Making a mid-career change can be as thrilling as it is terrifying. When I decided to pivot into the world of editing and publishing from a career in legal and regulatory work, I was overwhelmed with questions, doubts and the general uncertainty that comes with stepping into a new field.
That’s when I realized that I needed guidance from those who had already navigated the editing waters successfully.
While reaching out to strangers doesn’t come to me easily, I knew it was a step I had to take. So I reached out to veteran editors through LinkedIn, email and the Editors Canada Online Directory of Editors (ODE).
I looked for editors in areas that piqued my interest (such as cookbook and food magazine editing) or aligned with my background (like legal and business editing).
In my introductory messages, I mentioned that I was in the process of pursuing an editing certification and was looking to switch careers. My objective was to seek guidance on navigating the editing landscape, understand the nuances of the field and gain valuable insights from those who had already carved their paths.
Not everyone responded, which was perfectly okay. For those who did engage, I arranged informational interviews via email or Zoom. These seasoned editors graciously shared their personal journeys, unveiling aspects of the editing world that were entirely new to me. One editor informed me about the significance of plain language — an area I hadn’t considered before. (That editor also sparked the inspiration for this very blog post!)
While I am still in the very early stages of figuring out what I want my career to look like, here’s what I have learned so far.
Networking is key
First and foremost, I learned that networking is the lifeblood of the editing world. It can open doors you didn’t even know existed. One piece of advice that stood out was to join Editors Canada. It’s a treasure trove of resources, information and volunteer opportunities, and it’s a supportive community that’s always ready to lend a hand.
But don’t stop with editors — tap into your existing networks. You’d be surprised at how many people need an editor. While this hasn’t happened for me yet, many veteran editors said they started by building on past professional relationships.
Some emphasized the importance of finding a peer group. Connecting with editors on a similar path can provide you with a sense of camaraderie, a platform to discuss industry trends and, most importantly, a source of inspiration and motivation.
While the apparent ease of platforms like Upwork and Fiverr might seem tempting for finding editing gigs, seasoned editors warned against them. These platforms often undervalue your skills and make it difficult to build lasting client relationships. This consensus from the editors I talked to prompted me to reconsider my initial inclination to explore these platforms. I have found Editors Canada’s National Job Board very helpful in exploring freelance opportunities.
Editorial niches are worth exploring
Veteran editors encouraged me to explore different editorial niches to find where my passion and skills align. Whether it’s editing books, academic papers, technical documents or even blogs, there’s a world of opportunity out there.
Some editors are staunch believers in picking a niche and sticking with it, whereas others are generalists and wouldn’t have it any other way. There’s no right or wrong approach.
Online presence matters
Several experienced editors emphasized the importance of showcasing your skills and expertise on platforms like LinkedIn. Create a professional profile that highlights your editing experience, join relevant groups and engage with the editing community.
In this digital age, you never know when a potential client or job opportunity might come knocking.
Education is essential
Don’t underestimate the value of a solid education in editing. Enrolling in an editing program has been a pivotal step in my journey. It not only provided me with the necessary knowledge and skills but also boosted my confidence.
Keep in mind that learning doesn’t have to mean a formal program. In a field that’s constantly evolving, staying relevant hinges on your commitment to ongoing education. Through workshops, seminars or self-study (including following blogs and podcasts), you can enrich your understanding of the craft.
Everyone’s journey is different
One of the most comforting pieces of advice I received was that there’s no one-size-fits-all path to becoming a successful editor. Every editor I spoke to had a unique story to tell. Some started freelancing right away, while others worked their way up in publishing houses. The common thread in all these journeys was patience.
The editing world can be competitive, and landing your dream gig — whether that’s a job offer or your ideal freelance client — might take time. But every project you work on and every word you edit is a step toward your goal. Be patient with yourself and your progress.
With determination, continuous learning and a supportive community, you can carve your own path to success. So take these insights from veteran editors to heart, and let them guide you as you embark on this exciting career path.
The Editors’ Weekly is the official blog of Editors Canada. Contact us.