Freelance: Find & Manage an Editor

You’ve finished your masterpiece and want to get it professionally edited.  If you have no access to brick and mortar editors, you might be considering using an online, freelance editor. Scrolling through freelance profiles on the many sites they populate sometimes has the same seedy feeling of looking through the personals section of a newspaper  (we’ve all done it—let’s just call it morbid curiosity).   How do you separate the amateur from the professional?  More importantly, how do you ensure this person meets your expectations?  Here’s a few basic tips to help you along.

Know how much you should pay.

paying frog.jpgA good place to start would be to check out the Editorial Freelancers Association website. This organization provides a pay rate chart which offers common rates for different types of editorial freelance work.  While this chart provides hourly rates, you may want to pay a flat fee.

The danger of the flat fee is some people make the mistake of paying the freelancer everything up front.  Don’t let this be you.  If you agree to hire a freelancer based on a flat rate, most websites (Upwork, Freelancer, etc.) allow you to set milestones for the freelancer to meet.  Money is not released until each milestone is achieved and approved by you.  If the website doesn’t, or you are dealing with someone who owns their own business, you need to work this into a contract (more on contracts below).

money on the shoulderFees for work will vary.  The more experience the editor has (which should be reflected in a portfolio and resume) the more they might charge.  Knowing this, resist the temptation to take the lowest bid you see.

For example, if you post a contract to get your 80,000 word novel copyedited and someone offers to do the work for $50 (USD), know you are likely dealing with an amateur.  In my opinion, no legitimate editor is going to offer to work for .000625 cents per word.

A legit editor should send you a contract of some sort. 

contract evil.jpg

Read the fine print…

If you select a person, start corresponding with them, and they never mention a contract—that’s a red flag.  Freelancers get shafted by clients just as often as clients get shafted by amateur freelancers.  By this I mean many people like the idea of being a freelancer (reading is fun, thus, reading in my underwear while imbibing and getting paid is more fun), but the application (long hours, lots of style guide searching, strained eye balls, formal training) causes them to throw the white flag up before they finish the work.  On the other hand, plenty of freelancers have had clients disappear unannounced, rage quit, or simply lose interest before they could finish their work.  For these reasons, a contract is essential.

The EFA website offers an example of what a contract could look like.

Also, for the purposes of transparency and education, here is a sample template I work with in my own business.  Keep in mind this contract was specific to a client and not applicable to all situations.  It blends together elements I needed for that specific job.

The contract should specify what work is required.  It’s not good enough for it simply to say “editing” or “copyediting.”  It needs to indicate exactly what kind of editing is required and what this means.  Even among editors, there seems to be some disagreement about these definitions.  With that being said, ensure you are both clear with what work will be done.

While I focus on general editing, as explained on my services page, there are many other types of editing out there.  If you are unfamiliar with the different types of editing, I would encourage you to swing by North of Andover, The Sentranced Writer, and Dario Ciriello’s WordPress sites.  They are all editors who I have corresponded with via my blog who I feel have intuitive breakdowns of their various services.  They also do a good job of providing definitions of service.

Do a test run as part of the interview process. 

interview.pngYou do a test drive before you fork out money for a car.  Why not take your freelancer for a test drive before you pay them too?  After all, it’s better to hire a professional once, then stumble through multiple amateurs who may still not make the grade.  Personally, I don’t mind if a prospective client asks me to edit a chapter or two for free.

*Note.  Before you ever send your manuscript to anyone, you should generate a nondisclosure agreement.  This prevents them from farming the work out to a third party, or using your manuscript for nefarious purposes.  

It’s also essential to check out profiles, resumes, and portfolios.  Gloss over the soft sell information (lover of fiction, bibliophile, editor of the school newspaper) and hone in on formal training, established past work, or better yet, both.

Establish how you will communicate, and follow through. 


Hopefully it’s more efficient than this.

Most, if not all, contracts between freelancers and clients stipulate some kind of timeline.  It’s really unnerving to ask a client a question and not get a response for days, or to get a poorly written, one sentence response.  It’s even more of a low blow to schedule a video or phone conference and have your client be a no-show.

Remember, you are entering into a professional contract with a professional person.  The more of a relationship you establish with them, the more they will care about the work they are doing for you.  Some freelancers might even have professional connections of their own to share.  Start developing these pro habits now, because the next step may be courting agents and publishers—miss a meeting with them and it’s game over. *sad trombone*

Don’t take it personally.  

sad cat.jpgI’m a writer.  I get it.  It’s hard to receive criticism sometimes.  However, it’s far better to flush out the issues in private than to hire an amateur editor to tell you the work is amazing.  I have friends who are editors who can rip my work to pieces, but somehow make me feel warm and fuzzy about it.  On the flip side, I have friends who could edit, but I only ask to beta read because their editorial process makes me want to punch kittens—and I love kittens.

The point is, not all editors are good fits for all authors.  There can be personality conflicts on either end.  Try to flush these issues out in the hiring process by asking questions and paying attention to the responses.  Don’t be afraid to do a video or phone interview.

Lastly, don’t rush into hiring.

Just because you posted a job, doesn’t mean you have to hire someone immediately. Check multiple websites, make multiple posts, or see if there are non-freelance options that might suit you better.  In the end, no one is going to care about your work more than you will.  It’s up to you to place that precious cargo into the best hands available.

question markThat’s it for today.  What have your experiences been like working with, or as, a freelancer?  I’d be interested to know viewpoints from both perspectives.  Given I have only been working as a freelance editor professionally for around a year, I am constantly learning and tweaking my process.  Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

Copyright Info (final)

Freelancing: Bleeding in the Arena

Gee QE, for a person with editor in your blog handle you don’t talk about editing much.”  All right, let’t talk about editing today.  Freelance editing specifically.

When I started freelance editing, it was chaotic.  This is likely because I started on websites like Upwork and Freelancer.  It was the literary equivalent of stepping onto the sands of an ancient arena.

gladiator arena.jpg

Despite your past glories (editing chops) when you step onto those cyber sands, you are just a nameless slave.  So you build a stately resume to stand out.  You talk about all those days spent swinging swords in your homeland, and offer examples of battles won.

Unfortunately for you, the arena is already populated by seasoned and deadly gladiators who have proven their valor time and time again.  You realize quickly, despite what you’ve done in the real world, once you step into the cyber arena you have very little credibility compared to the people who have come before you.

Pollice Verso, by Jean-Léon GérômeSo what do you do?  You go to the Ludus Magnus and begin training.  Instead of carrying logs on your shoulders and hacking dummies with swords, you run in full armor while reading The Chicago Manual of Style.  For the price of time, the arena keeper offers tests to increase you rank.  Tests on grammar, syntax, and punctuation – you take them.  You surrender every extra denarii you can scrounge and upgrade to super-premium-ultra-silver editor status, and your ascension continues.  But still, unless you can get fights, you are all thunder and no lightning.

Now fights are hard to come by.  Maybe when those arenas first opened their cyber doors it was easier.  But those sands are packed down like cement.  Hardened by years of blood, tears, and broken dreams.  Those ancient gladiatorial juggernauts have the advantage, they get priority, and you must settle for smaller bouts.


Denarius (plural denarii) a Roman coin worth ten asses.  True story.

But even these minor squabbles are a bidding war.  Budding gladiators from around the globe have flocked to these cyber sands – they want your glory!  So what do you do?  You underbid on jobs.  “Two denarii a word?  Hah!  I’ll do it for one.”

Your tears mix with caked blood as you open your mailbox to see a scribbled letter. “We are sorry, but the winning bid was .0028 denarii a word.  We have no need for your sword.”  How is that even possible?  Is it measured in silver dust?  Have they even heard of the Editorial Freelance Association?

You continue to train.  Growing colder, harder, and more efficient.  You go to other arenas and market yourself there as well.  Finally, for a meager .0025 denarii a word, you land a fight.  It’s not even about the coin now.  You relish the opportunity for open literary combat – for glory!  The training pays off and you crush you opponent (you kill your deadlines and deliver a solid product to the client).  However, the mob is not impressed.  They don’t even leave you a review of the fight to bolster your rank.  This time, there will be no glory.

gladiator net.jpgRegardless, you will be paid, even if it is just a little.  You go to your doctore with an open hand, but he has nothing to offer you.  “It was spent to allow you passage into the arena,” he says.  More tears harden the sands (many of these websites, in addition to charging you to use their services, also take a percentage of your total pay from a client). 

This is your existence gladiator.  Steel yourself – there is potential for glory still.

You could impress the mob and they demand your return (you land a solid client who requests you personally when they have work).  There is also potential one of those older scar-covered gladiators could earn their freedom and join the ranks of the Rudiarii (they go into business for themselves, leaving the chaos of the sands, creating more clients for you as you increase in status).

Crossed_gladii.pngWhat is the moral of this story?  The moral is this – if someone tells you freelance editing is as simple as rolling out of bed in your pajamas and plopping down in front of a computer, they’re kind of right, but you should still chop them in half with a gladius.  On the other hand, you could ask them the secret to their success in exchange for a few denarii.

In my experience, it’s hard work.  The work itself can be easy (and fulfilling), but actually getting work when you just start off, now that’s the hard part.  If you’re lucky, you will get some repeat clients and won’t have to spend all of your time mindlessly scrolling through client ads.  Regardless, these cyber arenas are a good place to start generating clients to work with if you have no other place to pull from.

gladiator fallen.jpgTruth is, the clients are also gladiators in this cautionary tale.  They bleed and wage battle just like everyone else.  Many of them will die and lose themselves on those sands.  In this way, we are brothers and sisters in arms, lashed together by chains, doing our best to stay whole.  If you can keep each other alive, you chances at glory rise.  Perhaps your once unassuming client, and battle buddy, becomes something more.  Perhaps they join the ranks of the Rudiarii and remember the sweating blood covered slave who helped them survive the arena.  You are forging unshakable ties.  You are becoming more.

When you are able, you can start your own business and keep those clients with you.  Seize glory with those blistered fingertips!  Those global cyber arenas aren’t going to miss you.  The money you spend to start your own small business (especially if it’s just you) will be far less than the monthly/yearly fees and garnished paychecks you receive on many of those websites.

All of this, of course, is just one gladiators opinion/experience.  Have you had great experiences freelancing?  Are you considering taking to the sands?  Have you worked with freelancers and been burned?  Have you freelanced and been burned by a client?  You show me your scars and I will show you mine.

As for me, I’ll just be over here making sure the sand stays nice and moist.  Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

Copyright Info (final)

Copy Editing Marketing E-Books

online search.jpgSearch around freelance haunts for copy editing gigs and sooner or later you are going to find a few requests for editing marketing material.  These work requests are typically a mega-boring standard advert with an overly ridiculous parenthesis at the end saying, (URGENT MUST BE COMPLETED WITHIN 24 HOURS!).  Don’t stress!  These are (typically) short order jobs, living in 2,000 word land.  They are also relatively low paying, but hey, snap enough of these guys up and you can make some quick buckaroos.


  • Quick turnaround!  Is your bookie looking to break your legs?  Grab a few of these and pay those debts.
  • No story to deal with.  Unlike novels, you are typically dealing with straight up business hoopla.  You won’t be looking for plot holes, because they don’t exist.
  • Do a good job and you might be able to net some continuous work from the company.
  • A potential entry point for new freelancers to snag good reviews and bolster their online portfolios.


  • Some of the companies (or at least the poor soul tasked with hiring a freelancer) have no idea what they really want other than proofreading and formatting.  Here is a good article, 6 Tips for Copyediting E-Books, written by Joe Gillespie on the Business 2 Community website that gives you an idea of what they are looking for on their end.
  • Some freelance websites only allow you to do so many jobs per month *cough* Upwork *cough*.  Lots of little jobs for little money can exhaust your monthly jobs and leave you with empty wallets and empty bellies.
  • Can cause you to weep tears of boredom.

I’m sure more experienced hands than I could write volumes, but this is a taste.  Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

Copyright Info (final)

%d bloggers like this: