Gaining the confidence to start a freelance editing business is just as important as learning the skills to work on projects. You’re not just making money from reading — you’re doing tasks like marketing, managing projects, and communicating with clients.
Elisabeth Ivey is an editor and proofreader who discovered how powerful believing in yourself can be. She says, “Starting a business immersed me in a field I never would have considered for myself; I didn’t think I had the mindset for it…. This adventure has made me realize I’m capable of more than I gave myself credit for.”
Elisabeth now runs a successful proofreading and editing business from home, where she likes to work on her terms, balancing self-care and editorial projects. In this interview, she shares how she started and grew her business, what her average day is like, and the power of networking. Elisabeth also drops some great advice if you’re thinking of starting out!
Hi Elisabeth! Can you tell us about yourself?
Like many editors, I grew up with a love for reading. My family used to tease me as a kid because any time we drove somewhere, I’d curl up in the back seat with a book, lost in other worlds.
That love of fiction eventually became the reason I became a writer myself, and I chose to study English in college. In those classes, I noticed how much I enjoyed the peer editing workshops; I loved interacting with the material and marking up the pages with corrections and suggestions. It felt like having a conversation.
While I was a student, I had the opportunity to do an internship with a publishing house. I offered suggestions on manuscripts, but I didn’t think anyone would take me seriously. To my surprise, though, my supervisor told me the author had appreciated the edits. I remember that exchange as one of those pivotal moments when you feel like your voice has value.
Because of moments like those, I considered a career in traditional editing, but it didn’t take long for the discouragement to set in. I’m a little sheepish to say I quit before I even tried! I just didn’t have the confidence at that time to go after it.
For a while, I pursued other professional opportunities, but while I was living abroad, I realized that I’d have a gap in employment during the time it would take me to move back home. While I applied to traditional jobs, I also started to research side gigs and opportunities to start a business. Because of my past, I gravitated back to proofreading and editing!
What made you decide to get into proofreading and editing?
As a proofreader and copy editor, I felt like I could finally use a skill I’d been trying to downplay. I can’t tell you how many times I’d point out an error on a restaurant menu or Kindle book, but I could tell people weren’t interested (and I can hardly blame them!).
But realizing an entire industry thrived on this work was empowering. In this field, I felt like I’d found an intersection between my skills and interest, and I was excited to see where that path would take me.
Can you tell us about your freelance editing business? Do you specialize in a niche or niches?
My editing business is called Ivey Editing Services, and I offer proofreading, copyediting, and developmental editing services.
At the start, I had a difficult time choosing a niche. I had a little bit of FOMO (fear of missing out). Despite what everyone told me, I worried that committing to one area would mean I’d miss out on other opportunities. It was hard to resist the scarcity mindset, especially while starting out, because I didn’t know what, if any, decisions would pay off.
I quickly learned why Phon recommends choosing a niche, though. Without committing to one area, I ended up spending a lot of time in the beginning switching tactics and chasing new ideas! I don’t regret it, though; the experimentation was an integral part of the process.
I alluded to this earlier, but my network helped me settle into my chosen niches. Connecting with people first allowed me to focus my work on what they needed instead of trying to guess which niche would work out. I now work mainly with personal statements/resumes and Christian nonfiction manuscripts. Both areas have been rewarding, and as I continue to grow, I hope to expand into young adult fiction!
Want to work from home and take the first step towards an editorial career?
Note from Phon: If you want to learn how to start freelance proofreading and editing like Elisabeth, sign up for my FREE masterclass that shows you my 4-step framework that includes editorial skills, marketing and publishing knowledge.
What do you feel proud of having accomplished since starting your own freelance editing business?
I feel proud of the progress I’ve made on the business side of this endeavor. For my whole life, I’ve cultivated these creative language skills, but starting a business immersed me in a field I never would have considered for myself; I didn’t think I had the mindset for it.
But the tools I learned in High-Level Proofreading Pro provided me with a foundation of confidence, and I’ve been building upon that foundation ever since. This adventure has made me realize I’m capable of more than I gave myself credit for.
What do you like best about being a proofreader and editor?
The flexibility! I love setting my own hours and pace. Some months, especially when I was first starting out, I poured into my business nonstop. When I had to move, though, I found it easy to scale back without repercussions.
It’s been incredibly liberating to have such a high degree of autonomy over my work and to be able to set the creative tone as I continue to grow and revise my approaches.
Beyond flexibility, I’m going to give a cheesy yet accurate answer: the people have made this journey rewarding. After I finished High-Level Proofreading Pro, I somewhat dreaded Phon’s instruction to reach out to my network.
I didn’t like the idea of people seeing me in the process, which I very much was. Rather, I wanted to wait until I gained momentum so I could present a polished, finished image. I admit: I’m still a recovering perfectionist.
After trying to make it on my own, I began reaching out to my network and updating them on this new life experience. The risk was worth it. Suddenly, people I hadn’t talked to for years were reaching out, and I got to make new connections, too.
The people in my network blew me away with how generously they supported my work. Whether they shared my Facebook page or passed along my information to their own networks, the people around me shaped my business for the better.
Despite the difficulty of showing up vulnerable, I’m so glad I did. I’ve found it rewarding to connect with people at a particular point in their own journeys and support their work as they take another step. As much as my clients have been a part of my life, getting to proofread, copyedit, or developmentally edit their work has allowed me to be a small part of their lives, too.
How has your editorial business impacted your life?
Like I said previously, running my business has increased my confidence. Every day, I still wrestle with Imposter Syndrome, but it’s also been rewarding to look back and remember the difficult decisions I’ve had to make. Overcoming those challenges has done wonders for my self-esteem both personally and professionally.
In particular, I struggled to determine the rate for my services, especially while starting out. Slowly, though, I’ve learned to value my time and energy. Not only has this shift decreased the risk of burning out, but it’s also made me realize that my clients value my work, too.
What advice do you have for people who are considering getting into proofreading and copyediting?
Open yourself up and put in consistent work. I’ll admit that I was wary of this kind of advice when I started out. I already talked about how I didn’t want to tap into my network. As I learned, though, you don’t have to view asking for help as a sign of weakness but rather an opportunity to connect.
The other piece of that — consistency — was a difficult habit to have hope in at times. It’s a trait I’ve admired in my boyfriend, and he’s encouraged me to implement it in my own life. Often, I want results immediately; I don’t want people to see me trying and failing at times.
At times, I’ve worried that my efforts wouldn’t amount to much. Hindsight has afforded me the wonder of looking back and seeing how small actions that didn’t seem to amount to much at the time later led to incredible opportunities. A rejection for a job at one point turned into a job opportunity later.
It makes me excited to think about what’s ahead for me with my editing business, and I hope that other proofreaders and copy editors feel that same anticipation about their businesses even when they’re working with the tedious or nitty-gritty tasks and occasional setbacks.
How did our course, High-Level Proofreading Pro, prepare you for running your own freelance editing business?
I can’t understate the confidence I built by participating in the High-Level Proofreading Pro course. The tools helped me mitigate that ever-present Imposter Syndrome, and I appreciated that I didn’t have to scramble around Google because Phon provided resources I could trust.
Receiving the certificate of completion gave me the boost I needed to announce to the world that I was launching a business. I mentioned earlier that the business side of things didn’t come easily to me, so I especially appreciated the practical tools and tips I picked up in High-Level Proofreading Pro. Not only did the course help me polish the skills I had, but it also facilitated the growth of new skills.
Especially at the start, I also appreciated the community forum because I knew that I’d find other people who could relate to these particular struggles. When I’d get discouraged, I would visit the forum, and I’m grateful to be able to interact with people on a similar journey!
Can you give us a peek at what your typical day is like?
I typically start my day at 7:30am and listen to a podcast or audiobook as I roam around the kitchen getting my coffee and breakfast ready. I try to sit down at my desk by 8, and I work until 11 or 11:30 (with breaks along the way). Some days, I like to take a walk at noon; the movement helps me reset my mind.
When I have a book contract, I’ll change my scenery, curling up on my pink armchair by the window and reading a chapter or two while making edits. On a nice day, I’ll go out on the balcony and people-watch in between paragraphs. I used to love working in coffee shops, but in the age of the pandemic, my perch on the balcony is the next best thing.
Some evenings, I go to the gym and eat a late dinner when I get home. Other days, I try to work on my personal writing projects. If I’m lucky (and planned ahead), I’ll eat something sweet before heading to bed!
About Elisabeth Ivey
Elisabeth Ivey is a writer, editor, and proofreader. Through her editing business, Ivey Editing Services, she has worked with Christian nonfiction manuscripts as well as personal statements and dissertations. Her writing has appeared in Sojourners, The Porch Magazine, Clerestory Magazine, and Gaze Journal. When she’s not writing or editing, Elisabeth is daydreaming, spending too much time on social media, and listening to her new favorite podcast. You can learn more about Elisabeth at iveyediting.com and on LinkedIn.