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Do you want to be an editor?

Every now and then I receive an email or phone query something like this: “I have always loved reading and writing and I have proofread my brother’s (or sister’s) essay/resume. I don’t have any experience, but I really want to be an editor. Can you give me some work experience in editing and proofreading – or advice?”

My answer is summarised below and applies to anyone wishing to embark on an editing career.

  • Think long-term

No matter how good you were at writing and editing at school or how much you love reading, you won’t become a professional editor overnight. It needs to be a long-term plan.

Do you have time for that? For example, will you still want to be an editor 10 years from now? If your answer is ‘yes’, follow these steps and you should reach your goal of becoming a professional editor.

  • Undertake an editing course

The best way to gain the knowledge you need to start your editing career is to undertake a professional editing course. If you live in or near a capital city, you can study either on site or online. If you live out of town or your local university doesn’t have an editing degree or diploma, you’ll need to undertake an online course.

My advice is to do your research to find a course that’s been recommended by working editors so you can be sure the course is run professionally and will give you the skills and knowledge you need to launch your editing career.

See: Recommended online editing courses in Australia

  • Become a member of your national editing organisation

While undertaking your editing course, you can apply for associate or student membership of most professional editors organisations, and once you have obtained a tertiary qualification and/or a suitable level of experience in editing you are usually eligible to become a full member. For example, in Australia, you can apply for membership of Institute of Professional Editors (IPEd) which is recognised as Australia’s national editors organisation.

If you are an early-career or student editor, consider joining a reputable networks of professional editors; for example, you may be eligible to join Secret Editors Business (SEB) Facebook group – a supportive network of professional editors representing a wide range of experience and expertise, and a safe environment in which to ask for advice or support.

  • Decide whether to be an employee or a contractor

This decision will depend on whether you’d prefer to work from home or in someone else’s workplace, whether you’d rather be your own boss or work for someone else, whether you live in a small or large town, or other factors.

Whatever you decide, it doesn’t have to be forever. Some people work for an employer for a few years then once they have gained enough editing experience, leave and start their own freelance business. Others start their career as editor as a freelancer working from home.

Freelancing, or working as a contractor, is certainly more challenging than working as an employee because of the imperative need to find your own clients, which some early-career editors find daunting. But if you are willing to earn a lower income for a few years while you gain experience and establish your reputation as a professional editor, you can potentially end up with a successful business.

Once you have joined a professional editors organisation and a good network of editors, you can discuss issues like these with your colleagues and benefit from their experience.

  • Gain editing experience

To become a professional editor you need not only tertiary qualifications but also experience.

For information about how to commence gaining that experience go to: Getting started as an editor.

Stay posted for future articles where I’ll be discussing ways in which qualified early-career freelance editors can gain further qualifications, skills and 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.


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