How to Hire a Freelance Editor: Step 4

Finding the right editor for you means more than just finding a qualified editor. You have to determine whether this person is going to meet your needs and expectations — and do so within your budget. In step 4 of How to Hire a Freelance Editor in 5 Easy Steps, it’s time to get practical.

Step 4: Ask for a sample edit, cost estimate, and scheduling information.

In step 1  you gathered the names of potential editors, and in step 2 you did some basic online research. Step 3: Call or e-mail your potential editor outlined best practices to get the ball rolling. Now you need something concrete to base your decision on.

The Sample Edit

A sample edit is usually 5 to 10 pages from your manuscript that your potential editor edits for you. In my opinion a sample edit should be cheap or free; the editor is trying to get your business. This step allows the editor to determine what level of editing you require — for example, you may think some light copyediting is all you need, while the editor feels developmental editing is more appropriate — and how many hours it will take. It also allows you, the author, to see what kind of editing you are likely to receive. When you review the sample, ask yourself some basic questions:

  • Did the editor make too many changes?
  • Were you looking for something more in-depth?
  • Did you feel the editor misunderstood what you were trying to do?

The sample edit alone may be enough for you to decide this person is not the right editor for you.

The Cost Estimate

Cost. This is often the make-or-break issue. It’s best to have a budget in mind before contacting potential editors, but more important, you should have a realistic budget in mind. (See my post Self-Publishing: How Much Will It Cost? for general editing costs.) The truth is, editing is expensive. But you have to consider your return on investment. Without good editing, you produce an inferior product. That inferior product won’t sell, or if it does sell and you get bad reviews, it could ruin your reputation for a long time. That’s why you’ve done so much work to make sure you’re getting the best editor for your money.

If the cost estimate that has been proposed is higher than you were prepared to pay, you may choose to do one of the following:

  • Find a different editor
  • Wait until you have the money
  • Negotiate a lower cost
  • Adjust your budget to account for the added cost
  • Arrange a payment plan

No matter what, don’t commit to something that is  beyond your means. You need to be sure you can follow through to the end of the project.

Scheduling Information

Although they want you to feel like you’re their only client, most editors are working on multiple projects at one time. That means even if the total number of hours your editor has estimated your project will take is only 24, you are unlikely to get it back in 3 days. More reasonable would be 6 or 8 business days, or even 10 if your editor is very busy.

You may also have to wait to get on your potential editor’s schedule. If you have an end date in mind and your editor can’t meet that date, you’ll have to move on. One caveat is if you are willing to pay a rush fee. Your editor still may not be able to commit, but an extra $100 or 10% may be enough of an incentive for him or her to set aside other projects or work late and over the weekend to complete your project on your schedule.

You now have a whole lot of information to mull over. In Step 5: Evaluate what you have learned, then add the crucial element of personality to decide if this is the right editor for you, we add the last piece of the puzzle that will ensure you have hired the right person for your project.

Skip to:

Step 1: Gather the names of editors you think you want to work with.

Step 2: Research your potential editor.

Step 3: Call or send an e-mail to your potential editor.

Step 5: Evaluate what you have learned, then add the crucial element of personality to decide if this is the right editor for you.


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