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Natalia Iwanek

Making the Shift from Student to Freelance Editor

Freelance Editor

For novice editors, the transitional year from student to editor is often both remarkable and overwhelming. No amount of experience and education can prepare you for the phenomenon of imposter syndrome, the tendency to undervalue your work, and the persistent fear of failure. Above all, nothing quite prepares you for that first difficult client.

Freelance Editor
Timplaru Ovidiu ©

Although I had edited previously, I made the decision to edit as my sole source of income upon graduation from the editing program at Simon Fraser University. Unlike many who apply for traditional in-house editing positions, I pursued a more flexible freelance career from the onset.

Like most new freelance editors, I struggled to build my reputation. Despite the best preparations, editing for clients is unpredictable, stressful, and often entails learning new skills quickly. Time management skills are key, as the old adage of feast and famine has proven very real. In what has come to be a monthly cycle, my clients all seem to conspire together to demand my services around the beginning and middle of the month, leaving me with either too much work or too much free time.

Editing communities

Joining Editors Canada has made this transition a little smoother; it is also a great way to meet the community. I have volunteered for a committee, written and copy edited for Toronto’s BoldFace blog, and attended lectures.

In addition, I have set up a website and LinkedIn profile, and joined a few freelancer websites. Although many dismiss the value of freelancer websites, as they frequently offer very low pay, they have brought in a few steady and well-paying clients. The process can be frustrating, but perseverance and knowing your worth is key.

Varied skills

However, my most vital suggestion when building a client base is to get creative and use all available skills. At times, these seemingly unrelated skills can be applied to the editing world.

My knowledge of English, Ukrainian, and basic Polish landed me my first job, copy editing a work of historical non-fiction, through connections to the Ukrainian diasporic community. Surprisingly, my second job was copy editing a South American company’s Spanish-English translations. Although I edit solely in English, I have had a great deal of repeat Ukrainian and Spanish-speaking clients who feel most comfortable corresponding in their native language. In this unexpected turn of events, I have found my particular niche market.

I have also found myself doing a great deal of writing. Having my own work edited, as difficult as it is to see those red marks, has made me a stronger editor. The privilege of having my work reviewed by experienced editors has given me practical insight into the editing industry.

My final advice for new freelance editors is to persevere, network, attend Editors Canada events, and build a solid client base. Most importantly, never undervalue your work. Nearing the one-year mark of my editing career, I can say that it has been a struggle, but a beautiful one. I look forward to the challenges of the upcoming year.  


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6 Comments on “Making the Shift from Student to Freelance Editor”

  • Anita Jenkins


    From my perspective, everything you say is absolutely true. Imposter syndrome, one job leading to another, the network… I think you will do well. Your post is so well written too – I see more writing jobs in your future, and that provides a nice balance.

    • Thank you so much for your kind words, Anita. I really appreciate them. I’m glad that my writing resonated, although in a perfect world, none of us would suffer from Impostor Syndrome. 🙂 Best wishes, Natalia

  • Great article! Thank you, Natalia.

    • Thank you so much Annette! I appreciate it! Best, Natalia

  • Stephanie Kripps


    Natalia, your post was both inspiring and practical! What an interesting path toward a niche that you didn’t originally expect, through the diaspora communities. I come from a family of the Ukrainian diaspora too, so I know exactly what you mean about comfort levels. Sadly, I don’t speak the language so I can’t duplicate your niche. Anyway, you’ve given beginners a great take-away lesson in perseverance. Most days it feels like «onward through the fog!»

    • Thank you so much Stephanie. «Onward through the fog» is such an apt description! I hope I helped new editors navigate this fog in some small way.

      It is common these days for the Ukrianian diaspora not to speak the language, but I have been told that, apart from the aphabet, conversational basics are fairly easy to pick up, in comparison to some other Slavic languages. 🙂 Best wishes, Natalia

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