If you are a freelance editor or are considering editing in a freelance capacity, this is for you. These 10 tips guide you through different aspects of your work as a freelancer. Before we get to the 10 tips, here are three additional points to consider with two quick self-assessment tools:

The freelance context

A freelancer is someone who offers their services for a fee to a number of different clients. Freelancers are responsible for their own tax, benefits, admin and all matters related to offering their services. They can work part-time or full-time and may offer a range of services. These services are usually related, for example, translation and editing or indexing and editing. Freelancers’ services are contract based – per project/task or for a specified term (generally short term).

How sure are you about freelancing?

Complete this quick quiz to determine if you are ready to launch yourself into the realm of freelance editing or want to check how well you are managing: Click here to download

You are your business

There are at least six business functions that you need to stay on top of as a freelancer: general management, finances, admin, productivity, marketing and public relations. Complete this simple assessment for an overview of strengths and weaknesses in your ability to manage a freelance business: Click here to download

10 Tips

And here are 10 tips that will help you to manage your freelance career successfully.

Know your capacity (1): Have you had a look at the quiz above? Use this simple quiz to evaluate where your strengths and weaknesses are. Remember, freelancing is not static and one should be working on or assessing these areas regularly.

Commit to professional membership (2): Membership of relevant professional organisations is essential for ongoing professional development, networking and mentoring. Professional membership is good for your credibility and reputation. Also, it allows you to stay on top of changes in the field and best practice.

Maintain an online presence (3): Establish an online presence – we are well into the digital age and this remains the preferred method of client interaction, communication with colleagues and learning. An online presence ensures we can be found, it contributes towards a credible reputation and keeps you connected to a large pool of resources. Think about a website or, at a minimum, create a professional presence on platforms such as LinkedIn or Facebook and on websites of your membership organisations. This is one of your first steps in marketing yourself.

Lead your business (4): You have to run the show. This means you have to be proactive, know your desired end result, prioritise, keep learning and collaborate with those who will help you achieve your goals. You are in the driving seat all the time and no one else is likely to step in for you!

Be clear on your rates (5): You need to know how much you want to earn to cover your expenses, pay tax, keep learning or improving and (ideally) have surplus. You must be able to define your scope of work so that you know what you will charge and whether or not this will be per task, per word, per hour, per page. Create a rates card with this information as this is easy and quick to share with others when asked about your services.

Get your admin in order (6): You need templates for quotations, invoicing, contracts and possibly even regular communications. This maintains consistency in branding and in messaging. It keeps everyone on the same page in terms of what you do and what you charge. It reduces time otherwise wasted on thinking and calculating and sorting out the ‘what and how’ of your business.

Be disciplined (7): Only you can manage your time and energy to deliver what you have committed yourself to. This means you need to know how to set boundaries and how to say no. You must learn what works best for you and what you can access to support this. This could include anything from when you choose to sleep to what sorts of software you might use in your business. Points 8 and 9 below will also help you to remain disciplined.

Take a proper brief (8): When you know what you can and can’t do, you can let others know what you will and won’t do. This is called your scope of practice and it helps to keep your admin running smoothly and your delivery on time. It sets the tone and your clients won’t have unrealistic expectations or misunderstandings about the services you offer. A good brief will also include from your clients, at a minimum, the following: a final draft of the text to be edited; a style guide or their style preferences if they do not have a guide; a due date; and the nature and extent of other people involved in the process, if applicable.

Mind your manners (9): Businesses depend on relationships. Everywhere. Do not underestimate the impact of your way of interacting with and responding to all people. Everyone is a potential client or referral source and the quality of your communication style will show in person and online, in every conversation, email, phone call, text and online post. Be sure to market yourself well – all the time.

Manage your risk (10): Freelance editing carries an element of risk, but then does not everything in life? Manage your risk by preparing comprehensive quotations, invoicing promptly and following up on delayed or non-payment. If the scope changes, renegotiate your terms and update the quotation. If the job is not likely to bring you experience, skills development, an expanded network, learning opportunities or increased credibility, say no. As a freelance editor, you get to choose the extent of risk you are prepared to carry.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of PEG.

About Alexis Grewan

Clean copy, on time, makes sense. As an editor and writing consultant, Alexis values accuracy and upholds high standards of editing and writing practice. She is ethical, vigilant, disciplined and reliable. She is also a collaborator with a flexible style of communicating – a generally proactive engager on every level.


About PEG

The Professional Editors’ Guild (PEG) is a non-profit company (NPC) in South Africa. Since moving to online activities in March 2020, PEG has been able to offer members across South Africa, and internationally, access to an extensive online webinar programme. Continuing professional development remains a key offering and the first PEG Accreditation Test was administered in August 2020 to benchmark excellence in the field of editing.