Business Development

Questions about how to become an editor or how to grow your editorial business?

Editors must have at least a year of experience to join the Northwest Independent Editors Guild, but we’re happy to provide these tips for those interested in entering our profession.


The Northwest is home to a number of excellent editing certificate programs. A variety of online classes are available as well.


Study on your own. Master the style manual of your choice, or explore some of the many excellent references on editing, grammar, and related topics. Don’t forget our collection of meeting notes, which can teach you about editing everything from children’s books to technical documents.


Even if you aspire to be an independent editor, consider taking a staff position at first—and don’t rule out positions where proofreading or editing is among the duties but not the primary task. Staff positions of any kind can enable you to continue your learning and help you develop contacts for your future independent career. The Communicators & Marketers JobLine, which lists public relations, communications, marketing, advertising, and graphic design jobs, is a helpful resource.


Browse our member directory for local editors who do the kind of work you’re interested in, and offer to take them to lunch or coffee. Or come to one of our events and meet many editors at once.

Be Creative

What are your niches—topics or industries that you know more about than most people? What communities are you a part of that many others are not? Think about how you can market your services to these audiences. If you spend lots of time on a campus, for instance, you might want to post notices there offering your editing services.


Be aware of the broad range of potential employers. Here’s a sampling:

book publishers • book packagers • newspapers • magazines • design firms • law firms • advertising agencies and public relations firms • engineering firms • consulting firms • computer and multimedia firms • corporate marketing and communications departments • authors • academics • students • nonprofit organizations • management consultants • market researchers • museums • universities • government agencies • and more

You can do research within each industry too. For example, if you’re interested in books, you can browse local bookstores to find out who publishes the kind of books you’d like to edit.

Try Tech

Technical communication is a particularly robust field in the Northwest. You can learn more from the local chapter of the Society for Technical Communication.

Hanging out a shingle to offer your editing services is an exciting professional step.

Planning Your Business

The Small Business Administration can help you draft a business plan covering market analysis, operations, and financing.

These two books provide a broad overview of what’s involved in starting a business, including building your portfolio, getting clients, and marketing yourself.

Freelance-l is a free electronic discussion list for independent publishing industry professionals. Topics include publisher comparisons, job searches, and types of work; rates and payments; insurance and taxes; home offices and equipment; and other work-related issues. Anyone starting out in the business is welcome. To subscribe, e-mail Leave the subject line blank; in the main message, type “subscribe freelance {firstname} {lastname}.”

Creating a Home Office

Setting up your work space with the proper tools and technology is a good start. But also consider efficiency, productivity, and potential tax issues.

Getting Licensed

In the Northwest, each state requires a resident business to obtain a license.

Some cities and counties also require businesses in their area to be licensed. Contact your municipality for details.

Setting Rates

As an independent editor, you’ll establish your own rates, fees, and billing practices. These resources may help.

  • Editorial Freelancers Association rate survey, updated regularly (many established editors use the EFA rate chart as a minimum baseline)
  • What to Charge: Pricing Strategies for Freelancers and Consultants, by Laurie Lewis (Outskirts Press, 2011). Addresses setting rates, assessing fees suggested by clients, and evaluating your pricing experiences. Discusses what information to request from the client before quoting a fee, and examines the pros and cons of different pricing methods, such as hourly rates, project fees, and retainers.

Developing a Contract

We strongly recommend having a simple contract that you and your client both sign after you accept a project. Writing down what you’ve agreed on helps protect both parties from misunderstandings. These online resources may help.

For those in the Seattle area, Washington Lawyers for the Arts offers a nominally priced legal clinic twice a month for independent professionals and artists. You can receive up to a half hour of advice on contracts, copyrights, trademarks, or other intellectual property issues.

Filing Taxes

Report your business income and expenses on your federal tax return.

Your state may require you to file a business return. Contact your state taxing authority for details.

Some cities and counties assess municipal business taxes. Contact your municipality for details.

Other taxes: You may be required to file reports or pay sales tax, business and occupation tax, property and personal property tax, unemployment tax, or other taxes in your locality.

In-house editors work with stakeholders and creatives at all stages of publishing, interacting with writers, business partners, designers, and marketers. Like independent editors, in-house editors’ responsibilities can range from copyediting to content strategy.

There have been big shifts in the in-house editorial scene in recent years. For example, in the book-publishing industry today, there are fewer in-house editors and they wear many hats. Often functioning as project managers, they maintain brand and style guides, oversee publishing schedules, and negotiate contracts with freelance editing staff.

Outsourcing is common in corporate editing as well, with in-house staff frequently working side by side with editors who are independent vendors or contracted through agencies. An on-site contract opportunity can be a great way to participate in the in-house experience, and sometimes is the transitional route to direct in-house employment.

If you are interested in learning more about agencies that contract editors for in-house situations in the Seattle area, here are a few of many for your research: Aquent, Creative Circle, The Creative Group, Filter, smartdept., 24 Seven, and Volt Technical & Creative Communication.