Do I Need Publishing Experience to Become a Freelance Editor?

Sophie Playle

Essentially, no – you don’t need experience working in-house for a publisher to become a freelance editor.

Different editorial roles

First of all, in-house editors are very different from freelance editors. It’s a bit confusing, but the name ‘editor’ covers a lot of different jobs! Most in-house editors will be commissioning editors (they find books to publish) and desk editors (they manage the publishing process).

I started my career as an editorial assistant (to a commissioning editor), and I did zero editing! Though I learned how publishing houses work, my role largely consisted of admin tasks and market research.

Normally, all the page-based editing will be outsourced to freelance editors.

It’s more economical for the publishing house to do this than to hire full-time staff members in these roles to work in-house. This means developmental editing is usually outsourced to freelancers, along with copy-editing and proofreading.

Freelancers aren’t expected to provide all these services, though. Each stage of editing will go to a different freelance editor.

Credibility, knowledge and opportunities

Having experience working in a publishing house can be useful if you want to work for publishers, though, because it shows them you’re familiar with the publishing process.

You can learn about this from secondary sources, but there’s really no substitute for having direct experience!

You might also make great contacts by working in-house who can give you those all-important first freelance jobs or recommend you to others in the industry.

But there are other ways to land freelance editing jobs – by networking and cold-emailing (sending emails to publishing houses to pitch your services).

If you’re more interested in working directly with authors, having in-house publishing experience can add to your credibility – but you can look credible in many different alternative ways.

Ways to look credible without publishing experience

  • Showcase training credentials
  • Share testimonials from happy clients
  • Have lots of/relevant experience
  • Provide a really good sample edit
  • Have relevant, quality projects in your portfolio
  • Have a well-designed, well-written website

Having in-house publishing experience might have its benefits, but it’s by no means a prerequisite for becoming a freelance book editor – so don’t let a lack of in-house publishing experience stand in your way if you want to become a freelance editor!

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:

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