Getting started on your editing career

To get started as an editor you’ll need two things: an editing qualification, and editing experience. Becoming a member of a professional body such as, in Australia, Institute of Professional Editors (IPEd), will also set you on the right path.

The types of qualifications that will help you become a professional editor are outlined in Online editing courses in Australia.

Below are some ideas about how to gaining the editing experience you need to launch your editing career either during or after your studies.


If you don’t have any professional editing experience, you can gain initial experience by offering your editing services voluntarily to individuals or organisations that wouldn’t ordinarily hire an editor. It’s a good idea to do this at the same time as undertaking your editing course so you can apply what you are learning as you go.

For example, while undertaking your editing course, you could copy edit your child’s school newsletters; scribe and edit the minutes of your local sports club meetings; and copy edit or proofread your friends’ resumes. Document those editing tasks for inclusion in your editing portfolio.

As a ‘volunteer editor’, be mindful of the following points:

  • Make sure the person for whom you are doing the job understands that you are not yet qualified. State the main reason you are editing their documents is to gain experience, that the document may not be edited to a professional standard, and confirm they are happy with that. For example, if you’re inexperienced in editing, you may not pick up all the errors in the local tennis club newsletter when copy editing it but a poorly edited club newsletter isn’t the end of the world and hopefully you, or someone else, will notice those mistakes afterwards so you can learn from the experience.
  • While you’re still studying and learning the ropes of editing, don’t offer to edit a document that needs to be professionally edited because 1) you don’t yet have the skills for that task, and 2) if you did offer to do it voluntarily you would be preventing a professional editor from earning an income. For example, if an early-career editor without sufficient experience or knowledge copy edits or proofreads a manuscript, policy or annual report, the publication is likely to contain errors and will be of poor quality; and this is a pity because if a professional editor had been paid to do the work, the publication could have been perfect.
  • Whether you are working as a volunteer or as a paid editor, you should always make sure you do not take on a task that you don’t have the skills to do to the level required; for example, as an early-career editor you probably do have the skills required to proofread your sister’s resume, but you don’t have the skills required to edit a publication.


Once you are qualified and have at least some experience in editing, you can:

  • apply for early-career or trainee editor positions which would allow you to gain experience as an employee, and/or
  • set yourself up as a home-based freelancer, bearing in mind you will need to gain experience as you gor.

In addition to seeking or undertaking full-time editing work, you can:

  • apply for membership of your national and/or state editing organisation; e.g. in Australia, becoming a member of Institute of Professional Editors (IPEd) gives you instant credibility and will be extremely helpful in your career. As an IPEd member, you can also become a member of your state’s IPEd branch
  • apply for mentorship under your editing organisation’s mentorship program; bearing in mind ‘mentoring’ is not teaching or training, but providing guidance and professional support, particularly about issues you have identified
  • if you live in Australia, study for and undertake IPEd’s biennial examination which will augment your editing knowledge and, if you pass, qualify you as an Accredited Editor which will give you further credibility
  • apply for to join editors’ networks on social media; e.g. Secret Editors Group (SEB) Facebook group, a network of professional editors.


Regardless of how long you have been editing, it’s important to continue to undertake training regularly so you continue to grow as a professional editor. This is particularly important for early-career freelance editors who need to gain stronger and/or a wider range of skills to help them get started.

In Australia, IPEd’s state branches offer on-site and online courses in a range of editing specialties. See IPEd’s list of state branches here.


For an overview of the steps you need to take to commence your editing career, go to: How to become an editor.

For some great tips for early-career editors, go to: Advice to a beginner editor

Proofread by Dee Sansom, On Time Typing

Image: Pixabay – Creative Commons licence 

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