Aaaaand, Submit. Time to break open your favourite treat after you’ve sent your last piece of work to your editor.
A smile on your face, you cross the item off your to-do list and then input the figures onto your budget spreadsheet.
But five minutes later you get that email back: “This isn’t what I’m looking for, can you rewrite it?”
Nothing more, nothing less.
Now the red heat grows in your heart and head. You undo the change in your records and get ready to start over from the beginning. You’re writing the whole post again and you don’t even know if this offering will be more acceptable than the last.
You wish you understood your editor more and could get more out of your relationship, but at the moment all they want is for you to do something “right”, whatever that is. Your editor feels like a distant God, setting commandments but then not accepting the sacrifices of blog posts that you bring to their altar.
Luckily, even if you have a terrible relationship with your editor you can learn to get more out of it.
The truth is that having a strong relationship with your editor will help you with more than just assignments, but many bloggers don’t pursue this. Instead they have a stand-off relationship that’s all about getting the next post.
What are the benefits of a good relationship?
You need to know what you can expect to get from a strong relationship with your patron editor/deity. After all, if you don’t know what the benefits are then you won’t be looking out for them. This means you might even miss out on some rewards by not realising they’re on offer:
Surface Level Feedback
Maybe you’ve made some spelling or grammar mistakes in your work, or perhaps you haven’t written in the best style for this person’s audience. A good editor will let you know the mistakes you’ve made, correct your work and improve it (of course, a bad editor might only make it worse).
Getting a call-back for repeat work is vital for a freelance blogger. It saves you having to search for new blogs to write for every month and instead gives you more financial reliability and security. On top of that, it adds credibility to your name. Being a regular contributor to a blog has more clout than just writing once for hundreds of different blogs.
Once you’ve written a few pieces for the same editor (because you got a call-back), you can get some more detailed feedback. Maybe there’s a spelling or grammar mistake that you keep making. Maybe you’re too conversational in your writing, maybe you aren’t clear enough, maybe you didn’t use the correct style guide.
Honestly, I don’t know because it’s unique to you, but once an editor’s read a series of your blog posts they’ll have picked up on all these things and from their own perspective. Writing for this editor’s target audience won’t be the same as another editor’s. Learning how to change your writing to please your editor is a vital skill, and getting some clear feedback will help improve your writing not just for this client but in general.
The chances are that if someone’s paying you to write for them, then they have other business connections. If they like you and your work, then they may let you use their connections to bring in more blogging gigs or open doors in other areas.
Linked in with connections is promotion. If you have a side project, a second business, or just want to have thousands of readers, then a big promotion network can really spread your name or brand about. Even if your editor doesn’t have a large network, they may have a specific niche network, and that may be even better for your blogging business.
If you get on with your editor, share jokes, get constructive feedback and learn from them, then it’s obviously a more pleasant experience than constantly disagreeing, only talking about the job and never learning anything.
So why don’t all bloggers have a good relationship with their editor?
Every relationship is a two-way street. Sometimes your editor is distant, but sometimes it’s you. Sometimes you don’t have much in common and stay professionally detached. That’s okay.
The point where it becomes a problem is when writing is a chore, when you dislike the experience, when you don’t really want to write for them. When you just go through the motions. In this situation you don’t try to get more from your editor, and your editor doesn’t give you anything extra. It’s a case of “get the job done and move on”.
The fact is that neither of you care enough.
If you care, ask for the feedback.
If you care, you put effort into your work. If you care then you try to improve your writing. If you care, your editor sees it.
And guess what? If your editor sees that you care, they’re much more likely to help you out when it comes to finding more assignments.
How can I get more from my editor?
Respect their authority
I’m sure there’s a reason you’re writing for this editor:
- larger readership
- authority figure in your market
- good rate of pay
- helping out a friend
Whatever the reason is, it explains why you should listen to them. If they have a large following, there is a reason for that (it might be their writing, their promotion strategy, or something else.) If they’re an authority figure, there are reasons people respect them. A very simple reason for listening is that it’s how you earn your pay.
Ask for Explanations and Feedback
When you get a piece of work edited or published, ask your editor for feedback. What is it they liked or didn’t like? Why did they change that sentence? Why change the title? There are lots of things you can learn just by simply asking.
Shadow Your Editor
Although asking your editor for feedback is great, you can learn a lot just from watching and observing what they do. Sometimes people don’t even know why they do something and aren’t even aware of the effect it has. In fact, these little unknown traits separate good and great writers.
Watch them closely. Look at the unusual things they do, watch for the “rules” they break, look at the process they take. And learn as much as you can.
Look Beyond the Writing
There’s more to an editor than writing skills. Some editors are experts at finding brilliant pictures to reinforce the message of the post, others know how to promote blog posts, edit them for SEO, or have a way with blog comments (especially from trolls). There is a lot to blogging that isn’t writing.
Being an editor can be a thankless task. People get very defensive over the work they offer up to their editing gods, and when an editor critiques your writing it can seem like they’re saying you suck. But people don’t thank a good editor often enough.
Don’t get defensive when an editor makes changes. Instead, remind yourself why you respect them, look at your work again critically and then thank them. There will be times when you should hold your own and defend your work, but only if the editor’s making an outright error.
Whatever happens, thank your editor for their help and advice even if you disagree with their decision.
Ask for More
If you respect your editor and your editor respects you, then you can ask for more. More detailed feedback, more writing opportunities, more referrals to other potential clients.
Recently I asked one of my editors if I could interview him, and he then promoted the interview across all his networks. All this happened because I asked for it. If you don’t ask, then you know the answer is no.
Find Other Editors
If your editor won’t help you, if they are just in it for the articles and want a quick job over and done with, then you can find other editors. As a freelancer you can choose who you work with.
Your editor can be a valuable asset in your freelance blogging career. It depends a lot on your mindset, but a good editor will improve your whole writing experience.
What have you learnt from your editors?
Image: Matt Hampel