The Freelance Editor – Here’s One We Prepared Earlier

In the interests of providing information that is both useful as well as facetious, I sent delightful freelance editor, Abigail Nathan, a list of questions to answer. She didn’t wanna. So I sent a couple of enforcers around (two out-of-work actors dressed up as Star Wars Storm Troopers) … to save us all further embarrassment, Abigail agreed to answer the questions.

1.     So, Abigail Nathan, who are you?

Wow … that’s a bit of a deep way to start. I choose to interpret this as work-related and not some foray into the philosophical workings of the cosmos.

I am the managing director of Bothersome Words Editing & Writing Services, which is a fancy way of saying I am a freelance editor.

2.     What’s your background as far as education and editing experience are concerned?

I have an Arts degree and studied English Literature (of course) as well as Critical & Cultural Studies and Philosophy. After uni I worked at a book club as a copywriter and sub-editor. This was pretty much a dream job since I was writing about books for a living and learned about both book and magazine publishing in the process.

From there I moved on to a commercial property magazine as sub-editor, before it was closed down and I began contracting.

For a couple of years I did stints in-house at legal publishers where the editorial training was intense. We were also required to become proficient in coding and online editing which led me to become the volunteer website coordinator for the Society of Editors (NSW).

Eventually I developed Bothersome Words as a business so that I could freelance full-time. I have freelanced regularly in-house at various magazines and edit for various book publishers and private clients.

Freelancing requires me to keep up my own continuing education; I regularly attend editing and publishing workshops through the Society of Editors and I have also done private courses in Dreamweaver and InDesign.

3.     What got you interested in the profession of editing?

I have always been interested in books and words. Once I found out that a job existed for which you could, basically, read books for a living, I was set. One of my friends tells an absolutely mortifying story about being in primary school and all of us swapping stories in class and receiving hers back from me covered in corrections. So apparently it was always meant to be.

4.     You’re a freelancer – what does that mean exactly?

Essentially it means I am a contractor. The way I look at it is: I run my own business, an editing business. People hire me to write or edit for them. In the case of publishers, that might mean that they hire me to edit a book for them. Or a magazine could ring up and ask me to come in and work for 2 months to cover someone’s absence. As a freelancer I do not have an employer; I am my employer. I have clients who hire me.

 5.     How do you find business? Or does it find you?

A bit of both. I have a website and I am listed in the Society of Editors (NSW) directory; both of these are so that people can find me when they are looking for an editor. Occasionally I will send my CV out to specific companies/people for whom I would like to work, and there are various job boards and mailing lists that alert me to jobs for which I can apply.

 If I am lucky, I will get calls before I need to start hunting from contacts I already have, booking me in for jobs. If I don’t, another option is to contact these same people and check if they have anything coming up. No freelancer likes doing that and it’s the hardest part of the job. We call it The Fear – the fear of being out of work. And the fear of Murphy. It often results in the temptation to say “yes” to everything and to walk around clutching a piece of wood at all times.

6.     The question about filthy lucre: what’s your hourly rate? Is there a different rate for copy editing as opposed to structural editing?

I don’t have an hourly rate as such – I work on a project-by-project basis.

Yes, there is a different rate for copy editing, structural editing, proofreading, etc.

I would also note that there are differences depending on industry.

 7.     Do you also proofread as part of your professional endeavours?


8.     What’s your favourite part of your job?

Oh… so many answers!

There are so many aspects to the job itself. As a freelancer you get so much more variety in terms of the material you work on as well as the people you get to work with. Although it is largely a solitary profession (which can be fantastic or difficult, depending on the day/week) I am also sometimes astounded by some of the incredible people I get to work with.

I love learning new things every day – there is always something I learn from every piece of writing; either a fact from the work itself or a new editing tip I pick up from the process. My mind is opened up in new ways all the time because, while I get to read my favourite genres a lot in the course of my work, I also get to work on things I wouldn’t normally pick up.

Having said all that, one of the most rewarding parts of the job is hearing back from authors after the editing process is done and having them say that the editing helped and even made a difference. You can’t put a price on that. Particularly as a freelancer, when contact with authors may be minimal to non-existent if you’re working with a publishing house. 

I can go for weeks on that sort of feedback because, well, the fact is that editors often get a bad rap. A lot of people think we’re power-mad, sitting here with our pens, crossing out commas and rewriting sentences. But the truth is I don’t know any editor who doesn’t agonise over every change and worry about how the author might feel about all that mark-up.

Although we don’t write the stories, I don’t think editors are so different to writers, in that we don’t go into this work for the money. We do it because we love stories and a lot of us do it because we love the craft of writing. We get very invested in every piece that we work on and although I don’t think many of us necessarily want public recognition, hearing that you have helped develop a piece of writing, even if that help was in an invisible or abstract way, means a lot.

9.     What can someone expect from Bothersome Words?

Professional and honest writing and editorial services and advice from someone who is passionate about what she does.

10.  Most importantly: donuts or danishes?

Doughnut or donut, there is no try danish.

 Thanks to Abigail – the Krispy Kremes are being delivered by the Storm Troopers are we speak.

 Oh, and Bothersome Words lives here

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3 Responses to The Freelance Editor – Here’s One We Prepared Earlier

  1. Marshall Payne says:

    Go Angela and Abigail! 🙂

  2. angelaslatter says:

    🙂 Cheers, Marshall.

  3. Alan says:

    So that’s why she always carries a bit of wood.