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7 Tips for Working with Freelance Editors

You’ve completed your writing, it may be a novel, short story, picture book, or article for a magazine, and now you think you may need professional advice on how to make it the best it can be.  How do you go about working with someone to help you achieve this? Keep reading to find out the best tips for getting this job done.


I have used freelance editors for some of my writing and can honestly say the experience was exceptional.  For me, the cost of the editing was an investment in myself and my work. By having someone who does this professionally look at what I was doing I was able to improve my writing and editing skills greatly.


What is a freelance editor?


Freelance editors work for a fee, helping writers fix errors in their work and suggest changes to make it better. Freelance editors come from all sorts of backgrounds; some have worked for publishing houses, agencies, colleges, universities, and are sometimes even authors themselves.


The tips below will help you keep your interactions with an editor professional and beneficial.


1. Give them your best work


Before heading straight to a freelance editor take the time to edit the work yourself. This may mean multiple revisions over a longer period of time but the effort will be well worth it. Have your beta readers and critiquing partners go over your work and then edit again. Then, once you are certain you can do no more, take your work to the editor.


You will save yourself time and money by having your best work reviewed. If your work is full of errors it will take extra time for the editor to go through it. Constantly having to correct things like grammar, capitalization, repeated words, and poorly formed sentences all take time. It may even cost you more.


Plus, by editing your own work as much as you can, you will become a better writer. You will learn what should or shouldn’t be done as you write!


2. Get the right fit


Researching and networking are your two best tools when finding an editor that’s right for you. There are many resources for finding editors such as The Editor’s Association of Canada ( each with great number of editors at your disposal. Randomly picking one is going to be a waste of your time and theirs.


Networking is your best option for leads on editors because a trusted friend or colleague will be most likely to give you an honest referral to someone they have worked with or know. If someone you know in your critique circle has used a freelance editor they can be helpful in making contact.


Make sure to find an editor that edits your genre and sub-genre. If you write adult sci-fi make sure they edit it. If you write MG fantasy, don’t contact someone who only edits YA Romance.

3. Be specific about what you want


Imagine if you wanted your house painted. You contact a painter and say, “I want my house painted.” No more details, just that. Of course, the painter will do their best, but without direction they are not going to be very effective at doing what you want. Freelance editors are the same.


Do you want a line-by-line edit that details grammar and sentence structure? Do you want a high-level review of your work to see if you’re on the right path? Do you want both? Knowing the answer to these questions will help ensure you get exactly what you want when working with a freelance editor.


Get familiar with terms such as copy editing, line editing, and substantive editing. A more detailed list of terms can be found at


4. Get a cost and time estimate


To ensure there are no surprises or delays, request a cost and time for completion of the work. Most editors will need the word count of your work to estimate this. Be accurate and honest. Over or under reporting will help no one.


Once you have the cost and agree for them to do the work, set that money aside and don’t touch it. In your mind, this money should already be spent.


5. Be patient


Once you have submitted your work to the editor try to refrain from constantly trying to contact them. If an editor has questions they will ask. Constantly interrupting them will only serve to slow down their work. Harassment will almost certainly make them drop your project.


6. Check your ego


Once the editing is completed it’s time for the real fun. Be prepared for honest feedback. This is not the feedback you get from friends or family or close critiquing partners. A good editor will tell you what’s good and bad about your work without mincing words; hopefully it will be frank. Many people have a hard time dealing with honest criticism; your job now is to not be one of them.


You may be tempted to argue with the editor, to tell them why they are wrong and should stick their ill-informed opinions. Don’t. Check your ego and read what they have to say. Read it until you understand why they are saying what they’re saying. Read it a hundred times if you have to.


One caveat, the feedback should be frank without being belittling. Saying you need to work on characterization is acceptable; saying your writing is terrible and you should give up and never pick up a pen again is not.


7. Ask questions


Once you’ve read the feedback and tried to integrate it into your work, feel free to ask questions. Editors are happy to clarify any of their comments. If you have an idea that is related to the comments ask them about it. Editors love to help; it’s why they do what they do!


Be careful not to monopolize their time; they don’t owe you unlimited time because you paid them to edit your work, but don’t be afraid to get satisfactory answers



One final note; once the editing is complete, pay promptly. Some editors request a deposit, some request the full amount up front, some only request payment on completion. Regardless, pay what you owe right away, the same day if you are able. Not doing so means many things: 1) You are unprofessional and don’t value their work; 2) They have just spent a great deal of time helping you when they could have been helping someone else; 3) They now have to chase you down, which takes away from doing even more work.


Hopefully these tips will help you get the best freelance editor for your work!


Good luck!



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