Start your editing business

How to start a freelance book editing and proofreading business from home

I left my full-time job in the corporate world over 10 years back, to start my consulting, editing and proofreading business in an extremely niche field – top MBA admissions consulting.

Given the complexity and impact involved in that business, the scope of services I offer goes way beyond simple editing. I work from home and earn more than I did in my corporate job.

Though the fully-online business started off as a one-man army, I realized very quickly that I did not have the capacity to take up all the editing service requests I was getting. I also realized that I was a better entrepreneur and business manager, than an editor (so don’t judge me by my writing skills!).

Over the next few years, I grew my team and hired several freelance editors. While some still work as part-time freelancers, others have left their day jobs to work full time with me.

Every year we turn down many clients, as I’ve tried consciously to retain the boutique flavor of the business. My website now attracts over 8 million international visitors.

So, I guess that puts me in a good position to share some tips and advice with freelance editors who dream to scale up their business.

How much does an editor make?

The annual salary for editors can vary depending on which source you look at. And of course, the country, role, expertise.

  • Salary.com says the average salary for editors in the United States is around $70,000.
  • Indeed.com says it’s closer to $58,000.
  • Other sites give a much broad range, from $30,000 to over $100,000.

Keep in mind that these average editor salaries are mostly for company jobs, not for freelancers. And of course, your market reputation matters too.

If you’re working independently, you’re salary could be higher or lower.

Either way, you’re basically constrained by the personal time you put into editing. When you reduce or stop working (vacations, illness), your income drops or stops proportionately.

This constraint can be removed if you grow your team of editors and start getting a share of their income. You could grow your business to a stage where you could decide to stop taking up clients completely (in a personal capacity) and just focus on managing the leads and team.

This is what I do with my other editing business. I no longer take up consulting/editing requests. I focus on lead generation and website maintenance, while my team handles all the client work.

In such a business model, your income from editing work can be significantly higher than the average salaries in the publishing industry.

9 Steps to start your online editing business from home

The first precursory step would be to ask yourself some questions to find out if this is the right career move for you.

  • Would you like to ramp up your earning potential, while retaining control over your personal life?
  • Are you willing to roll up your sleeves and tackle every aspect of business – from marketing to operations?
  • Are you willing to embark on a path of constant learning, including areas (such as finance, technology) that you may have ignored earlier?

If the answer to these questions is a resounding ‘Yes!‘, you should consider launching a freelance editing and proofreading business – for novels, non-fiction books, biographies, business presentations, essays, articles, or anything that requires an effective use of language and story-telling.

Being an editor doesn’t require you to have a degree. But you do need to have a good knowledge of spellings, syntax, and writing style.

There are a number of steps involved in starting a book editing and proofreading business:

1. Decide the type of editing services you’d want to offer

Some editors offer a range of services like proofreading, copyediting, and editing while others may only include any single type of service.

Proofreaders and editors focus on rechecking and correcting small errors and mistakes.

Copyeditors work towards editing texts to make sure the grammar, punctuation and language are accurate.

You need to identify your level of expertise and then decide what suits you best.

Assuming you are sure about the services that you are offering; let’s move on to the next steps.

2. Determine how much to charge for your freelance editing services

You would want to be consistent in deciding the prices for your clients and do justice to the efforts you would put in.

However, if you are just starting off and decide to charge lower than the other editors, you could look inexperienced and cheap.

A few editors charge by the hour, however, that’s quite rare. You also need to know how fast you are at editing and proofreading texts as it gives you an approximation of your charges.

It is essential to know the total word count of the book/article you are editing to get an idea of how much you’ll charge. Most proofreaders ask to see a sample copy of the original document to get an idea of the quality of writing to charge accordingly.

3. Create a website for your freelance editing business

An effective, well-designed website is a must-have for any editor planning to start an online editing business. A technically-optimized website can help you get discovered by thousands of prospective clients from around the world.

You can highlight your main services and expertise on your website’s home page so that your clients can get a good idea of what your business is all about without having to keep searching all through the website.

Mostly clients would like to know a few things about your business before they sign you up. These include:

  • List of services: What is the scope of each service?
  • Editing charges: What are your fees for each service?
  • Contact information: How can book authors get in touch with you?
  • Your Credentials: How your qualifications and experience can help your clients?
  • Client Reviews: What do authors think about your service quality?

You can create a new website or buy an existing one which already attracts the kind of traffic you want. Building a website from scratch works out cheaper, but it can take up hundreds (if not thousands) of hours of your precious time, to develop and market it.

Buying an existing site can be more expensive. You could shell out anything from a few thousand dollars to over a million – depending on the competition, traffic, authority, age of the site. But if you can identify the right one with relevant traffic, you’ll be in business almost overnight.

Sure, you’d have to spend time customizing it so it’s more aligned with your business goals. But it’s not going to be as labor-intensive as building a website from the ground up.
[More on this option below, if it sounds intriguing!]

4. Work out a structured approach for your services

Missed deadlines can seriously harm the reputation of your fledgling business, even if the quality of your work is top-notch. This is where it helps to thoroughly plan out the scope of work, and include buffers for potential delays.

When your clients look at you as a business, as opposed to an individual, it becomes imperative to staying professional and organized.

Improve your communication with clients. Clarify their requirements, find out if there are any specific areas where they need more help to improve their writing. Document this so there’s something to go back for reference when there are disagreements. This will help to manage expectations and reduce your stress.

5. Pick a good editing business name

Giving a relevant and memorable name to your business is a crucial step, as it helps identify your company and more importantly build a strong brand.

People names can be too common or complicated for clients to remember compared to a uniquely coined business name that helps you stand our from the clutter.

So make sure the editing business name is relevant, creative and memorable.

For instance, Booksoarus is a play on the words ‘books soar us‘. It’s short, catchy and fun.

Check to see if the domain name (you’ll have to buy that to host your website) is available. If it’s already been taken, start thinking of other good editing business names to choose from.

6. Get your business licensed

Your transition from being a freelancer to a company owner could entail several regulatory steps to be taken – such as business registration and tax compliance. You can get this done from your local area or a city business office. If things get too confusing you can hire a professional to do it for you, for a small fee.

Of course, in the initial stages you have the option to continue running the show as a freelancer, rather than a formal company. Except that you’d be packaging and presenting yourself with more gravitas this time, with your impressive website and business name.

7. Market your editorial services to potential clients

When you are just starting out, looking for clients is going to be a tricky job. The quickest way is to engage your family and friends by acquainting them about your business. Even if they might not require your services, they might know other people who do.

You could also start off with some freelance work just to get the hang of it. Make a note of how many clients you would want to have for the year and plan accordingly. Book conferences are a great way to market your business and gain recognition.

8. Start promoting your business so that it can reach a larger audience

Establishing a digital presence is best to connect with your clients. Social media is a great way to promote your website and your work.

The best way to do this is to consider and identify what audiences you are targeting, and try to attract them to your services. You could also attend book fairs, blogging events to promote your services.

Whatever your strategy might be, start off with a marketing plan and then work on it every day to reach a larger target audience. You need to update your website and other social media sites frequently to keep in touch with your audience.

9. Buy this website and get a headstart!

You didn’t see that coming, did you?

Currently, we don’t have the capacity to run multiple websites. Our main (MBA essay editing) business takes up ALL of our time. We haven’t got the capacity to focus on booksoarus.com (and yet, the site continues to draw traffic!). So we’re looking for a new home for it.

Booksoarus.com gets around 75,000 visitors each year, with the biggest proportion (40%) coming from the United States. Traffic Sources: Organic search (80%), Direct (18%), Referral (2%).

While the money we get from the site sale is important (considering the blood, sweat and tears money we’ve invested into it), we aren’t looking for the highest bidder. That’s why we haven’t listed it on website selling marketplaces where it may quickly get lapped up by a website trader, who in turn sells it to someone else.

We’d like to know that the brand we’ve created is in safe, caring hands. Along with the commercial offer, we’d like to know more about your plans for it.

Interested in buying booksoarus.com? Pitch us your offer on this email ID: info [at] booksoarus [dot] com

We may not be able to respond to every offer, but if you make it interesting enough, we will get back.


In summary, it can seem quite daunting and difficult to start an online home-based editing business as a freelancer. But from our own experience, the fruits of labor can be pretty sweet for the few who persist and dare to dream.

Once you’ve started your editing business, here’s what you’ll have to learn next:
How to market yourself as an editor
How to start a book publishing company

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