Notes from a Town & Country Editor and Writer
Having worked as a freelance writer and editor in Toronto, Grey County, and now the Hamilton area, I've had the opportunity to learn about some of the pros and cons of doing editorial work in both rural and urban settings. As a returning blogger for The Editing Company, I'm glad that I get to share my experiences serving clarity, consistency, and correctness, and I hope that reading about my progress as a freelancer will be instructive to any writers and editors thinking about making a go of working remotely.
Opportunities of Different Kinds
One of the most obvious differences between working in a town and working in the country is the difference between the kinds of opportunities available. In an urban setting like Toronto, although full- and part-time in-house editorial work is difficult to find, it's all but non-existent in most rural settings. Outside of Toronto, Canadian publishing houses are few and far between, and although some are flexible about the amount of time employees need to spend onsite, the opportunity to work remotely is generally only given to those who first prove themselves in person.
Freelance book editors who don't live in cities, rather than waiting for rare opportunities to sign on with publishing houses, will more likely than not end up either courting or being courted by independent authors looking to get their novels ready for publication.
Independent authors and freelance editors seem like the perfect editorial match, but, unfortunately, some independent authors overstate their readiness to publish. On more than one occasion, I've gotten excited at the prospect of editing a client's novel only to find out after exchanging a few emails that they're months or even years away from being ready for a first reading. To the author, this represents an inconvenient communication breakdown, but to the struggling freelance editor this feels a bit like having a paycheque revoked. That said, many independent authors looking to publish books themselves are familiar with the demands of editorial work and will have a first draft ready for you to read as soon as you contact them. It all depends on the author.
Getting Your Foot in Your Editorial Community’s Door
One great way to help make sure that you find out about editorial opportunities in your area is to get connected with your local editorial community. Because freelancers will sometimes bite off more than they can chew, writers and editors will periodically offer fellow editorial professionals the opportunity to take the work they can't finish. This can be a very lucrative source of income for writers and editors, but without the proper connections you won't be able to find any of your overworked colleagues. Although there are other benefits to joining the local chapter of professional editorial groups, like Editors Canada and the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC), having an early opportunity to grow your brand among your colleagues and being able to secure a semi-reliable stream of outsourced work are two of the biggest perks.
If you have some free time and you're not intimidated by speaking in front of groups of people, you might also consider serving your chapter of Editors Canada or PWAC as a member of its executive committee. In addition to getting to meet well-established writers and editors in your area, you generally also get discounts on programs and seminars offered by your chapter. These discounts are especially important to editorial professionals who are just getting started.
Improving your résumé by attending a variety of seminars and courses feels great, but doing the same for free feels even better.
Ensuring Your Online Presence
Even after joining professional groups like Editors Canada and making connections, I found that I still wasn't getting enough work. Although editorial work tends to come in fits and starts rather than in a steady flow, I've found that I've improved the regularity of secured contracts by maintaining a website for my business. Don't worry. If you're new to website design, it sounds harder to do than it is.
Previously, freelance professionals designing websites used to be restricted to their knowledge of HTML. However, now that website-building platforms such as WordPress, Wix, and others exist, though, any creative professional can craft a website that looks good and won't confuse its visitors. Contracting with a web designer can get expensive quickly, but subscriptions to platforms like WordPress only cost around $130 per year. Based on the opportunity that having an online home for your business represents, $130 per year represents a small but worthwhile investment for any independent professional.
Town or Country?
Having only worked in the editorial business as a freelancer, I can't say if I prefer working in house. The job security and normalized hours that in-house work offer are very appealing, but as a freelancer I have the opportunity to set my own schedule and I never have to worry about commuting. When comparing working in an urban setting to working in a rural setting, though, I can say that I far prefer working rurally. Though the country is often plagued by a lack of internet connectivity options and sometimes worse — right now contractors are outside my house drilling a new well because the old one is running dry — I prefer the stresses of the country to the stresses of the town, even if I sometimes have to hoard water.
Michael Bedford is a freelance editor, copywriter, and performer living in Mount Hope, Ontario. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.