My Freelance Content Editing Experience (so far).
I don’t know why I thought it was appropriate to write about this, and I have no idea whether you’ll find it interesting or not, but I figured I might as well document my experiences. I may also update this post as time goes on.
I’ve been content editing off and on for about six years now. I wanted to turn it into a full-time position for the past year or so, but was not allotted the opportunity to do so.
Well, that opportunity came one day last June when I lost my full-time job!
The experience of losing one’s job should be incredibly painful and terrifying. It should set one into panic mode instantaneously. It should cause terror in one’s heart over the uncertain nature even of tomorrow.
Well, not for me. Yes, I was nervous about income. But, as I shook my ex-boss’s hand and left that building for the last time, the main feeling I experienced was freedom. Opportunity. Relief.
I cancelled my subscriptions. I switched my car insurance plan to the cheapest shit imaginable, paid off what was left on my 2003 Monte Carlo, and I started placing ads EVERYWHERE. Even Craigslist.
I did NOT manage to get a single content editing job from Craigslist. I did, however, get a guy who wanted me to read and ‘edit’ his murder porn! Guess what I did? I read his murder porn and edited it! Then, way too late, I realized that this weirdo just wanted me to read his porn, so I blocked him. That was creepy. Did it put me off my mission? Nah. Creeps are a dime a dozen. Every woman (and most men) know that.
That fellow was the first to contact me.
Then, I got contacted for a ghostwriting gig which I am still trying to get going. The gentleman who e-mailed me five months ago sent me some semblance of an outline, but he has had major health issues and has been sporadically updating me since. Honestly, I would be shocked if this went anywhere. The two authors are very nice men, but it seems that they aren’t super invested in the idea. Fine. I’ll wait. Still.
Finally, two days after I lost my job- I got an offer. For actual money. A hundred bucks. For a 45,000 word manuscript. I did not want to take it. I knew the pay was beneath me, but I was attempting to establish a presence on a freelancing site. Shamefully, I took it.
I ended up practically ghostwriting the whole manuscript. This was the most in-depth content (and copy) edit I have ever done, and I was doing it for pennies.
I did get some great laughs from the book, however. I received so much entertainment from parsing that guy’s sentences, which were god-awful, and translating them to be legible. It was still tough work for even tougher pay. This was my choice, but of course I bitched about it at every opportunity. My entire family was convinced I was being scammed. I might have felt better had that been the case, after reading that manuscript.
FYI- typically, a content editor would make anywhere from forty to sixty dollars an hour doing what I did for one hundred dollars total. But I was desperate, he was desperate- it worked out in the end for the best, and I’ll tell you why:
The guy was in a tough spot financially and needed help. I couldn’t say no. I know what it is like to be broke and in need of help (the feeling was quite close to me at the moment), so the guy tugged at what was left of my heartstrings.
I managed to finish that piece in eight grueling days. BUT the author was very grateful, and he left me my first review as a content editor on that specific freelancing site. That opened the floodgates for me. I received about thirteen more jobs (of varying lengths) in the following two months. I made over $3,000 just on that site.
If it weren’t for that painful first job, I never would have gotten a second, or third, or fourth, and so on.
Things were looking up. Yes, I took low-paying jobs, but in the process, I was able to up my hourly rate to something a bit more reasonable, and I started getting more consistent work.
I have been able to be more selective when it comes to which manuscripts I accept. I won’t work for anything NEAR minimum wage because- while I may not be the best editor in the world- I do know my worth.
Luckily, I have had wonderful clients. All the authors I’ve found on that site have been grateful for my work and have left me great reviews. I’m trying to get more content editing work off that platform, however, because honestly, those sites are a race to the bottom.
I joined the EFA (Editorial Freelancer’s Association) which gave me the opportunity to get better-paying gigs.
I hate advertising myself, but I started a Facebook business page: https://www.facebook.com/holymellEdits/
And I’ve actually paid to promote it. No jobs from that yet. I’m giving it time. It’s a bare-bones site that I haven’t been able to put too much effort into (haha, much like this blog).
I’ve had to learn about Search Engine Optimization, invoices, bookkeeping, and other things I could not care less about in my daily life.
Being a freelancer means that you are your own business. I am still trying to adapt to this. I always knew I was destined for a string of shitty bosses. I never would have guessed that I, myself, would populate that list!
There are some awesome things about freelance content editing, and some kinda ‘meh’ things about it as well.
The positive aspects of working as a content editor remotely are as such:
· I get to help authors who are struggling with their manuscripts. I help them arrange their words so that they appeal more to readers. Each manuscript is a puzzle, and I have to help the author make all the pieces fit. I love this part. This is what I am the most passionate about.
· I can work from anywhere so long as there is a Wi-Fi connection. This might even be the best part. If I want to leave the country tomorrow (and I had the resources to do so), I could. I could take off and go to Brazil and work from there.
· I can choose the authors I work with. Just because someone approaches me does not mean that I have to take the job. I can say no to whomever I want to say no to. This is pretty awesome. There are some clients I’ve gotten bad vibes from right out of the gate, and it is so freeing to be able to tell them in the nicest way possible that there’s no way in hell I would want to work with them. Most people are absolutely fantastic, mind you. This sort of client is very rare.
· I can also choose the genres I am content editing. I don’t have to do westerns or shitty eBooks (this is a topic for another time. Not all eBooks are shitty, okay? Just the ones that are churned out for eighty bucks a pop and then the churners manipulate Amazon’s search engines by creating fake reviewers and linking the shitty books with books that are better or have been viewed more).
· I choose my hours. I choose when I work. It’s freedom, really. The freedom I’ve always dreamt about!
· No need for pants. Really. I can’t remember the last time I put on a proper pair of pants. It has been a while.
· I can drink as much coffee as I want. I can take breaks whenever I want to. This part requires some discipline.
So those are the positives about freelance content editing. What are the negatives? Well, here we go:
· Taxes! Quarterly taxes. Yeah. I’m a business. I need to file quarterly taxes. I did not know this for the first quarter of my freelancing career, unfortunately. Apparently, when you run your own business, you need to at least save 30% of your earnings for said taxes. Huh. Who would have thought?
· I don’t really get a day off. I’ve woken up in the middle of the night countless times to respond to e-mails or messages. Same goes for weekends and holidays. This doesn’t bother me so much, however. I like having open communication with my authors.
· Feast or famine. Yeah. I’ll either have eight jobs to juggle at a time, or two. Or even NONE sometimes. This is the worst. Those famine periods can be tough. I’ve thought of going back out into the real world to get a part-time job during these periods before. Ugh. But, nine times out of ten the famine ends, and then I’m swamped.
· I work from home, so now I’m sort of a recluse. I’m a socially anxious person. I admit it. This was a dream come true for the first three months. But cabin fever is a real thing, guys. You start to go mad. The mailman files a restraining order against you. You drive to the gas station every day and pay INSIDE so you can speak to someone. The self-checkout lanes you once loved now only speak to your misery, so you wait in line for human contact. Your significant other starts to resent you because you only talk about boring shit… but this can be remedied, and I am working on volunteering and networking. Still, it can absolutely suck.
· Not knowing when I’ll have my next source of income. This one can be quite the pain. Planning and making my finances stretch has been a lesson I’ve learned the hard way.
· Insurance! I have none! Good thing I’m not around all those icky sick people because I’ve become a hermit!
I’m happy. I’m doing something I love and I’m making money doing it. I’m not locked in another person’s box anymore. I’m not making someone else rich. Not that I’m making myself rich- not by a long shot, but I’m surviving.
I would recommend to anyone thinking of becoming a freelance editor that you NETWORK IN PERSON. Word of mouth will ultimately be how you gain business. Recommendations from previous clients. Get business cards. Make a website. Write a shitty blog that you don’t even want to proofread! Put your name and business out there.
Do not- DO NOT USE FREELANCE SITES.
Why not? I’m on one! I’ve made money there! Why would I suggest that you do anything different?
Well, they are not a reliable source of income, for one thing. For another, you can get kicked off/banned for something so innocent as applying to too many jobs without being awarded one, or for not obeying their ToS. You can’t rely on freelance sites forever. And, as mentioned before, they are a race to the bottom. People literally want to pay five dollars for an entire website to be built for them. From scratch. Yes, people take those jobs.
In some parts of the world, five American dollars is a ton of money. I am glad those people have the chance to make a decent living, so I don’t want to complain much about it. It sucks for me, yeah, but oh well. Someone out there who has a worse life than me has a chance at a better one because of this. That’s fine. I’ll sift through all the five-dollar jobs and take the thousand-dollar ones.
I really wish I had had the courage earlier in my life to move to full-time freelancing. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to wake up in the morning.
Another thing I love- I never know what will happen next, or who will contact me for help.
As much as I whine about people; I like them. I like learning about my clients. In fact, I prefer to foster friendships with them. This is not a business-savvy tactic, but it is mine. I don’t care if I’m too soft or ‘nice’ to be a business owner. I disagree with the notion that you can’t be a good person and still operate a successful business. It all depends on what your version of ‘success’ is. Let me tell you what my version of success is: doing what I love, from home, and never having to put on a proper pair of pants. I’m living the dream.