For the past two and a half years, I’ve been working full-time as a freelance editor, and I’ve been loving it. It allows me to work wherever I want, whenever I want, and with decent pay (around $30 per hour). And I feel extremely fortunate that getting established as a freelance editor has allowed me to seamlessly continue working from home during the pandemic.
While I would ideally like to be paid to write full-time, for me writing hasn’t been as lucrative or reliable as editing. I’ve found that even when I am paid for my writing, I usually end up making less money per hour and putting in more effort than I do with editing. So as of now, the majority (around 80%) of my income is from editing.
I’ve also found that editing in itself can vastly improve one’s writing skills — it’s a great way to sharpen one’s grammar, tone, and style and to develop a keen sense of how to make one’s writing flow as well as possible. In my time as an editor, I’ve become much more adept at improving sentence structure and paragraph structure in my own writing.
So if your ultimate goal is to be a writer, getting some professional editing experience is certainly not a waste of time. It will be a productive pursuit, whether it helps you improve your writing skills or simply allows you to earn money to fund your writing endeavors.
The best part of my experience freelance editing is that I’ve been able to completely avoid the tedious drudgery of finding clients. How have I found my way around this major hurdle and time-waster?
By working for editing companies that do the work of finding clients for you. This means that instead of seeking and reaching out to potential clients yourself, the editing company will assign you projects for clients that the company has already established a relationship with.
In the past several years, I’ve worked for several such editing companies — Scribbr, Scribendi, Cambridge Proofreading and Editing and, most recently, Wordvice. While I recommend all of them, there are also some other similar editing companies that I’ll recommend below.
What do these editing jobs entail?
For all of the companies listed below, it is possible to make your work for them a minor side hustle or your main source of income. For most of these companies, you can work for 5 hours per week up to more than 40 hours per week, depending on the work they have available each week.
If you’d like to make freelance editing your full-time job, I recommend working for multiple companies at one time to maximize the work that is available to you.
And with all of these companies, you will be paid by the word rather than by the hour. That means that as your editing speed improves, your pay will increase as well. This is why I’ve gone from making around $20 per hour when I first started to making $30 to $35 per hour on average now.
Here’s how editing for them works: For each editing assignment, you are shown the topic, word count, total pay, and deadline before accepting or rejecting the assignment. Once you’ve accepted an assignment, you can work on it at whatever time of day you want as long as you submit it by the deadline. You will generally be paid more for editing assignments with shorter deadlines (e.g., four hours as opposed to one week).
There are dozens of proofreading and editing companies out there, but I’ve handpicked the six below because of my positive experiences with them, their strong reputations, and the favorable feedback they’ve received from their freelance editors. They’re all currently looking for proofreaders and editors to edit documents ranging from student essays and dissertations, to academic journal articles, to cover letters and business documents.
Requirements: An undergraduate degree in any “relevant” field (mine was in sociology, so that was relevant enough apparently) and at least three years of experience in “editing, writing, document production, or language teaching.” These three years of experience don’t necessarily have to be paid or professional experience. For example, two years doing unpaid language tutoring plus one year writing for your school newspaper would count as three years of experience.
Application process: First, you’ll have to submit a resume. If that’s approved, you’ll be invited to take a “mock” editing test. It will simulate what the job would entail — you’ll be given a sample document riddled with errors, which you’ll have to remove using Microsoft Word’s “tracked changes” feature. Your performance will be based on how many errors you overlook. If you pass, you’ll be invited to join the editing team.
Pay rate: $25 to $30 per hour.
Requirements: Basic proofreading skills and a bachelor’s degree in any field. For applicants who lack any professional editing experience, Proofed offers a quick course (see below) to get your skills to where they need to be to get hired.
Application process: This one is the most approachable for beginners. That’s because they give you the option of taking an editing crash course called Proofreading Academy (which you have to pay for, but it was a worthwhile investment in my experience). Once you’ve completed the course, which takes about a week, you’re guaranteed to be hired by the company if you pass the final test at the end of the course. The amazing part is that even if you fail the exam, you’re permitted three more attempts to do it. After each attempt, you’ll receive feedback to help you succeed in the next attempt.
Pay rate: Around $25 to $30 per hour on average.
Requirements: This editing company doesn’t require you to have any professional editing experience, so it’s also very approachable for entry-level editors. When I started working for them, I had a relatively high level of language proficiency (I knew a lot about grammar), but I had no formal editing experience. The only credential required is a bachelor’s degree.
Application process: First, you have to take a challenging quiz that tests your grammar and overall language abilities. Before attempting it, I recommend studying or reviewing grammar rules (here’s a useful YouTube playlist for that purpose). If you fail, you’ll have the option to try again when a new version of the quiz is created, usually several months later. After passing the quiz, you’ll be given a sample document that you’ll have to edit and return within several days. If you pass the sample edit, you’ll be invited to begin their renowned training program, Scribbr Academy.
Pay rate: 20 to 25 euros per hour. If you prefer to be paid in a different currency, they will convert it for free.
Requirements: This company requires a minimum of two years of prior editing experience. They also expect that you not only have a bachelor’s degree, but also that you have a graduate degree or are currently enrolled in a graduate program.
Application process: The process begins with taking a grammar test. If you pass, you’re invited to edit sample documents to test your skills. If you meet their editing standards, they determine your exact pay rate based on the level of skill you exhibited through the editing test.
Pay rate: Around $25 per hour, with variations depending on experience and skill.
Requirements: Proofreading and editing skills, in addition to in-depth familiarity with style guides, are required. However, no prior formal editing experience is necessary. Kibin also seems to care quite a bit about “cultural fit,” so they try to gauge your personality during the application process more than other editing companies do.
Application process: First, you’ll take a difficult language quiz. What makes this quiz different from those of other editing companies is that this one will also test your knowledge of style guides such as MLA, APA, Chicago, etc. So make sure to study up on what citations, bibliographies, etc. are supposed to look like for each style guide.
Pay rate: This isn’t specified on their website, but on Glassdoor, their editors have indicated that it’s around $20 to $25 per hour.
Cambridge Proofreading and Editing
Requirements: No prior professional editing experience is required, although it is preferred. What’s most important, however, is the skills you demonstrate during the application process. A bachelor’s degree in any subject “from a a well-respected American, British, or English-speaking university” is expected.
Application process: If you pass the 45-minute language quiz, you’ll be asked to prove your skills by editing sample essays.
Pay rate: $12 per 1000 words, with occasional bonuses for urgent orders.
For anyone interested in flexible work that pays well while also improving your language or writing skills, freelance editing is an ideal choice. For me personally, earning most of my income through editing has given me the stability I needed to continue pursuing my writing goals.
And in the current economy, where well-paid writing opportunities are becoming more scarce, I expect that editing will continue to be my financial backbone for years to come. I hope to see other writers use it to support themselves as well.