They say that behind every great writer is a great editor. Writers have the big ideas, the overarching flow of a piece of content, and the expertise in the subject to create definitive, thought-leading content with accuracy and finesse.
Editors are the ones that make that content really shine.
Imagine, if you will, a brand-new car rolling off the assembly line. What is the impression you get? A sleek, high-quality machine, precision-engineered, nicely painted, and free from defects. Imagine now a car with a bit of imprecision; the body panels don't quite fit together right, the paint job is sloppy with overspray and an unpolished finish, and one of the tires isn't quite inflated all the way. It's still new, still drivable, but it's not the sleek, polished machine you expected.
Before you can hire a copy editor, you first need to know what it is that they do.
Copy editors are one of several kinds of editors, all of which have different roles in the content creation process. Sometimes you'll need all of them, and sometimes just one. Copyediting is the most "ground-level" of the editing processes and has the least to do with overarching flow, logic, narrative progression, or fact-checking.
They read through a piece of writing and look for issues and errors to correct. They don't worry about the order of the points made throughout the piece. They don't care about whether or not the claims you make are factual. All they care about is that your writing is polished and adheres to any brand style guides you may have.
Things a copyeditor might do include:
Copy editing generally does not concern itself with the logical flow of ideas, the general outline of a piece, the validity of conclusions, the use of actual verifiable facts, and other more high-level decision-making.
All of this sounds like something you could do using automated tools. Word processors like MSWord have built-in spelling and even grammar checks that can do most of this work already. The rest can be done by default, just by a skilled writer. So why hire an editor?
There are three good reasons.
First, automated tools are not perfect. MSWord's grammar check isn't always right and won't catch everything. More advanced tools like Grammarly can point out non-errors as errors, introduce monotony or pull away from your personal style, violate brand guidelines, and can even just be wrong. More modern AI-powered copy editing tools can often be wrong or offer wrong suggestions.
Second, using those tools still requires a human who knows what they're looking for to evaluate their suggestions. If something like Grammarly recommends a change, is it a good change or not? Would it change the meaning of the sentence or violate brand guidelines? Without human decision-making, you won't know.
Third, there are many cases where a "wrong" use of language is correct, whether it's a colloquialism, a play on words, a joke, or an example of an error. Using an automated tool misses that nuance and can ruin the intent of your writing by fixing intentional mistakes.
And let's be honest here; a skilled copy editor is probably using those tools themselves. They just have experience with customizing them to suit the needs of their clients and know when to accept changes and when not to.
Automatic tools won't replace a skilled copy editor, and a good copy editor uses those tools and knows how to use them properly, so it just isn't worth it to try to use the tools on your own or in place of an editor.
Copy editing is both more and less expensive than you might imagine.
On the one hand, it's more expensive because people are used to the bare minimum and don't actually want to pay much for "a glorified spellcheck." If you're not used to paying for editing at all, you might be surprised at the rates.
On the other hand, it's less expensive because, at the end of the day, copy editing is relatively simple, and the truly high-priced editing is for substantive editing and content management.
How much can you expect to pay a copy editor? It depends on the skill level and requirements of your job, but generally, your rates will be somewhere between $5 and $25 per 1,000 words of content. A blog post like the one you're reading now, which is about 2,000 words, would then take something between $10 and $50 for copy editing.
This is just a general baseline, of course. Talented, effective copy editors might charge even more. Newbies might charge less.
In terms of how a copy editor is paid, there are three options: per word, per hour, and per project.
Per word rates are the rarest. While per-word pay rates are the most common for freelance writers, editing can vary a lot; a 500-word piece full of errors takes more time and energy to edit than a relatively polished 5,000-word piece, so a per-word pricing can be difficult to adequately balance for the effort involved.
Per hour rates are the most common. Editors learn through experience about how long it takes them to work through a piece of content doing comprehensive error checking and can evaluate the rates they would need to make a good wage doing it. If a project takes longer than they anticipated, that's fine because they can invoice for the added time.
Per project is rare but not unheard of. It's mostly used when a freelance editor has an ongoing relationship with a company and knows roughly the amount of work they'll need to do for a given piece, so the rates average out over time to be acceptable.
As with hiring any freelancer for blogging, you have two categories of options.
The first is "going to them" and involves finding copy editors to hire.
Options here include:
The second category is "letting them come to you" and involves posting your opportunity publicly. Options for this include:
Whichever option you choose, you'll want to find an editor or a handful of editors to trial.
With writing, a test should be as much like a real project as possible. With editing, you can use preexisting content and introduce errors for the editor to catch. From there, you can judge them on things like whether or not they caught all of them, if they have viable suggestions, and even if they have recommendations you didn't think of in the first place.
My recommendation is to take a piece of content you've already polished. Run it through Grammarly to see what kinds of changes it recommends. Do the same with other editing programs, like Ginger, WhiteSmoke, or Wordtune. You don't want to fix these issues; rather, you want to introduce more.
A trick you can do is format a passage such that you know the way a tool would recommend it be changed, especially if you don't like the change it recommends. For example, Grammarly loves to reformat certain passages in a two-sentence format with "Suppose that X. In that case, Y" formatting. It stands out as vaguely unnatural (at least in my style), so I know that if an editor suggests it, they're probably using Grammarly to make those suggestions.
As with any freelancer test, I also highly recommend paying for your test project. You'll never get the best efforts from someone when you're asking for free labor.
Once you find an editor who is effective and also good to work with, you can hire them on. A contract is also generally a good idea to help lock them in, guarantee pay rates, and provide a fallback for both sides in case there's a breach of contract.
My site may be named "Freelance Writing Jobs," but there's more to writing than just writing. Editing is an integral part of making high-quality, polished, effective content for the web. That means, beyond just writing, I encourage both editors and the people who need editing to browse my job board. Clients in need of editing can post a job, and any editor looking for work can browse the board to find opportunities.
If you have any questions about any particular kind of editing, feel free to let me know in the comments or via message. I love to help out people in the industry, and I can't do what I do without you all engaging with the content I create. I look forward to hearing from you! And if you're on the hunt for any further information related to freelance writing or anything similar, I also highly recommend checking out our collection of articles!