Make Money Fast as a Freelance Book Editor

Do you need to figure out how to make money fast as a freelance book editor?

It happens to all of us from time to time: work slows down, and we need to generate quick income. Note that this is not a blog post about how to start your business as a freelance book editor tomorrow and make fifty grand by Friday. That’s not gonna happen.

Tips for How to Make Money Fast as a Freelance Book Editor

It is about how to deal with a downturn in your freelance business and bring in some money fast. Being a freelancer means that sometimes you hit a slow patch, and clients just aren’t coming in. But the rent is due, and you like to eat.

At the beginning of 2023, a downturn like that happened to me – for the first time in many years. It felt just as scary this time as it did when I was just starting out.

I spent most of the second half of 2022 dealing with a potentially lethal complication to my daughter’s health. And while I kept up with my work the best I could, something had to give and what gave was my marketing.

So cue up January 2023, and suddenly my world looked a little bleak. I didn’t have enough money coming in, not a lot of clients on the horizon, and my savings were dwindling. I took some steps that solved the problem, and here’s what I recommend if you find yourself in the same boat:

Don’t panic

It’s tempting to either curl up in a big ball of “I can’t hear you!” or to immediately start plastering all the fast-food joints in town with your application, but I recommend not doing either one. It may come to serving fries at some point, and there’s no shame in that, but you’re probably not there yet. Right now, focus on what you can do to get on track with your editing business.

Put a big red DON’T PANIC sign up on the wall behind your desk if you need the reminder.

But take action immediately

My daughter’s health problems continued into 2023, and I very much wished I could ignore paying the rent until she was better. But my landlord is pesky about wanting to get paid, so I knew I needed to do something. And I needed to do it now.

Sometimes, we can wait out the downturns, but not this time. This time, financial worries were wrecking whatever peace of mind I could come up with, and it wasn’t good for my daughter’s situation or for my health. Taking action immediately helped me deal with my anxiety, and dealing with my anxiety helped me get a little more energy for taking action.

Look for easy wins

Scrolling through job sites (just Google “editing jobs”), I found out that a publisher was looking for someone to do reader evaluations of submissions. This is very basic work that I haven’t done in years, but instead of thinking, “This is beneath me! I need work befitting my status!” I just got in touch with the publisher and said I was interested.

In no time at all, I got my first project, and shortly after that, I was paid. It wasn’t a lot of money but it was better than no money. And an easy win helps keep you motivated.

But keep your eye on the long-term

It’s tempting to want to do something drastic, like deeply discounting your services if only someone would hire you. But that ends up hurting you in the long run. You’re doing more work for less money AND you’re establishing that your services are worth less than you’ve charged in the past.

Instead of discounting your services, focus on marketing and promoting your lower-priced services (as these are probably easier to sell more quickly).

For example, instead of focusing on getting more developmental editing clients, I focused on getting more manuscript evaluation clients. Ms evaluation is less time-intensive and I charge less for it than I do full development. I got two clients right away at full prices.

Another idea for long-term client work is to get editorial work from book publishers and packagers. This is yet another avenue to consider that can help keep your docket filled with manuscripts to edit.

getting editorial work from book publishers and packagers.

Reach out to former clients

I reached out to a couple of people I’ve worked with in the past to let them know I had “an opening in my schedule,” and while it didn’t work this time around, it certainly can, so I recommend doing it.

Ask former clients to refer friends and colleagues, as most people won’t think to do this without prompting.

Follow up on anything outstanding

Simply following up with any potential work is a great way to make money fast as a freelance book editor. If someone has asked for a project quote, make sure you’ve sent it and follow up a week or two later if they haven’t responded. If someone hasn’t paid an invoice, follow up with a reminder. If someone sent you an email, a DM, or a text that you’ve neglected to reply to, do it. If someone wanted to schedule an edit when you were too booked . . . now’s the time to mention the opening in your schedule. If you once sent an LOI to a publisher, that’s right, follow up.

Let people know

This was the hardest step for me. I’ve been a freelancer for more than twenty years, and I teach other freelancers how to freelance. How could I possibly admit that I needed some help?

A friend of mine said, “Are you kidding me? YOUR DAUGHTER ALMOST DIED. You’re allowed to ask for help.”

Even if your daughter didn’t almost die, you’re allowed to ask for help. Even if you have twenty years’ experience, even if this kind of thing shouldn’t be happening to you anymore. You’re allowed.

I made a private Facebook post letting my friends know my situation, and immediately, several people stepped up with projects and possibilities. Not all of these panned out, but some did, and I was heartened by how many people cared.

Do be aware that asking for help only works if it’s not your default marketing method. People will quickly grow tired of trying to help when you don’t seem to be doing anything to fix your situation.

Try something new

This was actually a really fun part of the whole situation. I’d been thinking about launching a Club Ed membership program for a long, long time but kept putting it on the back burner. During my journey through the Land of No Clients, I finally put together the program. And it was well-received and still going strong.

This is my favorite thing to have happened as a result of my Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad situation.

Think about some new service or product you could offer that might appeal to your current clients, such as a class/workshop, query letter critique, and so on.

Recommit to marketing

Not marketing, while understandable under the circumstances, was what got me into this situation, and marketing is what got me out of it and back into my usual reliable income stream.

During this challenging time, I had to fight off the “Squirrel!” desire to get distracted by every shiny thing that came by and every stray thought that landed in my head: I could check this website or that website for job postings, I could send an LOI to this publisher or that one, I could spend fifteen minutes updating my profile on this social media outlet and ten minutes writing a better byline for my newsletter . . . .

None of those things is wrong or misguided; it’s just that I needed to marshal my energy instead of scattering it everywhere.

I corralled all of those ideas into a list of things I could do in my spare time but put my main energy into developing (and sustaining) a solid marketing strategy. This strategy boiled down to doing more writing on my blog (which draws a lot of visitors to my website), doing more talks (which helps spread the word about me), and posting on LinkedIn every weekday instead of just once a week. (Club Ed gets a lot of students from LinkedIn.)

Focusing on these efforts helped in both the short- and long-term. In the short-term, giving a few talks earned me a little cash and in the long-term will likely lead to clients or students. Being more present on LinkedIn has already led to more students taking classes. And doing more writing on the blog has led to more newsletter sign-ups, which has led to more sales and will continue to do so down the road.

It can be scary to see bills looming and no work coming in, but as I said at the start of all this: Don’t panic. Focus on taking some straightforward steps to get some money coming in, then work to ensure your maintain a sustainable marketing program to smooth out the ups and downs.

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