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. Linda

    Thanks for posting my question Carol. I love your ideas. Yes, I do a lot of “ghost” blogging for corporations, white papers, news releases etc. A couple of other thoughts: I’m not a bad editor when I’ve had a little time away from something I’ve written. I’m thinking I need to make myself walk away for a day from a piece, reread it and then send it. The little things that get me are frustrating — dropped words, weird typos, transposed numbers… If I take a brush-up-on-editing class, I bet they have techniques that could help me avoid those.

    But here’s the best idea I’ve had in a while. One of my former editors at a daily newspaper is now at home with two kids. She wants to freelance but is more interested in editing than writing. I’m more interested in writing than editing. We already have a track record of trust and really enjoy working together We are going to experiment with an 80/20 split on one piece and see how it goes. My little communications company may have a part time subcontractor if this works out!

    Thanks for the great blog.

    • Carol Tice

      Sounds like an intriguing possibility, Linda! Maybe you’ve found a good way to get editors back into your life.

      But, the company doesn’t have an editor read your white papers and press releases and blogs? That’s sort of weird…they should!

  2. Louise

    I can sympathize with Linda. I at at the opposing end of this spectrum – I have a small proofreading business and would love more clients! I see typos so frequently in blogs that it makes me crazy! How to find that niche….

    • Linda

      What’s your website Louise? I want to check you out. 🙂

  3. Jen L

    I feel like I could have written a good part of this post! I miss having a good editor, too. (And oh, I’ve had some good ones! A quick shout-out to Gary West in Oregon, not that he’ll likely see it, but because he deserves to have his name mentioned.)

    Actually, I AM a good editor…for other people’s work. But I need a fresh set of eyes to look at my work, and I feel like my writing is always stronger when it’s vetted by a good editor. Who is not me. 🙂

    That being said, I do have good editors with whom I work for some of my freelance projects. But when it comes to blogging, it’s just me. And that’s when I miss having an editor.

    • Linda

      Jen….I checked your blog. Guess what? I live in Nashville, too. I used to work at the Nashville Business Journal. You worked at the Memphis Business Journal. I’m smiling~! I bet we know a lot of the same people.

      • Jen L

        Linda, I bet we do know a lot of the same people! Want to meet for coffee sometime? Send me an email, if you do. It’d be nice to meet you.

        • Carol Tice

          I love how you two are finding each other here on my blog! I feel like a matchmaker…

  4. Linda

    Carol: It depends on the client. It’s not so much a problem with white papers but that’s a smaller piece of the pie for me. I have a lot of new blogging work and a good portion of it is edited by a couple of different marketing executives at different companies. They aren’t very good editors and often contribute new mistakes. The corporate blogging pays well and doesn’t have my name on it. They don’t seem to mind. I do, but I don’t want to nag them too much. Does this make sense?

    • Carol Tice

      Ah, well the issue of bad editors…that could be the subject of another blog post! I’ve got that problem right now in spades with one client. Usually, I’m so grateful for the editorial input, but when they put something weird into every one of your posts it gets tiresome.

  5. Linda

    Carol: What’s your process for self-editing blogs? Do you let the piece sit a bit and then go back for the final edit?

    • Carol Tice

      I tend to edit as I go, so the upper section always looks great! Then I try to read it over again when I’m ready to press ‘send.’

      I rarely have the chance to come back and read it again another day…sometimes if I’ve written ahead on my blog I can. I’m very thankful that I’m a good speller and proofreader in this age of editorless blogging!

  6. 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!

  7. 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… 🙂

    • 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.

  8. Lizette

    That’s AN editor phobia… 😛

  9. Lizette

    Haha!! I can relate to your post (and the copy editing note!) 🙂

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