Getting started as an editor

To get started as an editor you’ll need two things: an editing qualification, and editing experience.

The types of qualifications and memberships you need to be a professional editor are outlined in Online editing courses in Australia. Below are some ways in which you can gain the editing experience you need to start your editing career.


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, if you wish to work full-time as an editor 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 go; and register your editing business or availability as a freelancer on IPEd’s registrar.

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 credibility as an early-career editor. As an IPEd member, you’re also eligible to 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, you can 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 – ‘refresher’ courses or learning new skills – regularly so you continue to grow as a professional editor. This is particularly important for early-career editors who need to gain stronger skills and/or a wider range of skills so they can undertake different types of editing work.

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 launch yourself into an editing career, go to: How to become an editor.

Stay posted for future articles with tips for early-career editors about how to find clients and gain further editing experience.

The information in this article is drawn from my own experiences over about 25 years: managing On Time Typing; editing and proofreading reports, policies and publications; writing, compiling and self-publishing hard copy publications; and communicating with other professional editors. See this blog for other articles about editors and editing, proofreaders and proofreading, and self-publishing.

Proofread by Dee Sansom, On Time Typing

Image: Pixabay – Creative Commons licence (no attribution required)

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