How to Become an Editor

If you’re the type of person that sees typos everytime you read, you could become an editor.

You’d be surprised to find that an editing gig can blossom into a career and eventually, a business. You’ll find opportunities everywhere for this in-demand field.

But first let’s talk about what an editor does, different types of editing, and the steps to becoming a successful editor. In a few minutes, you’ll have a better understanding of how to become an editor and if it’s the right job for you! 

What Does an Editor Do? 

Make no mistake, an editor does so much more than just fix grammatical errors and typos.

They’re responsible for taking the writer’s work and making it presentable to the entire world. Editors work with writers to improve their writing and transform their work into its best possible version.

This can mean rephrasing a couple of sentences, offering feedback, and in some cases, restructuring the entire piece.

No matter what type of editor you become, the job requires the following:

  • An above-average eye for detail and a respect for deadlines
  • The ability to refine and maintain the author’s voice
  • Editing in a way that achieves the purpose of the piece
  • Ensuring that the audience understands the text

With these skills, your job is to make sure the writer’s best work is going out into the world. Editors perform many duties, such as:

  • Layout revision and organization
  • Fact-checking
  • Consistency in the document’s formatting and style

After tightening and sharpening the quality of the content, they’ll approve the final piece and send it off to the client. The demands of the job vary depending on the type of editor you’d like to become.

Next, let’s talk about the different areas of editing and the type of editor you might want to be.

Areas of Editing 

As an editor, you could work on many types of content. This all depends on your niche and the areas you’re passionate about.

Are you interested in editing articles for magazines? Complete manuscripts? Or do you enjoy staying up to date with what’s going on around the world and want to be a news editor? 

Not quite sure? Here are a few different types of areas of editing that you’ll want to consider: 

Book Editor 

Book editing is the most intense area of editing.

You can expect to work with large, full-length manuscripts of 50,000 words or more. As a book editor, you’ll have a huge range of projects to choose from. These can be storybooks for children, adult contemporary fiction, or non-fiction works.

This area of editing is extremely rewarding. Not only will you directly influence the literary world, but this type of work will look amazing on your resume. While it’s a very rewarding niche, it’s also a major commitment.

You have to develop an ability to read a lot of words, stay sharp and maintain an eye for detail.

Before you jump into a book editing career, make sure you’re well versed in the world of writing, editing, and publishing. This is a challenging field, and you want to be as prepared for it as possible. 

News Editor

These types of editors focus on news and magazines. Most pieces range from 1,000 – 2,000 words. This means you’ll get through each assignment fairly quickly and get to see several different articles each day.  

To be a news and magazine editor, you want a degree in journalism or communications.

An internship is a great way to get your feet wet and make personal connections with individuals who can mentor you throughout your career. If you enjoy staying up to date with the news and what’s going on in the world, this is the career choice for you.

Or, if you’re into fitness, fashion, cooking, or other popular magazine topics, consider looking for a job with a niche magazine. 

Web Editor 

Getting into the world of editing content for the web is super popular; after all, we live in an internet-based world!

As a web editor, you may be creating and editing content for several different online sources. You will also need to understand how to apply SEO (search engine optimization) tactics and copywriting to effectively increase traffic to your client’s site.

Editing blog posts and articles written for the web requires some unique skills. Specifically, the ability to keep people reading despite distractions and short attention spans.

You may have challenges finding clients, especially when starting out. This will, of course, become easier with time and as you build your reputation within this field. 

Academic Editor 

To become an academic editor, you need a master’s degree or Ph.D. These types of editors work on theses, dissertations, and research papers.

Each piece of work can range anywhere from 20 to 200 pages. Depending on your niche, you may be working on pieces that are practically books themselves! This field can be tedious, which is why you want a post-grad degree in the relevant subject.

You also need to know how to wade through a load of dense text if you want to make a career out of it. While it’s not for everyone, this may be a viable career option for you! 

Types of Editors 

Once you know the type of editing you want to pursue, you have quite a few career levels to explore.

Remember that the first one you go with may not be the role for you. Sometimes you need to try a few out to find out what really motivates you. This is all part of the process and will teach you all about the different areas of editing. 

Here are some common types of jobs you could get once you start the hunt for an editor role:

Copy Editor

This role focuses on copy. As a copy editor, your job is to trim all the fluff and make sure the document reads well.

You may be the last person (besides the writer) to look at the content before it is published. Fact checking and proofreading can be part of your job.

You can also climb the ladder and achieve supervisory roles like a copy chief. Here, you’ll perform copy editing duties while managing other copy editors. 

Managing Editor

A managing editor will oversee newsroom operations.

They aren’t usually involved with content production directly. Instead, they manage people and ensure that all content sent out is of quality. 

Editor in Chief or Executive Editor 

Most of the time, this position goes above and beyond just editing and will have you stepping into more of a management role.

This might include:

  • Managing budgets
  • Staffing
  • Guiding content strategy
  • Setting the standard for content quality and creating SOPs

Freelance Editor 

Finally, you have the option of becoming a freelance editor. Basically you edit work for your clients. You could be a copy editor, a content manager, or maybe even a proofreader.

It’s your business. You decide what services you provide. As a freelance editor, you will read, review, research, and correct writing for many different clients.

The type of editor you decide to be will depend on your skills and interests. Your career as an editor is full of opportunities.  

How Much Do Editors Make? 

Your annual salary as an editor depends on your niche and chosen career path. Sometimes you’ll be paid per word, per article, or per page.

As of 2020, the average editor in the United States makes around $53,000/year. Those just starting out will make less, around $12K, while many writers make $30-$50K. Pay varies depending on the quantity and quality of the projects they do. 

Editors with several years of experience and high levels of expertise can make up to $100,000/year. Salary varies greatly, but one thing is for sure – there is money to be made in the world of editing! 

Now, this all sounds great, but how do you become an editor if you’ve never worked as one before?

How to Become an Editor in 4 Easy Steps

If you’re serious about becoming an editor, you need to be sure that you enjoy working with words and reading. Soooo much reading. Most editors are writers by trade and very creative.

Step 1: Get Your Bachelors Degree (ideally)

Your first step towards becoming a successful editor is getting your bachelor’s degree (preferably in English, journalism, or communications).

You could choose other undergraduate programs, but try to stick to one of these three as they’ll prepare you best for a career in editing. Most bachelor degrees in these fields take four years to complete. Some programs may offer a fast track program of 3 years.

You also want to take advantage of any hands-on opportunities like internships or extra projects.

Some undergraduate courses in English will include:

  • Composition
  • Creative writing
  • Critical reading
  • Written argument and research
  • Literature 

Although it’s not required, you can also consider graduate school and other programs in English or journalism. This will help you continue to develop your skills as a writer and editor. 

Can you become an editor without a degree? 

Absolutely! It is possible for some editors to break into this field without a degree. You might have very strong writing skills and a background in areas other than English, journalism, or communications as well as an eye for detail.

For instance, maybe you have experience in the fashion industry and could land work as an editor for a firm that focuses on fashion and style publications.

Step 2: Build Experience 

Before you become an editor, you need to have some experience writing and proofreading.

You can get this experience through internships as a writer, reporter, or even becoming an editorial assistant. Internship opportunities usually happen during college and offer unlimited opportunities for students to gain experience in their chosen field of study. 

You’ll have an easier time landing your first job as an editor after you graduate with internships.

Not to mention, you’ll learn important skills while making industry connections. This means great things await you once you have your degree paired with some experience!

Don’t have a degree? There is no reason for that to get in your way. It’s becoming more common for clients to focus on results and experience that plain or credentials. 

Step 3: Find Your Editing Niche 

This step is often overlooked. As an editor, you need to find your niche. You might feel overwhelmed at first because there are so many different niches available for editors.

Your natural skills and passion can help you narrow down your options. 

Ask yourself what you like doing the most? Try different roles. and niches. After a few months of experience in one niche, you’ll have a better idea of what kind of editor you want to be long-term.

Step 4: Build Your Career 

Advancing in this industry looks different for everyone.

Your career path will look different depending on your niche and role in the industry. Moving up the ladder could be working for a more prestigious firm or going from a copy editor to an executive or management position. 

You may also find that you prefer working as a freelancer. You could work as an editor and a writer. You’ll have more freedom in the jobs you take and the number of hours you work each week. 

Where to Find Editing Jobs 

Ready to gain some experience as an editor? Now that you know how, here’s where to look: 

Freelancer Websites

Freelance sites are a great way to get experience while building your own clientele. Some freelance sites worth exploring include Upwork and Fiverr. 

Upwork is free to use.

As a freelancer, you can browse dozens of requests from individuals and collaborate with those who need something you can do. You can also create your own profile as a freelancer with your hourly rate, expertise areas, and more. 

Watch this video on how to land your first job on Upwork! 

Fiverr is a similar site where you can work as a freelancer. Individuals will come to you for professional services for their business. You’ll also be able to browse listings and connect with individuals looking for a job that falls under your niche. 

Both programs are very easy to use and a great way to get started!

A word of caution when using any of these freelancer platforms:  Set your rates and stick to them. Don’t get caught in the trap of racing to the bottom. There will always be someone willing to work for less moolah but if you know the value of your services, then charge appropriately.

Social Media

Social media is a great way to find people who need freelance services. A lot of people use social media to find freelancers who offer affordable rates.

Since you’re just starting to build a client base, your prices will most likely be lower than that of other freelancers. Consider joining Facebook groups, making connections on Instagram, and even connecting with professionals on Linkedln. These small actions can help you get referrals and new clients! 

Job Board Sites 

There are several job postings sites like Indeed, ZipRecruiter and ProBlogger.

Simply type in keywords like “editor” into the search bar and browse through every possibility. Not only can you search for available jobs, but you can also post jobs. You’ll be surprised to find that there are usually plenty of remote jobs available for editors.

Working from home gives you a little more flexibility and comfort. As an editor, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to work from home. 

Networking Events

Attending local business networking events is a great way to make connections and meet other professionals. While these events can be intimidating for some, you can meet potential referral partners (which is definitely worth it).

Journalism or Media Sites 

Search for news editing gigs on sites like Media Bistro, Mediagazer, or JournalismJobs.com. All are great resources that beginners and not so new freelancers use on a daily basis. 

Publishing Firms

Book publishing firms need copy editors, proofreaders, and more. And remember that nowadays many writers are self-publishing. So networking with writers (and writer groups) is a great source of potential business.

Conclusion 

Hopefully you now have a clearer picture of what an editor does (and if you’d make a good one too).

Can you see yourself more as a copy editor, managing a team of editors or even a freelancer working for other writers? What’s missing on your resume? Do you still need to get more experience and build your reputation?

What’s your next step in becoming an editor? We’d love to support you as you move towards your new career goals!

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