Choosing the best editor for your project

Sally-Anne Watson Kane . Thursday, December 08, 2016 . Comments
Choosing the best editor for your project

When choosing an editor for your project you need to make sure the editor is professional, has the right experience, is recommended by referees, understands the exact task, provides you with a written quote and charges a fair price for their services.

All editors are not equal

Just because someone has set themselves up online and calls themselves an editor doesn't mean that they have any editing experience or academic qualifications or that they actually know how to edit.

All professional editors should be registered as full members of a professional editing body. The national editing body in Australia, Institute of Professional Editors (IPEd), covers Queensland, New South Wales, Western Australia, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. To be a full member of IPEd, an editor must have proven that they have either several years of full-time editing experience, or appropriate academic qualifications in editing, and their editing skills and experience must have been confirmed by referees. So if someone is a full member of IPEd, you can be pretty sure that they really are a professional editor. If they are also an IPEd accredited editor this means they have passed an accreditation examination which is further proof of their editing expertise.

One way to find and choose the best editor for your project is to go directly to the IPEd website ( and look up IPEd's register of freelancer editors. The website also describes the various services provided by editors, outlines the core standards editors should meet and provides a wealth of other information about editing services and editing resources.

Editors are experienced in different fields: theses, reports, policies, technical manuals, children's literature, memoirs, novels, magazines, scientific journals and cookbooks, to name a few. Once you have identified a few editors or businesses that look like their experience matches your project, check out their websites, blogs and social media profiles (Facebook and LinkedIn) which should showcase their main fields of expertise and include testimonials and examples of specific documents they have edited. Narrow your search down to a shortlist of two or three editors that are the best match for your project.

Speak to referees

Unless you have been referred to an editor via word-of-mouth and they have already been highly recommended, it is important to consult with their referees. The referees might be a client or supervisor of the editor or a publisher, writer or colleague who has worked with them.

An editor should be able to provide you with the contact details of two referees who can confirm that:

  • The editor's experience is relevant in terms of the document you need edited
  • The editor has previously completed editing jobs involving structural editing, copy editing and/or proofreading
  • The editor has been able to work under pressure and meet all deadlines
  • The editor communicates well and consults appropriately with clients and others
  • The editor is experienced in resolving the sorts of problems or issues that might arise during your project
  • The editor is honest, and has used discretion and maintained confidentiality when required
  • The editor has provided value for money: they have been efficient, charged a fair amount for the work, and have charged no more than the quoted amount.

Briefing the editor about your project

The IPEd website ( page entitled How to brief an editor describes, in great detail, the information you need to give to the editor so they understand what is required when editing your document. They'll then be able to provide you with a quote. In summary, you'll need to tell the editor:

  • the level or type of editing required for the project
  • the guidelines that need to be followed
  • the size of the document
  • the timelines and processes involved
  • the target audience and purpose of the document
  • who the editor will need to work with and report to.
  • exactly what to include in the editing brief.

For more detailed information go to IPEd: How to brief an editor.

What an editor will do when you ask them for a quote

When a client contacts me to ask for a quote for editing their document I:

  • Ask how large the document is, whether it's already been edited, what the timeline is, and ask if I can see either the whole document or a sample
  • Offer a signed confidentiality agreement, and the contact details of relevant referees
  • Look at the document to determine the level of editing or proofreading required
  • Ask for whatever other information I will need to understand exactly what's required
  • Tell the client about my experience editing documents that are relevant to their particular project and confirm whether I have the expertise required to complete the task to a high standard
  • Advise my hourly rate via telephone or email, then email the client a formal quote.

My team and I are highly skilled in editing and proofreading. However, there are some subject areas or types of publications outside our experience and I never take on a job unless I am confident we can do it well.

If I am not confident I can do an excellent job, I explain to the client that I cannot accept the job and (with the client's permission) ask my network of qualified editors whether they have the skills required for that job. If I find anyone suitable, I refer my client to them. Helping people out in this way always gives good job satisfaction, even when you don't do the job yourself.

If I'm confident I can do the job well, I provide a quote and complete the necessary agreement or contract documents. Upon confirmation of the booking, I edit the document, consulting with the client as necessary, and submit it by deadline. 

Comparing editors and quotes

Depending on the size of the project and whether you are working for yourself or for an employer, you may wish to obtain a quote from only one editor, or you may need to obtain a quote from two or three different editors.

Before choosing the editor, you'll need each of your shortlisted editors to provide you with a written quote which will state either an overall charge for the whole task, or the editor's hourly rate and estimate (ball-park figure) of the total charge. You might also need each editor to indicate whether they are willing to sign a contract with your organisation.

When comparing editors and their quotes, take into account:

  • The quoted hourly and/or overall charge
  • In the quote, the services the editors have stated they will provide
  • Everything the referees have said about the editors
  • The relevance and extent of the editors' previous experience that has been confirmed by referees
  • Your view, based on your communications with the editors, in regard to who is the most suitable editor
  • The views of your colleagues, supervisor or anyone else relevant, in regard to who is the most suitable editor.

For an excellent article about the cost of editing and the different issues around hiring an editor go to: Why is editing so expensive?

The information in this article is drawn from my own experiences: editing and proofreading my own and others' publications; editing reports, submissions, policies and other documents; and self-publishing hard copy publications.

See this blog for other articles about editors and editing, proofreaders and proofreading, and self-publishing. 


Copyright Sally-Anne Watson Kane, On Time Typing. Please seek my permission prior to reproducing this article in any way but feel free to link directly to this page if you wish to use this content - thanks!


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