What to look for in editors
I’ve been freelancing since December of 2014. My portfolio now consists of a mix of reporting for national and Chicago-based publications. So far, I’ve figured out a few attributes to look for in editors who are great to work with.
Finding the right editors for your stories is critical. It impacts factors like whether your story drafts will be published on time, how intensely your stories will be edited, how your story structure will be influenced, and how soon you’ll be paid for your work, among other things.
As a freelancer, once you find editors you really vibe with, that means more commissions for you and more great stories for them. But what exactly makes a good editor? Well, here are a few traits I’ve noticed in my favorite kickass editors:
I briefly served as the interim managing editor at The Chicago Defender. During my stint at this small community newspaper, I received more than 100 emails a day, some directly to me and some from our general editorial email inbox. It took at least 20 to 25 minutes a day to sort, delete and answer emails. That said, I’m quite sympathetic to busy editors who struggle to make it to inbox zero. But now that I’m on the other side of things, I really appreciate when my editors get back to me within one to three days. Of course, the more urgent my pitch is the sooner I can follow-up, but having a responsive editor makes you not feel so much like a pest.
They make sure you’re paid.
Freelancers are outside the newsroom, which means they don’t always know who oversees the accounts payable department. Having an editor that sends your invoices to the right person and isn’t defensive or mute when you ask about payment is a God-send. You’re a valuable resource to their newsroom. Find editors that treat you as such when it’s time to get paid. (Pro-tip: Check Who Pays Writers for more insights into how long other freelancers have had to wait to be paid).
They’re open to new ideas.
One of the most vital skills for a freelance journalist to have is the ability to pitch stories well. You’ll need to find editors who are open to new story ideas. As you find stories with fresh angles, you’ll need to find editors who are interested in having unconventional stories that fit within their beats.
They’re generally nice people.
Nobody wants to work with an asshole. In the era where email and Twitter DMs are more common than the phone or in-person, context is everything. And while it’s not professional to put in a bunch of emojis in your messages, I generally welcome respectful, thoughtful criticism and genuine praise. Keep your stress level low. Work with editors who talk to you like a human being.
Did I miss anything? What are the qualities you seek when working with editors? Leave me a note in the comments or send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Yes, I’ll get your email).