Freelance Writing: Handling Editing and Revision Requests

Writers need editors. Could your freelancing writing need an editor?

It’s not fun to be told that you need to improve on something. Sometimes, though, that’s just what you need. Remember, when a client asks for revisions, or when an editor requests changes, it’s probably not personal. Your freelance writing might just need a little help or direction.

Making Revisions

I’ve had to make revisions to my work on occasion. There are times when the client wants a little bit more here, or wants something explained differently. Most of the time, I don’t have a problem making revisions to the work. And, it gives me a chance to look through the piece again, and improve it overall — or catch little typos that might have gone unnoticed originally.

However, you get to the point where making more revisions becomes burdensome. If you’re being asked to add 500 words because the client was too cheap to order an article of that length originally, it might be time to ask for a little more money.

One way to address this possibility is to clearly state how many revisions you are willing to make (two is a fairly standard and reasonable number of revisions) when you agree to the project. It can also help to ask the client for more detail about the project, and what he or she wants. If you are given vague directions, you could be forgiven for pretty much doing whatever you think fits.

When Someone Changes Your Piece

Another issue that freelance writers have to deal with is the possibility that an editor will just take what you’ve written and add to it, or change it. Personally, I don’t have a big problem with that. In many cases, especially if I’m ghostwriting, it’s understandable that the client would want to change things a bit to reflect his or her personal style.

There is a fine line, though. Do you want something that is dramatically changed to still bear your name? What if the changes are inaccurate, or don’t really reflect your ideas? When your name is on something, you have cause to ask that you be allowed to re-work it, or that an editor’s note be added to clear state that something has been added. I once had a client add a section of text to something I’d written, and in the comments, someone called it out as inaccurate. The client ended up leaving his own comment apologizing, and pointing out that it was his mistake, and not mine. Sometimes, you have to edit the work of your editor.

Many times, though, with the simple nit-picky stuff, it’s much easier to just let the editor make the changes, than to go back through and make the changes yourself.

Clients Get What they Pay For

Another consideration when it comes to editing and revisions is what the client is paying for. If you are charging a higher rate for your work, then you need to be prepared to do a little more in terms of making the client happy. On the other hand, if you are a blog staff writer, and you aren’t paid that much, it seems counter-productive (not to mention terribly cost inefficient) to keep making revisions.

It’s at that point, when you are constantly asked to change small things, or to make big revisions that take up a lot of time that you aren’t being paid for, that you need to think about possibly firing your client. It really becomes a cost-benefit.

Editing Can be Helpful to Freelance Writers

Writers do need editors. I have some really great editors that push me to improve my writing, and stretch myself. This is a good thing. They offer insightful suggestions, and I can feel the article improving as I revise. Not one of us is perfect, and room for improvement is always there. But changes because the client feels like he or she needs to “do something” are rarely warranted.

Consider requests from clients, and consider the editing process. Have an open mind about the process, and remember that, most of the time, editing and revision requests aren’t personal commentaries on the quality of your work.

How do you handle revisions requests?

Image source: NiccolĂł Caranti

0 thoughts on “Freelance Writing: Handling Editing and Revision Requests”

  1. This is an important post for me as I am a writer for some companies and now the Managing Editor for too. So I do both. It’s new to me so will take on board your suggestions – from both sides 🙂 Thanks for sharing on

  2. One client often asks for revisions, but my per post rate is really high, so I am happy to do it (a post often takes several hours before final sign off is given). Otherwise, I rarely get asked for revisions – occasionally for another client, whom I charge hourly. I’m lucky in that regard – I think it’s a good idea to set boundaries up front regarding how revisions will be handled. I remember one of the first pieces I got published in a paper was absolutely butchered by the subs, and I had no notice at all until I saw the paper.

    1. Miranda Marquit

      I think you make a good point about making sure that everything is hashed out in the agreement ahead of time. I find that I am rarely asked for revisions as well. However, on the occasions that I am asked for revisions, I find that it is usually one of the lower paying clients.

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