Hiring A Freelance Editor

I'm a big believer in learning to edit your own work because let's face it, life would be so much easier if you could. However, that doesn't mean there isn't a time and place to hire a freelance editor to go over your manuscript. Before I get into that though I'll reveal how I learned to edit my own work and improved it to the point where my agent thought I had used a freelance editor. And even more important, we'll compare the cost of both.

Upon the recommendation of a published friend I attended the Hawaii Writers Retreat (formerly the Maui Writers Retreat) in 2008. Before I arrived my instructor sent us some requested reading. It was The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman. You probably recall me gushing about how this book altered my writing forever, for the better. At the retreat I studied under bestselling thriller author William Bernhardt. I learned and improved so much that I went back to the retreat in 2009. At the retreat in 2009 I met my wonderful critique group the Scribe Sisters. In 2010 my critique group and I attended one of William Bernhardt's workshops. Sadly the retreat wasn't held this year and I'm not sure if they'll be holding it again but you can attend Mr. Bernhardt's workshops, which I highly recommend.

Each of these steps improved my writing exponentially and was well worth the money. The Hawaii Retreat cost me $900 and I went twice so that's $1800. Mr. Bernhardt's workshop cost $500. That brings my cost up to $2300. Add books on the craft of writing and we'll just round up to $2350. True, there was the cost of the flight to Hawaii and Oklahoma, plus the hotel and food. All three workshops combined with all that come in just over $5,000. I didn't take that hit all at once though, remember it was over the course of a few years. Don't count out this method yet though. You don't have to go to Hawaii for a great writers retreat or workshop. Chances are there is one in your own state or close by.

A freelance editor, or copy editing services if you prefer to call them that, will run you anywhere from $500 for a precursory look, to several thousand dollars. In the end you may be paying close to what I did for all that training or even more. If you can look at what the freelance editor has done to your manuscript and learn how to edit that way, then the money may be worth it. However, if you've never seen an editor critiqued manuscript I've got to tell you, they kind of look like they're written in Greek. If you choose to go that route here are a few reputable freelance editors I've come across:

Writer's Digest Editorial Services
Lisa Rector Freelance Editor


  1. This is a great post. There's definitely pros and cons to hiring freelance.

  2. Great post, Heather. I also learned a ton from Noah Lukeman's book. I haven't considered using a free lance editor but know people who have benefited from it. I think you make a good point about if you are going to go that route treat it as a learning experience that will teach you some editing skills and not just as an individual manuscript fix.

  3. So true Candyland. I think as writers we really have to learn to edit ourselves. Sometimes a freelance editor can help with that though.

  4. Thanks Paul. Yeah, I wouldn't necessarily recommend it for every novel as a fix all solution. If one can learn from it then it can be a valuable tool though!

  5. Well said! I agree, I've always been inclined toward do-it-yourself, because it seems like a good step in the process of growing as a writer. I can also see the benefits of working with an editor for an especially difficult piece or as a first attempt, to get ideas about what editors look at and to learn from what they change.


  6. Unfortunately money is really at an all time low with us. But the book sounds interesting and I may have to check it out.

  7. Thanks Portia! I think it's all about how one learns and if they and their work are ready.

  8. I understand that completely Lorelei. The good news is, as far as tutorial books go, Noah's is rather inexpensive at under $10.

  9. Great post, well worth a read no matter what stage in your writing you are! Well written too.

    It's funny though because I suggest in a post I wrote for next week (on self-publishing) to hire a freelance editor, only I didn't go into detail like you did here. I may have to link your post in my post! : )

  10. I too love The First Five Pages and found it very useful. I also love Self Editing For Fiction Writers.

    Another great post, Heather. :)

    Have a wonderful weekend,

  11. Aw, thank you so much Lindsey! Great minds think alike!

  12. Thanks for the book recommendation Lola, I'll be sure to check out Self Editing For Fiction Writers. Thank you, you have a great weekemd too!

  13. I've wondered a lot about hiring free lance editors. Some writers seem to almost give it a connotation like it's cheating. I like your perspective, that it can be a great learning experience. Thanks for sharing!

  14. I've come across that attitude too Olleymae and I really disagree with it. Though I've never used a freelance editor I can see the value of it for many people. I'm glad you like my learning take on it!


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