Montreal-based editor Katrina Tortorici only turned to freelance work once she had built up a few years of work experience with a children's app company and a digital marketing agency. She recommends being patient and willing to network as important attributes in getting started in the freelance space. A sense of humour also helps!
What do you love most about being an editor?
Hmm…there’s lots I love about being an editor. For one, I’m a stickler for grammar and punctuation, so (put dramatically) something almost chemical happens inside of me when I get to polish a piece of writing. I’m also a clean freak, so that might have something to do with it…
It also makes me ecstatic when a writer expresses that their piece has been shaped into the message it was meant to be all along. That said, if I had to answer what I love most, I’d have to say it’s working with writers: witnessing their progress first-hand, the drastic improvement in their writing abilities, and how pleased they are with their final draft.
When did you decide that you wanted to go down the route of freelance editing?
I think the idea sparked during my undergrad, in my first ever editing class. My professor at the time (shout-out to Laura, a brilliant person and good friend) saw I had a knack for refining a text and providing feedback to writers. I realized I did love it, and I would consider myself lucky to work as an editor in any field.
But I didn’t go full freelance until I had a few years of work experience. I started off as a content manager for a children’s app company and then a content manager and editor for a digital marketing agency. It was near the end of my second year with the latter when I mustered up the courage to go at it on my own. It was time I broadened my scope and worked on projects that I was excited to work on.
What does your average week look like?
This is a tough one… My weeks never look the same, but if I had to generalize, I’d say something like this: My mornings are spent sipping coffee and answering messages—including from the lovely people at Quill. My tasks are completed by the early afternoon, after which I’ll switch gears and spend time on marketing; i.e. tweaking my website, publishing a blog post, applying for short-term contracts, putzing around LinkedIn, catching up with old contacts. I’ll usually have one or two phone, video, or in-person meetings during the week, too—I cannot emphasize enough the importance of networking, whether it’s expressing interest in someone’s work and asking for an informational interview or teaming up with a writer or fellow editor to attend events, work together/refer each other, and act as one another’s support system.
Then of course, urgent tasks or requests from new or existing clients come in. So, no matter what I have planned for the day, I have to remain flexible to fit in those (always welcomed) interruptions.
"I cannot emphasize enough the importance of networking, whether it’s expressing interest in someone’s work and asking for an informational interview or teaming up with a writer or fellow editor to attend events, work together/refer each other, and act as one another’s support system."
Are there any keys to success when working in the freelance space?
As I mentioned, networking is a must, both in person and online. Being part of groups made up of professionals, attending seminars, joining memberships—these are the sort of things a freelancer relies on to gain business and build contacts, who one day might refer you.
But the main key to success I would have to say is failure. There will be projects that fall through and clients that are difficult to work with—or don’t want to work with you at all—and that’s okay. Each failure has led me to a clearer understanding of the kind of professional I wanted to be and much, much closer to projects that aligned with my goals as an editor.
It can be difficult to stay engaged when working remotely. How do you like to engage your teams of remote content creators?
Slack and Google Hangouts have been life-savers. I love these tools because they’re so much less formal—and of course, instant—than email, which can also feel cold and distant. I like for my writers to know that I’m reachable and approachable, so I encourage them to message me with any issues they run into or questions that come to mind.
Humour is also a biggy for me—remaining lighthearted and having the occasional laugh with my creators helps build a rapport and sense of comradery that I think every writer-editor relationship would benefit enormously from. I’m with Oscar on this one: Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about.
How do you manage your work-life balance?
This is a simple one for me: Unless it’s absolutely urgent, I keep weekends work-free. I don’t think overworking contributes to success. For me, keeping your social life and family life healthy means being in touch with yourself as an individual, a parent, a best friend, etc.; and—bonus—it means you’re able to pour more energy into your work week.
Are there any unique benefits or challenges when working as a freelancer in Canada?
Definitely! I find we’re rather exposed to American, European and British cultures, in terms of media and literature especially, but also because Canada is so culturally diverse. This exposure makes it easy to chat and connect with people from all over the world. I’m also Italian and because I live in Montreal, I speak French, so I’m always happy to connect with those who share a similar background. It’s always a positive to find something in common with a client, writer, or fellow editor.
The downside could sometimes be that some companies outside of Canada, particularly in the US, prefer to work with freelancers with a work visa; because of this, I’ve found it to be more difficult to penetrate the American market.
If you could go back to when you started as an editor, what advice would you give to yourself?
Three things. For one: Be patient—because finding clients, specifically good ones, take time.
Two: Stay true to your values—it’s not worth working with people who lack respect for your craft and time.
And lastly: Be kind to yourself—it’s easier to give up than get back up, and every time you do, it’s a win.