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How to Find a Freelance Editor (Without Getting Screwed Over)

In my years of working in self-publishing, I’ve heard numerous stories from authors who tried to hire an editor and either got taken for a ride or the quality of work wasn’t worth the pricing. Of course the opposite happens, too — as an editor, I’ve had people hire me only to cancel, ignore instructions, and try to get me to work for free or keep the edited body of work without paying. The truth is that, no matter who you are or what you do, there are always “bad eggs” among people, which is why you should do your due diligence before hiring anyone independently.

So, what factors should you consider when you’re searching for and hiring an editor? There are a few things to keep in mind as far as the freelancer/client relationship is concerned as well as where to look for and actually hire an editor to protect yourself and the freelancer from fraudulent or unethical circumstances.

There are several different types of editing services, usually at different price points. To determine what kind of editing your book will need, you should take an objective look at it during your revision process (which should happen before you hire an editor).

Substantive/Developmental Editing

This is by far the most intense and involved type of editing. If you’re a relatively new author and have revised as well as you possibly can but still feel like you need expert input, hiring an editor for a substantive edit may be your best bet. This type of edit usually involves multiple passes, at least one or two revisions on your part, and a lot of feedback. Your editor will pay close attention to plot, characters, story structure, pace, as well as sentence structure, word usage, and all things in between.If you do choose to go with this type of edit, make it a point to learn what the editor does and what feedback they give you in order to do more of your own editing work on future books. It is a learning process, so don’t worry — everyone has to start somewhere, right? =)


A copyedit is focused more on spelling and grammar rules than development, but is more in-depth than a simple proofread. If you’ve revised and are confident in your plot, characters, and presentation of the story as well as its consistency, then you may only need a copyeditor.


A proofread is the most basic type of edit, usually just involving one pass and allowing the author to make the final call (which you should be able to do anyway if you’re self-publishing). If you know that your work is sound and you just want to make sure you didn’t miss anything, this might be your best bet.

There are numerous places you can look online for an editor, and don’t underestimate the power of asking your network for a referral. If you’re anything like me, you have a ton of author friends on Facebook and other social media platforms, so making a simple post asking if anyone has a specific editor that they recommend is one way to be introduced to someone to work with. If others trust this person, then they probably have a pretty decent track record.If you don’t have the option of asking your network, there are a few great places to look online for an editor.

Freelance Websites

I got my start with freelancing in 2007 with what used to be oDesk (now Upwork). Though I don’t typically use any of these sites anymore (most of my clients are repeat clients or referrals), I do still find them useful and extremely valuable when I need a quick project or am looking for something to enhance my skill set. For our purposes here, these sites will be a priceless resource for you if you’re looking for an editor (or a designer, for that matter).

Here are five freelance websites you can try to get you started:

Find an Editor on a Writing WebsiteThis is another option if you’re unsure of where to begin. The internet offers a massive variety of resources for authors, so it’s really just matter of knowing where to look. Here are five places other than freelance websites where you can find an editor for your book.

Some of my favorite recommendations:

Communication is key when working with another person, especially when it’s through the internet. It’s also important to do some shopping around and to ask your potential editor about their specific process, what is expected of you, and how to make the process as smooth and efficient as possible.

Many of the freelance sites listed have some kind of guarantee or safety precautions in place to protect freelancers as well as clients financially. Here are a few things you can do to help make the best of this process and find your editor.

Five Things to Keep in Mind as You Seek Out an Editor

  1. Make sure the editor is professional. They should have no problems discussing your project with you over the phone or a video call, and speaking to them directly will help you to see if you’re compatible and that nobody has any shady stuff going on.
  2. Honesty is key. Like with anything else in life, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Your editor should be able to tell you fairly accurately how long it might take them to edit your book. If you’re hiring an editor for a developmental edit and they promise to have your 80,000 word book completed in a week, it’s not likely to actually happen that way.
  3. Be patient. Editing is a lot of work and can take quite a bit of time, especially if your novel needs a developmental or substantive edit. You can expect that an editor can complete maybe 4–10 pages per hour doing an intense and detailed edit. If each page has 250 words on it, that would mean an 80k-word manuscript could take a total of up to 40–80 hours of intensive work for a first pass of editing, depending on how quickly they work.
  4. Trust yourself — and your gut. I know this isn’t exactly scientific or anything, but if you have a weird feeling about someone, then they may not be the right person for you to hire. Pay attention to those nagging feelings — they could save you a lot of heartache (and money).
  5. Get a sample edit. If an editor doesn’t offer a free sample edit, ask them how much they would charge to edit 5–10 pages so you can determine if you mesh well or not. Not every freelancer is right for every client, and it’s important to figure out if you’re going to be able to work together well. The editing process is a very collaborative one when it’s done right, so look for someone who will work with you and answer any questions you may have throughout the process.

Last but not least, if you find an editor with whom you love to work, hang on to that person, especially if you plan to write multiple books. When you’re able to establish an honest, open working relationship with an editor, it’s easier to work with that same person again and be familiar with their process as well as their style.As a personal side note, freelancers typically tend to work from home, and life stuff happens. You and your editor should be able to be flexible to a certain degree just in case craziness or chaos pops up in anybody’s life, which happens. The best way to prepare for this is to ask your editor how long they need and allow them 2–4 weeks of additional time (you don’t necessarily have to state this; it’s more for the sake of your own patience, lol) just in case something ridiculous happens. The main reason I bring this up is because 2016 was pretty crazy for a lot of people… many of us lost friends, family, or even clients, and life tends to throw problems your way at the most inopportune times imaginable. It’s easier to remain patient if you bear this in mind rather than focusing on how badly you want your book to be published already ;).

No matter whom you end up hiring, you’ll be one step closer to finalizing and publishing your book, which is the goal. Your editor’s job is to make your book the absolute best it can be, so trust in their expertise and work with a spirit of collaboration and cooperation. It can be a very fun process, especially as you see your book becoming more and more professional.Stay awesome, self-pubbers! Thanks for being here, and I look forward to seeing you again soon.


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