Brief guide to starting your editing business

So, you’re wanting to start your editing business. Have you considered these points?

Make sure you seek out professional advice – financial, accountancy, legal, insurance. You can learn from other business people, but please, always check it out with a professional. Think about the business systems you’ll need – marketing, customer relationships, record keeping, IT.

Develop your brand – website, marketing materials, business cards. While you can do much of this yourself, input from a web developer and graphic designer will make all the difference. (We know how editing sharpens writing: professional input does the same to your business and brand.)

Join a professional editors’ group. (In Australia, it’s the state societies of editors and the Institute of Professional Editors). Attend meetings and workshops; ask questions; don’t be intimidated by your inexperience – we all had to be the newcomer. Finding someone who’s willing to mentor you is an awesome experience; some societies have specific mentoring programs.

Some writers’ groups welcome editors. It’s a great opportunity for you to hone your editing skills and your ability to talk to writers – tact, tolerance, clear communication. Be aware that some groups don’t particularly appreciate input from a ‘non-writer’.

What sort of editing do you want to do? Fiction (what genre?), non-fiction, technical, academic, business (small, private, public, corporate?)

Who is your ‘ideal’ client? What are their needs, and how can you supply the solution?

Where are you going to find your clients? Unless you already have contacts from your previous employment, finding good leads can be challenging. Always have your business cards with you, ready to share. Attend networking groups, perhaps a local chamber of commerce, but make sure you go more than once – it’s about building relationships, not getting work. List your business on the many on-line business directories – most offer free basic listing.

Explore social media – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and numerous other on-line groups let you build relationships outside your face-to-face networks. Consider asking a copywriter if you can edit or proofread for them. Reading articles or blogs in your areas of interest may give you the opportunity to offer the author editing services.

Do you have the personality to be a solo-preneur editor? Often it’s just you and your computer, which can be very isolating.

Do you have the support of the significant people in your life? Running a business is a challenge, but made easier when you know others are encouraging you.

While this may all seem a bit overwhelming, it really is a rewarding experience. Consider the implications, be brave and enjoy!

What else can you add to these suggestions?

16 thoughts on “Brief guide to starting your editing business

  1. Well, I’m late to the party aren’t I?! Love that you include your ideal client. I’m focusing on them more and more in all areas of my business.

    I’ve made a vow not to do any boring jobs becasue my priority is to keep writing as a fun activity that happens to pay the bills.

    Once you know who your ideal clients are you can work out where to find them:)

    • It’s never too late to add comments from your vast experience, Annabel.
      While it takes time to identify your ideal client, it helps to clarify your marketing messages and efforts. And that doesn’t mean you don’t accept work from others – we learn something from every client.

      Continue your writing, and enjoy.


    Hi Desolie,

    Just building on from your excellent points: it’s one thing to ‘start’ a business and a very different thing to ‘sustain’ a business. Failure to understand the differences between the two has seen the demise of many a motivated person.

    My standard advice to people wanting to ‘start’ a business, is “Don’t!”. Only when you want to ‘sustain’ a business, will you ask the critical questions that must be answered commercially.

    Best to you, Robin🙂

    • Thank you, Robin, for your excellent input. As usual, you give a mature, thought-provoking, other way of looking at things.

      Continuing on through all the setbacks and challenges takes effort and dedication.

  3. Determining your niche ~ “What sort of editing do you want to do” is the point that sticks out most to me –
    You can’t be all things to all men and while focusing on one area of the market feels as though you’re turning your back on everyone else, people have more confidence in ‘experts’ in their field so concentrating on one sector, whilst narrowing the field on one hand is heightening your level of expertise and thus your worth to those you do serve –
    Great overview🙂

    • Thanks Linda.

      It can be very hard to refuse work, but taking on those tasks can lead to a disappointed client, a dip in self-confidence, and the risk of a poor reputation.
      But, of course, that must be balanced by new challenges that expand your skills.

  4. FANTASTIC post Desolie … and serves well as a start-up checklist for any professional service provider … not just editors.

    I particularly like your question about whether you have the personality to be a ‘solo-preneur’ … it can be VERY lonely … and I think people often think that when you’re running your own show you can socialise as much as you like. not so … as your friends are generally working … and every hour socialising is an hour not producing revenue🙂

    Great post Desolie … loving your renewed energy, buzz and focus for *your* business.


    • Thanks, Cat.

      It can be difficult to go solo, especially if coming from a situation where you’re surrounded by people. I think it’s a point that can be easily overlooked.

  5. Good advice Desolie.

    It’s very true that running a business requires a whole set of skills beyond the technical skills that are our “trade”. It can be a challenge having to do all of the “other stuff” when all we really want to do is what we’re good at!

    You’ve been a great supporter of mine and I thank you for that🙂


  6. What a concise, thorough and encouraging checklist. These sort of ‘start-up’ posts are not always encouraging: all about the detail and the tough road ahead and one is left a little drained. Your post leaves me encouraged and ‘brave’!

    I encourage you to send this off to your professional association so that it might be published further afield!

    • Ah Sally

      That thought has been buzzing around for some time, but I’ve been a bit reluctant as IPEd seems to be looking for more academic-style contributions. So perhaps I should send it to them. (And yes, you can keep pestering me till I do🙂

  7. Hi Desolie

    You raise an excellent point when you encourage your readers to join groups, and professional associations.

    Business is a lonely road, particularly for writers. One has to be built for writing, as you well know. Joining writers groups, and professional associations not only keeps you up to date with trends, but boosts morale.

    Great post D

    aka Catherine White Photography

    • You’re right about the loneliness many creative people experience – I know how much I need to physically go to networking or professional group meetings (as much as I love my on-line networks).

    • Thanks Leanne
      I’ve seen some who’ve set out on the business journey without considering all the other factors that need to be taken into account – may help an aspiring editor.

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