How Freelance Writers Can Build Editor Relationships

Carol Tice

How Freelance Writers Can Build Editor Relationships. Makealivingwriting.comEditors. We writers may complain about them, but the good ones can drastically improve your writing.

Some writers hate editors and would love never having to deal with an editor again…but I heard recently from one reader who’s unhappy without an editor. Linda writes:

I’m a career journalist who went freelance in 2009, not because of the recession per se, but because I felt suffocated in the corporate media. I feel there’s a wall I can’t completely break through, and I think it’s because I miss the dynamic of having an editor when I am working for business clients.

I’m confident about my skills as a writer and communicator. However, I’m not a good editor.

I miss being challenged by a good editor. I miss the encouragement. I miss the teamwork. I miss someone saving my butt when there’s a big mistake.

What would you do to overcome this handicap? I guess the most logical thing is to try to hire a freelance editor for my projects. But I’m barely making enough money to justify my freelance status right now. It seems like a real dilemma.

I’ve got six ideas for how Linda — and all freelance writers — can build editor relationships:

  1. Seek out scenarios with editors. I’m going to bet Linda is doing a lot of blogging work, which seems to often consist of writing posts a company slaps straight up on their site without so much as a cursory glance. If you know you’re a writer who really needs an editor, avoid these gigs and find ones where an editor is involved. It may also be a question of moving up from pitching small businesses and looking at medium-to-large ones instead. Check their staff bios — if there’s a marketing coordinator or a marketing department, the gig will likely come with an editor.
  2. Get more assignments from the editors you’ve got. If you have some clients where you do work with an editor, try to deepen that relationship — pitch them more ideas, try to land a column. More assignments from editors means you can drop more clients that don’t have an editorial environment.
  3. Get referrals from existing editors. Ask current editors to refer you business. They probably know other editors. I’ve got plenty of business clients where I work with an editor, so you can find editor relationships outside the print-magazine world.
  4. Do in-person networking where editors roam. I’ve met editors aplenty at MediaBistro events, and I hear great things about JAWS camp as a place to meet magazine editors.
  5. Take an editing class. If you know this is an area where you’re weak, aim to ratchet up your own editing skills. A community college or extension course might give you some new tools for improving your own work.
  6. Do an editing swap with another writer. Maybe you know another writer in the same boat, and could arrange to read each others’ drafts gratis? Or perhaps a college journalism class could use some raw material to edit? Could be a no-cost way to get some feedback and catch those embarrassing typos before they hit the Internet.

Do you miss editors? Share your feelings about being edited in the comments below.

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  1. Lizette

    Haha!! I can relate to your post (and the copy editing note!) ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Lizette

    That’s AN editor phobia… ๐Ÿ˜›

  3. Lizette

    I have a bit of a editor-phobia (no offense intended, please ladies!) since I had a terrible experience working for a copy writing “sweat shop”. Next time I do a big job I will however consider one of you kind ladies… ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Linda

      I know what you mean. I’ve had my share of incompetent editors. But the process of working with an excellent editor ranks high on the great-life-experiences-of-a-writer” scale I found it especially useful when working under tight deadlines. One copy editor I worked with at a newspaper was so thorough it was mind-boggling. He’s fact check every last detail in a piece. He saved my butt so many times and we are friends to this day. I had made a sign for my desk that read — “The highest manifestation of God is a good copy editor.”

      You never know when a really cool editor’s going to surface. I tried out the copy mill writing thing during a slow period a couple of years ago. I didn’t last long because of the pay, but one of my editors turned out to be great. If she only knew how much she helped me. I’d lost confidence and felt like a loser writing for a $15 a post copy mill. But my experience was priceless because she was so encouraging and positive. She kept telling me how good I was. Before I knew I found my chops again and got a few good paying clients. I’m always searching for that kind of harmony and truly do value the editor-writer bond.

    • Linda

      Laughing because my post could use some good copy editing. Sigh.

  4. Louise Reichert

    Hi, Linda and Jen. My website is I like the idea of the 80/20 split. For whatever it’s worth, I’m new, I’m small, I spell well, and am very willing to be negotiable.Thanks for your interest. Check out my website and contact me if you would like to talk more!

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