How to Hire a Freelance Editor
Updated: Jun 26, 2018
If you're new to the process of hiring a freelance editor, the idea of paying a stranger a good chunk of money to mess with your manuscript might sound like a daunting task. How can you pick the right editor? How do you know if you even need an editor yet? How do you know which type of editing you need?
I understand that the questions might be endless. However, I can hopefully answer a few of those questions with my own experience.
1. Give it time
There are multiple reasons why this is my number one piece of advice. You may have a complete draft in front of you, but that doesn't mean it's ready for editing. You may have heard this advice before, but leaving your project alone for a couple weeks (or even just a matter of days) before re-reading it can help you tremendously. So let your manuscript sit for just a short time, get your mind off of it, and then return with a fresh perspective. You want to catch as much as you can by yourself so that you can send the editor your most polished version.
Additionally, taking your time allows you to spend the necessary time researching freelance editors. I'll give some more advice on that in a moment, but I recommend that you don't rush into the process.
Lastly, hiring an editor could involve a waiting period of 2-3 months to get into their schedule and then another waiting period while they edit your project. It's all going to take time, so patience is key in getting through the whole process.
2. Do your research
If you have no idea where to begin, don't worry. You can always start with a simple Google search, but that will bring up hundreds of results, which could be overwhelming. The most thorough way to find an editor through Google is to search for specific niches that apply to your project. That way, you'll find someone specially suited for your genre or style.
A more involved approach would be to join groups of writers online, whether that be Facebook, Twitter, or another website. Ask around for recommendations from other writers like you.
Once you have a few editors at the top of your list, check out their websites and get to know them as well as you can. Check out their qualifications, their testimonials from past clients, their prices, their editing policies, and any other information they offer. If they write, read through some of their articles or publications to get a sense of their own writing style and ability to communicate effectively. This can all help you determine whether or not you like the editor's personality and style, which plays an important role in the editor-writer relationship.
3. Ask questions
If you have narrowed it down to a couple potential editors, reach out to them with any additional questions! You don't have to commit just because you ask for a quote or because you started talking to them.
Questions that you may ask:
When is your next availability in your editing schedule for a project this length?
Do you have experience with this specific genre?
What can I expect from your editing process?
Do you offer sample edits?
What does your payment plan look like? (Or any other financial questions specific to your situation.)
If you want the editor to answer questions specific to your project, then you'll need to provide them with details such as the word count, deadline, genre, and what type of editing you're interested in. They'll be able to give you the most informed answer, which will be more beneficial to you.
If you have read through the editor's website, you might have found answers to some of your questions already. You can take this opportunity to ask them questions that arose while you were on their website, based on specific things you noticed such as prices or policies.
4. Collect sample edits
If you have a lengthy manuscript to edit, then most editors should offer a sample edit either for free or for a minimal fee. If they refuse to offer a sample edit, I would be wary because you can't get a sense of how they edit. (Keep in mind, however, that if your project is very short, editors might not offer a sample or may shrink the sample size offered.)
Collect sample edits from a couple different editors and compare. If you've requested developmental editing, see which editor offers feedback that you can understand and implement. You want to be sure that you and the editor can communicate clearly and effectively throughout the whole process, and this is your trial run. A sample should also help you feel more comfortable paying for that editor's service, rather than blindly handing your money to somebody.
5. Finalize the agreement
All that's left to do now is make a decision. After you've completed the past four steps, you should be in good hands with an editor who has references, has helpful answers to your questions, has provided you with a sample edit, and has expressed interest in working with you.
While some editors may not routinely provide a contract, I recommend one to benefit both parties. You're trusting the editor with your money, and the editor is trusting that you'll pay them for all their work. A well-written contract outlines all the details that you have worked out regarding the length of the manuscript, the editing time frame, the rate of pay, the method of delivery, the method of payment, and more. There should usually be a confidentiality clause with the editor agreeing not to share or reuse your work. There will likely be other details for you to read over, but those are the starting points, which are important to have in writing in case anything goes wrong.
And now you wait!
After you send the editor your manuscript, you have to do some more waiting. Once you receive your edited manuscript, you may be interested in reading about how to work with an editor's feedback to get the most out of the process.