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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yes, sometimes editors are hired to train company staff. Obviously, then it makes sense to have a local editor visit the offices.
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.
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.
There really are very few reasons in these days of instant communication where you NEED to work with a local editor.
(Remember this is only this editor’s opinion based around genuine needs, I expect there are others I just haven’t thought of yet.)
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.