15 Freelance Editing Positions That Might Work for You
What type of editing position best suits your skills?
Freelance editors can assume many different roles, depending on the publisher or publication. It's up to you to identify your niche and your best talents, then to focus on finding the best fit for you.
Your skills in a particular area should be topnotch, and—of course—you'll need a flawless resume, not just in content but one that's immaculately mistake-free. Include samples of your work when you apply, and you might want to consider setting up your own website as well.
An acquisitions editor is responsible for accepting, rejecting, and finding manuscripts to publish within a specific publishing house. These are likely book-length manuscripts, fiction or non-fiction. An acquisitions editor might also be responsible for coordinating contracts and bringing authors on board.
These editors must know their markets and target audiences. They have to make calls on what fits their house and what doesn't. Sometimes this editor "follows" the manuscript through the publishing house, keeping track of its progress and remaining the first contact for the author.
Freelance editors generally don't have an opportunity to perform these types of duties because they require an intimate knowledge of the specific publishing house. This role is generally performed in-house, but it can be a long-term goal after you get your foot in the door.
Also called a managing editor, a coordinating editor is like a traffic cop. A manuscript or work is often touched by several people, from writers, graphic designers, proofreaders, editors, photographers, and translators before it's published. It's helpful to have one person coordinate all this, someone who always knows where the project is and where it's going next. This can cut down on mistakes and wasted time.
Several freelance editors perform this job for magazines, although local publications seem to work best. They get copy from writers to editors to graphics layouts as necessary, and they coordinate the entire collection of work for one issue on behalf of a publication.
Copy editing is sometimes referred to as line editing, stylistic editing, or mechanical editing. It focuses less on the content of a piece and more on its mechanics, especially as they compare to the style guide in use at that publication. A copy editor checks things like spelling, grammar, sentence structure, and sometimes higher-level needs such as flow and consistency.
Copy editing is one of the most common editing roles for freelancers because it's required for almost every type of work, from web content to magazine articles to books. It's relatively simple to perform remotely.
This type of editorial process deals with higher-level issues. Also referred to as developmental, substantive, or macro editing, it specifically fixes the document at a content or structural level: paragraphs, pages, flow, organization, and format. It might mean changing copy from the first person to second person, improving characters in books, fixing style issues, or adding and deleting material.
Freelance editors often offer this service to authors and novelists, but it requires a good, proactive relationship with the author. A freelance editor can perform well in this editorial role when such a relationship can be established remotely.
Editors who are writers themselves, who are avid readers, or who have knowledge of the publishing industry can do well in this role.
Fact checking involves researching the facts in a document and verifying that they're indeed true. This can be done via phone, internet, or at a library. Freelancers can certainly excel in this role with the right relationship with a publisher.
This type of editing focuses almost exclusively on the layout of a piece, including graphics and font. These same tasks are dealt with by proofreaders for some houses and publications, however.
Sometimes called localization editing, this type of editor focuses on cultural and international issues that might be present in a document or manuscript. Sometimes translations are technically correct, but meanings are lost. Translators often refer to transliteration when they talk about translating with a special nod to meaning.
This type of editing also looks at specific cultural issues that can vary by population, such as how dates are written, how genders are presented, and how place names are given. The work can potentially be accomplished by an editor who's not a translator. Freelancers can perform this edit, and some specialize in certain languages or cultures.
An integrity editor deals with the cross references that occur in large articles, such as journal pieces, and in non-fiction work. For example, the editor will verify that a table is present where it's supposed to be if a manuscript notes "See table 3.1," and make sure that it says what it's supposed to say.
This edit is often performed by proofreaders, too, and it's sometimes available to freelancers.
Line editing ensures that a document has a true "flow" from start to finish. Authors often write and rewrite a manuscript or document, and it might already have undergone a developmental edit. These processes can cause hiccups, flow issues, repetitions, and choppy language. The cadence of paragraphs might be an issue because one was rewritten yesterday while another was written a year ago. A line edit fixes these problems, which often come down to style issues.
Freelancers often perform line edits.
Low-, Medium-, High-Level Editor
These terms refer to the extent of changes the publisher is looking for, or that the author has agreed to. A low-level edit will focus more on rules and copy edit type problems, while a high-level edit will make more substantive or developmental changes.
Manuscript Review Editor
This project focuses on the quality of the content, usually a book. The editor who performs a manuscript review will read the piece and give substantive feedback on its viability within the publishing industry.
This job is almost exclusively performed by freelancers who are published authors themselves, or who have significant experience in the publishing industry.
A permissions editor must obtain the rights to reprint any copyrighted material that appears in documents, such as song lyrics, photos, and poetry lines. This can be performed by a freelancer who has inside knowledge of the book industry. Managing copyrights is important because infringing on them can be costly.
A production editor will coordinate the printing and publishing of a book near the end of its road. They work with vendors such as printers and typesetters to get the book out to market. This position is generally performed in-house, but that's not to say that remote positions aren't available.
Proofreading is performed on a manuscript that has already been edited once. One last look is given for low-level corrections, such as misspellings, repetitive words, and grammar mistakes. Proofreading can also mean checking a clean, new document against an old, edited document to ensure that every correction has been made.
Proofreaders might also check for format issues, such as the correct lineup of subtitles and running heads. They can look for bad breaks in lines, or for words that aren’t properly divided from one page to the next. This line of work is very available to freelance editors, and it's easy to perform remotely.
Technical editing involves editing documents that are of a very specific nature, but the level of editing/proofreading can vary. It can encompass any of the above types of work. This project is widely available to editors with specialized knowledge in tech areas.
What Does a Freelance Editor Do?
Many of these roles can overlap, and some are in a state of flux. Freelance editors should always make sure that their specific duties are fully described by their clients, and ideally put into a freelance writing contract. Many jobs are posted as freelance when, in fact, they aren't. Be careful, do your homework, and check out some of these other options as well.