4 Things I Learned From Copyediting My First Book
By Black Knight
Among those of us who look to the internet as sources of side income, copyediting and copywriting are looked upon as solid but unsexy methods of making a bit of coin. There are several threads on the RVF that paint it as an ideal job for reading and writing enthusiasts. On the surface, it provides a location-independent source of income where a man can set his own hours and choose his clientele. I recently copyedited a manosphere book for a fairly well-known author, and like any other first venture I learned a few non-intuitive truths that added to my understanding of the profession.
1. You Can’t Put Lipstick On A Pig
Though the book was from an author I respect, in any editing job there’s always an initial fear that the writing will be beyond repair. Luckily, the author had a clear and consistent plan and executed it well. My changes helped the work to sound more professional and expand on some of the important points, but had the writer not possessed the requisite strength of content from the beginning I doubt anyone’s editorial review could have saved it. When I made side money in college editing essays, the pieces I felt the worst about sending back to the authors were the ones I had improved significantly, but still sucked anyway because of the bad starting point. If the ideas are good, the quality will show through. If the ideas are bad, the best copyediting in the world will not produce a winner.
2. You’re Not Living The Tim Ferriss Dream Life
Looking to sip margaritas while watching your bankroll explode? This isn’t the line of work for you. Reading words on a page sounds easy, but it’s incredibly exhausting work. You’re grinding with maximum attention on the copy at all times. It’s possible to improve your speed (and therefore earning potential) up to a certain point, but you never reach the “set it and forget it” point that many location-independent business models strive for. Whether you’re improving the writing with suggestions about ideas or simply fixing typos, every time you fail to fix an error it’s a black mark against your brand. It’s stressful, hands-on, reputation-driven work that isn’t for everyone.
3. Customers Will Pay Well For Quality Work
Though some of my favorite blogs feature content about starting writing or editing businesses on oDesk, Elance, Fiverr, or other websites, they are quick to point out that at the outset you are competing against other people who will “work” for bottom dollar. Since I already have a job to pay the bills and my free time is valuable, it is more important to me that I make decent money on the occasional jobs I do. Because of my reputation writing at ROK and other ventures, and the fact that I was willing to prove myself by editing a small portion of the book before the author committed to paying me, I was able to command significantly more than I would have made on services where the writer is going in blind.
4. Emphasize Customer Quality Over Quantity
I don’t need this side hustle to pay the rent. Thus, I don’t have to take on customers who impose unreasonable deadlines, are inflexible with their requests, or want to low-ball me. In any business there’s an inflection point where taking on new clients just for the sake of having work provides headaches larger than the amount of money you’re earning, and “firing” your worst clients is a proven business strategy. Luckily I am still far away from that point. Being able to serve customers I like and respect while editing work on subject matter that interests me (manosphere topics) provides work that I actually look forward to, which might not be true if I cast a wider net to make a few extra bucks.
For the reasons mentioned above, copyediting is a solid way to make extra money that aligns with activities I enjoy and am good at. Like any other side hustle, however, there’s a startup cost to building your reputation, finding customers, and getting into the groove of each new job, as well as many lessons to learn along the way. But it’s not bad work if you can get it.
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