Hello freelance bloggers!
I know that you’re serious about being successful as a freelance blogger; you’re here, after all.
Now, I don’t want to distract you from this important work—but let’s be honest:
You know you can be a freelance blogger. Sophie knows you can be a freelance blogger. And I have no doubt in my mind that you can be a freelance blogger. But the fact remains that it isn’t always easy to make a decent income right from the get-go. Clients are sometimes few and far between, and even with the best pricing strategy, you won’t always be making as much as you want to.
Your bills, of course, remain largely the same. Groceries need to be bought, the mortgage paid, and the internet kept connected.
So sometimes you need a little extra.
Acquiring that little bit extra, and seeing it put to good use, is a passion of mine, and I think it can be done in a way that complements, rather than replaces or takes away from your freelance blogging work.
Specifically, I’m talking about editing. If you have the talent to be a freelance blogger, it stands to reason that you can also be a freelance editor—in your spare time, and without interfering with your real career.
It’s the little bit extra that not only provides much-needed flexibility in tight budgets, but enhances your credibility in the eyes of future clients.
Are You Raising Your Eyebrow at Me?
Let me tell you a little story…
My roommate, Anne, is a grad student, and you know what that means in terms of disposable time and money. Studying more or less professionally is exhausting, time-consuming work—and the opportunities to generate extra income can be rare.
You may remember how Sophie kindly included my guide, 20 No Bullshit Ways to Make At Least $30 Tomorrow, in her list of free resources for freelance bloggers – well, naturally I’d made sure that my roommate had a copy as well. (Her having adequate income is something we’re BOTH highly invested in!)
She took the idea of performing editing work on the side and just ran with it.
Three weeks in, Anne has earned $650 from a handful of editing clients.
Her very first client paid her $500 to edit his thesis in a weekend. That’s the kind of supplemental income I’m talking about.
It was a rough weekend, to be sure—but she got someone out of a jam by providing a necessary service they were thrilled to pay a premium for.
I don’t want you to get the idea that this was a one-off either. Over the last few months I’ve had not one, not two, but four people who had downloaded my guide reach out to tell me that they made money editing on the side. Four!
This works. It’s simple (not easy, mind, just simple) and you can start today.
Step 1. Identify a Rock Solid Niche.
When editing, one must specialize. I don’t mean you’ll edit blog posts, or undergrad papers. No. I mean you’ll be THE go-to person for fitness bloggers aiming to land guest posts on authority sites. Or local restaurants web copy. Or art students applying for grad school who need impeccable letters of intent.
There are a few things to consider when nailing down your niche market:
- You must have some kind of access to them—either on or offline.
- They must have something serious to lose if their writing sucks.
- They must be willing and able to pay you.
You want a niche that satisfies all of those requirements. Not one. Not two. All three.
This isn’t as hard as it sounds, but it might take a little time to land on just the right one. Here are some questions to ask yourself when evaluating the possibilities:
- Do I know they need this service?
- Have I ever met anyone who bought it, or who would have had it been available?
- Are there enough of them out there, and can I find them?
Now, generally, for a real business, I recommend doing a full customer profile on your niche. But this is a side hustle, and you’ve already got a main gig, so don’t stress out about what their favourite movies are or how many kids they have.
Focus on the pain they experience, and how you will be able to relieve it.
Some good pains to solve:
- Students getting low grades.
- Small business owners being denied grants and funding.
- Bloggers being constantly rejected for guest posts.
- Writers whose eBooks aren’t moving.
- Local business owners with sad promotional materials.
- Job seekers with unprofessional cover letters.
Pick a name that reflects who you’re helping and what problem you’re solving.
In fact, take a moment right now, and write down who you’re helping, and what problem of theirs you’re solving. This will come in handy. 😉
Step 2. Set Your Prices and Your Terms
Life of course, is not all about the money, and neither is your real freelance blogging business – but a side editing hustle really is kind of about the money.
So you want to charge a rate that knocks the competition out of the water. You can do this because it’s a side hustle.
Unlike for your writing, this is an area where you want to undercut the competition, and premium level pricing is more of a hindrance than a help.
Look for similar ads and see what your local rates are.
For example, in Montreal, academic editing runs to between 5 and 10 dollars a page. My clever roommate charges approximately 3 dollars per page, sets flat rates for common projects (like 20 page research papers) and is willing to negotiate deals for rush work.
Of course, you have to make enough to make it worthwhile—you’re not setting up a charity here. Figure out how long editing the type of document you’re planning to deal with will take you, and assign yourself a decent, but not extravagant wage based upon it. Make sure to factor in a little time for marketing, but don’t worry, it won’t be that much.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Rush work is a pain in the butt, but worth a premium price to those who need it.
- Always list your rates, and follow these tips to make your best price irresistible.
- State how you’re willing to be paid. Paypal? Cash Only? Cheque?
Now, your terms. You need to make very clear from the very beginning that you have a way things work, and it is not up for debate.
Do you need advance notice? What are your refund terms? Do you require documents in a specific format? Do you make a results-based guarantee? (Hint: yes, strict, yes and no.)
You have to choose what works for you – but decide before you take on a client, and get it all written up.
Create for yourself a standard agreement that you’ll have people sign, or digitally agree to. We’ll get to when this happens in a few moments.
Here’s an example of what this might look like:
Agreement for Contract Work
[Your Contact Information]
[Client Contact Information]
I the undersigned agree to pay the amount of [TOTAL JOB PRICE] for the work of:
[DESCRIPTION OF WORK TO BE DONE].
I have paid a deposit of [AMOUNT OF DEPOSIT], and will pay the balance of [BALANCE OWING] upon delivery of the completed work on [DATE OF DELIVERY].
I have been informed of and understand the conditions under which refunds are to be issued.
[YOUR NAME AND DATE]
[CLIENT NAME AND DATE]
If you’re working online only, create a similar PDF, and enable digital signatures.
Now, I don’t imagine that anything like this is legally binding. It’s just to make sure that you and your client are on the same page.
Don’t worry – it will make you look professional.
Okay, we’re ready to find our clients!
Step 3: Find and Impress Your Clients
This part is actually the easiest. (I swear!)
You see, unlike most side-hustle beginners, you selected a niche that is salivating to get their hands on your services—they’ve got a deadline this weekend and their work isn’t working. They need you.
You don’t need to spend hours researching and courting blogs, or build a list of thousands. You just need to be seen by 5 or 6 of the right people, and convince them you can do what you say you’ll do.
You do, however, need a website. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. It can be an extra page on your freelance blogging site, or you can even set up a quick wordpress.org blog.
Fill in your basic information, and edit something for a friend or colleague for free so they can give you a little testimonial.
This should take you a few minutes on the outside.
This is not your real business. This is not your real baby. So do not agonize over:
- The look and feel.
- What goes where.
- If it has the perfect plugins.
- If it properly expresses your vision as an editor.
It only needs to:
- Describe what you can do.
- State how much it will cost.
- Provide information on how you can be contacted.
- Talk about your terms for work.
- Link to your main freelance blogging site.
- Have a testimonial or two about your awesomeness.
WordPress.com has some pretty excellent instructions on getting these things set up, so if this sounds like a major challenge, get yourself a bottle of wine, head on over there, and devote an hour or so to playing around. It’s a skill that’s worth a little investment in time. (You’ll either have it figured out by glass three, or you won’t care. It’s a win-win.)
Now, for finding the clients – it’s even easier.
Write a scintillating ad describing the brutality of your prospective client’s current situation, and how you’re perfectly poised to erase all of that angst with a click of their mouse.
- Post the ad on Craigslist, Kijiji or another classifieds site. (Heck – post it on all of them!)
- Let your family and friends know what you’re up to, and ask them to refer anyone they know to you.
- Print out a couple of flyers, and place them in strategic locations around town. Think about where your client might be when the fear of failure hits them: café? Library? Local bar? Make a list and either go in person, or get a teenager in your life to do it for you.
That, unless you’re in a super-saturated area, should be enough to get the ball rolling.
Go to Google Local Places for Business.
Fill in the information for your side editing hustle. Now when people in your area look for editors – you will appear in the local results. This does wonders for your credibility, and doesn’t hurt your traffic either – although traffic alone isn’t your main focus. This just makes you easier to find.
Step 4: Make and Seal the Deal
Okay, if you’ve done everything right up until now, you should be getting the occasional email or phone inquiry about your services. Now you need to strike the deal, and make good on your promises.
I cannot emphasize this next part enough:
Get some of the money up front. At LEAST 20%.
If it’s possible to meet with your client in person, all the better, but even if it’s all digital, the following must be accomplished before you do so much as a stitch of work:
- They agree to the terms of work. X amount done, by X date for X dollars.
- They pay a deposit.
- They show you what it is they need edited.
Once these are done, edit the piece, deliver it and collect the balance of your fee.
That was easy, wasn’t it?
But of course, one $40 job won’t cut it—you need more than that for this kind of side project to be worth the time. Ideally, you’ll have several repeat clients, and a steady, but not overwhelming stream of randoms. Steady, returning clients who appreciate your work are ideal, so when you find one, try to get them to send you friends!
People adore being “in on” a little secret, and they love being able to refer someone to the solution to a problem. Make some little cards for yourself that you can give to your favourite clients, promising any new business they bring in a preferential rate on the first job you do for them.
Make sure to tell your client that you only do this for the folks who are a real pleasure to work with, and could they please not mention it to too many people?
Okay, we covered a LOT of ground here, so let’s re-cap really quickly:
- Choose a desperate and solvent niche that you have access to.
- Slap together a rates list and your terms, and pop it into your website, or a new one.
- Post ads on classifieds sites, and in select physical locations.
- Collect a minimum of 20% in advance, and agree to terms of service.
- Edit, deliver and collect the balance of payment.
- Repeat as needed.
I hope that you can see how effective and powerful this can be as a supplemental income source. But there’s a big fat gap in between knowing you can do something, and having done it.
So I’m going to leave you no excuses.
You probably know that Sophie pays her guest posters $50 for an article on Be a Freelance Blogger. But me, I’m not in it for the money. I’m in it to give you a tool you can use to fill in your income gaps while you’re building your freelancing business. I love seeing people making money on their own steam.
So Sophie has graciously agreed to use the $50 as a prize for one of YOU talented readers.
Here’s the deal:
If you think that having a lucrative editing side hustle can help you while you’re getting going with the freelancing, then I want you to act on the advice in this article.
To enter this $50 contest:
- Follow the steps above
- Post an ad on a classifieds site like Craigslist
- Post the link to it in the comments below
I will read them all over in 5 days, and the editor who has the best/most…
- Well-defined niche as evidenced in the post,
- Irresistible ad copy and clever headline, and
- Crystal clear prices and terms of service (in the ad or on a site)
…will get the $50 prize.
Now get to work!
Sorry, this contest is closed.
Image: ajleon, Rob Boudon
Lisa Baker says
Great post, Megan! I realized halfway through that I’m already doing this — not with editing, but with technical website support. There’s a HUGE market for it, and even though it’s not my favorite thing to do, I’m pretty good at it. It dovetails well with my main gig as a blogger and web writer. Basically I can set up someone’s whole site for them when they’ve got *no* web presence…and like you said, because it’s not my main gig, I don’t mind undercharging all the competition for it! And technical work is *expensive* (much more so than writing generally!), so even when I’m undercharging, I’m still making a rate I’m really happy with.
What a great idea! Tech support is a fantastic other direction to go with this idea – and I bet many of the principles would be the same. I especially like that “under”charging treats you so well. Thanks for this!
Mi Muba says
Contrary to the fact that no one can grow up your child better than you; everyone can edit your contents better than you. This is the key rule of all the editing jobs; if you write well you can edit well but not your own stuff.
Very good insight Mi – it’s really hard to do as well with your own work than someone else’s. Great selling point!
Kirsty Stuart says
Some great tips and advice here – thanks for going into so much detail 🙂
I’m looking to branch out into proofreading more. I already do some for friends and my extended network… I’m not really sure why I haven’t advertised it for people beyond that to be honest.
I’m also a writer looking for a proofreader for my new eBook at the moment so it’s funny how proofreading for others might cover the costs of getting my own writing proofread!
I’ve written/proofed a couple of ebooks in my time and I’m always looking for extra gigs – happy to take a look at yours if you don’t already have someone in mind?
Feel free to drop me a line at email@example.com
LOL – I woudn’t call it a whole course – but it might pass as a Cliffs notes…
What’s stopping you? I bet there are dozens of humorists out there itching for a strong second opinion. 🙂
Hey – glad you liked it!
A good proofreader is an amazing resource to have around!
Dylan Matthias says
Though I agree that this is a good post and that freelance editing is something a lot of people who write and blog should think about, Megan maybe glossed over just a couple key things.
Editing is hard. Really, really hard. I’ve been told I’m good at it. I just did freelance fiction editing for a year, it was hell, and now I’m heading to grad school. The reverse of a financially sensible decision, perhaps. But it is not easy to make money editing, either. (Especially in fiction. I think the market for ad copy and smaller work like that is slightly better, though not a lot. Depends a bit on what type of editor you are.)
Anyone really interested in this should pop over to the Editors Association of Canada website and peruse the info. They should also look at the sample contract. Certain things like indemnification, exact elements of what a project needs, and deadlines are very important. These all fall under the Terms of Service you mentioned, but if you’re not aware of these it can open up a world of hurt. An editor can be just as liable for a piece of published material as its writer. The Internet is no protection.
It’s also worth remembering how many people there are who edit, especially professionally. Keep that in mind when coming up with a rate. A (short) thesis might be worth $500. Anything less and you’re deflating the market. Want to know what happens then? You get a lot of people with no qualifications offering to edit whole books for $30. I’ve been the guy who comes in after four editors on E-Lance have attempted to edit a book for $30. It ain’t pretty. Some of those authors and clients were getting ripped off by unqualified, incompetent editors, even if they often had the best of intentions.
This is a post I liked to refer to when I was having a confidence crisis as an editor–because editing is just as subjective as writing and sometimes the two skills do not, contrary to Mi’s post, go well together: http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=1225116&postcount=16. More about books, but generally useful for anyone looking to know what the standard level of knowledge is/should be.
I’ve worked with too many “editors” whose work amounts to enforcing their own preference onto a piece simply because. If you don’t know a few things more about how language works on a technical level, how narrative (both non-fiction and fiction) works, and how the writing/revision/editing process works (or, heaven help you, if you don’t know the difference between the words ‘revise’ and ‘edit’), then you might want to think before advertising yourself as a super-awesome editor. (Come to think of it, you ought to know that words like ‘awesome’ should always, always be cut.) You’re only going to get yourself and your clients into a lot of difficulty.
I don’t mean to be the downer here. If you think you might have a knack for editing, try to get some light experience. Editing blog posts, low-level marketing material, and site copy is a good start, and I realize that’s mostly what Megan’s suggesting here. If you like it, start digging into some of the resources that do exist out there. After all, you have to be able to do research as an editor, and verify research, too. Check out EAC and Absolute Write, where the pros hang out. It can be a lot of fun. But it’s not $100-on-a-weekend, either. There’s enough bad writing badly edited out there already.
Thank you for taking the time to craft such a detailed, and well supported reply. Though we don’t agree on every point – that you did so really means a lot to me. 🙂
I’d like to push back a little. You’re certainly right that there are times when a strong understanding of the mechanics of language are critical – I’d say when it’s a career, not a side project – but I don’t think that’s necessary for this kind of work.
The subjectivity here is helpful – and the biggest benefit to someone hiring an editor of the type I describe is fresh eyes, and new ideas – as well as the assurance of not having comma spliced. I think if you give a potential client all the info – this is who I am, what I do and what I’ve done – there’s nothing wrong with setting your rate for your service.
I wouldn’t ever recommend to someone that they mislead, or try to do a job they can’t do – but I do strongly believe that if you can write – you can edit – at least in your niche, or one you’re familiar with. 🙂
Thank you again – for your comments – and the most excellent resources you mention for further exploration!
Great post Megan! You were very generous in this post with your info!
Thanks Terr! I think we all do a bit better helping each other out. 🙂
Cindy Brown says
Megan, wonderful post! Good Lord, girl, it’s a whole course! I need to do this. We shall now see if I actually do… 🙂
Hey Cindy – sorry – I mis-posted this above – it’s for you!
” I woudn’t call it a whole course – but it might pass as a Cliffs notes…
What’s stopping you? I bet there are dozens of humorists out there itching for a strong second opinion. :-)”
Spantastic! I never thought of EDITING! I have a degree in PR and wow, editing is much simpler than writing. Geeez what a great idea!
With a background in PR – you have so many options! I hope you’ll join our little contest?
Leanne Regalla says
Megan, congrats! What a fantastic post!
When I was in grad school I did both writing and editing of theses and other academic writing as well as grant proposals. It’s something I keep in my back pocket now that I am self-employed. I will keep this outline handy – I may not need it, as my current side gig is teaching music lessons – but if I ever do? Bam! I can have this up in a weekend.
So nice to know I have options. Thanks!
We’ve always got options! It’s just hard to see them once in awhile. 😉
Teaching music lessons is equally awesome, I think – and it must be so nice to be able to watch people as they learn from you and gain new skills! Very satisfying.
Though I thought this post was very eye-opening, I’m actually more curious to check out your Paying for Life blog. Coming from a Dutch heritage, I more than appreciate tips and tricks for earning and saving money!
Thanks for the kind words, Bree – I really appreciate it!
I am currently pulling together the last bits of my soft-launch content – there should be some action in a week or two – I think you’re on the list to be informed? It’s going to be a LOT of fun. 🙂
Your Dutch ancestors must be like my Irish ones!
Sophie Lizard says
Know what I see here? No contest entries. That means so far, whoever *does* take action and enter has an excellent chance of winning!
Get your ads up and your links posted here if you want your shot at the $50 prize. 😉
OK! I have my posting ready for the contest: http://abbotsford.en.craigslist.ca/wet/4002623265.html
Still working on the page for my website with my rates, terms, testimonials, etc. but I’m off to a good start! Thanks 🙂
Awesome post. I have some editing skills but no idea how to put a service together. Thank you for pointing me in the right direction 🙂
Lauren Tharp, BAFB Community Helper says
If you’re interested, copyeditor Kris Emery is putting together a collection of articles for newbie editors on her blog right now: http://krisemery.com/blog 🙂
YES! This is an awesome post. I am a long-time reader, but first time commenter and I just had to get on board this. Such a great idea and a perfect way to complement the other freelance/side projects I’m working on at the moment.
Also, looks like I’m the first to get an ad up? I did a pretty rush job putting this together as I was conscious of your deadline 🙂 But I’ve added an Editing Services page to me writer blog (which is the process of being transferred over to a self-hosted website…)
I posted an ad on Gumtree, which is the Australian equivalent of Craiglist. I found the prices for an eBook editing service online and just halved everything they quoted (hopefully I’m not selling myself too short, but the prices can always be adjusted).
I’d love to know what you think of the ad copy and website! Oh and feel free to visit my own blog at the link above too 🙂
Just wanted to say thanks again for the inspiration, opportunity and motivation to get ad out there and grow my freelance income.
Katie O'Hara says
I downloaded and read your guide a few weeks ago, and the idea about posting an editing ad on Craigslist was the one that really jumped out at me — because editing *is* what I do, or at least part of it. But, I still have zero paid editing experience, and am in sort of desperate need of money while I’m building up the whole freelancing thing, so editing papers for college kids and whatnot seemed like a great solution to help fill in the gaps.
The idea kept slipping my mind, though (building a business is a little overwhelming sometimes!), so it was awesome seeing this post in my e-mail. And now of course there’s only one day left for the contest — but I’m clearing tomorrow for implementation of this idea!
The problem will be figuring out a niche, especially since editing is part of my “real” business, and I haven’t even managed to narrow it down much for that yet. I can still use the idea of a side hustle, I think, by making this a sub-service not advertised on my main site — something quick and cheap that’s only available for a very specific type of work. (Which means editing college papers would fit perfectly, except it’s the very beginning of the semester now so no one has papers to be edited yet!)
I’ll figure something out, though. And I’ll be back tomorrow to post the link to my ad! (What time zone does the contest end on, just so I’m not stressing myself out over making the deadline?)
Thanks for this post! It was perfect timing and a push in the right direction I definitely needed.
Sophie Lizard says
Great to see you planning this into your week! Megan’s on Eastern time, so you’ve still got a full day to get your entry in. 🙂
Katie O'Hara says
Aaaaaand done. 🙂
My niche is bland, but I figure it’ll do for now. I can always make more ads later!
Here’s my ad: http://louisville.craigslist.org/wet/4004519028.html
Thanks again for this post! And having the contest, which meant I actually had to get something done. 😀
Just wanted to let you know that I’m looking over everyone’s submission, and I’ve got to say you’ve given me a tough challenge in selecting the winner! I am on it, and you can expect results (as well as feedback for each entrant) tomorrow at around 4pm EST Saturday August 17th.
I’m looking forward to it!
Jim Bessey | SoWriteUs says
Love this post, Megan!
Read it twice, bookmarked it, recommended it to an ABMer–all before I’d even noticed who’d written the post! 🙂
Time is my enemy right now, but I have every intention of following your great advice when the time is right for me. Step One: make SURE I can find your post again when I’m ready!
Thanks for an outstanding action plan. Good luck to your contestants!
I loved your impossible-to-resist headline, clear price, and how easy it was for me to see EXACTLY what pain you were going to solve. (With real pizazz!)
The other submissions were also very good – I have no doubt they will be successful. I’ve got feedback for each – if you would like to talk about your ad with me – drop me a line at Megan@payingforlife.com.
Thank you again to Sophie – for giving me this chance to share with your lovely readers!
Sophie Lizard says
Nice work, Katie! I’m emailing you to check your payment info. 🙂
Congratulations to everyone who took action on Megan’s challenge — I hope you all win editing gigs from your ads!
Katie O'Hara says
Thank you, Megan!! 😀 I appreciate the feedback, too. And thanks again to both you and Sophie for the post and the contest!
Alex Sheehan says
I love that you say to pick a niche and perfect it. I used to think that picking a specific niche would be limiting myself and the types of clients I would attract. However, I’ve found that narrowing my scope actually brings more opportunities. Great tips!
Lauren Tharp, BAFB Community Helper says
Glad you’ve found a method that works for you, Alex! 🙂
Great post, Megan. It’s a tad late now for the contest but I did want to comment. I’m already a pro editor, having worked for some clients. I’ve been an editor most of my career so I made it my primary business for now. That won’t always be the case, as I’m looking into blogging as well for long term.
I did want to comment on a couple of points in the post. One of the first things I did was advertise on Craigslist. It didn’t work. I didn’t get one response. I also placed ads in markets around my area. No responses. I’m now working on a website but it’s much, much harder than you let on. I simply don’t know what to do and the “instructions” on WordPress assume too much knowledge.
I already have several great testimonials and samples. But marketing is really stumping me. I can’t afford to pay for help. Where to go from here?
Great article! It is really very informative but I would like to know how to build my blog from scratch
Parisa Parc says
Informative article on Editing side hustle and I really appreciate it for sharing.
Hannah Jackson says
This article is going to help a lot of freelance bloggers. Thanks for sharing such an informative blog.