Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
No matter what type of business you have, a qualified editor is one of the best investments you can make. Even experienced writers make critical mistakes when creating everything from about pages, to grant applications, to books. A trained eye can save you and your company from publishing embarrassing mistakes.
The saying, you have to spend money to make money, really applies here. Why is a lack of typos or the quality of your grammar so important? Depending on which research study you listen to (multiple companies have studied both American and British consumers in this regard), anywhere from 59 percent to 82 percent of your potential buyers are turned off by typos, poor grammar or inaccurate translations.
Plenty of professionals such as myself edit blogs, website pages, catalogs, restaurant menus, grant applications, books and more for reasonable rates. However, not all editors and proofreaders are created equal. Before paying a professional to help clean up your written or typed copy, here are some important questions to ask.
1. How much experience do you have?
It’s important to find an editor with experience. As I’ve mentioned in past Entrepreneur articles, some folks without relevant education and professional experience started calling themselves coaches, writers, editors, etc. during the pandemic.
You will pay more for someone with 25 years of experience. But you likely won’t have to suffer the embarrassment of missed mistakes or pay out of pocket again to find a truly experienced editor. One lady came to me recently looking for her fifth editor for a book. She had picked the lowest-priced editors four times and got burned badly. These people were either trying to use software programs, outsourcing their work to non-native English speakers or they just didn’t know what they were doing.
2. What type of editing do you do?
This is especially important if you need a book editor as opposed to a website copy editor, grant proposal editor, etc. You probably want a copy editor or proofreader for most business texts. If you need an editor for your book, a copy editor or proofreader is fine. But, if you’re worried about the literary value of your work, then you may also need a developmental or content editor.
Some editors have experience with all types of editing, but prefer one over the other (in my case, it’s copy editing and proofreading). Others have no idea what you’re talking about when you ask what type of editing they do. This is a potential red flag. Even an inexperienced developmental editor should at least know that this area exists.
3. How much will it cost?
Again, don’t hire an editor based on the lowest — or even the highest — price. However, as an entrepreneur you need clarity so there aren’t any surprises. Only in rare instances will I work hourly, as that model tends to leave more room for ambiguity and suspicion. It’s much better for both parties to decide a flat rate, sign a contract and be clear on how many rounds of editing will be performed.
For example, if someone needs a 20,000-word manuscript edited I will create a quote based on both the word count and the amount of work needed. This could range from $800 to $2,000 for one edit. If they want me to edit it and hand it back to them to do with what they will, that’s one round of editing. If they want to look at it again, do some rewriting and return it to me, that’s a second round of editing.
Most clients want one round, but some want two or three. So you’ll need to create a quote based on multiple rounds of work. I lower my quotes significantly if someone asks for two or three rounds of editing. Instead of paying $800 to $2,000 for that 20,000-word manuscript two or three times, they may pay $1,600 to $3,600 for multiple rounds. (Again, these are rough generalizations.)
4. What is your turnaround time?
Over the last 25 years, I’ve heard nightmares about unclear or missed deadlines. As a former journalist, this makes me cringe. To me, a deadline is a deadline.
Again, clarity from the start will make life easier for everyone involved. If it’s a short blog, it’s not unreasonable to expect a 12- to 72-hour turnaround time — though some editors won’t have the bandwidth for last-minute requests. For a longer project, you could wait anywhere from a week to two months. A 100,000-word book, for example, needs multiple edits and to be done well needs a couple of months of editing.
Be suspicious of anyone who says they can edit your book manuscript quickly. Often, they use software such as Grammarly. Or, break up your book into different files and outsource it to multiple people on sites such as Fiverr or Upwork. (As someone who got most of my clients Upwork for years, I had quite a few clients who asked me to be their outsourced editor.)
You don’t want this; you want one person who you can talk to reading every word of your website, bio, blog, grant application, cover letter, resume, book and the like multiple times. You want humans to read it, because software usually can’t tell the difference between too and to or if someone typed starring rather than staring.
Summing it up
An editor can be one of the best investments you ever make as an entrepreneur. With the right experience and education, they will help your written work be the best it can be — and you’ll avoid becoming a social media meme.