I don’t remember anymore how I found Mollie Reads (“Reads” isn’t her actual last name, by the way — it’s Turbeville). I think it was on Instagram. But on her Instagram profile, I watched her “Freelancing Q&A” highlight and then found myself on her YouTube channel where I’m pretty sure I’ve watched all her editing videos. Her book recommendations have totally changed my editing game and I’m so grateful to have found such a helpful person on the internet.
Because I’m nice and like to share, I decided to interview Mollie, so you can benefit from some of her excellent freelancing advice (especially if you’re an editor). We talked about everything from how she got started, finding clients, setting rates, and her favorite editing resources. You’re in for a treat!
Tell us what you do for a living, how long you’ve been working in your current role.
Hi, I’m Mollie! I live in North Carolina with my husband, two cats, and lazy hound dog. I’m a freelance book editor, and I launched my editorial business five years ago. I also work as a part-time editor and copywriter for a publishing company. As a freelancer, I work with indie authors, editorial agencies, businesses, and publishers offering copyediting, proofreading, content editing, and manuscript evaluation services. I work from home, which means my standard for getting dressed in the morning is usually determined by whether or not I’d be embarrassed walking to the mailbox.
How did you become an editor?
My first “grown-up” job was as a remote writer and editor at a literary consultancy. I learned that I thrived working from home (which I was nervous about!) and I wrote and edited web/ad copy, press releases, social media copy, etc. I loved editing so much, but I knew I wanted to eventually edit books. So I started taking more specific manuscript editing courses and joined associations to learn from other editors and pursue job listings. Eventually I quit my job to pursue freelancing. Thankfully I had my husband’s income as a safety net, which was a huge reason I was able to freelance at all. I started out mostly editing middle grade and young adult fiction, but in time I also edited nonfiction and a variety of other genres. I also work on less-than-exciting projects, like SEO editing for different industries, annual reports, and other business-related materials.
I have a YouTube video all about how I became an editor, so if anyone is interested in more details, check it out!I knew I wanted to eventually edit books. So I started taking more specific manuscript editing courses and joined associations to learn from other editors... - @molliereads Click To Tweet
How did you find clients in the beginning?
I was really lucky in that my first few clients found me. I became a member at the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) and created a profile with my information so authors could find me. I also applied to projects through this association and others, and I started getting clients via social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube). It was really important for me in the beginning to have a website clearly outlining my services, rates, and process, so people would be able to determine if I was right for their project.
What challenges did you initially face at the beginning? And how did you cope? What challenges do you currently face as a freelance editor?
I had a really hard time creating estimates and valuing my work enough to have my rates meet industry standards. I think every freelancer starting out has to deal with this. I coped by talking to other editors about how they handle certain projects. I also decided I was always going to fall within the EFA rates, which kind of took the pressure off.
Still to this day though, there are always challenges, but being a part of an editing community has really helped me navigate client conflicts, scheduling dilemmas, bidding on projects, defending stylistic changes, etc. I’d say my most consistent challenge is scheduling projects and balancing everything. Even if I’m really productive, I have a tendency to be overly ambitious with what I take on. But I’ve learned to give myself buffer time!
What is your favorite thing about being an editor? What do you wish more people knew about your job?
Of course I love seeing a better product emerge after my edits, but what I really love is helping writers hone their craft. It’s so cool to have repeat clients whose work has improved over time. That, and I LOVE being the reader’s advocate. I wish more people knew editors are first and foremost the reader’s advocate: their job is to make the story more engaging, not just to be the grammar police. We’re not all mean editors cackling at our computers with our red pens, killing all your darlings for fun!I wish more people knew editors are first and foremost the reader’s advocate: their job is to make the story more engaging, not just to be the grammar police. Click To Tweet
Most freelancers struggle the most with pricing their services. How do you price your services?
YES. It’s so hard. I typically charge by an hourly rate, and again, I create an estimate based on the type of work, and my rates fall within EFA industry standards.
Which three books would you recommend to anyone looking to improve their craft as an editor? What tips would you give newbie editors?
The Copyeditor’s Handbook by Amy Einsohn, Second Sight by Cheryl B. Klein, and of course The Chicago Manual of Style. The best advice I can give newbie editors is to study The CMOS as thoroughly as possible and read widely and diversely. Join a writing critique group just to get your hands on other people’s manuscripts and practice, practice, practice.The best advice I can give newbie editors is to study The CMOS as thoroughly as possible and read widely and diversely... and practice, practice, practice. - @molliereads Click To Tweet
What’s a day in Mollie’s work life like?
I try to schedule a typical eight-to-five work day, but occasionally I do have to work on the weekends or in the evenings if I take breaks during the day. Freelancing is wonderful because it means there’s flexibility to go grocery shopping at eleven o’clock in the morning, but if you want to have any semblance of a work-life balance, I suggest creating a schedule you stick to.
I try to wake up early (between five thirty and six o’clock) and get my reading in first thing. I like to read in the morning because usually by the evening my eyes are destroyed, haha. I’ll try and spend an hour or two reading, eating breakfast, drinking coffee . . . pretty much all the pleasant “me time” things. It’s the only way I actually get up in the morning! My husband and I will walk our dog if it’s not too cold outside, and I usually get ready and be at my desk by eight or eight thirty.
I normally start out my day with the tasks that demand the most creativity or concentration so I can work distraction-free. Usually, I schedule out my editing projects by how many pages I can get done in an hour so I have mini goals throughout the day. I like to switch up tasks in the afternoon to more admin-related work like creating invoices, responding to emails, etc. If I get distracted or sleepy, I usually take tiny (ten- to fifteen-minute) breaks and clean the house or go for a walk with my pup so I can give my eyes a rest from the screen! Every day, I try to wrap up work by five or five thirty, but it honestly just depends. Evenings are spent either going to the gym with my husband and then cooking a meal at home or going out with friends (I do try to force myself to go out more since I work from home!).
Which book are you currently reading?
I’m reading (well, listening to) Becoming by Michelle Obama and it’s absolutely addictive.
What’s next for you, Mollie? Any new projects in the works?
I’m planning on launching an Editing 101 class in 2019. I still have a lot of work to do, but that’s on the horizon, and I’m really excited about it! You can check out molliereads.com to keep track of it if you’re interested in it. Other than that, the podcast is kind of a new project! No Thanks We’re Booked is a podcast about books and life that I cohost with my friend Katie!
Mollie is a cat-wrangling, margarita-drinking, book-reading, manuscript-editing, Jesus-loving kind of gal. She lives in North Carolina with my husband, two kitties, and a lazy hound dog. Mollie works as a freelance book editor, but also part-time as an editor and copywriter for a traditional publisher. In her free time, you can find her gushing about books on her Bookstagram and the No Thanks We’re Booked podcast with her cohost and kindred spirit, Katie.
Thank you for sharing, Mollie!
I’ll be interviewing more freelancers–I’d love to know your freelancing questions! Which of Mollie’s tips do you find most helpful? We’d like to know!