How to Hire a Copy Editor and What You Need to Know About the Editing Process

Andrew Macrae
8 min readApr 22, 2020
Photo by Neel on Unsplash

This is what you need to know about hiring a professional copy editor to work on a writing project with you.

It covers the general principles of the copy editing process, which are mostly consistent across genres and contexts.

However, the bulk of my experience is working on professional writing rather than fiction — and with people in organizations rather than private individuals — so the information here is skewed in that direction.

It can be daunting, the first time you engage an editor.

Maybe you feel self-conscious about your writing, and you’re not sure what to expect.

Maybe you’re super-confident you’ve written an absolutely flawless masterpiece, and you’re shocked when the file you supplied is sent back with oceans of red tracked changes in it.

Wherever you are in your writing process, there can be a lot to get your head around at the beginning of a relationship with an editor.

So let’s demystify some of the experience.

But before I move on to discuss the different levels of editing, I want to look at some expectations on both sides of the table.

What you should expect of an editor

What you get from your relationship with an editor depends on how you brief them and how clearly you’re able to articulate your objectives.

It’s good to have an answer to these three questions before you start:

  • What is your objective in putting this content into the world?
  • Who is it for?
  • What are the top three things you’d like the reader to take away with them?

You should also be very clear about what you want out of the process. If your work has already been through a lot of consultation and you don’t want to go back to your stakeholders again, your editor will take a different approach to it than if you tell them you want the best version of your manuscript possible.

Andrew Macrae

Freelance writer and editor. Sign up for my newsletter about writing, freelancing and whatever is worrying me