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  • Anna Nelson

Tips for Hiring an Editor: How to Have the Best Editing Experience


Recently, I hired an editor to review the written content of my new website. I was nervous about hiring someone I did not know, and it felt like my soul was exposed as she looked over the writing. After all, I spent weeks putting it together, and I wanted it to sound professional but also sound like me. Now I know how all my writers feel when they share their work! I learned four big lessons from the experience that I will gladly apply to my future services. I hope you can learn from these experiences too, to avoid some of the editing pitfalls I found.


MAKE SURE YOU ARE ON THE SAME PAGE ABOUT THE TYPE OF EDITING YOU NEED

I made a basic mistake by assuming my editor knew what type of editing I wanted based on our conversations. And I can only assume she felt the same way. I was slightly miffed and dismayed when I received her work back and she had performed a CONTENT edit when I wanted a COPY edit. I was looking for someone to fine-tune the details to make sure I did not make any bonehead mistakes. (How embarrassing would that be for someone who is selling editing services?) She, on the other hand, wanted to fix and re-work my writing style. I’m not wholly opposed to such corrections, and I actually made some great improvements because of her input, but it’s always a bummer to get a piece back that is not edited the way you were expecting.


MAKE SURE YOUR EXPECTATIONS AND THOSE OF YOUR EDITOR MESH

When I hired someone to review my website copy, I expect them to look at the written content in the context of the website. However, not all editors will do this. Some of the edits that were made to my webpage were to correct ‘errors’ that are clearly the way they are for stylistic reasons on the website. I wish I had taken more time when hiring this editor to see how she approached a website edit. My expectation was for the editor to look at my web content in context, but she assumed a review of the content in the Word document she requested was sufficient. When I review a website, I always check the actual website and even offer to verify links for a small additional fee. I assumed that is how all editors work on a website, but that is not the case. An in-depth conversation ahead of time would have saved me some disappointment here.


IT’S OK TO INSIST ON A SAMPLE OF THE WORK IF YOU HAVE ANY CONCERNS

I asked my editor for a small sample of the work she was doing on my project, but not till after I had paid an initial deposit. At that point, she refused my request. All I wanted was a paragraph or two to make sure we were on the same page with the edit (which it turns out we weren’t) and that I felt her work was competent. Her response was that she could not send me a sample from a four-page document. I was left wondering if she did not understand technology well enough to copy and paste two paragraphs from the Word document into an email. After several messages back and forth, I gave up and just had her go for it. I had already paid a deposit and it was a small project. In the future, I’m going to insist on a sample of work before I pay anything. Most editors should be willing and happy to provide such a thing.


DON’T COMMIT TO ANYTHING YOU DON’T FEEL COMFORTABLE DOING

The final lesson I learned is about the impact of asking a client for feedback (or anything else that could make them uncomfortable) before the job is complete. I was requested to provide a testimonial for the editing work before we even had a contract, or I had seen any of the edited content. I agreed with a little hesitation, assuming I would be happy with the work in the end when I would provide the testimonial. Unfortunately, by that time I had lukewarm feelings about the job. I was put in the tough position of trying to be nice but also honest. I did my best to write a testimonial that was positive but did not require me to stretch the truth of my experience. I would have felt better if we had completed the transaction, and then I was asked if I was happy with the work. At that point, if I was happy, then the editor could have requested that I provide a testimonial. Or better yet, I would rather fill out a survey or feedback form for the editor, so I had a chance to share my opinion on the good and bad of the experience. Oh well, to each their own. If you feel uncomfortable about committing to a testimonial or anything else ahead of time, feel free to say so. Or better yet, find an editor who asks for feedback after the project is complete.


I don’t mean for my experience to sound negative. I did appreciate quite a bit of the input I received. And now I’ve learned some great lessons that can apply both for editors and for folks who need editing services! It’s always a bummer to not get the results you expect when you pay for something, but an in-depth conversation before editing work begins can be an easy way to avoid such problems. I’m happy to sit down with all my clients prior to starting a project to confirm we are on the same page. Reach out to me if you feel like you could use my help.

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