5 Things I Love About Being a Freelance Fiction Editor

Sophie Playle

Being a freelance fiction editor isn’t all sunshine and roses (self-assessment tax returns, anyone?) but the benefits of running your own editing business far outweigh the negatives.

Officially, I’ve been running my own business for almost five years. (Unofficially a little longer, since I contracted for the publishing house that use to employ me for about a year and a half.) During that time, these are the five things I’ve appreciated the most.

1. I can work from anywhere

Though this list isn’t in any particular order, this is definitely one of my favourite things about running a business from my laptop. A few years back, I said goodbye to my little rented Victorian house in Norwich, packed my laptop into a rucksack along with around five days’ worth of clothes, and set off around Europe for nine months.

It was one of the best experiences of my life, and my business thrived – in part, I think, because I discovered the benefits of co-working, but also because I felt I’d got that elusive work-life balance thing going on.

It was easier to get my head down and focus on my work because I knew afterwards I could go out and wind my way through the streets of Spain or wander along the stunning coastline of Croatia.

2. Working with stories and words makes me happy

I wouldn’t be surprised if most people who edit fiction are book geeks like me.

I embrace my geekiness, even if I am a bit of a cliché. I wear glasses, am partial to a good cardigan, love drinking tea and was the kid at school who was teased for always having her nose in a book – even if it was a Buffy the Vampire Slayer novel. (Luckily for my clients, my book reading habits have evolved since then.)

I find it weirdly satisfying to improve the rhythm of a sentence by moving a comma, or correcting a misplaced modifier.

And I love reading in-progress manuscripts, immersing myself in the writer’s world and then dismantling and analysing the story to figure out how they might improve it. It’s both creative and mentally stimulating work. Knowing I’ve helped someone improve their novel makes me so happy, and when I see authors I’ve worked with doing well, my heart swells.

3. I can choose my clients and my projects

When I first started out, I took on every project that came my way. Even if it was to edit a non-fiction booklet on choosing a kitchen or proofreading a hundred-page guide to energy efficiency in the home.

I quickly realised it would be more beneficial for my business to specialise, and I would enjoy my work more, too, if I took on only the projects that were interesting to me.

That’s when I became a specialist fiction editor.

Now that I’m more experienced, I’ve also learned to choose my clients carefully. If I get a bad vibe from a prospective client, I proceed with caution and may well turn them away. It’s important to remind myself that I run my own business and have the power to make these decisions. I’m not just a pen-monkey for hire.

4. I set my own schedule

This is another big one for me.

To my very core, I am not a commute-and-work-nine-to-five kind of person.

Been there, done that. Quit after a year.

It’s not easy getting the balance right between freedom and discipline when you work for yourself. I admit, in the early days, I may have watched a few too many episodes of Homes Under the Hammer or played a few too many hours of The Last of Us while enjoying not being under the watchful gaze of an employer. But those days are over. I swear.

Recently, I’ve been enjoying waking up without an alarm, spending half an hour on my yoga mat doing my physio exercises, and then cooking a healthy breakfast and making a decent coffee. I feel this really sets me up for a productive day.

As well as that, I don’t need to make an awkward phone call to my boss if I need a sick day, and I don’t need to get my holidays pre-approved weeks in advance either.

5. The community

This one may come as a surprise to some people.

You might imagine that since I run my own business and mostly work from home, I’m sitting around in my dressing gown all day, hissing when daylight manages to squeeze through the gap in the curtains and worrying that the doorbell will ring and I’ll have to – gasp – interact with another human.

Yeah, that’s only a little bit true. (I’m sitting in my dressing gown right now, but that’s only because I’m cold and my cardigan is still drying, okay?)

Sure, I like being alone so I can get my head down and work, but I’m also prone to loneliness.

About a year into working for myself, I discovered there is an amazing editorial community out there. Through the power of the interwebs, I can connect to thousands of other editors all over the world. Not only that, but the Society for Editors and Proofreaders organises local editor meet-ups and events and conferences where you can meet and talk with real live people who do what you do.

The support, knowledge and friendship I’ve found in the editorial community is wonderful. Editors are my tribe.

And if you don’t yet run your own editing business but would like to, take a look at my online courses.

Sophie Playleis a professional fiction editor. She specialises in developmental editing, critiquing and copy-editing, and loves working with authors and publishers who are passionate about high-quality storytelling. Speculative fiction, fantasy, science fiction and literary fiction are her genres of choice. She's an Advanced Professional Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading and has a Creative Writing MA from Royal Holloway, University of London. Find out more: liminalpages.com

Get 10% off all courses

by subscribing to Liminal Letters.

This isn’t one of those boring, impersonal newsletters. It’s a peek behind the curtain at the true intricacies of running an editorial business, sent once or twice a month. Oh, and you’ll get the occasional special offer too.