This interview with Michael LaRocca, a published author and freelance editor, covers how to land freelance editing jobs, how to find your first editing client, and using your website to get work. Also covers how to make money editing from home, using some online marketplaces for editing jobs.
Tuesday. It’s 5:45 AM. I woke up early today to skype Michael LaRocca, a published author and freelance editor. Michael has edited over 300 novels, works for 3 publishing companies, and has published 8 novels. He’s agreed to give an interview about freelance editing jobs.
While born in America, Michael now lives and works in Hanoi, Vietnam. Hanoi is exactly one day ahead of the majority of the English speaking world. Michael has turned this time difference into his own little lucrative niche, offering an overnight professional business editing service. Clients send him their documents at the end of the regular business day. As they sleep, Michael edits, making a nice freelance editing wage from the comfort of his tropical home.
I wanted to find out how Michael became an editor and how other English majors and writers could make some money from freelance editing jobs.
In this interview, Michael gives some advice about editing jobs, how to make money editing, the best places to find your first editing client, and some other practical career advice that English majors and other writers will find useful about the freelance editing world.
Michael is also the author of Make Money Editing From Home, a guide that shows young editors how to find their first freelance job.
This is a transcript of our phone conversation.
Part 1. Finding Freelance Editing Jobs
How did you become an editor?
I started working full-time when I was 15 years old. And I’ve probably changed more careers than most people change jobs. But eventually I ended up working in an Engineering firm, and as I liked writing and editing I took over the job of editing the company’s technical documents.
I was with the Engineering firm for about 8 years, editing and writing their materials. Since I had been working almost all my life, I decided to take a vacation and went to Hong Kong. While there, I ended up falling in love, writing 4 novels in a year, and started to pick up freelance editing jobs to make money.
I was then hired by a publishing company to edit novels. Now I write, work for 3 publishing companies, and run my freelance editing business.
Did that first job help you when you started to look for freelance jobs?
Definitely. I had some editing experience so in that way I was a little bit ahead of some of the other freelancers out there.
What if you don’t have any editing experience? What’s a good place for someone—say with an English degree or PhD—to get their first freelance editing job?
I would recommend Elance as a good place to start. It’s not quite as helpful as it was 5 years ago when it first started. But I still use Elance to find work.
That’s the first step I give people in my book, Make Money Editing From Home. I really would go there first. You can join Elance as a basic member without paying any money and get a feel for the place and the see the jobs available.
The reason why Elance is a good place to start is that today there are a lot of people looking for ghostwriters to write that shallow, terrible content that you see on content-farm websites. The pay is horrible and the work isn’t very rewarding. But I think that Elance still has the highest percentage of good editing work and writing services.
What about Craigslist?
I’ve just had nothing but bad experiences with Craigslist. Elance, which is an online marketplace for freelance editing and writing jobs, is just a better place than Craigslist to find work.
Do you get a lot of editing work through your website?
All of it. I couldn’t do this without the internet.
You’ve carved out a little niche with your overnight editing service for businesses. How did you come up with that idea?
I am 12 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time so someone can write something and send it to me at the end of their business day and while they are sleeping I edit their business documents. When they wake up, the document is in their inbox. I’m like an elf, editing your stuff while you sleep.
This is all by email. And there are some clients and authors that have been doing this with me for 4 and 5 years.
That’s a cool idea. Do most of the people just find you through search engines?
Most of my editing jobs come from search engines. But when business is slow, I go and write a few articles on editing in article directories and that brings in some business.
Is it easy to set up a website or blog and get editing or writing jobs through search engine traffic?
Getting business through my website, writing blog posts, and getting editing jobs through word of mouth and through search engines—this took years to build up. But it pays off.
You mentioned getting editing jobs and traffic by writing articles. Which article directories do you use to get editing clients?
EZine articles is a good one. When I first started out, I did a lot more article directory marketing, but now most my freelance editing jobs just come naturally.
That’s a good tip. I got to ask about Michael Jordan.
When I was young, we moved around a lot. I was also always the shortest kid in every class. But one year, I showed up to a new school, and before I arrived, the shortest kid in the class was Michael Jordan. The Michael Jordan. So I show up and I’m shorter than Michael. Also, he was the only Black kid in the class.
Michael was pretty cool. He was nice to me. Nobody else was.
And for that one year (the next year we went to different schools) Michael Jordan and me were classmates. It’s true.[You can read the rest of Michael LaRocca's story here].
In your book Make Money Editing From Home, you say that editing jobs aren’t a get-rich-quick type of job. But is it feasible to make a living as a freelance editor?
Yeah, that’s what I’ve been doing for the past 10 years. Once you get some experience you can try to get jobs working for publishing companies. I edit for 3 different publishing companies from home, as well as edit non-fiction.
Actually, the “How to” books pay the best. From an editing and writing standpoint, I enjoy the creative works better.
Can you give us a teaser of your Make Money Editing From Home book?
It’s a short book. And I basically just tell ‘here’s what I did to become an editor.’ It covers mostly what worked for me, helps you avoid some of the mistakes I made, and mainly just outlines step-by-step the things I did to land clients and to sell my services as an editor working from home with a computer.
Are you happy with your career choice as a writer and an editor?
Very much so. I’ve always been a reading junkie and just think that I was supposed to be an editor.
What’s your number one editing tip? How can people become better editors?
Constantly edit. And look at some of Grammar Girl’s stuff. She has good advice and makes it simple.
And get a copy of Michael Swan’s [amazon_link id="019442099X" target="_blank" ]Practical English Usage[/amazon_link]. That’s my reference book.
Michael also offers some creative writing tips in my follow-up interview, including tips about how to start your first novel, writing rituals, and how to rework drafts.
Consider also checking out Elance.com. A basic membership is free and it is a popular online marketplace for writers, editors, designers, and other creative professionals. You can build an online profile and bid on different jobs. And no, they didn’t (unfortunately) pay me to write that.
And if you are looking for professional editing services, check out Michaeledits.com
Some books that might interest you:
Make Money Editing From Home. Michael LaRocca’s book on finding freelance editing jobs. A short guide that takes you step-by-step, showing you the best places online to find editing jobs, things to avoid, and what to expect as an editor working from home. You can buy the Kindle version and save a few dollars. You can also download a sample chapter.
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