So, you’ve written a book, blog post, article, or essay, and now you need an editor or perhaps a proofreader. But how do you know who to choose? With the plethora of editors and freelancers out there, how do you know who the best freelancer is for you? Here at The Book Shelf, we know a thing or two about editing and proofreading, so we’ll let you in on how to choose the right editor or proofreader for you—including the obvious and not-so-obvious things to look out for…

The “brainers”

These are the less obvious things to consider when you’re choosing an editor or proofreader for your project—but they’re vital in getting the right person. In fact, these aspects are so important that you should consider them before doing any of the obvious “no brainer” checks, which we’ll look at next. These factors will influence where you look for an editor and who you choose as potential candidates to do your due diligence on.

1. What is your project?

Editors and proofreaders don’t necessarily work across all areas, for example, some specialise in academic essays, while others focus on marketing copy, books, or websites. If your project is basic blog articles, then you’ll probably find lots of editors on generalist freelancing sites who will be great for you.

However, if your project is more specialist, then it’s better to look for an editor who specialises in that area, and they might not be found on generalist sites such as PeoplePerHour. For example, if your project is a book, then find an editor who specialises in books—particularly books of your genre. You can find book specialist editors and proofreaders on book-specific site Reedsy.

2. What kind of editing do you need?

Before hiring an editor, you need to be clear on what kind of help you actually want from your editor. There are developmental editors who look at content and structure, copy editors who look at language and grammar, and proofreaders who remove errors when the text is in its final format.

Sometimes, people don’t get what they expected from an editor because they’ve hired the wrong kind of editor for their needs, for example, they hire a proofreader when they actually needed a copy editor. This is where talking to the freelancer about your requirements is vital.

3. What are your requirements?

As well the big requirements such as type of editing, you also need to consider project requirements, such as:

  • Do you need the project doing urgently? If you’re looking for a quick proofread, look for someone who is available now and guarantees turnaround times.
  • Are you willing to wait for the best editor? For example, the best book editors often get booked up in advance.
  • Do you want to be able to speak to them in real time? If so, you might want to find a local editor or someone in a nearby time zone to you.
  • Do they need specific knowledge of your language? For example, the difference between British and American English.
  • Do they need industry knowledge? For example, specific industry terminology.

Once you’ve pinned down these three major factors, you can gather your shortlist of potential candidates. Then it’s time to check the more obvious aspects…

The no-brainers

Once you’ve got your shortlist of potential editors or proofreaders, there are some obvious things to check. I call these “no-brainers”, because they’re the basic due diligence you should do before hiring any freelancer:

  • Feedback: Check their feedback from previous clients, either on their personal website or a freelancing site. Look out for reviews that show they added value, rather than “good job”.
  • Typos: Check their profile for typos. It’s surprising how many proofreaders have glaring typos in their profiles. This should be an instant warning if you’re hiring a proofreader.
  • Previous work: Ask whether you can see any examples of their previous work, though be aware that NDAs might prevent them from sharing former clients’ work.
  • Samples: You can ask them to do a sample edit or proofread, though remember they’re doing it for free, so it shouldn’t be long (500 words should be sufficient). Also bear in mind that it isn’t possible to do a sample editorial assessment or developmental edit.
  • Discuss: Talk to the freelancer about your project and requirements before hiring them, so you’re both on the same page and they understand what you want.
  • Recommendations: This is optional, but you might want to ask people you know whether they can personally recommend someone and vouch for the quality of their work.

So, who to choose?

If you consider both the obvious and less obvious factors, you should be able to find the right proofreader or editor for you. Of all of these factors, the most important aspect is having a clear, open conversation about what you need and whether the freelancer can deliver it. Discussing the project up front will help you figure out whether they’re the right person for your project.

About the Author Ameesha

Freelance book editor. Founder of The Book Shelf LTD. Travelled the world for a year while freelancing. Freelance tips at A Freelance Life.

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