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Copyediting Explained: How to Become a Freelance Copy Editor


Copyediting is editing someone's work to improve spelling, grammar, punctuation, formatting and sentence structure; however, the actual content of the work remains untouched. This kind of proofreading is vital for many documents, from novels to job resumes. Because of this, copyediting jobs are readily available if you know how to find them. Online copyediting can be a great source of income for anyone who wants to freelance from home.

Requirements for Copyediting

It will be difficult for you to become a copy editor if you don't have a good grasp of your native language. You will need in depth knowledge of various academic styles, such as APA and MLA formats. You'll have to know how to use all homonyms appropriately (it's versus its; there and their and they're, etc.). A thorough knowledge of punctuation (period and comma placement around parenthesis and quotation marks are commonly confused) is necessary as well. Before rushing out to become a copyeditor, make sure that you can, in fact, edit competently.

Building a Resume/Portfolio

For freelance work, it's very important to have a work sample available, not just a resume. A good work sample for a copy editor would be a short but relatively complex before and after document detailing all the edits made. Try having a friend write a 2- to 3-page essay, article or story for you to edit. The "before" document shouldn't be overly sloppy, but rather something that anyone would write if they didn't go back to revise it. A few missed commas, improper use of a homonym or two, a nice runon sentence and some minor spelling mistakes will work well for your purpose.

All this isn't to say you should rely solely on the work sample and skip your resume. If you earned a degree in journalism, put it on your resume. If you edited a published novel, make sure that's listed as well.

When you're first starting out as a copy editor, it may be a good idea to offer some services at a discount in exchange for testimonials. Validation from satisfied customers will make you stand out among the other copy editors looking for work.

Finding Work

There are 2 ways of finding copyediting work: actively seek it, or let it come to you.

If you are just starting out, you'll probably need to actively search for copyediting work. There are many opportunities available online.

  • Check the "Writing Gigs" section on Craigslist every few hours. You don't have to only search locally, since copyediting is an online job.
  • Join freelance writing websites. Frequently, people who need copyediting will post jobs to freelance market sites. Be careful: You shouldn't have to pay to find work.


If you'd rather sit back and let work come to you, you will need 2 things: a website and a compelling resume and portfolio. If you are already established as a copy editor and have a network of clients, this should work just fine. Make sure your website is optimized for search engines to capture as much traffic as possible, and keep your prices reasonable. Remember, copyediting is a competitive market.

It's possible to make a comfortable living through freelance, at-home copyediting if you are good at it and know how to find work. This guide may help you take the first steps towards working at home as a well paid copyeditor.

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