Is it better to hire an editor who lives locally?

Remember, there are thousands of trained editors out there

Over the years I’ve had a fair number of potential clients preferring to hire an editor who lives locally. Don’t worry, it’s not just me, it happens. This week I’ll look at why this isn’t necessarily a good idea. And why in some cases it can be.

Working ‘closely’ with the editor

Many people don’t understand the editing process (after all why would they, they’re not trained editors). Because of this, they think they need to sit down with the editor and work through the edit with them, or have regular face-to-face meetings. Even if you’re determined to hire a local editor and believe you won’t meet up, the temptation to meet because you’re ‘just around the corner’ can be overwhelming.

Why working with a local editor isn't always a good idea

Reasons why working with a local editor isn’t a good idea:

  • No one likes to work with someone looking over their shoulder.

There may be expectations for a local editor to work in a room with the author or business owner. Imagine trying to work with someone sitting next to you? Even being in the same room, it can be difficult to keep a sense of distance. There could be a tendency for the editor to feel ‘on show’. Some clients may feel that ‘they know best’, or conversely ‘know nothing’, and it could be difficult to let the editor get on with their work.

  • It’s difficult to be productive working this way.

Editing is a very conscious occupation and needs high levels on concentration. Editors tend to have their own individual way of working, which heightens their productivity. Remove them from their usual surroundings and productivity can dip. Meaning it can take longer to perform the tasks needed.

  • An editor is a trained professional who needs space to do their job in their own environment, where they have access to their editing resources (we’re not talking about your auntie’s friend’s cousin here, were talking properly trained editors).

Editors rely on a whole range of resources to do their job. This doesn’t just mean a good internet connection and space to plug in a laptop. Some editors use more than one screen. Some feel more comfortable using their PC, rather than a laptop. There are industry specific resources, such as reference books and software (we don’t all get everything we need from online sources). It can be extremely difficult to carry all our resources around, and you can guarantee as soon as you are away from the office you’ll forget one vital tome or piece of equipment.

  • If an editor did accept this way of working, it would cost you extra.

You’re looking at out of hours travel both ways, expenses and possibly a premium to cover extended working hours and further loss of work. If the editor has to drive to your office they’ll be unable to carry out the other work they usually do (and could do on the train at a push). Because someone is local to you, doesn’t mean it will be cheaper.

  • The editor/client relationship can become muddied.

For an effective working environment, there needs to be a distance between the client and the editor. This is for both our sakes. It’s good to have a rapport and to get on with each other, however, friendship is best left outside of the working relationship. A working relationship should be professional and mutually beneficial.

  • The chances are you’ll have questions that will interrupt the workflow, making the edit take longer.

It’s human nature. We can’t help it. You see something you’re not used to and there’s an urge to ask questions. Every, single question interrupts the flow and concentration. If you are sitting in a room with your editor you’re going to end up asking questions, frustrating your editor and costing yourself money.

  • The chances are, meetings will include small talk, a cuppa with cake and interruptions. This all adds to your cost, because it will be ‘on the clock’.

Just like the last point. It’s human nature. We arrive in the office, the kettle’s put on and the small talk starts. While it is nice to catch up and talk about what’s been happening, a quick catch up can roll on to half an hour of chat. And that extends the working hours for the project. 

  • It becomes very hard for an author to relinquish control while the editing process is in progress.

This last point is the important one. When you are ‘working together’ in the same space, it becomes very, very difficult to let the editor get on with their job. Everything that’s noted above compounds into one very simple fact – whether it is fiction, non-fiction or a business document, it’s very difficult to let go and let the professional do their job. Especially if you’re not sure of their process and already think that you’ve done a great job and things are just about perfect. You very likely will have done a good job, but it’s the editor’s job to make it even better. If you can’t give up control while the edit is being carried out it will take twice a long and be twice as hard for the edit to be done.


Having said all that, there are some instances where it makes sense to have a local editor.

why sometimes working with a local editor is a good idea

Reasons why it can be a good idea:

  • If the work is complex and there’s a need for the editor to be on site.

Sometimes it can just make sense for the editor to be on site, or to at least make a visit. Working on complex material, and carrying out a complicated or technical edit, might benefit from the editor being close to the author or a company representative. If the company doesn’t have an in-house editorial team, then a conversation will have to take place about the best way to work around the technical issues.

  • If the editor is carrying out work on paper, for example company papers that need to be updated and are not yet available digitally.

Now, this doesn’t seem to happen very often. Most editors work on-screen these days, but occasionally physical papers need to be edited. If this is the case, it can make sense to visit the company offices, as long as the editor is allowed to get on with their work uninterrupted.

  • If the editor is doing technical work that would benefit from being able to access processes.

Similar to the first point, if the editor would benefit from being around the technicians or accessing their processes, then it can benefit both parties to be in the same place.

  • If the editor is training staff.

Yes, sometimes editors are hired to train company staff. Obviously, then it makes sense to have a local editor visit the offices.

  • If the editor is working on sensitive information that can’t be worked on remotely.

This is the most likely reason for an editor to be in the same premises as their client. Although we often work on sensitive information and confidentiality is assured, sometimes we have to work on documents that cannot leave the business premises.

  • You are working on something that absolutely needs local knowledge. For example, a historical or local project that would benefit from someone who knows the area well.

In this case it does make more sense to hire an editor who knows the local environment, although they don’t necessarily have to live in the area.

Remember, there are thousands of trained editors out there


So when should you work with a local editor?

There really are very few reasons in these days of instant communication where you NEED to work with a local editor.

The only reasons are these:

(Remember this is only this editor’s opinion based around genuine needs, I expect there are others I just haven’t thought of yet.)

  • You know the editor already, you trust them and have worked with them before (even then, the NEED is debatable, it’s more of a WANT).
  • You really, really need someone on site to go over complex or confidential information.
  • The information they will be working on really cannot leave your premises.
  • They absolutely, must, have detailed, up-to-date local knowledge.

The following are not reasons for only considering a local editor:

  • You want to have someone close at hand to explain the process.
  • You think you’ll have lots of questions for them.
  • You prefer to personally meet your editor.
  • You want to ‘go through’ the edit with them.
  • You think being in a different county or country will be difficult (believe me, it isn’t).
  • You think ‘going local’ is more beneficial (perhaps if you’re buying vegetables, but not when working with an editor).
  • You don’t feel confident around computers or have a ‘memory stick’ that holds all your information.

There are thousands of editors out there. Properly trained editors. If you can think of a subject, you can find an editor who works on it.

While your local editors may be lovely, and trained, they may not be the best fit for your project.

You need to carefully consider what’s best for your work. If that’s a local editor, that’s good, but if there’s a better editor out there for you, you would be foolish not to consider it.

When looking for an editor, remember:

  • Professionally trained editors understand that you might not be comfortable with the process. They will guide you through it.
  • Editorial directories can help you find editors who work within your subject. They could be local, or based in a different country – it really doesn’t matter.
  • You don’t have to work with the first editor you find. You need to find the best editor for you.


4 Comments on “Is it better to hire an editor who lives locally?

  1. Thanks for this article, Sarah. I’ve only once worked with a client ‘locally’ at her home, and it was not a pleasant or productive experience, especially as she expected me to work on her Mac, and I’ve never used Macs so it slowed down the editing process considerably while I tried to grapple with a totally unfamiliar computer and software. The only thing I would add is that from a national perspective, it’s better to hire editors within your own country who are familiar with the language used (e.g. Australian English) as well as colloquialisms, slang, and knowledge of placenames, culture, etc.

    • Urgh, that must have been a nightmare! I’d flat out refuse to use anything other than my own equipment these days.

      I wouldn’t rule out working ‘out of country’. I’ve worked with a few American authors, for example, and it’s fine. It all depends on whether you are the right fit for the client and have the subject knowledge. As we have access to dictionaries and style guides that are country specific, and we can fact check for other areas, that part of the edit is usually quite straightforward, and anything that you’re unsure of you can flag for the author. It all comes down to communication with the author as to what they need and the level of the edit. Anything that might trip us up as editors is likely to trip up international readers too, so a different perspective can be good for the author.
      It all comes down to ‘best fit’ and that’s not necessarily someone from your own area or country.

      • It was, Sarah, and after that experience I said never again! I guess my concern would be hiring an American or UK editor, for example, to edit an Australian piece. Australian English is quite unique and unlike UK English, so it would presumably be more efficient to hire someone who doesn’t have to spend extra time trawling through dictionaries and other resources to check grammar, spelling, punctuation conventions and also looking up spellings or phrases that an Australian editor would be completely familiar with. As you say, though, ‘best fit’ is paramount.

      • True, but don’t forget. There are editors all over the world who are conversant in Australian English … they don’t have to be on your doorstep. 🙂

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