On Being a Freelance Editor, Part I: Why?

There are a couple of theories about why someone would want to do editing on a freelance basis. One is that “an editor is a failed writer.” Another postulation is that “a freelance editor is an out-of-work secretary.” For me, the plot is much thicker.

From the “Why” section of my About page:

Of course I enjoy earning money doing something that utilizes my interests and skills, but I feel great satisfaction and a certain social pride when a client says “thank you, Lela.”

Let me elaborate.

Thanks for That

How do remember me? My hope is that people will say, among other things, “Lela is a person who can teach and learn at the same time.”

I’ve always learned best by finding out why I should do certain thing, not just that I “should” do it. The last thing I want to hear from anyone I’m helping is “just tell me what to change.” If someone doesn’t want to know why something isn’t working, I don’t enjoy helping them. Of course, once they hear the reason and think it over, they can choose not to listen to me. At least they thought about it. And I might learn something from their answer.

Openness and flexibility are essential to the success of any freelance project. It specifically elevates the editing experience above the level of “you need typos cleaned up and I need work.”

The Essence of Full Value

It’s vital that I go beyond saying “thank you for your business” when a client’s project is complete. At a certain point a person may have attained enough knowledge to edit a written work, but the skill itself is as much a life-long process of learning as writing is. There is always something to learn, to realize. I can’t expect a writer to be open to my suggestions while I’m claiming to know everything on my end.

A certain level of skills is rightly expected for a service performed, that’s the business end of editing. I’m talking about conveying what lies beyond the mechanics of storytelling and age-old rules of grammar, something unique to every well-told story, whether it’s a character, a plot twist I’ll never forget, or the opportunity to listen to an intriguing narrative voice … some type of reading experience I can point out that the writer deserves thanks for.

Featured image: “Woman writing” by Edouard Monet (1863, public domain, via WikiPaintings)

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3 thoughts on “On Being a Freelance Editor, Part I: Why?

  1. I, too, enjoy editing and the process of transforming a piece of text into a better one. I also find that editing helps me improve my own writing (this includes creative writing), so it’s a win-win situation.

    • A lot of writers have experience as editors. There are times, I’m sure, that one interferes with the other and a person has to choose. The interesting thing is I’ve never fancied myself a writer but I suddenly (within the past few weeks) find myself writing a non-fiction book. Ouroboros.

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