The process of hiring freelance writers is one beast, but hiring an editor is a whole separate process. Editors need a sharp eye, a firm handle on your brand’s voice, and the ability to make changes at a moment’s notice. They also need to be up to speed on various writing styles, grammatical tenses, and formatting. As the last person to have eyes on a piece before it’s produced and published, it’s not a stretch to say editors need to be perfect in their execution.
But, how do you find this elusive, perfect editor for your content? In this guide, we’ll break down:
- How to craft a job description for an editor that meets your business needs and budget.
- The qualities of a talented editor and how to identify them in prospective candidates.
- Communication strategies for finding and onboarding an editor who can grow with your company.
How To Hire An Editor
Create a budget
When hiring an editor (or a team of editors), you need to know how much money you have on hand to work with. According to Glassdoor, the average content editor earns about $53,000 annually. Depending on your department’s budget and content needs, assess how many editors you need, what experience level they must possess, and how much you can afford to pay each one. Companies with limited budgets may need to hire an editor on a contract or part-time basis if they cannot make a full-time salary work.
Hire a freelancer
If you need an editor on hand but don’t have the available funds to hire an employee, you may consider hiring a freelance editor to take on some projects. Not only can this help you manage your editorial budget, you can also test out a person’s ability to work within a deadline, the quality of their work, and how they fit within your writing team.
Another benefit of working with a freelancer before filling a W2 position is you can scale their workload relatively quickly depending on your current editorial needs. This can also help your department better understand your content needs before you are ready to fill a part- or full-time position.
Add a part- or full-time position
Once you are ready to hire a W2 editor (or are ready to transition one of your freelancers to the position), start by drafting a list of job responsibilities and benefits. Companies that are looking to hire an outside candidate can post this list in a job listing to attract applicants. For those who are looking to promote from within, share this list with your team to see who would like to apply and then continue the hiring process.
6 Tips to Hire the Best Editors
Now that you know how and where to source editors from, it’s time to vet their quality.
1. Understand how they communicate
Everybody has different communication styles. Some editors prefer to make their edits, then send the copy off for production. Others like to leave comments and suggestions, explaining their edits and making it a collaborative process with their writing team. Think about what you need in an editor and how you’d like them to work with the rest of the team. You may need someone who gets to the point, is self-sufficient, and works through a large batch of copy relatively quickly. Alternatively, you may need an editor on staff who can train or mentor writers and other editors. Whichever is the case, work out your editing process before you start looking at candidates, then discuss with them their working preference to see if you’d be a good fit together.
You should also determine what their preferred methods of communication are as well. Some editors prefer a conversational back and forth that takes place in a meeting or an office setting. Others just want to be updated through emails and messaging applications. Talk to your candidates about what their preferred methods of communication are and see if it fits into your pre-existing structure.
2. Analyze their experience
When you’re hiring an editor, you want someone who has already proven that they can do the work. Ask prospective candidates about their writing and editing experience — and ask to see examples of their work. See if their previous publications or clientele match a similar work process to what you’re looking for. Ask them about their standards for quality, how they determined what those standards are, and what their process is to meet them. While not necessary, past work for clients in similar industries to yours is a consideration to look for as well.
3. See a portfolio
Once you have an idea of their experience and how they like to work, ask your prospective candidates if they have a portfolio you can review. Editing can be a hard skill to assess just looking at a final product, so ask to see if they have copies of work before they are edited and afterward, so that you can evaluate their skill. Ask them to walk you through their edits and what their process was to make them. This opens up a conversation for you to better understand their work habits and how they would adapt to the content that you’re writing.
4. Ask their industry preferences
For content marketing agencies like ours, or large digital publishers, chances are you work in a variety of industries, each with its own unique tone and style. From law firms to tech industries to small-town bakeries, our writers and editors have to switch tone and writing style from client to client. When searching for talented editors to work in your team, be sure they’re comfortable editing work for all of the clients in your portfolio. Editing legal advice is much different than editing software reviews, so it’s important that your editors are well-rounded in the industries you’re writing for.
5. Give a paid sample assignment
When hiring editors, the best measure of their ability is to see them in action. Once you’ve narrowed down your top candidates for your editor position, ask them to do a sample editing assignment. Send them the first draft of a content piece that requires heavier edits and ask them to revise it based on your internal standards. Ideally, you should send them a piece that is awaiting publication so that they cannot search for the final piece and edit based on that. Once they submit their edits, review them and have them talk through the changes with you.
Even if you won’t be publishing their work, it’s still important you offer them compensation for their time spent editing. Any written or edited work, regardless of its final use, should be paid for out of principle. It also shows prospective candidates that you respect their time and work.
6. Talk about the next steps
After you’ve found your final candidate for the job, discuss the next steps to getting started with the company and how they see themselves growing. Hiring an editor takes a lot of trust that is built over time. It’s important to have clear and open paths of communication with them so you can address any issues and create a process that works best for everyone.
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