Have you ever encountered the term ‘freelance editor’ online and wondered what, exactly, such a person does? Well, you’re not alone in wondering, and the truth is that the term is a little loose.
‘Freelance editor’ is applied to various types of role, and various levels of depth that the individual will go into to get a piece of content into a finished state.
Whether they work in-house or as a contractor, it is their job to examine copy and help make changes that enhance it before it goes out into the world. The types of changes they make really depend on their experience and skill level.
What is an editor?
As a general rule, an editor is someone who looks over copy to identify and correct errors in spelling, grammar and punctuation.
But an editor can be involved in a far more rigorous editing process that goes beyond these mainly cosmetic, superficial elements of the copy. For example, if an editor is employed to work on a person’s academic thesis or dissertation, they may also be providing expertise in a certain subject.
If the editor has a high level of knowledge in the relevant field, they will be able to say if certain statements don’t make sense, or arguments are lacking essential evidence. This type of editing goes far deeper into a piece of copy, and requires a more complex and specific skillset to be done effectively.
In essence, an editor is a second set of eyes and a second mind that a copywriter, author or other party responsible for creating copy might need to ensure their work is of the highest possible standard.
In her book ‘The Forest for the Trees’, author Betsy Lerner said “…editors are…the world’s readers. And thus the eyes of the world.”
So what about the ‘freelance’ part?
Many editors work on a freelance basis, which means they are contracted out and not an employee of the company. He/she is their own boss and works on contract. This could be carried out as a retainer arrangement, whereby the freelance editor does a specified amount of editing work each week or month.
It could also be arranged on an ad hoc or as-required basis by the client, meaning the freelancer is brought in and paid to do work only when their services are required.
The freelance economy is growing, and freelancing portals believe there will be more freelancers than salaried workers within a few years.
Essentially, the word ‘freelance’ means that you are a contractor rather than an employee. A freelancer is not usually entitled to any of the traditional workplace protections and benefits that are provided to an employee.
However, a freelancer gets to work to their own schedule and does their work in a way that suits them. This style of work is not going to be to everyone’s taste, but for those that like the arrangement, it is an opportunity to thrive and to achieve the work-life balance they could never get as an employee of a company.
Freelance editors are essentially running their own business. They must market themselves and make pitches to potential clients if they are to earn any money. They must talk to their clients about the services they provide, negotiate the terms of a contract, carry out the work independently and turn it in, usually within agreed deadlines.
An editorial position is a good job for someone who has worked as a proofreader, writer or editor before, or even just for someone who has a keen eye for spotting errors. It also suits the individual who likes to work independently and wants a little flexibility in their working schedule.
Of course, different levels of experience will affect the quality of the work you do as a freelance editor, and those with a proven track record of successful editing are more likely to be attractive to clients.
The role of different niches for the freelance editor
Many freelance editors will have a passion for a certain industry or type of copy. For example, an individual who has an illustrious career working in academia might find that their editing skills are best applied to academic projects. Their specialist knowledge of the common challenges faced by academic writers could be invaluable in having the client’s material pulled together in the best way.
Other editors might specialise in working on blog posts, email newsletters or website content, while some will prefer to work on longer, more involved projects like e-books or even works that are going to print.
In general, the freelance editor determines the amount of work that is needed for any project that comes their way. Most editors will request a sample of the work that requires editing before making a decision on whether or not to take on the project – this allows them to get a picture of what they are dealing with, and assess whether it is a good fit for them. This is particularly helpful when you approach a freelance editor because you can be surer of how well they can do the work and how fair their quote is going to be.
For more advice on how to spot a good freelance editor, check out this article by Jane Friedman.
What is a freelance editor: final words
The work of the freelance editor is aimed at catching mistakes and correcting them. Editors are responsible for identifying areas for improvement and putting forward one or more suggestions for how to correct an error.
They will make direct changes to materials before they are published, or sometimes even after they have already been published. It requires an eye for detail and an instinct for how something can be improved, combined with a high degree of accuracy in terms of spelling, grammar and punctuation.
Importantly, a freelance editor can be the difference between a piece of copy being mediocre and going viral. They come from outside your organisation or close circle to analyse your copy and identify how you can truly get the very best out of it.
Two heads are better than one, and having a second mind to have some input and make changes is good practice for ensuring copy is truly ready to go out into the world. And hiring the services of freelancers means you have these experts on hand as and when you need them; not adding another unnecessary permanent employee to the payroll.