Freelance Editors Wanted

I got word last week that one of my main freelance clients, Scribendi, is hiring more remote editors. Scribendi is an online editorial services company. I’ve been working for Scribendi for two years, and I think it’s a great gig. Here’s why:

  • The work is steady. This is a biggie, as we all know how tenuous a lifestyle freelancing can be (and if you haven’t found this to be the case, I want to know your secret!) This is because the good folks at Scribendi do all the promotion and outreach to clients, which frees up their editors to focus on what they do best: edit.
  • The work is diverse. I never know for certain what I’ll get to edit for Scribendi, and this keeps things interesting. I’ve edited love letters and letters to the president, novel manuscripts, scientific reports, admissions essays, company policies, and more. The majority of Scribendi’s clients are academics, particularly academics who are writing in English as their second language, so comfort working with ESL writing will benefit you.
  • The work is flexible. You can work on weekends and evenings if that suits you best, try to keep to a 9-to-5 (although I recommend working outside of these hours for the most diverse projects), or earn some money in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep (I’ve done this several times, and it sure beats staring at the ceiling.) Right now, Scribendi is prioritizing editors who can commit to editing at least 10,000 words a month. I edit for them part-time, and I’m at 26,000 words for the month of July, so 10,000 words/month is reasonable if you can devote 10 or more hours to editing per week.

Of course, that leaves the big question: money. Pricing on Scribendi is done according to project, and depends on the type of job (editing, proofreading, academic, ESL, writing, etc.), the length of the piece, and the deadline. At my editing speed, I make between $12-$35 an hour, depending on the project. Scribendi also offers incentives for picking up projects on weekends or when they’re running late, for receiving positive feedback from clients, or for getting a repeat order from a client (clients can request you when they place their orders if they’ve been happy with your work in the past).

You can learn more about Scribendi’s application process here. Please mention me if you’re asked who referred you. And feel free to ask any additional questions in the comments!


21 Responses to Freelance Editors Wanted

  1. SorceressCirce says:

    Thank you so much for this article! I recently applied to Scribendi and was looking for some insight into what working for them is like. I’m switching from teaching for nine years to freelance writing and editing, which is a little scary. Your words here were very helpful!

    • I’m so glad you found the article helpful! Congratulations on making the big leap from full-time “traditional” work to freelance work. I made that same leap almost three years ago, and I haven’t looked back (much!). Good luck with your Scribendi application and your other freelance pursuits!

  2. Michael says:

    Hi Lacey, thank you for this helpful, informative article. I am currently employed as a freelance resume writer, and I am looking to expand my clientele. From what you have written, it sounds like Scribendi is a promising possibility for me to pursue. I wonder if you would be so kind as to answer a couple of questions I have? First, can you tell me what types of projects would be in the upper price range? Second, are you able to control what types of projects you work on, or must you take what you get, so to speak? Thanks, Lacey!

    • Hi, Michael. The highest-priced projects are the ones with the tightest deadlines — for example, an academic or business edit with an 8-hour turnaround. After that, rates get progressively lower as the deadlines get longer (24 hours, 48 hours, 72 hours, 1 week, etc.) The high rates on tight deadlines motivate editors to pick them up quickly, which is what is needed. Also, if your quality assurance scores are progressively high, you can be put on the roster for their “corporate clients,” which tend to have a higher hourly rate (although they’re also more work because they come with their own style guides, etc.) You have a lot of control over which assignments you take — you log into their control panel and see a list of all the available orders, with their word counts, deadlines, and rates. Then you choose which one(s) you want to pick up.

  3. Michael says:

    Hi Lacey. Thank you for your quick reply! The more you tell me about Scribendi, the better it sounds. If you would be so kind, I have a few further questions. First, what is the level of interaction with customers, and how does Scribendi handle a dissatisfied customer? Similarly, what is the level of interaction with Scribendi personnel, and how do the personnel treat you generally? Is it pretty professional? Are they in your corner, so to speak?

    • Hi, Michael. I did get your post — I’ve just been slow in responding. The difference between the first time I responded to your comment and this time is that your second comment came after NaNoWriMo had started, so lots of things tend to take a back seat when I’m doing NaNo … dishes, eating, responding to email/comments, etc. You get the idea.

      Scribendi remote editors have no direct interaction with the clients. Sometimes we receive notes from them on the pieces they submit, which guide our editing process. And if they leave us feedback, Scribendi forwards it to us. But it’s actually contractually forbidden to communicate directly with a client, or even to share your name with them — this is so Scribendi can protect their clients and not lose clients to pursue a one-on-one editing relationship with a certain editor.

      When a client gives dissatisfied feedback, it is handled in two ways. The first is that the feedback is shared with you, and you’re asked to take a second look at the piece. You aren’t paid additionally for work you do for a dissatisfied customer; all projects are paid out on a flat fee. Although the Scribendi staff doesn’t check every single order that’s done, they always investigate orders that receive complaints. From there, they take a very reasonable approach; they’re in your corner if the client’s expectations or complaint were unreasonable. Even when they feel a complaint is justified, they handle it in a very professional way. I don’t have any complaints with the in-house staff; I’ve found them easy to work with, to have reasonable and realistic expectations, etc. And they seem genuinely interested in continuing to improve working conditions for remote editors and securing steady work for them. And the latter is what makes them such a sweet deal for a freelancer.

  4. Michael says:

    Lacey, you’re awesome! Thanks for such a full response. I understand if you are not able to get back right away. Because you did get back so quickly the first time, I thought maybe you did not get my second message. Anyway, again, thanks for such an informative reply. Scribendi sounds really terrific. I think I am ready to being the application process. Do you have any tips for that, i.e., what should I do to give myself the best chance of getting hired? Also, what exactly does the hiring process entail? How long does it take, etc.? I really appreciate all your help! And please just get back with me at your convenience. Have a great day! Michael

  5. You can find specifically what Scribendi looks for in their application process under “employment” in the “about us” tab. I don’t really have any advice that would be different than applying for any job — be professional, highlight your relevant experience (and don’t waste too much time with the rest), and double check to eliminate errors before you submit your application materials. If you’re a strong candidate, Scribendi will send you a few samples that are representative of the type of work they often receive. You edit these samples for free; if they feel the edit looks good, they’ll move on to the hiring process. Scribendi does hire in “waves” so that they can train all their new editors at once, so don’t be alarmed if you submit your materials and don’t hear back for a few months; I submitted my materials in November of 2007 and didn’t hear back from them until they were ready to start the hiring process at the end of January, 2008.

  6. Michael says:

    Great, thanks for all the help, Lacey. I really appreciate it!

  7. SC says:

    Hi Lacey,

    First of all, I’d like to say that you’ve provided some wonderful information about a company I’ve been intrigued by for quite a while. Thank you so much for sharing!

    I’m hoping that as an employee of Scribendi, you might be kind enough to give me your opinion on a few things:

    1) I have almost a year’s worth of experience proofreading and copyediting fiction and about three to four years’ worth of experience teaching English grammar for an educational services company. I consider my writing and editing abilities and knowledge of English to be quite strong, but I’m not one of those people with, say, a background in publishing. Do you know if Scribendi tends to consider only those candidates with years and years (and years) of editing experience? Or is it open to giving those with a slightly less lengthy track record a shot too?

    2) What is this extremely difficult editing test Scribendi uses in its hiring process that I’ve heard whispers of on the Internet? Would you be able to disclose if it is timed? I’m good at pacing myself and working quickly and accurately when editing … so long as I’m NOT frantically worrying about being timed. Timed exams have always been (and likely will always be) my least favorite means of aptitude assessment. I never showcase my true potential on those things.

    3) I concurrently worked in a completely different field while holding down my teaching gigs (day job + night job = more money but less sleep and sanity). Er … would I need to list my secondary jobs on the Scribendi application? These jobs weren’t illegal or anything. 😉 They just had/have nothing to do with proofreading and editing, so I’m not sure they’d be relevant to Scribendi in any way. But I don’t know how Scribendi conducts background checks and wouldn’t want to seem dishonest for withholding employment information. Any tips?

    Thank you so much, Lacey. And congratulations on scoring a job opportunity that you find so satisfying and enjoyable!

    • 1) When I applied to work for Scribendi, they required five years of professional editing experience, which I had because I’d worked for six years on a magazine staff. The employment section of their website should list what their current requirements for editors are, but I know they’ll hire folks who aren’t working in the publishing industry, and I think your teaching background would make you a good candidate because the vast majority of the work that comes through Scribendi is from the academic world.
      2) In my opinion, Scribendi does not make potential editors do an extremely difficult editing test. Instead, they send you several documents for a “sample edit” to a) give you the idea of the type of work you’ll get through Scribendi and b) give Scribendi the opportunity to make sure you’re able to do that kind of work. Although doing the sample edits are time consuming, it’s an absolutely reasonable vetting process, and if someone considers it to be “extremely difficult” they may not be a good candidate for the work. There is a deadline (i.e.: return sample edits within two days), but the edits are not timed. At least, that’s what the process was when I was hired in early 2009; it’s possible their application process has changed in the time since then.
      3) I think it’s fairly common practice to limit a resume to the past and current positions that relate most directly to the position you’re applying for, so I don’t think leaving unrelated jobs off your resume is misleading. One thing I do if I’m not going to list EVERY past job, but just the relevant ones, is to call that section of my resume, “Relevant Work Experience.” That way, you’re not promising or implying that it’s complete, and there are no surprises if it’s discovered you held other jobs that were not relevant to the position for which you’re currently applying.

      Hope this helps!

  8. SC says:

    Thanks a million, Lacey! Your (very swift) response is so thorough, and I sincerely appreciate the time you’ve taken to provide me—a total stranger!—with your input. It is tremendously helpful to hear the opinions and learn about the experiences of someone who is actually employed by the company.

    I have just one more slightly off-topic inquiry. On the whole, I’m attempting to pursue a career in freelance proofreading and copyediting but don’t know exactly where to look for opportunities or how to expand my client base. As I mentioned in my original post, I have a good bit of teaching experience but only one year of official experience proofreading and editing. I have attempted to find work via online outsourcing websites like Elance but haven’t had too much luck (yet). I am trying to be as persistent as possible but am also well aware that the competition in this field can be quite stiff. The situation sometimes seems like a catch-22: you won’t be hired without experience, but the only way you will gain more experience is to get hired!

    I was advised by an acquaintance of a friend to contact publishing houses for freelance work (or, more specifically, contact the production editors who work there), as this acquaintance apparently had some success several years ago working as an out-of-house freelance proofreader for a few big-name publishers. But this was at least nine years ago and I don’t know enough about the publishing industry or about how it may have changed in recent times. I have no other connections in this line of work that have any idea of how to go about carving out a freelance career. And the research I’ve done on my own has left me with little specific information.

    I assumed from your article that you are a freelancer. How have you been able to establish yourself? Would you have any suggestions for someone in my position, particularly regarding how to get a foot in the door?

    I wish you continued success in all of your endeavors, Lacey. And again, thank you so much for being so kind and informative!

    • Hi, SC. Sorry about the slow response. Yes, I do make about half my income through doing freelance work. I supplement that with part-time work in libraries (circulation and teen services), but before that, I was doing freelance work full-time.

      It is an incredibly challenging field to “break into” — and the majority of my jobs have come through experience I gained by being willing to work for free. I took an unpaid internship for a magazine right after college (while in college, I had worked as a writing tutor). The magazine subsequently hired me, and I stayed on staff for about six years. That’s what gave me the “professional editing experience” most freelance opportunities require. While I was still employed at the magazine full-time, I started exploring job postings for freelance writing and editing opportunities. I was hired with a self-publisher to do manuscript edits (after they put me through a similar vetting process to Scribendi, requiring that I complete a rather lengthy sample edit prior to hire). For about half a year, I did both, only switching to a full-time freelance career after I knew I had at least two steady clients — the self-publisher, and my former employer, who wanted to keep me on doing contract work after I left the company. After that, I actively pursued other opportunities, including Scribendi; I started this blog to motivate myself to continue seeking opportunities and sharing those opportunities with others (again, the blog is totally unpaid); and I continued to accept opportunities that had come from previous connections. Editors who worked with me professionally at the magazine and who knew I’d gone freelance recommended me when they knew people who were looking for affordable editorial services; a friend from my writers’ group referred much of her freelance work to me once she got too busy going back to school to keep up with it. So I don’t have any “quick-fix” solutions to taking the plunge … except that you almost have to be willing to work for free to prove your skill set before anyone will hire you; and you have to be diligent about cultivating your reputation and your connections. (By the way, I never found much luck with sites like Elance or LinkdIn, either.)

      If you haven’t checked it out already, this blog might have some resources to get you started: Good luck to you!

      • SC says:

        Lacey, this is a long-overdue follow-up to your gracious reply to my earlier message: Thank you. I genuinely appreciate and have taken to heart all of the feedback you’ve given me.

        I had to switch gears for a bit and consequently haven’t yet submitted an application to Scribendi. However, I’m planning on doing so before the year’s end.

        I have a few final questions. I’ve already asked a lot of you, but I was hoping you wouldn’t mind giving me some last snippets of input.

        1) Is Samantha Russell Scribendi’s current hiring manager? (That is, would she be the person to whom I’d address my cover letter?) I attempted a few times to inquire with someone at company headquarters but never got through to a live representative.

        2) Does Scribendi show preference toward applicants who have experience working with certain style guides? You mentioned in one of your reply posts that the company caters heavily to academic writers, and this piqued my curiosity.

        3) If the company is considering a candidate, does Scribendi request samples of previous work from that candidate?

        4) Do Scribendi editors use only MS Word to make revisions on documents? For projects that require only proofreading, are editors ever asked to mark up copy, either manually or by using other software like Acrobat, with proofreading symbols?

        Once again, I am utterly grateful to you. I hope you’ll be able to look back on 2012 feeling satisfied with the goals you’ve reached as a writer, and head into 2013 looking forward to building on your progress. All the best to you!

  9. specrolight says:

    Hi Lacey,

    Great blog! Thanks for all your advice, it’s much appreciated.

    I would be grateful if you could possibly answer a question I have regarding Srcibendi’s standard qualifications for telecommute editor positions.

    I do not yet have the minimum 3 years professional experience but I am working towards this. In the past two years I have worked as an EFL teacher, freelance proofreader and an in-house technical editor for an oil and gas company (where I continue to work at present). I have been offered a promotion within the company I work for where editing will still be the main part of my job but as it also involves several other responsibilities and skill sets, ‘editor’ would no longer be in the position’s title.

    My question is, do you think this would work against me when I come to apply for a position with Scribendi? Or would providing the job description in my application be sufficient to demonstrate my editing experience and all the relevant skills I have acquired? I tried to contact Scribendi to no avail.

    My long-term goal is to telecommute and I’ve heard many good things about Scribendi, so I’m very keen to ensure I qualify and apply next year.

    Best regards,

    • Hi, Alice. Sorry for the slow response on this blog post — I wasn’t able to respond to it right away, and then it fell off my radar. I hope you went ahead and accepted the promotion! I don’t think that the fact that the position doesn’t officially contain “editor” in the title should be a problem when you go through the application process. You can include a description of the responsibilities entailed in the position in your resume, and you can also include an explanation of the promotion in your cover letter. Assuming you’ll have references that can back you up if need be (i.e.: verify that editing was part of the job), you should be fine.

      There are a lot of perks to telecommuting (working in jammies, not having anyone time your lunch break …), but some drawbacks, too. Although work from Scribendi is almost steady enough to be full-time year-round, there are slow spells, especially in the summer. I recommend putting a bit of a monetary “cushion” away before making the leap to get you through these periods, if you don’t have another source of income (another job, a spouse, etc.) Good luck working toward your goal of telecommuting full-time!

  10. I just finished the Scribendi editing test and was told that I should try to reapply in six months. No other explanation. I edited for many years before I began teaching writing. I am mystified . . . perhaps I overedited??

    • I really can’t offer much insight on that, as I was hired in 2008 and I think the editing test has changed substantially since then. They do tend to hire in “batches,” so perhaps they were at their limit and that’s why they suggested you reapply.

    • Mary E. says:

      Rebecca, I was happy to see your message here. I too had the same reply yesterday from Scribendi and was very disappointed. My first reaction was maybe I had over edited as there was a lot of red when I finished. It’s good to know you had the same feelings. Maybe in six months I’ll just concentrate more on proofing.

  11. Quick follow-up: I applied to Scribendi a few days ago, turned in my edits this morning, and found out within a few hours that my edits met their standards. That may indicate they’re in a hiring phase. (Note that I have many years of editing under my belt (15-plus years), so that might have been a contributing factor). The key point is that Scribendi was very prompt in responding, so if you haven’t gotten through yet, this may be a good time to try it.

  12. I started my work life as a printer’s apprentice (1966) in a union shop (4 years). It rotated through 1 year each of Hand Composition, Linotype Composition, Pre-press Prep and Proofreading. (This was back during “hot metal days”, if you’re unfamiliar with that end [and time] of newspaper/magazine production.) During my composition training, I caught so many errors the company proofreader missed, that–upon ‘graduation’–I was made company proofreader and she was put into an office job.

    (I forgot to mention that I was a high school dropout in 1963 and got my G.E.D. in 1984.)

    Since then, I’ve worked *many* unrelated jobs, but lately have proofed and edited works for an author in Tennessee (no charge) and a businessman in Ukraine (traded for software). I was HOPING to make a little money with my (just) natural talent, but, after reading your blog, I see that’s not likely to happen … ESPECIALLY with Scribendi!

    Thanks for the heads-up, Lacey!

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