For Clients

If you create content in any capacity, you’d benefit from working with an editor. Books and journalism, corporate and nonprofit communications, academic or government publications, blogs and social media content—written words always benefit from having another pair of trained eyes on them.

The Northwest Independent Editors Guild, a professional organization of editors of every stripe, can help match you with the right editor for your job.

Types of Editing

Guild members offer many different services, including these basic types of editing. Some of our members are skilled in several types, while others specialize in one or two.

Developmental editors help you develop your project from an initial concept or draft, and can consult with you before the writing even begins. Developmental editors can help plan the organization and features of your project. They may make suggestions about content and presentation, write or rewrite text, do research, and suggest additional topics for you to consider.
Substantive editors work with you once you have a full text. They will help you get it into its final form, which may involve reordering or rewriting segments of it to improve readability, clarity, or accuracy. If you’re a fiction writer, a substantive editor can alert you to inconsistent character behavior or speech, help you adjust your language to your desired audience, and make sure your story has believable dialogue and a plausible plotline.
Copyeditors work with your text when it is in final or nearly final form. They read each sentence carefully, seeking to fix all errors of spelling, punctuation, capitalization, grammar, and word usage while preserving your meaning and voice. With your permission, they may rewrite tangled sentences or suggest alternative wordings. They can ensure that your text conforms to a certain style; if your project includes elements such as captions, tables, or footnotes, they can check those against the text.
Proofreading is the final stage in the editorial process. Proofreaders usually see a project after design is complete and any photos or other visual elements have been added – a typeset book or brochure, a demonstration website. They correct errors overlooked during copyediting or introduced during the design process. If you wish, they can also cross-check the text to ensure that earlier changes were made correctly, and they can check design elements such as heading and typeface styles, page numbers, and the like.
Other editorial disciplines, like beta reading or indexing, may also be a useful part of your project. Our members detail special skills like those in their profiles in our membership database.

Working with an Editor

The key to a good working relationship with an editor is knowing what to expect.

You and your editor should sign a simple contract or agreement spelling out the details of the project, such as the scope of work, deadlines, and compensation. Your editor may have a standard contract. If not, the Freelancers Union offers an online tool for writing a customized contract; the Editorial Freelancers Association offers a simple letter of agreement.
Provide project files and background information as needed.

To keep the project on schedule, be responsive to your editor’s e-mails, calls, or requests for further information.

Promptly let your editor know of any changes to the scope of work or schedule.

With a large project, you may want the editorial work done in stages (a chapter at a time, for instance).

If working in stages, you and the editor may want to have a conference after each stage to review progress, concerns, and logical next steps.

Editors often require payment upon completion of each stage.

Your editor should provide you with the following:

  • your edited project files in the agreed-upon format
  • a style sheet outlining any decisions made on style, spelling, and so on
  • a summary of any global problems or queries, along with suggestions for addressing them
  • an invoice for the work

Most editors expect to be paid upon completion of the project or within thirty days.

Searching for an editor

It’s best to begin your search well in advance of your desired start date; experienced independent editors are often booked two to six weeks in advance.

Be sure to look for an editor who is experienced in the specific type of editing that you need.

Editorial Associations

The Northwest Independent Editors Guild can help you find an editor in two ways:

  • You can search our member directory for editors with the skills and expertise you need, then send them a description of your project and ask if they are available and interested. (If you are sending inquiries to several editors at once, it’s a courtesy to let them know.)
  • You can post your project description on the Guild’s job board and have interested editors contact you.

If you’re looking for an editor in another part of the United States, consider the following searchable online directories of editors:

Other Options

You can meet editors face to face at writing and editing conferences and meetings, including those of the Editors Guild; our conferences and most of our meetings and social events are open to all.

You can ask other writers for recommendations.

You can consult the acknowledgments or credits of books or publications you admire to see if they mention the editors, then look them up online.

It’s helpful to include the following information in inquiries to potential editors or posts on a job board.


  • Subject matter and/or brief description of the work
  • Word count
  • Your budget for editorial work.
  • Your desired start date and due date. Include time for the planning, contracting, and communication that may be needed before the actual editing gets under way.
  • Your preferred style manual, if any. If you have no preference, your editor can offer guidance in selecting the style best suited for your project.


  • Type of editing, such as developmental editing, copyediting, or proofreading. If you’re not sure, see What Type of Editing Do I Need?
  • Any specific concerns or potential problems, such as repetition, inconsistencies of tone or character, or variations in voice due to multiple authors
  • Any special editorial services, such as fact-checking or rewriting


You may wish to include a short sample of your work with your inquiry, or editors may request one. A sample helps editors evaluate whether your project is a good fit for their skills and experience, and can also help them prepare a more accurate cost estimate.

Some editors will edit a short sample at no charge and return it to you; this can show you what to expect and help you judge whether they have the necessary skill and understanding of your project.

Your relationship with your editor is an important one, so take the time to choose a person you’ll feel good about working with. Consider the criteria below:

  • Experience. Has the editor worked on publications or with organizations you have heard of and respect? You may want to review the editor’s website, LinkedIn profile, or résumé. You may also wish to ask for references from prior clients.
  • Accessibility. Is the editor sufficiently responsive to your communication?
  • Cost. Can the work be done within your budget? It’s always a good idea to discuss project costs and billing practices. Note that unrealistically low rates may indicate inexperience; as one guideline, here’s a list of common editorial rates compiled by a professional editorial association.
  • Compatibility. Will you enjoy working with the editor? An initial face-to-face meeting may help you assess this, or you may be content to communicate entirely via e-mail, phone, and/or Skype.

How Much Will it Cost?

A client’s first question when contacting an editor is often “How much do you charge?” or “How much will it cost?”

It’s rarely possible for an editor to give an immediate answer other than “It depends,” because it does depend—on a number of factors:

  • The complexity of the material to be edited (a technical report, a novel, an article for an academic journal, a museum exhibition catalog, and a poster for children all differ)
  • The type of editing to be done (e.g., developmental editing versus copyediting)
  • The level of edit needed (light, medium, or heavy)
  • The tightness of the deadline

Some editors charge by the hour, others by the page or by the word. Some charge a flat project fee or ask you your budget.

Most editors will ask to see a sample of the manuscript before setting a fee. This is to assess how much work the manuscript requires and how long the editing is likely to take.

Editors are educated professionals, and their services merit compensation commensurate with their skills and experience. The rate chart maintained by the Editorial Freelancers Association provides a useful minimum baseline for different types of work; many established editors charge more than what the EFA lists.

Once you and your editor agree on a fee, many editors will ask you for a deposit before beginning, with the rest paid upon completion.