How to Really Make a Living as an Editorial Freelancer

The following is an excerpt of this ebook, along with a complete Table of Contents.

In 2001, I started to receive a flood of inquiries about editorial freelancing. Accustomed to the occasional inquiry, the pace picked up and has yet to slow down as of this writing. What started the whole thing? The dot-com implosion, which began in 2000, put the media and publishing industries in trouble well before 9/11.

Flipping back through job orders, I started to notice a greater-than-usual decline in placements in the fourth quarter of 2000. The spring of 2001 was not much better. Then came 9/11.

This forced many to freelance to make ends meet. The impetus for this manual was the volume of inquiries I continue to receive about freelancing since all of this happened.

The Editorial Industry Since 9/11

Media Jobs
According to a November 2001 article on http://www.IWantMedia.com entitled, “Are We Dead Yet? Media Industry Hit by Rolling Layoffs,” an estimated 100,000 media jobs were eliminated between 2000 and 2001. Other media facts bear this out.

Magazine Closings (Source: Magazine Publishers of America (http://www.magazine.org))
Defunct or Suspended Magazines: January — December 2002 (46)

Defunct Magazines: January — December, 2001 (117)

Newspaper Ad Revenues
Corzen, an online provider of market data for the media industry, cites that newspaper ad revenues declined 0.6 percent in 2002. This was largely due to a severe fall-off in recruitment classified advertising. As if we needed a reminder that no one’s hiring!

These statistics are not meant to scare. On the contrary, they are highlighted to make you aware that more than ever, freelance talent is in demand. After reading this guide, you will be armed with enough concrete information to begin and sustain a successful freelance career.

Q&A with Industry Hiring Professionals

This section is devoted to feedback directly from hiring professionals. I asked each respondent eight questions that have been put to me numerous times. Here’s how they answered.

Title: Assistant Managing Editor, Editorial Production

Industry: Financial Services (Magazine)

Experience: 24 years

1. In your industry, what skills do you generally seek in freelancers (education, experience, number of years in industry, etc.)?

I test every copy editor I use, and I trust my copy editing test. On a resume, I look for copy editing accuracy and consistency (if you can’t copy edit your own resume, how can I count on you to copy edit my magazine?).

PRINT publishing experience (I’ve been very disappointed with folks who have only Web experience) and specific software skills.

2. Under what circumstances does your organization hire freelancers? How often?

We hire freelancers regularly, especially in our down-sized world. Ideally, we establish a long-term relationship and work with the same freelancers for a long period. We could not put out the magazine without freelancers.

3. Do most of your freelancers come from in-house referrals, staffing agencies, direct contact, or other means?

I have found that referrals are THE best way to find freelance or full-time help. I have, however, used agencies to great advantage.

Unfortunately, agencies must charge more than independent freelancers to make a go of their businesses, and our company has set a ceiling on freelancers’ hourly rate that pretty much precludes using agencies.

4. How do you decide what rate to pay? For example, is it determined by departmental budget, type of project, agency fee, etc.?

Rate for freelancers hasn’t really changed much in the past five years – $25 an hour for copy editors and typesetters. The only people who would make more than that are those who have

Chapter 4: Marketing

A little lecture: begin to think of yourself as a small business owner, because that’s what you are now. You will have to do the marketing, accounting, collections, bill paying, payroll processing, advertising, etc. All those duties that small business owners are accountable for belong to you.

And, if you’re thinking that you’ll just put something off until later, or will take care of it “later,” think again. One tax year with unkempt records will have you screaming “organization!” before you can fire off your next query letter.

Don’t have time to market? Get used to the silence of the telephone. While it’s all nice and quiet, polish up that resume and start looking for a j-o-b. Because if you don’t get in the habit of marketing, that’s what you’ll have to do.

These are things you HAVE to do now. So, just make them a habit and move on. As we will discuss, getting into a routine makes large/intolerable/I-don’t-like-to projects more manageable.

Organize yourself now like you have 100 clients instead of 1. Set up a system that is easy to understand and can be duplicated, no matter how many clients you have.

Organize receipts, create client folders, invest in accounting/contact software (and use it!); keep personal and business expenses separated from the outset. Oh, how you will thank me for this piece of advice at tax time. Lecture over. Now, on to marketing.

To begin, marketing your skills as a freelancer (business owner) is akin to taking on a part-time job (even full-time, depending on how many clients you need to survive).

However, it is a necessary part of your new business so get used to it and create a plan. I have a plan I call “success by the numbers.”


CHAPTER 1: Editorial Freelancing ― An Overview 
The Industry Since 9/11
Where are We Now?
Where’s the Work?

CHAPTER 2: Determining Your Market
Copy Editor
Production: Graphic Design, Desktop Publishing, Layout Specialists, Etc.
To Specialize or Not
Major Areas of Specialty
General Editorial

CHAPTER 3: The Industry ― An Inside Scoop
Getting Your Foot in the Door
Q&A with Industry Hiring Professionals
Summarizing the Professionals

CHAPTER 4: Marketing
Developing a Marketing Plan: Success by the Numbers
Marketing Strategies
Marketing with Postcards
Marketing with Press Releases
Sample Press Release
Cold Calling
Marketing Your Business via a Web Site
Technology and What It Means for Small Business
The Four Main Reasons Every Business Needs a Web Site
Web Site Costs
Mailing List Companies
Creating a Contact File
Your Marketing Kit
Implementing Your Marketing Plan
Sample Cover Letter
Sample Professional Profile

CHAPTER 5: Invoicing & Getting Paid
Trouble Getting Paid: A Case Study
Sample Reminder Collection Letter
How Companies Pay
Sample Reminder Collection Message: Voice Mail
Billing on Time

CHAPTER 6: Organization & Summary
Organize Your Work Space
Where to Begin to Look for Work
Warning: Fee for Work
Summary: Key Points to Remember

x-click-but22 $9.95

Be Sociable & Share


    1. […] client in my e-book, How to Really Make a Living as an Editorial Freelancer noted that rates hadn’t changed for copyediting at their firm in 5+ years (they were paying […]