Hiring an Outside Editor

Hiring an Outside Editor

So you’d like to offer editing of your work to your clients. It’s a good idea, really – any document can benefit from a good editor, and when we work on our own we are often so close to the work that we miss even obvious errors. (Entries in this blog are a good example, despite my attempts at proofreading!)

For example, I posted a blog entry last month on my embroidery site with a double “the” in one of the interior headings. Blogs are easy to fix after the fact, but a printed document, not so easy. So even hiring an editor at a “basic proofreading” level can pay off.

Of course, you may have difficulty convincing a client that it’s needed. That’s a discussion for another time. For now, let’s assume your client agrees that editing is a good idea (or that you are automatically including outside editing in your writing packages, another good option). How do you approach choosing an editor and folding his work in with yours?

Choosing an Editor

Hopefully, you have contacts. This is where networking with the technical communication and editing groups comes in handy.Have you connected with other tech writers? Are they willing to edit on the side? (For that matter, would you edit for them?)

Before you offer to include outside editing in your proposals, be sure you have access to an editor you can work with.

Including an Editor

There are as many ways to include an editor as there are combinations of writers and editors.

What I don’t recommend

You can provide referrals to several of your editor contacts and let your client hire one of them completely separate from you. While this is easy on you, it’s not optimal for several reasons:

  • you can’t integrate suggested edits seamlessly – or ignore those completely off the mark (and no matter how trustworthy the editor, there will be some occasions where she doesn’t know appropriate jargon for the audience, or doesn’t have perfect understanding of the tech behind one of your cautions.)
  • you are giving more work to your client

I feel that my technical communication business is there to make life easier for the client, so I’d much rather wrap any outside editing time and costs into my proposal.

Things to Remember

When including an editor’s services in your proposal, things can get more complicated. You now have to take their work into account for both timing and payments.


Before you submit your final timeline, you will need a commitment from your editor. In addition, you will need to be sure to get payments from the client that will cover paying your editor on time. If the client shifts the timeline, the editor will need to be consulted as well. Remember that she has other contracts, just like you do (or should) to keep the cash flowing. You both have to agree to changes. The logistics can be tricky.


When working this way, you become contractually obligated to the editor for their work, your client is contractually obligated to you. This means that if the client flakes out on payments, you still have to pay your editor! It also means that if your chosen editor flakes out on the work, you are still responsible for getting the editing done by someone else – probably as a rush job. And you’ll be responsible for the extra cost.


The takeaway here is that integrating outside editing, while of real benefit to your client, comes with risks as well. Be sure you understand these risks before you agree to anything. The closer you can work with your editors and clients, the easier everything becomes.

As with all freelancing issues, communication is the key to success. Good thing you’re a technical communicator!

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