With decades of experience, multiple certifications, and the ability to spot grammatical errors on a billboard 32 miles down the road, freelance editors may come to you with an astonishing level of training and skills. You may think giving them additional training would be overkill — or even disrespectful. But it’s not.
Here’s the thing: No matter how adeptly editors may have been trained in the general powers of editing, they have never been specifically trained in the nuances of working with your brand. Give them those nuances and you give them one more level of advancement, one that helps them make your content sparkle.
Why Train Content Editors
While it’s true that professional editors are a savvy bunch, you still want to provide guidance for working with your company. Your training process helps the editor become acclimated to your work process and brand. It also:
- Saves time
- Determines compatibility
- Helps ensure flawless results
Give an editor your content without any specific direction and it may come back with the perfect edits — if you were using the Chicago Manual of Style. But you follow the AP Stylebook, along with a notable amount of stylistic rules specific to your brand.
You also want the edits done in a Google doc with the suggestions turned on and comments left for clarity. You instead received a Word doc with the edits already baked into the content and no indication on where or why they were made.
Do you feel the clock ticking away? Saving time means saving money means ultimately saving your sanity and avoiding extra work for everyone.
Many editors specialize in certain areas or industries, which is great if you happen to be one of the industries in their wheelhouse. Creative brands may go nuts if a science editor were to make changes to their copy, while scientific brands would likely fall off their lab chairs if their content were rearranged by an editor better suited for eccentric brands.
The training process gives you both a chance to get to know each other better, making it easier to determine if it’s a good match.
Helps Ensure Flawless Results
What good is an editor if you have to go back and edit their edits? None, really. The training process provides the nitty-gritty details needed to deliver copy that reflects your brand’s tone, personality, and style.
How to Train Editors
Training editors can be broken down into a three-part process:
- The Logistic Elements
- The Stylistic Elements
- The Ongoing Support
The Logistic Elements
Here’s where you provide an overview of how your company works with freelance editors, covering everything from the onboarding process to deadlines and payment methods. Elements you want to pay attention to in this area include:
- Workflow and processes
Unless you’re working on a content creation platform that already has a contractual agreement that applies to all freelancers and clients, you’ll want to set up a contract with your editor. Contracts typically cover things like:
- Payment rate and method
- Revision policy, if their edits require additional edits
- General scope of the work
The general scope of the work can provide more details on the editor’s role. This can range from general proofreading for basic spelling and grammar all the way to reviewing the entire structure of a piece to improve clarity, flow, readability, and succinctness.
They may also be tasked with ensuring the writing matches the channel for which it’s intended, whether it’s a blog, educational article, email, or social media post.
For best results, it’s imperative to give your freelance editors a specific point of contact within your company. This will be your editor’s go-to person responsible for managing them. The contact person needs to be available to answer questions while providing guidance and regular check-ins to ensure everything’s on track.
Workflow and Processes
Provide an overview of the workflow, letting them see where their work fits into the grand scheme of things. Here’s where you also outline how you want the work delivered, whether it’s with suggested edits in a Google doc or final edits in a Word doc.
If the editor is expected to use a specific platform or system within your company, make sure you provide proper training for that platform or system. Schedule a video call to give them a step-by-step demo of how it works, or provide links to training materials and videos they can review on their own.
The Stylistic Elements
Your brand has a unique personality and writing style. The only way your editors and other freelance content creators are going to ace it is if you tell them what it is. And you want to do better than mentioning you’re “friendly and casual.”
You want to provide them with two key documents that make your personality and style clear. They are:
- Brand Style Guide: This covers information applicable to all content for your brand. It stays the same for all projects across the board.
- Creative Brief: This covers info applicable to each individual project. Different projects are going to have different briefs.
One of the biggest mistakes companies make with their style guide is including all sorts of general information. You don’t need to go deep into grammar and punctuation rules that are covered in other style guides. Instead, pick a major style guide to use as a general reference for guidelines not covered in your brand guide.
Most content marketers use either the AP Stylebook or the MLA Handbook.
- AP Stylebook: The Associated Press style guide is used by journalists to deliver info in a straightforward, no-nonsense manner.
- MLA Handbook: The Modern Language Association style guide has a more laid-back approach, used in college courses as well as many blogs and marketing materials.
Two other well-known stylebooks are:
- APA Style: The American Psychological Association style guide is the go-to for scientific and academic content.
- Chicago Manual of Style: The Chicago Manual of Style is the most rigorous of the bunch, and not a particularly popular choice for content marketing.
Brand Style Guide
Your brand style guide is the place to showcase your brand personality and writing style. Start by providing a company overview that includes a brief rundown on your brand and target audience.
You then want to get into your personality and writing style. Instead of using vague terms like “friendly and casual,” give your editor concrete details that bring your brand to life.
You can take a cue from our Brand Writing Styles page, which explores various aspects of five different brand personalities. These aspects include:
- Brand personality definition
- Short writing sample
- Brand characteristics
- Writing style characteristics
- Common words and phrases
- Longer writing samples for six different types of content
The more concrete details you can provide about your writing style, the easier it will be for your freelance editors and writers to nail it.
The creative brief provides instructions for individual projects or pieces of content. Here’s where you cover information that includes:
- Topic and title of the piece
- Content length and due date
- Any applicable keywords
- Content goal, whether it’s for brand awareness, lead generation, or sale
- Target audience for that particular piece
- Overview of the desired content’s tone and style, which you can summarize from your style guide
If relevant, you can also include information such as:
- Audience reading level
- Use of internal and external links
- Acceptable sources and how to cite those sources
- Things to avoid
- Anything else you feel your writers and editors must know to help them create the perfect content
The Ongoing Support
The final piece of the editor training puzzle is providing ongoing support. This is the piece that can help transform good editing into spectacular editing while building long-term relationships.
Feedback is one of the most crucial aspects of ongoing support, and it’s also the only way your editors will know if they’re delivering exactly what you’ve asked for. Tell them when they’ve hit the bull’s-eye; everyone loves praise.
Also let them know when they’ve missed the mark, and why. Again, provide concrete examples to help them ace it the next time around. True professionals will appreciate the constructive feedback and amend their editing accordingly — provided you deliver the guidance in a helpful way.
Once you find your ideal editor, you’ll also want to encourage them to continue working with your brand for the long haul. Positive feedback goes a long way toward making freelancers want to stick around, but it’s not the only ongoing support you can provide.
Consider paying for training courses or seminars for your freelancers so they can advance their knowledge and careers. Periodic bonus pay is another way to show your appreciation.
Summing It Up
When done right, training up your editors to make your content sparkle takes a lot of time and effort — for both you and the editor. When you’ve found a fit that works, it can be extremely beneficial for both parties to continue the relationship.
Your onboarding sets the foundation, your style training takes care of the fine-tuning, and your ongoing support helps ensure retention. It is, after all, much easier to continue working with an exceptional editor than it is to find a new one, especially if the editor receives specific training to truly make your brand shine.
Find a lineup of professional editors, ready for action, right here at WriterAccess. Hire one today with a free trial.