Outsourcing your editing work to a freelance copyeditor can save you time and money. It provides access to an experienced professional who can deliver top-quality work, without the costs and responsibilities of maintaining an in-house editorial team.
Freelance copyeditors work with a diverse range of industries to deliver accurate, effective written content. Smaller organisations often don’t have the budget to retain a full-time editor on their team. Even larger organisations are increasingly using outsourcing to acquire specialist editing skills for specific projects, or temporarily increase their capacity.
In this article, we explain what a copyeditor does, what outsourcing is, and identify some groups who may outsource their editing work.
What is copyediting (and what does a copyeditor do)?
According to the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading:
‘Copyediting focuses on the detail of a text: agreeing final content, making sure it reads well for its intended purpose, and applying consistency to the language and formatting.’
More intensive than proofreading, copyediting involves a sentence-level review of written content, checking for errors and inconsistencies, improving readability and style, and raising any queries with the client (or the author).
The CIEP website provides a comprehensive list of copyediting tasks.
What is outsourcing?
Essentially, outsourcing is the practice of obtaining goods or services from an external supplier. The practice has broadened over the last 15 years to include the hiring of freelance professionals to work on specific projects. It gives businesses and organisations access to expertise and knowledge that they cannot afford (and do not need) to retain on a full-time basis.
In-house teams will be familiar with the structure and practices of their organisation, but outsourcing brings a fresh perspective. Plus, an experienced copyeditor who has worked across a variety of projects will be able to provide valuable input regarding your overall editorial management plan.
Outsourcing makes economic sense. Yes, it costs to hire a professional copyeditor. But you will not need to fund pension contributions, salary, paid leave, sickness pay, or any expenses except those directly associated with the project. There are also time considerations. It can take well over two months to train an in-house staff member to edit to the required standard. This training will require a considerable investment in terms of training materials and salary. It could also reduce your overall capacity as the staff member cannot work on other projects while they are training.
There is also the matter of consistency and workflow continuity. If your in-house editor becomes unwell, leaves, or takes a holiday, their work must be covered, or key projects will grind to a halt. If you outsource to a copyediting agency that works with a regular team of freelance copyeditors, they can guarantee that your editing work will continue uninterrupted, even during peak holiday periods.
Which industries use freelance copyeditors?
In short, any business, organisation, or body that produces written content could outsource their editing work. We’ve listed a few below, to give you an idea of the scope of a freelance copyeditor’s work.
Medical communications agencies
Medical communications agencies (sometimes called ‘medcomms’) work with healthcare companies to produce and distribute information to different audiences. These could be healthcare professionals (Doctors, nurses, pharmacists), statutory and public bodies (like the NHS), and patients.
Medcomms agencies produce written content in a variety of formats. This includes e-learning platforms, conference documents, educational texts, and printed materials such leaflets. The aim is to engage the audience, convey the client’s key message, and improve the healthcare experience of patients. The material needs to be pitched at wildly differing levels – think information for doctors on the pharmacological mechanisms of a new drug vs a leaflet on diabetes for younger children. Also, the information given must be clear and accurate. False claims of effectiveness or ambiguous instructions for medication can be dangerous. They can also incur steep costs for the client, financially and reputationally.
Medical editors support medcomms agencies to deliver written content. Although many agencies have an in-house editorial team, they frequently outsource to freelance copyeditors. This often happens when large projects necessitate a temporary expansion of the workforce but can also occur when pitching content to a new or niche audience. For example, delivering information that effectively promotes uptake of the covid-19 vaccine amongst marginalised communities will require a medical editor familiar with the culture and customs of those communities. It may also require an editor who is multilingual.
Obviously, most large publishing houses have an in-house editorial team, but they will outsource to freelance copyeditors to ensure that they meet strict deadlines. This often happens in the case of typesetting deadlines and unexpected rewrites. They may also outsource to freelance copyeditors where the editing of a text requires a specialised knowledge base – for example, the correct use of Islamic terminology.
Publishers don’t just print books and pay authors. They also promote the books and create the marketing materials to promote those books. The promotional material will be in a range of formats – including letters, leaflets, digital articles, and social media posts. A team of copyeditors and copywriters work together to ensure consistency of style and message across the promotional campaign. Working with this material requires a different skillset to editing a manuscript. The copyeditor must understand SEO and the functions of social media, and how these impact upon the language and style of written content. For this reason, publishers may outsource the editing of promotional material to a copyeditor who is experienced at working with digital marketing content.
Digital news outlets
There’s no such thing as a slow news day. In the digital world, news moves quickly – think up-to-the-second, not up-to-the-minute. In this fast-paced environment, competition for readers is fierce, and delivering relevant, compelling content is key. Digital news outlets are in a never-ending race to break key stories and developments before their competitors do. If they fall behind, their content becomes irrelevant, and their search engine ranking suffers the consequences. That means reduced online visibility, less readers, and loss of income from advertising and subscriptions.
Clearly time is of the essence, but so is precision. Typos and inaccuracies in reports will damage the reputation of any news outlet and undermine the credibility of their journalism. Outsourcing to a copyediting agency allows digital news outlets to deliver on speed without compromising on quality and accuracy. The agency has a pool of freelance copyeditors available to deliver articles to the tightest of deadlines. This leaves journalists free to concentrate on writing and investigating the stories that matter.
In the ideal world, a translator would be a native speaker of both the source language and the target language. That’s because, when it comes to translation, the meaning is more important than wording. Good-quality translations should retain all the meaning of the original text but read as though they were written by a native speaker of the target language. In short, they should be idiomatic, not literal.
However, translation work is often done by native speakers of the source language who have variable proficiency in the target language. As a result, the texts produced often read awkwardly, and fail to convey the author’s original meaning. For that reason, many translation agencies outsource to a freelance copyeditor who is a native speaker of the target language, but who also has some familiarity with the idiosyncrasies of the source language.
The global Covid-19 pandemic has been a powerful reminder that research is an international effort. The success of the vaccine development programme relates in part to the prompt and open sharing of ideas between researchers from across the globe. To be effective, the information shared needs to be accurate, reliable, and clear. That’s not so easy if reports are written in a hurry, in the researcher’s second (or third) language, or if the usual peer review process has been bypassed for the sake of speed (as happened often during pandemic).
In lieu of peer reviews, researchers are increasingly outsourcing to academic editors to revise their papers and expedite their publication. An academic editor will ensure that the papers adhere to academic conventions in terms of language, style, and citations. They also make sure that all findings are explained clearly and succinctly, and that any ambiguities or inaccuracies are removed.
Charities can produce a lot of written content – from information leaflets, to fundraising content, to annual reports. This material is predominantly for public consumption, and in the case of accounting reports it may be subject to a great deal of external scrutiny. For these reasons, the information contained needs to be accurate. It also needs to be engaging – especially where content for fundraising campaigns is concerned. Fundraising campaigns make heavy use of written digital content that involves elements of SEO such as readability and keywords. SEO is vital to maintain online visibility and keep donations flowing.
The budget of many charities doesn’t cover the costs of maintaining a full-time in-house editor. So, outsourcing to a freelance copyeditor ensures effective, top quality written material for specific campaigns or high-profile documents.
Wordsmiths provides a professional proofreading and copyediting service to meet all your outsourcing needs. We have extensive experience of working with researchers, charities, publishers, media groups, translation agencies, and the healthcare sector. Our editors deliver accurate, effective, high-quality work, and we guarantee a fast turnaround time to help you meet even the tightest deadline. To talk to us about your outsourcing needs, email us at email@example.com, or call us on 07743 518681. You can also get in touch via our social accounts on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.