No single path exists to becoming a paid freelance editor, but a degree in English, communications or journalism is a good place to start. Much of an editor's skill comes from reading widely and the curiosity to research any questionable grammar, mechanics or facts, wherever they crop up. Once your skills are in place, the work of setting up your business and finding clients begins. Your career goals will determine exactly which steps you should follow to gain paid freelance assignments in the editing field.
Complete a certificate program in a specific editing field if you want to focus on highly specialized editing. For example, technical editing requires certain skills not taught in general English programs, but some universities offer special certificates. This achievement proves to clients that you have experience in a specific field.
Contact your state's Department of Licensing to apply for a business license. As a freelance editor, you can do business under your own name and structure your company as a sole proprietorship, but you must have a business license and pay any applicable taxes for your editing work.
Volunteer as an editor for a nonprofit organization that is prominent your area or field of interest. Ask the organization to write an endorsement of your skills if it likes your work. Include this work and endorsement with your resume and cover.
Join an editorial organization, such as the Editorial Freelancers Association, the Northwest Independent Editors Guild or the American Copy Editors Society. You can list the membership on your resume, and these associations often have job boards and networking opportunities for members.
Purchase business cards with your name, services and contact information, along with your website, if you have one.
Attend conventions or conferences in your field of interest, whether it's fiction, technology or journalism. Talk to the people at the conventions and build relationships. Find out which companies use freelance editors and follow up the conference by sending them your resume and availability.
Search for paid jobs online. Media Bistro and JournalismJobs.com list opportunities in editing and proofreading, while the Publisher's Lunch Job Board lists professional opportunities for editing in the book publishing industry, although freelance opportunities are rare.
Hand out your business cards at every opportunity and say "Yes" to project offers as often as you can, as long as they pay reasonably well.
Edit and proofread every communication you send. Potential clients will most likely not hire editors who have typos in their emails and resumes.
Manage your projects so you always complete them on time and with integrity so you build up a reputation for quality and reliability.