You don’t need to fly around the world to edit for a China pub, or, Reverse outsourcing

Note: This blog post also ran in the Society of Professional Journalism’s “Journalism and the World” blog. Click here to see the original post

There is a shortage of English-language writers and copyeditors in China.

Especially experienced ones. The reason is that expats typically don’t stay in China for a long time – it’s stressful. They start missing their friends and parents. They want to buy shoes that aren’t four sizes too small. They want real pizza. They miss Chinese food. (There’s no Chinese food as we know it in China. Unlike India, which is full of Indian food. And Japan, which is full of sushi.)

Also, copyeditors tend to be quiet, meticulous people. They’re good at punctuation and AP style. They tend not to hop on a plane and move to China.

The ones who do are the risk-takers, the earth-shakers — but they often don’t have the patience for good copyediting. As a result, China is full of English-language editors who are not really a natural fit for their jobs.

And there are plenty of English-language pubs here that can use a good go-over.

Skills needed:

* The ability to work across time zones, with people you’ve never met, who have trouble communicating in English.
* Must be patient — you don’t have to clean up the whole paper at once. Just leave it better than when you started. Gradual improvement is the key.
* It helps if you can switch between US and British spelling and grammar.
* It also helps if you’re sensitive and willing to teach. Use grammar and usage mistakes as learning opportunities for your writers. They’ll be greatful, and your work will get easier as their writing improves. If you’re heavy-handed, they might start arguing with you — and really, you can win a grammar argument with someone on the other side of the world who has his English grammar textbook open in front of him. (Some of the English textbooks used here are just horrible.)

How to get started:

* Do some networking. Volunteer to help edit websites for professional journalism organizations, or copyedit some industry newsletters. Do a long-distance internship or two. Build up a portfolio and a list of contacts.
* Work one-on-one with writers. There are Chinese writers (I personally know at least one) who are writing for US pubs about China and could use some editing help.

Benefits:

* China is growing very fast and needs more and more copyeditors. This is a career that will keep you set for life.
* You work at home, on your own schedule.
* You get to travel to China to meet your writers and bosses, and it’s a tax-deductible business expense. Hey, your pubs might even spring for the tickets.
* You’ll be part of covering the biggest story on the planet. Without leaving your home.
* You can work around your current job or class schedule or babies or sick parents.
* You can live on a tropical island somewhere and take your laptop to the beach where you work while you sip (virgin) pina coladas.

Look me up.

Signing off in Shanghai,

Maria