Need copyediting work!
February 12, 2010 12:58 PM   Subscribe

How do I find freelance copyediting work?

I have experience editing published academic articles and one published academic book (where I'm mentioned prominently in the acknowledgements for my excellent editing); four years employment as a newspaper copy editor with some awards won; and various miscellaneous experience. I spent some years in a different field, and now with the economy (and some family situations) I'd like to pick up some extra work, but I don't know how to find freelance work. Where do I start?

I've heard that even some textbook publishers farm out copyediting work. I'm really happy to do whatever. A steady stream of work as a "stringer" would be easier than hustling for my own work (although working alone would probably pay more), but I'm flexible, and I generally enjoy the work no matter what I'm editing.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (8 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a freelance medical writer and here are some strategies that have worked really well for me:

• Send a letter of introduction to companies. Send a letter along the lines of “I am a copyeditor and I am inquiring as to whether your company, XXXXX, uses freelance editors. Some of the work that I have done (include a few bullets of relevant work). If you have further queries, please contact me at …..” I googled email list plus [type of companies that I wanted to write for] and sent an email like that to 80 or so companies last year…it translated into company up until this year.
• Linkedin. Use it really, really well. Do some of the following 1) Leave it open to be searched and 2) join organizations relevant to what you edit (for example I joined pharma and CME companies) 3) be very specific – list all the types of editing and type of work that you have done so that someone can put those key words in 4) have direct contact info in there…your email address, a link to a webpage I’ve gotten a lot of work this. Large project that lasted for months.
• An idea for you if you do academic editing. Can you contact journals in related fields? What about get on an email list for academics and mention your services, provided that it is something acceptable for the email forum/list, etc.
• Can you specialize in something besides editing? Medical editing? Law material editing? People have been willing to pay me and search me out specifically because of a specialty.

Finally I am going to memail you. I know at least one company that uses editors, although it isn’t at a great rate.
posted by Wolfster at 1:26 PM on February 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Depending on how serious you're going to get about this, you may want to join the Editorial Freelancers' Association. If you do that, you may get business from your profile there, and/or you may want to join their job listing email service. These aren't free, though.

I got started with mostly eLance and Craigslist postings - both tend to be on the low paying side and a lot of the clients are more angst then they're worth, but if you want to get a toehold that may be a place to start digging up a few clients to get some more credentials under your belt and a little word of mouth.

If you're interested in talking shop (or getting help with questions) as well as solely receiving job posts, the EFA email list and the Copyediting-L mailing lists are both great resources for lots of areas of editing, including fairly regular discussions of how different types of marketing yourself have worked out for others.
posted by Stacey at 1:34 PM on February 12, 2010

Apparently I can't memail you anony poster. Feel free to memail me if you want. I know of a few companies that use copy editors. I also have an email list of companies that I initially sent letters of introduction to. In addition, I would like to know your area of specialty - my business is just starting out, but I'm landing larger and larger projects
posted by Wolfster at 1:34 PM on February 12, 2010

I work with freelance editors as part of my job, and I help decide which ones to hire. If I were looking for this kind of work, here's what I'd do:

1. Check the job board at Publishers Lunch. There are often freelance editing gigs listed there.
2. Find lists of publishers--academic or otherwise--and go to their Web sites and dig around for editorial e-mail addresses. Send each of them an e-mail that says something like, "Hello, I'm a freelance editor with x years of experience and familiarity with style guides a, b, and c, and I would be delighted to have the opportunity to work with you." Most won't respond, but some might. Expect them to ask for a resume and/or a sample of your work. Obviously, you should start by targeting organizations that use style manuals you're familiar with and publish books in your area(s) of expertise.
3. Check craigslist. Sometimes local businesses need people to edit brochures and the like. Consider putting up a post of your own on craigslist advertising your services. Consider posting on eLance or similar sites, as well.
4. Try print-on-demand self-publishing companies; several of the big ones use freelance editors.

Keep in mind that in this economy a lot of people are trying to do what you're doing. To make matters worse, some businesses are farming out their copy editing to companies in developing countries where labor is cheaper. That's not to say that it's impossible to find freelance editing work; it's not. But finding them will take quite a bit of time and effort.
posted by Hypocrite_Lecteur at 1:38 PM on February 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

A word of caution:

Linked in: Do not take people's acceptance of your "connection" as free reign to go and e-advertise your services - I've already gotten two or three solicitations in one week from a "free lance xyz'r" whom I am linked in with. I suppose the market is tough, but I am also a free lance xyz'r, I'm not interested in hiring him, and we'd be competing for the same work. Nor am I interested in twittering with him or happy he fed my email address to them, or anything else.

I'm not a LinkedIn LION - maybe a curmudgeon at best. But I do use it for INDIVIDUAL communication, not as my own spam list, and I found such DIRECT solicitations where there is already other ways to connect/share in bad taste, ESPECIALLY to be auto-added to his new spam generation lists and fed into OTHER social network programs without specific consent.
posted by tilde at 1:40 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wolfster, it would be really interesting to know how you went about gathering that initial list of companies.
posted by thelastenglishmajor at 3:00 PM on February 12, 2010

Sign up on the Copyediting-L list and read the archives as well as the blizzards of daily digests. You'll hear a lot about freelancing work on there, too. Don't be afraid to ask questions.

I love Testy Copy Editors, but you might find it a bit disheartening.

I've hired backup copy editors and proofreaders when they've sent me letters of introduction that are interesting and idiosyncratic and mention the disparate projects they've worked on. I don't have a lot of time to spare, but I get them to come in to take a copyediting test and to chat. If they do well on the test, I keep their resumes on file.

If you know Chicago, study AP, and vice versa.

A lot of copy editors I know also do layout -- it seems to be required these days. Do you have Quark or InDesign skills? Can you wrangle a bit of Photoshop? If so, play that up on your resume.

And good luck!
posted by vickyverky at 3:05 PM on February 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Hopefully it's okay to piggyback on the OP's question. Would your advice be the same for someone who wants to freelance copyedit without professional experience? I've done volunteer copyediting in the past, but I have no professional credits. I'm at the tail-end of a degree right now, so getting a nine-to-five isn't in the cards.
posted by sugarfish at 3:40 PM on February 12, 2010

« Older Are there common teeth/dental patterns? If so...   |   Help me figure out what to say! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.