In our new blog series ‘Online Job of the Month’ we share the most interesting online jobs with you. You might think only web developers and graphic designers can be digital nomads. But there are actually a huge number of interesting (and profitable) jobs out there for aspiring Digital Nomad Girls. This month we will tell you all about working as an online editor.
We talked to Izzy Pulido, Amy Scott and Renee Picard who are successfully working as editors while travelling the world.
What exactly is an editor? What do editors do?
Amy says “at the most basic level, what I do is help improve people’s writing. Depending on the project’s needs, I do this through developmental editing (big-picture organization and structure), copy editing (clarity, tone, syntax, typos, punctuation), and/or proofreading (focused just on mechanical errors like typos and punctuation).”
“An editor is an individual charged with finalizing content for a publication, particularly for newspapers and magazines. However, nowadays, with the entrance of digital consortiums and blogs, the world of editorial has broadened a bit.” Izzy added.
Renee notes that “a lot of people think that editors just “fix” errors, but it can be so much more than that! You might be in charge of author outreach, choosing submissions, coordinating writers, leading projects, curating content, writing regular columns, choosing images, creating titles, creating taglines, etc. You would likely be directly involved in copy development to a lesser or greater degree – it may just be something as simple as a light copyedit or proofread, or you may get into more developmental editing.
If the latter, you may spend hours or even months (depending on the type of publication) working with authors, other editors and publicists on a given piece. Once a given piece is at the point where it’s publication-ready, you might also work through the final stages of publishing and be involved in post-publication marketing.
What kind of skills do I need to become an editor?
The most important skills are:
- attention to detail
- a natural knack for spelling and catching errors
- knowledge of grammar rules, publishing standards, style guides, etc.
- being reliable and able to stick to deadlines.
Renee adds that “you have to be able to dissect your native language – you need to have a good sense of how to not only use it but also manipulate it to enhance meaning. Obviously, having a solid understanding of structural rules (grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc.) is essential, but beyond that you need to be able to read something and feel it in order to find your direction with regards to working with it.”
All agree that you have to be diplomatic. “You have to be able to be sensitive in your conversations with authors and address their concerns as well. So, beyond the hard skills (language, reading, writing) you need to exercise diplomacy and gentleness when working with authors, but still carry a hard line with regards to publication standards. Writers (yes, even me, and maybe even you,) can be pretty precious about their work, so you have to be ready to…work with this!” Renee added.
Izzy adds that “as a managing editor, you also have to be:
- good with time management
- have strong critical thinking skills
- be a good decision maker in order to assess the quality of content in relation to its performance with your audience (i.e. is this content being well-received? What are people interested in reading?)
- Being technologically versed as a digital professional is of the utmost importance.“
Do you need any qualifications or certificates?
Editing “is not a regulated industry and there are no requirements in terms of education or certifications, though there are programs out there that will train you and give you a certificate in publishing, for example. This may be a good way to go if you are starting from scratch, but I have found that my on-the-job editorial experience at several publishing companies has served me well” says Amy Scott.
Renee shared that she “didn’t have any formal education in writing or journalism. But I’ve always been interested in writing and had strong skills in the area. I had a blog for a while and then submitted a couple of pieces to Elephant Journal, then took their Apprentice Program, then volunteered, and then was ecstatic that they hired me! All that to say, if you don’t have formal experience, don’t worry—if you are interested in finding experience, you will find a way. I would recommend finding an author/business/publication you love and see if there are any volunteer/training opportunities with them.”
“Those with journalism backgrounds are the preferred candidates for the task. English majors, especially those with creative writing degrees, are also the ideal applicants” says Izzy. “However, in Vietnam, where the demand for native English writers heavily outweighs the supply, the prerequisite for editorial jobs is solely a strong command of the English language. A college degree is also required, but even without experience in the field, if you demonstrate your linguistic abilities well enough, that alone will help you to secure a job.”
Where do you find jobs as an editor?
This is probably the first question you’d like answered before getting into any field, as a nomad or not. And the answers might surprise you.
“Funnily enough, all the editorial jobs I’ve encountered are mostly listed on Facebook, as Facebook is the best recruitment tool here in Vietnam. Everyone in Vietnam, from businesses to schools, are active Facebook users and you’ll see that professionals have turned to Facebook to reach a larger audience. I actually got my first editorial job through Facebook and this new position as the Managing Editor for Vietnam Tourism stemmed from a blind Facebook message from my now-supervisor” says Izzy.
Other, more traditional paths include agencies and freelancing platforms. Amy says “you can get started as a freelancer on sites like Upwork and Fiverr or specific publishing sites like Reedsy. There are also job boards, such as the one provided by the Editorial Freelancers Association; (you have to be a member to access it). Many publishing companies put out calls for freelancers through their own websites. I haven’t heard of many full-time remote jobs for editors, but they may be out there, especially for blogs or tech companies. In my experience, there’s really nothing better than word of mouth.”
If you have specialised in a specific field like scientific or medical editing, doing a Google search for agencies in your industry should be the first step when looking for work.
How much can I earn as an editor?
“This is a great question! I think that an entry or mid- level wage at an online publication might be in the range of $20 +/hour. If you are freelancing, rates can vary but the standard rate is about $40/hour. If you are highly educated and working for a major publication, I’d expect that one could be making a typical management-level salary, but I’m not in a position to comment on this number”, says Renee.
Amy agrees “there’s a huge range depending on the type of client, the type of content, and the type of editing. The Editorial Freelancers Association has a chart of typical rates, as a beginner you could make less than those rates, and someone with a lot of experience can make substantially more. In the past 11 years of working for myself, and based on the above factors, I’ve made anywhere from $20/hour (or less, if I didn’t estimate a project well!) to $200/hour.”
How do editors price their services? Hourly, per project, per word?
One of the trickiest things to figure out when you’re starting as a freelancer is how much to charge your clients. Each of the girls had a slightly different approach.
“Depending on the editor and the type of editing (and sometimes the client), pricing may be per hour, per word, or per project, and there are varying approaches to how much is included in those fees. I typically charge by the word for copy editing and proofreading, calculating based on how much I want to make per hour and how long I think the project will take. I charge by the hour for developmental editing because it’s harder to predict how long it will take and often requires more back and forth” says Amy Scott.
“The position I currently hold is a full-time job and pays a monthly fixed salary” Izzy shared with us. “The workload varies depending on deadlines that need to be met, so typically I work a crazy number of hours for a few weeks and then can relax in the following weeks when there aren’t any assignments. It all balances out.”
Rene says “most people I know who are freelancers encourage charging per project, but some charge by the hour. The going hourly rate is generally $40–60.
I refer to this link often, it’s a great reference point for readers (this is for Canada but can be a good pointer for others too).”
Is it easy to work as an editor while travelling?
Now that’s the question we’re all most interested in. Does editing lend itself to a nomadic lifestyle?
“The short answer: yes! The advantage of editing work is that you can do a lot of it offline, so having constant and reliable Internet access isn’t as much of a factor as it is for some other types of work. Also, because the work is asynchronous, it often doesn’t matter if you’re halfway across the world from your clients. But you still need to be responsible and reliable and make sure you can stick to deadlines, which for some people is a challenge while travelling. The downside is that the work is very hands-on, so if you’re not at your computer editing, you’re not making any money” says Amy Scott.
Renee adds “I think with any type of work, it would likely be easiest to travel if you were entirely freelancing and setting your own schedule. There are plenty of remote options for editorial work as well, but it may mean that you have less flexibility.”
What would you recommend to other nomad girls who’d like to get started working as an editor?
“I’d say that it’s a good idea to clarify your current strengths, skills and interests and work from there” says Renee. “Maybe you have the type of job that already involves a lot of documents so you can ask to take on more editing tasks, for instance. There are a gazillion Facebook groups for writers and editors with all types of backgrounds which can be great places to ask questions and network. Find someone that you trust and admire that is willing to be a mentor for you, either formally or informally.
Do research, ask questions, and try out a few different avenues to figure out what you want your focus to be, then start to build up your portfolio and references (Note: It’s possible to be a great writer and poor editor, and vice versa, so be sure to get some honest feedback and do some honest reflecting about your strengths along the way).”
Izzy added “the biggest asset to me without having a journalism background was being able to present a writing portfolio with at least ten published pieces, all in long-form. The portfolio helped me to prove my expertise and handle of English language, both in the technical and stylistic sphere. I’ve only worked the editorial market in Vietnam and so this advice is technically a bit location-specific, but I think for nomad girls who are interested in pursuing an editorial-related job, you need to demonstrate your writing abilities first and foremost.”
And don’t forget about marketing and learning. Amy encourages you to “tell everyone you know that you are available for this kind of work. Talk to people doing the kind of work you want to do. Read grammar and language books, familiarize yourself with the common style guides (such as the Chicago Manual of Style for American book publishing).”
There you go future editor. If you’re a bookworm and have a love for language and grammar, editing might just be the perfect digital nomad job for you. I hope we answered all your questions, if you have any more, please leave them in the comments and our girls and I will try our best to answer them all.
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To find out more about the girls you can find their author bios below: