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It is not difficult to become a freelancer. Anyone can print up cards saying "freelance editor." Editorial directors and other hiring managers have little time to get to know freelancers, which is one reason they often hire from within their own networks.
They know there are many intelligent, capable freelancers out there -- along with a few who are incompetent or just plain crazy, and who can waste an editor's time and energy far beyond any value they bring to the organization.
So one of your jobs as a freelancer will be to convey professionalism with every communication. Don't pester editors who have told you "no." Use proper e-mail etiquette, including informative signature lines. Dress properly for any in-person gigs or meetings, and thank anybody who helps you along the way. Practice the art of small talk and use it to build a track record of positive interactions within the industry in which you work.
Almost any interaction might eventually lead to a job. One copy editor thought she had lost her standing in the field when she moved with her husband to Europe. Instead, a casual friend wound up contacting her for a job that involved editing news for a Web site in the wee hours of the morning, U.S. time -- well within her workday in her new location.