In my last post, I discussed the importance of making sure our work is edited well. This post is going to be for those of you who want to find an editor for your work. A while back, an author on LinkedIn asked me if there were any ways to tell whether an editor is trustworthy and qualified or not. He was also curious to know how he should go about selecting one. They were great questions, though difficult to answer. I wanted to explore it further. I sat and thought about it more, and this blog post is what I have to say in answer.

There are a lot of things to consider when deciding what editor to hire. There’s experience, reviews, what information is available on their site, and what their fees are, as well as how those fees are calculated. Some charge by the hour, others charge by the page or word count. Others charge by a combination of these or a simple flat rate. Depending on how long your work is, you might prefer to go with one that charges a flat rate. Furthermore, it might help to find out whether they want paid up front in full, after the project is completed, or half up front and half after project completion. How they want paid should be discussed. If you aren’t willing to comply with when and how they want paid, it’s for the best that you look elsewhere rather than try to haggle. Keep in mind that freelancers are often ripped off, which is why many request full payment up front. However, if you have reservations about this, that’s understandable because some people are scammers. Be cautious. As for the other considerations, well . . . It gets trickier.

Most people say, “The more experience the better.” I agreed with this until I considered it further and realized you can’t always go by experience. People can lie about how much experience they have, and on the other hand, there are some people just starting out who have a knack for editing even if they haven’t streamlined their workflow yet. By all means, consider it, but also look at other factors like recommendations and reviews. Even these must be taken with a grain of salt. Some are genuine, but you still have to be wary because you don’t know who’s left them or if they’re honest. Similar to something I mentioned in another post, some bad reviews can merely be the result of personal issues that have nothing to do with the editor's work while some good reviews can come from friends and family who are just trying to help out even though they’ve never used the service. It’s even possible in some cases that the editors left stellar reviews for themselves on their own sites and other places.

I think reading through an editor's site is a good way to determine how qualified they are. Are there mistakes on their site that a decent editor normally wouldn’t miss? Everyone makes mistakes occasionally—it’s inevitable. However, I know that I, personally, am very meticulous about editing the content on my websites to the best of my ability because I want to make a good impression. If I find many obvious mistakes on the site of another professional, I immediately start to question the credibility of their offered services. This may not lend an accurate picture of their services because, like I said, mistakes happen and it’s harder to edit our own work, but errors do give me pause. If a professional doesn’t have any website at all, I’d find that odd, but it wouldn’t be a total deal breaker because some simply haven’t finished or found time for setting a website up.

Their social media pages are other valuable sites to check into, if they have any. I’d see what kind of connections they have (if any), since I’ve noticed that professionals tend to connect with others in the same or similar lines of work. I’d also look for any errors on their pages, but I’m not as strict in this area when it comes to social media. I can’t tell you how many times Facebook’s autocorrect introduced errors into my posts that I had to go back and edit out. Worse, when it comes to Twitter it’s impossible to edit published posts. If you notice a mistake after you tweet you have to delete and redo the post in order to fix it, which is time consuming. Mistakes seem especially easy to miss when it comes to social media posts. I think this is due to the fast-paced nature of those platforms. Thus, I give more leeway to professionals on social media who make mistakes in their posts, but it still doesn’t set well with me if I was considering their services. If they have no social media, this is disconcerting for a few reasons.

A professional seeking work will usually do all they can to increase their online visibility. Some simply don’t have the time to keep up with social media accounts, but this should worry you not only because it prevents you from finding out more about them as a professional but because it shuts out other channels of communication, making them less accessible. Communication is important to establish between editors and authors so collaboration is possible. This is especially important if you want to stay updated on the editor’s progress. If they have a website but no social media, that’s one thing. At least you still have a means to reach out, but I would still be concerned.

It’s very important to talk to the editor. When you make contact, take note of whether the editor is being courteous to you during your conversation. Are they listening and responding respectfully to your concerns and questions or are they shying away from them? If they are messaging you, are they spelling words correctly (but keep in mind autocorrect issues) and using proper grammar? If they’re talking to you directly, do they sound like they know what they’re talking about? This is hard to gauge because some great editors are total recluses who simply don’t have great interpersonal skills, but it’s important that you are able to understand one another and that they know the industry (i.e. what's expected of an editor in their field, proper guidelines for editors to follow, editorial best practices, etc.). The only way you’re going to be able to tell if they know the industry is if you do.

Ask for specifics, like what kind of style they prefer. If they don’t know what you’re talking about, it might not mean they can’t do the job well (even before I learned different styles existed, I was great at editing) but it may mean they’re less experienced and/or ignorant about the industry. Also, if the editor does know about the various styles, the one they use will help determine if they are a good fit. The style an editor knows is important to you because while various style guides might parallel one another in certain ways, styles differ in focus. Some are only used in specific fields, and others are only accepted in countries outside of the United States. It would also help to learn about the different phases of the editing process. Some editors only focus on a particular phase, like line editing, while others focus on proofreading. Then there are those who do it all. Know what you need before looking for an editor. I recommend taking the time to learn about the entire editing process in addition to the different styles and their uses so you can better determine which editor is right for your project.

In conclusion, there is no hard and fast rule for finding the right editor. It’s a mix of research, luck, and gut instinct. How well you conduct that research, however, will help determine what results you yield. We’re less likely to be taken advantage of if we aren’t ignorant about the industry. It can still happen, of course, but it’s usually better to wade into something with a lot of knowledge under your belt than to go in completely blind. Take the knowledge I provide in this post and form your own idea of what editor you should go with. I hope this post helps you out, and if you have any advice to share on the topic, please do so down below! Respectful feedback is always welcome.