education to add an extra layer to the feedback I provide.

This doesn’t have to be a service you verbalize or explicitly include in your agreement with your client. Personally, going the extra mile by educating makes the task feel worthwhile, much like it did when I used to work in a classroom. You will need to think about the interests or experiences in your life outside of editing that made work joyful and get creative in how you can incorporate them in your freelance endeavors.

Don’t let freelancing just be something that has to be done to make ends meet. If you can add value to the work by following these tips and more, you may find that the money isn’t even the part that makes it worthwhile.

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