What works: Advice for editors

WHAT WORKS: Advice for editors

Personal development

Þ    Read good literature regularly: tune your engine.

Þ    Become more critical about what you read.

Þ    Never let an unknown word go by – look it up in the dictionary.

Þ    Keep up-to-date and read widely – editors need to know about everything.

Þ    Get comfortable researching on the Internet.

Þ    Extend your knowledge of WORD and other programs.

Þ    Try to edit subjects that interest you; build on your knowledge.

Þ    Increase your knowledge of English and its variations by reading The Story of English (BBC), The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson, and hosts of books on language, idioms, vocabulary, punctuation, derivations and so on.

Þ    Judge what is acceptable English – fashions change – so read widely.

Þ    Be aware that you will edit better when you are fresh, probably in the morning.

Þ    Remember to be kind to the client, who is probably struggling with this document and needs you to take the burden off his/her shoulders.

Þ    Upgrade – editing in itself provides continual development, but there are courses at local colleges on editing, computers, and writing.



Þ    Build a reference library.

Þ    Find out what the public library and/or the university library offer.

Þ    Join your local editors’ association and/or the EAC; networking is important.

Þ    Join societies in your field of interest – you get work through your contacts.

Þ    For freelancers, join websites (for a fee) that will bring work to you.  Do an Internet search to find these.

Þ    So many editors and writers are freelancers that there are web pages tailored to you, both for jobs and resources such as dictionaries.


Keep records

Þ    Keep a log book or index card system and note what you have quoted your clients.  The quote is often given on the phone and it’s easy to forget what you said.

Þ    Make a note of the date of incoming and outgoing files/papers.

Þ    Make a note of the deadline, editing style and requirements for each project.

Þ    Make a note of the phone number, email address and regular address for each client.

Þ    When you mail a document, note the date and keep the receipt until you are sure it has been received.  If Canada Post loses the parcel, you will need the tracking number on the receipt.  You also need to prove that you sent it.

Þ    Keep a folder of copies of your invoices.

Þ    Note when and how much a client pays you.

Þ    Keep all receipts for equipment, stationery, books, meals with clients, travel, etc., for your income tax deductions.

Be practical

Þ    Make sure to ask the client for full details of the purpose of the document, and any restrictions such as length, editing style, and expectations.  If you don’t know these things at the beginning, you may be wasting time editing the paper incorrectly.

Þ    If you think the situation requires it, sign a contract.

Þ    If it is a big project, ask for half the money at the start.

Þ    Use your time well.  Get used to being quick and accurate.  If you are being paid a minimal amount, don’t put more time than necessary into the document.

Þ    Explain to a client what you do, even giving a sample.  Most clients don’t realize the extent of the editing process.  They are much less reluctant to pay when they know how much you do.

Þ    Don’t let a client take up too much of your time “explaining” the document or querying your edits.  A few questions are permissible, but many people are just worriers and you have to be firm with them!  Indicate by your tone that you have answered their questions and finished the job.  Be brief and businesslike – you’re busy.

Þ    It’s not necessary to meet the client unless the project is complicated.  This keeps the relationship nice and neutral and saves you a lot of time.

Þ    Each relationship with a client will be different – some formal, some friendly.

Þ    Use a landline for business.  Be careful who you give your cell phone number to – clients can phone you 24/7.  Caller ID is a boon because it lets you filter calls.  Your privacy is important.

Þ    Many of your projects will come by word of mouth, so always treat clients well – you are offering a service.


Þ    Most clients like to know how much it’s going to cost.  Giving an hourly fee doesn’t reassure them.  Quote by the page or word, or say you will work to a set amount that they can afford, and then manage your time.  See Appendix I for suggested fees.

Þ    If you have done a good job and the client realizes what a lot of work it was, it is not unknown that you will get a tip!

Þ    Late payments – each client will be different.  Most individuals pay quickly, but corporate clients have to accommodate their accounting cycle.

Þ    No payments – this happens occasionally.  Unless it’s a large sum, just move on.  If it is a large sum, send a letter or email saying something like: “On the advice of counsel, I am writing to inform you that because payment has not been made I will have to take steps unless I receive the payment by the end of the month.”  This usually does the trick.  If it doesn’t, you may actually have to see a lawyer but it may be worth it.



Þ    If you are employed, your taxes are organized for you.  Don’t forget to keep receipts for expenses.

Þ    If you are a freelancer, many expenses can be put against taxes: buying a computer, printer, fax machine, scanner, camera or desk; paying for stationery, books, meals (business meetings), gas, travel expenses (to do research), etc.  You can also claim the proportion of your home devoted to editing (number of square feet or metres), plus the same proportion of your phone bills (landline and cell), electricity, heating, rent or mortgage payments, Internet cable (computer and TV) and car maintenance.  You can also claim for any professional services such as accounting.  The paperwork is a headache at the end of the financial year but you can use a software program and keep your accounts monthly; this translates into an easy compilation in April.

Þ    You don’t have to charge GST unless you gross $30,000 a year, in which case you need to access the government regulations.  Of course you can apply for a GST number to make your business look good, even though you haven’t reached that ceiling.


Home business

Þ    Unless you have crowds of clients visiting your house, this is not generally a problem.  Be aware that neighbours can complain about the increased traffic or parking problems.  Check with your city council about the regulations for having a home business – there are several categories, depending on how big the business is and whether it involves the movement of goods or people.  Registering as a home business entails a fee.






Suggestions for tactful editorial responses

I am returning this otherwise good typing paper to you because someone has printed gibberish all over it and put your name at the top.

Since your last submission, you seem to have reached rock bottom and have started to dig.

Yours is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly.  It should be thrown with great force.

Did you ever consider that you are depriving a village of an idiot?

When your IQ reaches 50, you should sell.

The fact that no one understands you doesn’t mean that you are a great writer.

I will always cherish the initial misconceptions I had about your writing abilities.[i]


[i] www.writershome.com