Freelance Editing as a Business or Hobby?

I have been debating whether or not to take a hobby, editing and manuscript writing to a business level. While I have put forth most of my efforts seeking a “day job,” I have been editing as favor to a few people. They have been paying me roughly $10/hour. And while I do intend to charge a little more, if I try to take this into a business, since my efforts at finding even a temporary job I have begun to resemble Sisyphus.
I posted, earlier on this topic, and was asked why only $10? Well, and I thought it warranted a well-thought answer. I have been doing this on the side, mostly as favors, and completely off-the-books, to fellow students in a pinch. Mostly, I would decide together what was fair, although I never left with less than $10/hour in my pocket, and as much as $20/hour. I suppose the real topic, besides the ethics, was how do I go from a fellow student, typing and editing as a favor, to a business professional.
I have been jobless for seven months now. And freelance editing and manuscript typing is looking better and better. I’m tempted, seriously, to make it into a job, but I don’t have the slightest idea how to begin that venture.
First, I must decide who my target audience is. I live in a smallish town, with one University and two small tech schools. My major target would be the students in these schools.
Then I must decide how much to charge. I’m leaning toward charging $4/page for basic editing, $7/page for manuscript typing and $9/page for content revision in the English and Philosophy fields. Why do I plan on charging so little? Writing comes easily to me. I know those two particular fields very well. I also type, and read/revise fairly quickly which would ratchet up the $/hour. Also, I would charge these rates for another reason. My target audience will consist of single-parent families, low-income kids, there are others, but these are the groups that will, more than likely, come to me with need. I cannot turn away them because I want more money. I’m editing and revising and typing. If I charge too much, I lose the chance at potential clients.
Also, I need to advertise and get my name out there. That’s not too much work, I have friends in high places, and some of them have minions. Mwahahaha.
But my biggest, and most troubling, is the business side. When is this considered business vs. a hobby? Do I claim it on taxes? If so, how? When would I claim it on taxes? Am I considered self-employed? How much tax will I have to pay? Is your head spinning? Mine certainly is. Business, it seems, has never been my strong suit. That was always passion. I care. I care about people. I care about writing. I care about doing a good job. But the money. The money and the business side of life have always eluded me. I can barely balance my checkbook. Okay, recently that’s more because there’s no money there, than I’m spending money. I suppose this warrants more thought before I jump head-first into the water that may be far deeper than it appears.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Freelance Editing as a Business or Hobby?

  1. Ah, now this is something I know how to help with. The local university in the town in which you live has a (I believe mostly) free-to-use small business assistance center at the Business college. (I know this because I attended school there and visited the small business center.) They’ve got classes and resources to help figure out a lot of this stuff. I’m not sure if the classes cost money – I think they’re free, I attended one, but I can’t be sure as it’s been a few years. But they can be a lot of help in figuring this out.

    Another option, of course, is to get the flock out of small-town dodge and move to a bigger city with a slightly more robust economy (and more job prospects) – still a long-shot in this recession-that’s-supposedly-over, but the regular job prospects are probably a lot better in a bigger city than in a smaller town (and if you wanted to pursue the editing business, there are probably more colleges, schools, unversities, tech schools, etc. filled with potential clients).

    • I should totally know that! Since I went to the local university as well. Duh. I was even in the Business College for like, a year-ish. It’s just been such a long time since I’ve been there…like 10 years ago. I’ll have to check it out.
      Of course moving to a bigger city with potentially more clients, and better job prospects, would be a no brainer. However, for the time being at least, I’m sorta attached to the area. Hopefully, however, my fiance will get his fricken dissertation over with soon (big hopefully here) and we can move. He’s been talking about moving for almost a year, but he has to finish his dissertation first, or he’ll pretty much start all over. So. For the time being, I’m kinda stuck in one place.

      • I totally understand that situation, of course. Hopefully things work out, one way or another.

        Oh, by the way, in response to your question on a post that is no longer here: when you’re in wordpress editing the post, there should be a box on the right-hand side of the screen where you’ve got publishing options like when you want to post, and your publicize options, and so on. One of those will say something like “Post Status: Public”. If you click the edit or more link next to that you’ll see options for “Private” – in which case only you an access the post – and “Password Protected”. If you choose the latter option, you’ll have to provide a password. The post title will still show up in the stream of posts, but in place of the content will be a message indicating the post is password protected with a place to enter the password you set when you chose that option. Whoever has the password can enter it to see the full post.

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