How to Hire a Freelance Editor

March 21, 2022

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Hey folks!

More editing content this week. I feel like there are some major things in this subject that I should address sooner rather than later, being a freelance editor’s blog and all that.

So today, we’re looking at a question I’m sure at least some of you are wondering: How do I go about hiring a freelance editor?

Or maybe even, Why should I hire a freelance editor?

Here’s what we’ll look at:

  1. Why should I hire a freelance editor?
  2. How do I find a freelance editor?
  3. How do I reach out to freelance editors?
  4. How do I choose which editor to hire?
  5. What does working with an editor look like?

Just a quick note: you don’t always need an editor. Yeah, I said it. It depends on the situation and what your goals are (which I go into a little more below). So with each case, ask yourself: are your editing skills where they need to be for the project at hand? For instance, if you’re submitting a manuscript to agents, you might not actually need someone like me. If you’re a competent enough editor to work through your own manuscript, then by all means, go for it. If you aren’t, can your beta readers help you? (Note that beta readers aren’t expected to be proofreaders/editors. But maybe you have friends, like me, who are willing to do some light double duty.) If you don’t feel confident that will be enough, consider hiring outside help.

Why should I hire a freelance editor?

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To continue off the point above, some of you may wonder why you even need someone like me in the first place. And you know what? Valid question. What can I do that you can’t, especially if you have a grasp on good editing techniques and practices?

Simple: objectivity and fresh eyes.

Sometimes those things aren’t needed. Are you writing so you can go back and look at this time in your life, privately? Are you writing a nice birthday present that you want to do entirely by yourself? Then you’re right – I might not be needed.

But are you writing something you want to share with the public? Do you want a second opinion on if the plotline of your story is working? Do you want to clean up your poems, even if they’re just for yourself or a loved one, so they’re the best they can possibly be? I could come in handy.

When you edit your own work, you inevitably bring a level of subjectivity to it. That line sounds weird, but it took you hours to come up with it. You put your soul into it, you can’t rework it! That word is your favourite word, it has to stay in. That stanza is just . . . fun. You don’t want to cut it.

I can come in and provide another take that you might not be able to think of. What if we changed this one word in that weird sounding line? That sounds better, right? What if we got that important meaning across this way instead – does it still feel like your soul told it? That favourite word is cool . . . but is it really worth keeping in? Can we put it in a different part instead? I do love that stanza . . . but here’s why it doesn’t fit. Maybe you can write another poem around it, and I can help?

To that fresh-eyes point: your brain is more likely to overlook spelling mistakes than mine, simply because you wrote it and already know what it’s supposed to say. Trust me, the number of times I’ve read sentences in my own writing as grammatically flawless, only to come back to them for the tenth time to find, oh, “the” isn’t actually there. Whoops. And the amount of times I’ve done that? I know, 100%, that there are others I’m missing, and will continue to miss, until someone else points them out to me. I will be that missing “the” finder for you. That “I think you mean here and not hear” person. The “would a comma work better?” questioner.

Simply put: a freelance editor can catch and question things you might simply be overlooking. Even if you don’t take our suggestions, the fact that we made you question and then make a decision about your work is worth it in the end.

How do I find a freelance editor?

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Google is your friend, first and foremost. So are hashtags on social media. There are a lot of us on Upwork, Reedsy, and simply on our own websites, like I am here. Try key words like poetry editor or fantasy editor to yank us out of the weeds of all the other types of editors.

You can also look to other writers! Do they have a published book? Who did they have edit it? Would they recommend working with that person? Maybe there’s an acknowledgement section of a book you own. Is the editor thanked? What’s their name? Check out their website or socials if they have any (they’ll likely be somewhere). But also make sure, is that person freelance, or do they work for a publisher? If they aren’t freelance, you’ll likely need to look somewhere else.

There are also some small companies that specialize in helping writers with their work. For example, Tell Tell Poetry works specifically with poets. I haven’t worked with them, but they honestly seem lovely. (If any of you have worked with them, or a company like them, tell me about the experience!)

Simply put: do some research! Find us on Google, freelance platforms, and through other writers.

How do I reach out to freelance editors?

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This one varies.

It’ll depend on the platform, the editor, that sort of thing.

In some cases, you might need to make an account with a website (like Upwork or Reedsy). These are free to use, and there are hundreds of professionals at your fingertips. Some platforms let you reach out to the freelancer(s) you might want to hire, on some they come to you, and sometimes it’s a mix of the two.

In other cases, there might be a form to fill out on an editor’s website, asking for details about the project you want edited. As an example, I have one on my contact page. This kicks off a conversation between you and your potential editor that may end in the signing of a contract/agreement.

Similarly, it could be as simple as an email or a DM. Reach out and ask questions – how does that person edit? Would they consider editing something like your project? That sort of thing.

As a freelancer, I do have one request – tell us how long the project is! Always include the word count, and for poems, how many there are. This information can be crucial to deciding not only what our quote might eventually be should we reach that stage with you, but if we can take it on given our other projects.

Feel free to find a few editors and reach out to them – that’s actually the most beneficial to you, and we expect we aren’t the only one you’re looking at! Finding the right editor is important. You want them to get what you’re doing, and to get along with them. Editing can be a highly collaborative process, especially when you go beyond simple proofreading. If you don’t think a relationship with a person will work, you shouldn’t hire them. Listen to that gut of yours!

Simply put: reaching out looks different in different settings and circumstances. Know the platform or person you’re dealing with and their expectations, and go from there. But take care to feel out what you think is best for you and your work.

Which leads me to my next point . . .

How do I choose which editor to hire?

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Like I said, look around. Ask questions. Feel out if this person will be good for your project. See what else they worked on (and know that new freelancers/editors without extensive portfolios can be great, too). Does anything they edited look similar to your work? Do you find conversing with them easy? Is this a relationship you’re looking forward to?

If you think there’s a red flag – either a genuine one that everyone should notice, or just one for you – take note of it, and find someone else. Maybe my posts rub you the wrong way for some reason, and you just can’t see yourself working with the person behind them. That’s ok! Find someone who’ll make you feel confident you’ll end up with a collection/poem/story you’re happy with. Or maybe my blog style really connects with you, and your work is similar to, say, Ocean by Noah Thompson. We chat, and the quote comes back in budget, and you want to hire me. Great! It’ll be different for every person and every editor.

Speaking of budgets – this will also factor into your choice. Different editors have different rates. Some charge by the hour, some by the project/milestone. Not all editors will list their fees on their site, but don’t let that deter you from reaching out. If you request a quote (whether that’s given to you right away or not, or maybe you just get a ballpark at first from them) and it comes back out of budget, no harm done. You can just tell us it won’t work out, and move on to find someone that does work within budget.

While we’re talking money, I will also say – some people don’t expect the rates an editor gives them. Some editors do this as a side hustle, and can afford to charge clients less money thanks to a full-time and full-paying job. Others, like me, have to charge more so that we can actually make a living. This is the only job we have, and the prices have to reflect that. And even those who do have other jobs are entitled to have higher rates, especially if they have the experience to go with it. So don’t be turned off by someone quoting you a higher-than-expected price, but know we’re also aware not everyone will be able to afford it and will have to look elsewhere.

Simply put: choose the person you think is best for you and your project, and that fits within your budget. Know that the exact hiring process varies with platforms and people, but don’t worry – the editor and/or the platform will help you through it!

And finally . . .

What does working with an editor look like?

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Again, this is different from editor to editor. So I can really only speak in detail for myself. But I’m positive there’s overlap with others!

As I said earlier, working with an editor is collaborative. Sometimes editing looks like Zoom calls, going over ideas I have and seeing if they match the writer’s expectations. Sometimes it’s conversations in track changes comments, or over email. It depends on the client, the project, and the platform.

Developmental editing will definitely be back and forth no matter the case, and copy editing will likely have some thanks to sentence adjustments and such. Story proofreading, less so. It’s pretty straight-forward. There are pretty set rules to follow, expectations English readers usually have (of course some people might want to break these rules and expectations, but in general, we stick to them). But in poetry, that’s not always the case, especially in free verse.

That’s why when you work with a poetry editor, there are more suggestions and discussions than concrete instances of “change this” when proofreading and doing light copy edits. Those of course do come up – if you spell therefore “therfore” I’m going to correct it. But otherwise, I’ll likely leave a comment.

Simply put: for any project, working with a freelance editor should look like collaboration. You should always feel comfortable discussing changes and edits with your editor. We want to help you make a project you’re pleased with!

And there you have it! Of course, this isn’t a definitive guide as to what will happen between you and an editor. There will be some deviations, maybe the odd surprise, but I hope this general overview makes you feel more equipped for moving forward. And remember – your goal doesn’t have to be publication to want to work with an editor. We’re happy to help whatever the case may be!

Please go ahead and ask me any questions about this in the comments! I’ll do my best to answer them 🙂 And I have posts planned about some of the things I talked about above, so keep an eye out for those.

Until next time!

Published by Kaila Desjardins

Freelance editor, fiction writer, proud nerd.

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