Is the Life of a Freelance Editor Lonely?

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by Beth Bruno, Developmental Book Editor

Working alone as a freelance book editor, especially enjoying a busy practice, can get lonely at times. While true, those times are never so much as to tempt me to join even a small publishing company for the daily interactions with colleagues and others. Sure, the planned and unplanned exchanges at the office are important to the organization’s mission; and even when unrelated to the busineswoman-reading-silhouette-800pxs, their purely social benefits can add significantly to satisfactions of the workplace.

For this self-employed editor, however, the advantages of working alone, either at home or on the road, continue to exceed the benefits of eye-to-eye contact with co-workers. Obviously, the freedom of time management is a huge advantage. To be in charge of one’s time is to greatly reduce the many potential and actual conflicts between the demands of the workplace and requirements of one’s personal and family life. While there are distractions at home – children for example – the home worker can unilaterally lessen or eliminate those distractions. Moreover, research has documented an enormous amount of time lost on task by a host of distractions that occur at the workplace. For this editor and writer, after balancing the benefits of working at home versus those when employed at a business site, the choice is the proverbial no-brainer. Interestingly, businesses are discovering they can also benefit from allowing work to be done at home.

But back to the reality of loneliness. I am a social person. What I’ve discovered over the years is that my editing modus operandi inherently involves the development of a relationship with most of my clients. I say “most” because I do encounter clients who for one reason or another prefer written exchanges only to conduct our business. Almost all others, however, either welcome my own e-mails, phone calls and other means of staying in touch about the job, or themselves initiate these contacts during the editing process. Technology has assisted my work style considerably with the occasional use of Skype and FaceTime. A few of my contracts with clients are carried out by edited and re-edited exchanges only, but they are very few.

So, what’s the nature of my client relationships, albeit distant ones? Most contacts begin by phone as something best described as interviews. Almost all of my clients, self published or otherwise, are eager to share their goals, reasons for writing, backgrounds, along with many questions. Once I have seen a manuscript, I have my own questions that are more specifically related to what I’ve read and edits I’ve made. This is an opportunity to provide more detail regarding my changes, allows their responses, reasons why they’ve done what they’ve done, and any objections they might have to my changes. The more these conversations occur, in contrast to the more impersonal written exchanges, the closer the client and I become in our understanding of each other. I firmly believe that the relationship we build invariably results in a confidence that we have produced the best possible product.

While it is not my intention to become friends with my clients, it has become much like a friendship in a number of cases with communication that continues on a variety of topics related to publishing and marketing even after the contract has been fulfilled. When it has been convenient for client and editor due to travel, we have also met in person. These occasions are the exception given the far-flung locations of my clients around the U.S. and world over the years, but meeting them has led to wonderful learning experiences, not only contributing to the technical requirements of professional editing, but also the countless satisfactions of dealing with an incredible variety of motivated, fascinating people who keep returning for help with subsequent book manuscripts.


Beth has edited more than 350 fiction and nonfiction book manuscripts.

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