Editors: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Editors can be great bosses
Editors can be great bosses

By Amanda Smyth Connor

As a freelance writer, you will undoubtedly encounter different types of editors along your path to success; some good, some bad and some downright horrifying. I’ve taken it upon myself to put together a handy-dandy field guide to identifying these editorial personalities in the wild.

Great Editor: This editor is a dream to work with. Good for you for finding one. Do your best to maintain a solid relationship with this elusive type of editor.

How to Identify One: The best editors are equally as good at editing as they are at mediating, going effortlessly between the client and the writer, maintaining a clear and concise chain of communication. A great editor understands the difficulties and stress that can come with being a freelancer and carrying multiple tight deadlines and is able to sympathize with the life of a freelancer while keeping you motivated and on schedule regarding deadlines and revisions. A great editor will assess the quality of your work and will offer honest feedback on how to improve. A great editor will recognize your specific talents as a writer and will recommend you to future clients. This is a relationship that can turn into a great investment in your career. A great editor realizes that they are in the same boat you are regarding meeting deadlines, working together to produce high quality work and doing your best to keep clients happy.

Bad Editor: Be prepared. Just like having a boss who you don’t see eye to eye with, you will encounter hard-nosed, old-school editors. Be professional, keep your temper and do your best to do a good job with whatever assignment you are dealing with. Take this experience as a learning experience. You may learn more about the freelance world from dealing with bad editors than you may with a good or great editor.

A bad editor believes that the client/hiring company is always right, meaning also, that the freelancer is always wrong (because the client/hiring company is signing the checks.) A bad editor who has never freelanced often fails to understand why you can’t make last minute revisions to the project or why you can’t be “on-call” for deadline changes. A bad editor may request revisions with very little feedback or direction, or may fail entirely in relaying the client’s needs (this is extremely common.)

A bad editor is not always bad by nature. They often don’t mean to make a freelancers job more difficult, they just fail to see things from the freelancers point of view. You should always do your best to finish out a project and stick to all deadlines with this editor, no matter how painful it gets. You don’t want to burn bridges. Many bad editors will still keep you in mind for future projects or will at least recommend you to others if you have stuck to what was asked of you. Finishing nightmare projects and working with bad editors helps you build thicker skin as a freelancer.

Good or bad, keep in mind that building a solid relationship with your editor is vital to your success as a freelancer. I keep a list of my favorite freelancers close by (of course we play favorites…) based on relationships that they carefully built with me and continue to maintain, despite busy schedules and hectic days. Stick to your deadlines, turn in clean work and maintain professionalism under fire. These are the keys to a successful editorial relationship.