Four things to look for in your editor
So, you’re considering hiring an editor! Yay—that means I can skip the part where I convince you why editors are necessary and move on to what you should be looking for in your editor.
As a writer and editor myself, as well as someone who's been working in the freelance space, I would like to propose four vital checkboxes to tick off in your search.
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Why are these points vital? Well, just like in most industries, there are good editors… and then there are not-so-good editors. An editor might be not so good for several reasons. Maybe it’s just that they don’t have the same working style as you, and that’s ok. Or maybe it’s because they don’t know their stuff, and that’s not so ok. If you’re spending the time, energy, and money on working with an editor, you want to make sure they can actually do the job you hired them to do, right?
When you’re hiring your editor, look for…
A solid relationship
Your project is going to be most successful if you enjoy your relationship with your editor. You have to trust and respect your editor, because you’re going to be taking a lot of advice from them, and that’s only going to go well if you’re both on board.
When you’re searching for the right fit, suggest meeting up for a coffee—or, if you’re in different cities, hop on a Skype call. That way, you can see whether you get along before you make any commitments. This isn’t fool-proof, obviously—you may not be able to tell from one meeting whether someone is a good fit or not. However, you might instantly gel with someone, or you might have a bad feeling after meeting another person. Trust your gut—often, it knows best.
As I’ve come to learn, it’s always best to know beforehand that you’re not a good fit with someone, instead of finding out one month into a twelve-month project.
Sure, not every great editor has qualifications—but most do. Although any qualifications in English are good, specific qualifications in editing are better. Never heard of a qualification in editing? Well, for example, I’m currently studying a Master’s degree in Writing, Editing, and Publishing. This course includes subjects like Professional Communication, Academic and Corporate Editing, and Advanced Writing—and we learn about all sorts of essential things, ranging from the purposes and structures of documents to tiny details of grammar. Without these courses, I never would have learnt about things like expletive constructions or nominalisations. Well, maybe I would have, eventually—but not until someone pointed out that those were things I needed to know, and certainly not in such a guided manner.
If your editor hasn’t had this sort of training, not only is it unlikely that they understand things like expletive constructions, it’s unlikely that they even know about them. I just sound like I’m being a grammar nerd, but these things will make your writing a lot stronger—and that’s probably why you’re hiring an editor in the first place. You hire an editor because you don’t know (or care) about things like expletive constructions—so make sure your editor does.
Excellent writing skills
If your editor has qualifications (particularly in writing and/or editing), they’re probably going to be an excellent writer—but you can never be sure until you’ve seen their work.
The best way to check out your editor’s writing is to read their blog, if they have one. Read through several articles and see what you think—do they sound like someone you’d get along with? Can you see any typos or grammar errors? (Hopefully not!) Keep in mind that most editors and writers can change their writing style to fit their client’s needs. Just because an editor writes blog posts in a casual style doesn’t mean they can’t edit professional documents.
It’s also 100% ok (and expected, even) to ask for samples of the editor’s work before you hire them. You could ask to see previous work the editor has done with clients (they might have some sort of portfolio they can show you). You could even pay them to complete a section of the work (before you give them the whole project) so you can see their editing in action.
A good attitude
Now that I’ve been editing for a little while, I have come to consider the mark of an unprofessional editor to be the looking-down-the-nose attitude that seems to be so common in people who think they know about grammar.
If you’re working with someone like that, they probably haven’t had much experience working with clients—because, if they had, they would have learnt very quickly to ditch that attitude. Sure, everyone needs to start somewhere, and maybe you want to work with someone new to client work—and I commend you for that, because it can be difficult for young writers and editors to break into the field. However, a bad attitude in an editor could make your life difficult, so it’s something to watch for. Your editor should be your partner, not someone who waggles their finger at you.
An extra note
If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys, right? You’re probably not going to tick off all the boxes above if you’re unwilling to pay your editor. If you want your work to be high quality, you should be paying for it. Avoid Fiverr and find a freelancer or small-business owner who will work with you and take the care that your writing deserves.
Looking for an editor? Get in touch! I’d love to work with you.
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