Traditionally, indexers have worked for publishers of books or periodicals. Publishers of encyclopedias, legal books, medical journals and newspapers usually employ a staff of indexers. They are full-time employees, or they earn a living by freelance indexing. Freelance indexers are self-employed workers who sell their indexing services. Publishers hire freelance indexers to work on specific books or projects.
Novice indexers can enter the field by becoming a junior member of an indexing team at a large publishing house, or they can work as editorial assistants. Beginners commonly work under the close supervision of a more experienced staff member. Freelance indexers begin by soliciting work—a time-consuming and difficult process. In order to gain experience and build client relationships, novice indexers must initially accept small jobs at relatively low pay rates. In time, independent indexers develop a network of employers and learn to negotiate fees according to the latest market rates.
Junior indexers may advance to positions of greater seniority in two to three years. Eventually, an indexer can attain a supervisory position within an indexing department. Experienced freelance indexers may charge reasonably higher rates as their level of expertise increases.
Index a nonfiction book and compare your index with the published one in the back of the book. This will help you to gain experience and improve your indexing techniques.
Contact indexers to set up information interviews. This will help you get an idea of the job, its responsibilities, and the overall industry.
Research professional organizations for indexers and editorial freelancers. These groups may provide continuing education courses that can help you gain additional skills or learn how to manage a freelance business.
Stay up to date on indexing software.