Editing can be a rewarding and creative job, but getting started is easier said than done.
Most beginners don’t know how to approach this career move, and the fear of failure often holds them back. Sound familiar?
But there are ways to tackle this fear. Check out this guide on how to become an editor and learn the steps you need to start your new career on the right foot!
- An Overview of Editors: A Primer
- What You’ll Need to Become an Editor [and Associated Costs]
- Is It Hard to Become an Editor?
- How to Become an Editor in 7 Simple Steps
- Reasons to Consider Becoming an Editor
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Similar Gigs to Check Out
- Wrapping Up
An Overview of Editors: A Primer
If writers are the ones who put pen to paper, an editor ensures the pen was used correctly.
Editors work at all stages of the writing process. Although they don’t create the text themselves, they can help plan, coordinate, revise, correct, and format a piece of writing to ensure it reaches a specific goal.
This role involves more than proofreading and correcting grammar. Editors are major players in publishing industries and ensure the written word makes sense, and they’re often the last defense against poorly written materials.
Related: How to Become a Freelance Copywriter
How Much Do Editors Make?
Editing wages vary depending on people’s level of experience, the type of editing, and even where they reside.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, editors working in the motion picture and video industries earn more on average. But the news and media streaming markets offer the most employment opportunities for editors.
What You’ll Need to Become an Editor [and Associated Costs]
To enter an editing career, you’ll need:
- A Degree or Certification: getting some form of official training provides a solid foundation on which to develop your skills. While you don’t need higher education per se, taking some online classes or earning a certificate may improve your chances of getting a job.
- Editing Skills: These are different from writing skills. As an editor, you’ll need to be a problem solver, have good people skills, multitask with ease, and have a knack for revising and improving what’s already written.
- Complementary Knowledge: Editors need to understand what they’re reading and shape it in such a way that it reaches specific goals. This can mean being familiar with the topic of an article but also having additional knowledge on online media, search engine optimization, and the needs of the intended audience.
- Editing Software: Apart from a laptop or computer, editors also work with several tools to perform their tasks. These can include grammar checkers, SEO tools, plagiarism checkers, and content management software.
How Much Does It Cost to Become an Editor?
The cost can start at zero and end somewhere around four or five figures.
If you’re on a budget, you can leverage any free courses and tools to get you started. The Editorial Freelancers Association also offers useful free resources and affordable online courses starting at $59.
But you don’t need to spend a lot of money to become a good editor. You can work with what you have and focus on building hands-on experience, which is what will make you successful in this industry.
Is It Hard to Become an Editor?
Editing is hard work, and sometimes so is becoming an editor. Like writing, if you don’t have some natural skills or talents with copy, you’ll need more time to build these skills.
Getting a job as an editor can also be difficult in the beginning since you don’t have experience yet; there are no results to showcase.
But the need for editors isn’t going away, and with some patience and hard work, your efforts can pay off.
How Long Does It Take to Become an Editor?
Becoming an editor can take anywhere from a few months to a few years. If you want to get a bachelor’s degree, that’s an average of four years, plus any optional courses or certifications to specialize in a niche.
Apart from training, you also need to factor in time spent gathering experience. You may need at least a year of editing experience before you can apply for higher-paying editing jobs.
Related: How to Become a Ghostwriter
How to Become an Editor in 7 Simple Steps
Start your editing career by following these steps:
1. Hone Your Editing Skills
Successful editors should have the following skills and abilities:
- Critical thinking
- Good command of the English language (or the language you’ll be editing)
- Time management
- Working well under pressure
- Knowledge of various text structures, etc.
- Types of editing (developmental editing, academic editing, substantive editing, copy editing, etc.)
Some of these skills are developed once you start working, but others come when you invest in your professional development, like getting a bachelor’s degree in journalism or creative writing.
2. Choose the Type of Editor You Want to Be
Maybe you wondered if you wanted to be a freelance editor or an in-house one. But aside from this, you should also consider the type of editing you want to do.
Here are some of your options:
- Copy editor
- Line editor
- Web editor
- Technical editor
- Book editor
- Academic editors
- Magazine editors
- Developmental editor
- Substantive editor
Each may involve different skill sets. Line editing involves following the flow and syntax of the text, so grammar skills and logic are crucial to these editorial roles.
Magazine editing is more connected to the publishing process, so editors must work with staff writers, photographers, and art directors to create a cohesive edition. The teamwork here is essential.
3. Pick a Niche
Gain insight into specific industries and niches to make yourself even more appealing for potential editor jobs.
Some editing roles require specific degrees and knowledge. For instance, medical editors may have a degree in biology or even a medical background.
Technical editors are usually hired because they have relevant training or knowledge in these types of fields.
Getting this extra training will help you with your actual editing tasks.
4. Gain Practical Experience
Finding an editing job, in the beginning, is tough, but it can be done.
You’ll first apply for internships and entry-level editing jobs to build your experience at:
- Publishing houses
- Local news publications
- Online publications
- Marketing agencies
You can also look outside the publishing industry for gigs.
Today, almost everyone needs a content editor to oversee their blogs and web copy. You can also work with NGOs and local groups and volunteer to improve their texts to gain more experience.
5. Build an Online Portfolio
Like freelance writers, the online portfolio is crucial for freelance editors and getting new clients.
But don’t add just any editing job to it. Chances are, some of your gigs won’t turn out as expected. So try to update your portfolio with the works that represent you best and reflect the types of editing jobs you want.
If you want to focus on book editing, stick to relevant experience as much as possible. Adapt it to the job description you want to get better results.
6. Network With Professional Editors
Meeting the right people can land you new freelance clients and get you a foot in the publishing industry.
Here’s how to meet these people:
- Connect with book editors, line editors, and copy editors on social media
- Attend industry events like conferences or workshops
- Attend public launch parties at publishing houses
- Leverage your existing contacts to connect with other managing editors, assistant editors, executive editors, or relevant individuals
- Connect with talented writers, content creators, etc.
Building these relationships helps you stay connected to the editing industry and increases your visibility as a professional.
7. Apply for New Editing Roles
You’re probably not going to land that editorial director job right away. Here’s the basic hierarchy for most editing positions:
- Assistant editor
- Staff editor
- Senior editor
- Managing editor
- Editor-in-chief or executive editor
When you’re done with internships and volunteering, you can start applying for editorial assistant jobs, where you’ll work with experienced staff to learn the ropes.
Over time, you can qualify for a better editor position.
Freelance editing doesn’t involve this hierarchy, but the more experience you have, the better clients you attract.
Reasons to Consider Becoming an Editor
Benefits of working as an editor include:
- Minimal Supervision: While you still report to an editor-in-chief or manager, editing work is less supervised. You have more freedom to make decisions and won’t feel like someone’s looking over your shoulder. For some people, this is the biggest perk of being an editor.
- Independence: Freelance editing work comes with the freedom to choose your projects and your hours.
- Interesting Working Environments: Working in a publishing house or newsroom has a unique appeal that makes an editor’s job far from boring. It may be fast-paced at times, but some people thrive in these environments.
- Exposure to New Things: The best editors are always learning, figuring out how to use new online media technology, and staying updated with relevant industry trends. Editors are also some of the first to learn about potential best-selling books, groundbreaking research, or journalistic investigations.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Anyone Become a Professional Editor?
It depends on the type of editing job you want. Technical editing requires specific knowledge of scientific fields. These jobs often ask you to pass an editing test to verify your skills.
But if you get some training, build your experience, and have a good online portfolio, you can become a great editor no matter your background.
What’s the Difference Between an Editor and a Proofreader?
Proofreaders look at a text line-by-line to make sure it doesn’t have any typos or inconsistencies.
Experienced editors look at the text as a whole to determine if the meaning is conveyed correctly. They can also change sentence structure or request a rewrite if necessary.
Similar Gigs to Check Out
Not interested in a staff or freelance editing career? Check out these alternatives:
- How to Become a Blogger: Take your passion for writing and monetize it through a blog.
- How to Become a Proofreader: Use your love for grammar and attention to detail to make money anywhere.
- How to Become a Freelancer: Learn how to attract freelance work with any skill.
Editors are the backbone of good content; in fact, they played a huge role in shaping this very article!
To begin this career, you need to learn new skills and develop your editing abilities. For some, this can mean stepping outside of their comfort zone. But if you’re looking for a creative, fast-paced, and dynamic gig, this is the one for you.
Feel more motivated to become an editor now? Let us know in the comments! If you liked this guide, feel free to share it with your friends.