Who Do I Hire — Writer, Editor, or Proofreader?

About six years ago, I needed someone to proof my book before self-publishing.

“I need an editor,” I said, probably on Facebook.

“A developmental editor or a copy editor?”

“Uhhh…”

I started googling.

For a profession that’s meant to clarify language, the title “editor” can be pretty unclear. It can mean different things in different situations — and when you need one, it pays to know exactly who it is you need to hire.

Cat sitting on homework
That’s not helping. Photo via Doug McCaughan on flickr

Shaping the Message

At a newspaper, it’s an editor. They assign story ideas, shape stories in progress, and cut what’s not working.

In small business, this is usually a content strategist. They’ll help you decide what kind of content you need, and can often coordinate creating it.

Shaping the Language

You have some content, but it’s rough around the edges. Your message not be clear, or it’s not creating the right impact as written.

At a newspaper, an associate editor might help shape stories after the writer has turned them in, making notes and asking for rewrites. They might rewrite sections themselves and write the headlines.

In business, a copywriter or editor will help you tighten up your content and make sure it appeals to your target market. They might include proofreading as well, depending on the project.

(Hey, this is a service I provide! If you need ongoing help with editing blogs and newsletters, let’s talk. I have room to take one or two new ongoing clients.)

Polishing the Finished Product

Once you’re sure your content is the right message, written in an effective way, it’s best to make sure all your grammar and usage is on point.

At a newspaper, this job is done by a copy editor or proofreader.

In business, this is done by a proofreader (though, as above, it might be included in a copy editing package). I don’t take projects that only include proofreading, but I have some wonderful proofers I work with who I’d be glad to refer you to.


Make sense? Feel free to check in with me if you have questions about any of this stuff. Don’t even feel bad if you end up hiring someone else — I’m glad to help you find someone who’s the perfect fit.


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Learn to Love the Editing Process

I love editing. So much.

I love to take people’s words and make them gleam; to make slightly technical things fun and easy to read; to reduce redundancies and increase clarity.

But if someone wants to edit MY work?

No way. Those are MY words, and letting go hurts. I don’t even feel comfortable having my husband sit next to me on the couch when I’m writing an email.

It’s scary to hand over your writing to someone else.

Laptop, book and tea

Love the Editing Process

Ready to get help? Grab that red pen by the cap and tell it who’s boss. When you’re hiring an editor, you’re in control: of your words, of your message, and of the process.

The goal is not to make you feel bad. The goal is to make your business more money.

Take comfort in working with a professional.

No, you wouldn’t ask any stranger to look in your mouth to check on your plaque buildup. You ask a dental hygienist. And, okay, even that might be nerve-wracking and weird, especially when you’re seeing someone new. But if they’re nice, the next time isn’t so bad. It might even get to be pleasant.

Like other professionals, we the editors won’t judge you as long as you’re reasonably nice and pay on time. Seriously.

Just because you can edit doesn’t mean you have to. Or should.

A lot of people feel like editing is something they should be able to do themselves. You took English in high school after all. Well, friends, I took economics in high school, but I’m not doing my own taxes. We all have our talents and choose our training accordingly.

Create efficiencies.

Small business owners need to focus on what brings them joy and money. As soon as you have cash flow, you can and should be hiring out tasks. Those are tasks that you don’t want to do (hello, writing). Tasks that keep you from making money. Tasks that you’re not particularly good at. Hire someone at $50 an hour so you can make $200 that hour.

When you have a communications piece that needs to be written or edited, what do you usually do with it? Agonize a little, complain about it to your co-worker, check Facebook, open and close the document? That’s all fine and good—and goodness knows writers do their own share of procrastinating—but wouldn’t it be easier just to send it away to a professional you have a relationship with?

Choose your experience.

Editors have a bunch of tools at their disposal. We can show our work—every deleted comma, every strong verb choice—or not. If this is important to you, let your editor know ahead of time what.

Sometimes you just want a job done and not spend one more brain cell on it. No problem!

Sometimes, you want to be more involved. Great!

Do you need to know how far along we are on a big project on any given day? We can set that up ahead of time.

Work with someone who lifts you up.

Can I tell you a secret? I’ve written for a number of online and print editors.

Some of them just took my work and mangled it without asking. Some just barely communicated at all—the work equivalent of having a grunting teenager in your car. One made me cry regularly.

A few went out of their way to thank me for good work, and to ask politely and clearly when they needed changes. Some are just downright enthusiastic.

Guess which ones I still work with?

Life is short. Hire someone who is a joy to work with. Good editors will improve your business prospects. They might even improve your future writing, and make you feel better along the way.

That’s the goal.

Otter holding hands!!


Looking for a pleasant editing experience? Email hello@kelleygardiner.com

Have you ever been scared to hand off your writing to an editor? Share your pain in the comments.



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