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How to Get a Job as an Editor or Writer in 2021 and Beyond

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Key Points

  • Understanding differences between a writer and an editor
  • What type of jobs are available for each position
  • Tips on how to land your ideal job, including any relevant training and how to build your portfolio

Introduction


Do you love to read? Are you creative with written words? Have you always dreamed of getting paid to do something you’re passionate about? If so, a career as an editor or writer might be right for you.

The United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) reported that the median annual wage for editors was $61,370 in May 2019 and $63,200 for writers and authors the same year.

Writers and editors used to work primarily on books and physical publications, such as magazines and newspapers. As most brands switched their marketing efforts online, however, content creation has become an integral part of marketing. HubSpot reports at least 78% of companies with a digital presence have a team of content strategists.

This team is composed of writers and editors producing content in the form of blog posts, case studies, newsletters, and anything a person can read online. You can join publishing houses, newspapers, and this emerging online economy as a freelance, full-time, or part-time writer or editor.

What Is an Editor?

An editor checks documents for errors in spelling, grammar, or punctuation. Their goal is to make sure a document is focused, with text and thought flowing smoothly. An editor’s job is to focus on syntax and messaging to create a better reading experience and maximum impact for the reader.

editor-at-work

Many employers expect editors to have a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree and work experience in journalism, communications, or public relations. A degree in any field is a good start for a career as an editor, especially for people who want to focus on editing in their area of expertise. If you have a medical degree, for example, you can try academic editing, where you will be responsible for reviewing and editing medical journals or newsletters.

Many colleges and universities offer courses and programs in editing and publishing that you might want to check out. You can also gain experience through internships and by editing a school newspaper.

Here are some additional resources for becoming an editor:

Types of Editing

  • Proofreading: This is a technical process that involves checking for grammatical and editorial errors in content while following a style guide. Proofreaders check for typos, spelling, punctuation, formatting, and inaccuracies.
  • Copy editing: This involves checking for spelling, grammar, sentence structure, and punctuation errors in copy. Copy editors ensure copy follows the in-house style guide, such as the Chicago Manual of Style and the Associated Press Stylebook. Their responsibilities also include fact-checking and verifying the validity and sources cited in a document.
  • Developmental editing: This is also known as structural editing because it involves working with authors to structure and produce a manuscript. Developmental editors are book editors who help authors develop the plot, theme, and characters in books.
  • Line editing: Also known as stylistic editing, line editing involves reading a manuscript line by line to ensure each word choice follows and contributes to the book’s overall theme.

Editing Jobs

Editors work in various industries like online marketing, publications, and health care. They also work in different capacities. Below are the types of editors or positions for which you can apply:

  • Associate editor: This person seeks out, reads, and reviews copy that will be published. Associate editors coordinate topics aligned with the theme or goal of the publication in mind.
  • Editorial assistant: This is a great opportunity to develop a variety of skills and gain experience in almost all aspects of editing. Depending on the industry, an assistant editor researches stories, writes articles or promotional materials, copy edits or proofreads documents, transcribes and conducts interviews, and much more.
  • Managing editor: This person runs the day-to-day operations of a publication or website. Their responsibilities include planning, assigning, and editing content, managing spending, scheduling production, and supervising editorial staff.
  • Executive editor: This role manages the editorial content of a newspaper, magazine, or other types of online publications. In a newspaper setting, the executive editor is the newsroom leader. In publishing, they usually coordinate the release of a book.

What Is a Writer?

A writer is anyone who engages in the process of writing — with the hope of getting their work published. Journalists, ghostwriters, bloggers, and authors are all writers. Most writers have a degree in creative writing, journalism, or communications. Since there’s a wide array of industries and different needs for writers, anyone can gain writing experience regardless of their education.

Writing Jobs

Listed below are examples of writing jobs for which you can apply.

  • Technical writing: This involves taking technical information and specialized topics, such as computer applications and medical procedures, and relaying them in an easily understandable format for a specific audience.
  • Curriculum writing: This involves creating and developing instructional materials for schools. Curriculum writers also compose training documents for businesses.
  • Blogging: This involves producing content with the purpose of educating readers on a specified topic or topics.
  • Resume writing: This involves preparing resumes for job applicants. Resume writing can be specialized for one type of applicant or industry.
  • Product description writing: This involves creating compelling product descriptions to describe product features and benefits to help generate sales.

How to Become an Editor or Writer

Obtain Relevant Training or Education

If you don’t have the time or money to get a degree, look for online writing or editing courses. If you’re planning to attend school or are in the process of getting a degree, take courses or programs that can help you achieve your goal of becoming an editor or writer. Still, remember that getting a job is more about your experience and portfolio than your degree.

Regarding relevant training, you may also want to increase your proficiency with computers, electronic publishing, social media, and multimedia production. If you’re looking to work with online brands and bloggers, you may also need to learn about search engine optimization (SEO) and content management systems (CMS) like WordPress.

Build Your Portfolio

Here are a few things you can do to gain experience and testimonials:

  • Ask around your community for editing or writing jobs, such as editing your homeowners association’s rulebook or writing your local community center’s newsletter for free in exchange for a testimonial.
  • Contact a nonprofit organization whose cause you support and offer your services for free.
  • Reach out to local businesses that may need your services.

Help family and friends with any writing needs or editing work.

Consider Taking Entry-Level Positions

Get your resume and cover letter ready and start applying to jobs. If you’re just starting, you may have to start with entry-level writing or editing positions. You might think you didn’t go to college for four years to get an entry-level position, but consider the benefits: samples for your portfolio and hands-on experience you can’t get any other way.

Pick a Niche

As an editor, you might have tried your hand at everything, such as copy editing online documents or combing through manuscripts. As a writer, you might have written about topics you knew the most about in the beginning. Eventually, it’s best to pick a niche — a focus or specialization, that is.

You may choose to focus on an industry like marketing or a type of content, such as blog posts or books. Having a specialization can help you hone and develop your editing and writing skills and can be especially beneficial if you’re planning to go the freelancing route.

Network

Start making connections as early as you can, especially if you’re planning to work as a freelance editor or freelance writer. Take advantage of social media and engage with other writers and editors on Twitter or LinkedIn. Do this even if you’re still trying to figure out what kind of editor or writer you want to be or if you’re still in the process of taking courses.

Remember that your purpose for engaging is not just to get a job or meet potential clients. It’s also to establish connections to exchange information and maybe get some advice from colleagues who have knowledge to impart from years of experience.

Find Your Ideal Editor or Writer Job

With Joblist, you can see all available editing and writing opportunities in one place. We combine postings from the leading job boards to help you find the perfect role. Use our search tool to see personalized results, set up daily alerts, and be the first to apply to new job postings!

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