Freelance editing is one of the most flexible remote working avenues you can take. Whether you seek out your own clients or pick up work from one of the top editing platforms (more on these to come), you’ll have the freedom to set your own hours and availability. This means you can treat editing as a full-time career move or a casual side-hustle – whatever suits your needs at the time.
Along with this freedom and flexibility, you get to enjoy days filled with reading and learning. In my time as a freelance editor, I’ve worked for an international philosophy journal, a language school, and a couple of agencies that had me editing articles for science journals, entertainment websites, and travel blogs.
Though it’s a rewarding career path in and of itself, editing is also a fantastic stepping-stone for writers who are still figuring out their niche and hunting for reliable clients. Every project you complete will level-up your writing skills while allowing you to explore different voices, tones, and styles.
Sounds great, but how do I find work?
You have two main options when it comes to finding clients: hunt them down yourself or sign up with an editing company.
The first gives you more control over your earnings since you’ll be able to set your own rates. However, this approach tends to work best for those with plenty of experience, an impressive portfolio, and a wealth of glowing testimonials from clients. Not only will these attributes help you shine above the competition, but they’ll also give you the confidence to negotiate with new clients and set favorable terms for every contract.
If you’re new to the professional editing game, or even if you just hate talking money, an editing company can handle all this legwork for you. They’ll take care of marketing, client acquisition, and all the frustrating admin. All you have to do is follow their set procedures, submit fantastic work, and get paid.
What’s it like working remotely for an editing company?
Though there will be some variability in the work available, you generally have the freedom to dedicate as much time as you want to this job. Those who are only after a 6-hour-a-week side-hustle can probably get away with signing up for just one of the companies listed below. If you’re keen to make freelance editing a full-time gig, you’ll most likely need to sign up for two or three of them to ensure you always have a steady flow of available work.
Whenever you have time to work, you can log on to your chosen platform and take a look at the available assignments. You’ll usually get to see the topic, the word count, the total pay on offer, and the deadline. Accept an assignment that looks appealing and you can work on it whenever you wish, so long as you meet the deadline. Though tight turnaround times can be stressful, they do tend to pay more. So, if you know you can smash the work out, these are definitely worth looking for.
Another thing you’ll need to get used to is being paid by the word rather than by the hour. Depending on the starting quality of the articles you’re working on, this can feel like a blessing or a curse. However, the good news is that your editing speed will improve day-by-day, meaning you’ll be able to give yourself naturally occurring pay rises as your skills increase.
It’s imperative that you turn in work of the highest possible quality, you never want to rush. However, it’s worth timing yourself so you can see your progress. You may find that your pay works out to US$25 an hour in your first few months but increases steadily until you’re earning US$35 an hour. Seeing this change in your hourly rate is incredibly motivating.
Which editing companies offer the best experience for freelancers?
There are plenty of proofreading and editing platforms to choose from. However, their reputations differ greatly. The following four have a consistent pattern of glowing testimonials, both from their clients and the freelancers who work for them. Each one is currently open to new editors, and details of their application processes are included below.
Cambridge Proofreading and Editing
This company is ideal for those who have strong language skills but who lack professional editing experience. You will need a bachelor’s degree from an English-speaking university. However, this can be in any field.
At Cambridge Proofreading and Editing, its the application quiz and sample editing projects that have the biggest impact on whether you get hired.
Be prepared for a lengthy process. The initial language quiz takes 45 minutes, and if you meet the benchmark, you’ll still have to edit some sample projects to prove your skills.
Once hired, you can expect to earn US$12 per 1,000 words. Keep an eye out for tight deadlines as they often come with bonus pay.
Proofed is another great option for newbies. Though a bachelor’s degree (in any field) and basic proofreading skills are required, Proofed stands out from other platforms because it offers a short course designed to help you ensure you’re editing skills are up to scratch.
You do have to pay for this Proofreading Academy. However, once you’ve successfully completed the week-long course and passed the final test, you’re guaranteed to be hired. Should you fail the exam, they’ll give you three more opportunities to pass. They even offer feedback at the end of each attempt, so you won’t be stabbing in the dark if you do need to resit the test.
Proofed has platforms for the US, the UK, and Australia. The pay rate works out to around US$25 to US$30 per hour, depending on the project and your editing speed.
This platform is a great one to add once you’ve successfully landed a role with Proofed or Cambridge. Once again, the only prerequisite is a bachelor’s degree. However, Scribbr is a little less forgiving with its application process.
You will need to pass a comprehensive quiz to prove your abilities, and it’s not exactly a walk in the park. They do give you the opportunity to try again in you fail. However, they won’t let you repeat the same quiz, so you’ll have to wait until a new one is created. Once you’ve passed the quiz, you’ll still have a sample edit to do as well. After that, you’re still not there! You’ll need to go through Scribbr Academy, where you’ll learn to edit Scribbr-style.
Scribendi is the most demanding platform in terms of up-front requirements. They ask for a bachelor’s degree and a minimum of three years’ experience in writing, editing, language teaching, or document production. You can mix and match these fields to get your three years, and it doesn’t have to be paid experience. So, two years spent teaching English in Japan and a year interning as a copyeditor in your university’s philosophy department would work just as well as three years spent as a journalist for a major newspaper.
Since the entry requirements are so rigorous, there’s no exam to pass. Scribendi simply asks for a CV, and if this is approved, they’ll set you up with a sample document to edit. If you’re successful, you’ll be looking at a similar pay rate to the other platforms.
Freelance editing: final thoughts
If you’re an avid reader looking for flexible work, freelance editing may be the perfect fit. This line of work allows you to get paid remarkably well for improving your language skills and learning new things every day.
By signing up with one of the platforms above, you get to circumvent all the tedious work of finding (and negotiation with) your own clients. As you bank up experience, this career path may blossom into the development of your own business or perhaps a new world of work as a freelance writer.
Do you know any grammar nerds in need of an income boost? If so, feel free to share this article with them. There’s plenty of editing work to go around, and in the post-pandemic world, we need to help each other as much as we can.