Doing Freelance Developmental Editing: Tipsheet

By John Bergez

From the November 19, 2002 forum: Developmental Editing: The Work, the Market, and You


  • College textbook publishers
  • Technical companies
  • Professional and trade book publishers (infrequent)
  • Scholarly publishers (rare)
  • Literary agents (usually by referral to authors)
  • Authors
Managing Your Business
  • Professional toolkit: business card, letterhead, dedicated answering machine (and, if necessary, phone line), Internet access, current software, access to fax, decent printer
  • Authors and publishing clients are customers; treat them accordingly.
  • Beware of overcommitting: protect your credibility.
  • Ask clients for testimonials and recommendations.
  • Save work samples for your portfolio.
  • Consider a Web site with value for customers.
Getting Work
  • For a publishing client, the key issue is trust. "Experience" is one, imperfect way that clients seek to resolve their trust issue. Your task is to figure out how to get people to trust you with work.
  • Network!
  • Interview for information: find out what problems you can solve for clients.
  • Build a functional (skills-based) resume.
  • Start small: Offer to take on an editor's overload, do a quick analysis of a project, etc.
  • Consider working in-house for a time in a kind of publishing you want to target (e.g., as an editorial assistant or assistant editor): you'll get to know the culture and publishing priorities, and you will get known.
  • Bootstrap from copyediting to developmental editing.
Project Level
  • Make sure you understand the publisher's vision.
  • Check out your assumptions and developmental priorities.
  • Promptly advise of foreseeable changes in schedule, cost.
  • Keep editor in the loop.
  • Ask for feedback.
  • In general, be a solution, not a problem!
Working with Authors as Clients
  • Qualify the client.
  • Rehearse a concise explanation of what developmental editing is and can do.
  • Clarify expectations.
  • Establish a stepwise agreement in writing, with no-fault termination provisions
  • Capture all important agreements and changes in writing.

Copyright 2004, John Bergez.

Developmental Editing: The Work, the Market, and You



home | find the right editor | membership | about us
what do editors do? | next forum | forum index
editing resources | contact us | search

© 1997–2023 Bay Area Editors' Forum. All rights reserved.

~~ Responsive CSS (beta) ~~