When you’re scaling up content production, you’ll run into an editing bottleneck. The content piles up in your editor’s inbox. A job that one person was previously able to handle alongside their other duties now requires more people to increase content velocity — and, therefore, results.
Here’s how we usually see companies (and agencies at their start) build out their content team and, in the process, delegate both writing and editing so the content leader or manager can focus on strategy and improving business results from the content produced.
- First, they hire freelancer writers to free up the content manager’s time. The content manager retains strategy, editing, and publishing/promotion activities. Depending on the available budget, the company may alternatively hire an agency instead of a bunch of freelancers.
- Second, they hire a coordinator to handle publishing and promotion. This person is trained and managed by the content manager. They’re probably called a “junior content marketer.”
- Third, they hire an editor to remove the lowest-value but still-necessary work of line editing, copy editing, and proofreading each piece before it’s published and distributed.
- Fourth, and finally, they (try to) outsource the deep editing of content. This can be outsourced but is usually best still handled internally. If the volume is enough that you can sustain a full-time editor, hiring one with subject-matter expertise is usually the right approach. This editor can then leverage freelance writers and outsourced editors to increase production velocity further.
Today I’m going to dig into the third tier — outsourcing copy editing and proofreading.
You have some decisions to make once you reach the third tier of the replacement ladder. The big one is, “Who do I hire to edit our content?”
I’m going to outline the 5 options you have. These are the most common ways companies and agencies try to solve the editing problem, heard directly from prospective and active customers.
Option 1: Do Nothing (They Don’t Increase it)
Doing nothing is the default for most people. They’ll never say it, of course. Instead, they’ll say things like, “This isn’t a priority right now,” “I need more than just X,” or “I need to think about it and talk with my partners.”
They figure things are working ok, it’s not TOO much of a hassle, etc.
Change is hard, and bringing on a new freelancer or vendor to do something means more work in the short term to train them and give feedback.
So, they do nothing. Nothing changes, and a year later, they’re wondering why they feel stuck.
It’s an option, to be sure. It might even be the safe choice. This option is no risk, but it also leads to no growth. If growth is a priority, then this is not a great option.
Option 2: Hire Freelancers
The second way we see companies try to solve editing is to hire a freelancer or two. The company sources freelancers the way they always do:
- through platforms like Upwork or Guru, and
- by asking industry peers who they’ve used and would recommend.
These are the most common ways to find freelancers.
Hiring freelancers and working with them directly has its own set of challenges, as well as some advantages.
The advantages of working with freelancers directly include the ability to scale them up and down based on your volume, integrating them directly into your systems and workflows, and over time they could become a subject-matter expert (SME) for you and increase their value to the organization.
Downsides include sourcing and vetting them, dealing with accounts receivables and billing, 1099 requirements, and replacing them when they go on vacation, take a full-time job, or get sick and are unable to work for a bit.
A freelance editor can be a great way to get started, especially if you’ve not worked with an editor before, but working with a solo freelancer comes with its own set of challenges around finding, vetting, hiring, invoicing, managing, and so on.
Note: EditorNinja is an easy way to work with professional freelance editors. We’re best thought of as the alternative to hiring a freelance editor or two.
Option 3: “Edit-Free Writers”
Once a company has hired freelance writers and grown content production, they realize that editing is becoming a bottleneck.
Instead of filling the role of an editor, which is a very common role in any established content production process, we often see companies first try to hire what we’ve heard of as “edit-free writers.”
The idea is that it’s possible to hire freelance writers whose writing is so good the first time that they don’t need any editing by someone internally. The content can just be added to the CMS and published, and it will be accurate, on-brand, on-tone, and convert like crazy.
Needless to say, these writers don’t exist. The best content you see is written by good, even great, writers who have also worked heavily with an editor.
I recently heard a well-known entrepreneur, Alex Hormozi, mention on Dean Graziosi’s podcast that not only has Alex put 2,000+ hours (that’s a year of full-time work, by the way, at 50 weeks of 40 hours per week) writing his book, but his editors have put in at least 1,500 of their own hours.
Alex is a great writer. But his work is magical because of the editing.
Option 4: Hire Full-Time
We see many of our prospective customers considering hiring a full-time editor. When they’ve scaled up content production, the “buy vs. build” discussion often comes into play.
Our take is that hiring a full-time editor makes a lot of sense as a second step after hiring freelance writers, and when the content manager/leader has become so busy with strategy and other duties, they can no longer be the editor maintaining the quality bar on content.
I think of the right full-time editor hire as an “editor-in-chief.” They’re responsible for assigning work to freelancers, making sure it is on-brief and up to the quality standards set out. This editor also does in-depth editing with a subject-matter expert eye and works with the freelancer through draft revisions to get the topic itself to a good place.
This Editor-In-Chief probably also does the copy editing and proofreading to a point, up until content volume has once again grown enough to cause a bottleneck. It’s at this point that they outsource this part of editing.
Having a full-time editor, if you can afford it, is amazing. Just know that a full-time editor will likely cost you at least $75,000 per year in salary plus benefits. A content manager costs $100,000-125,000 per year on average. Having them copy edit and proofread is unprofitable for your business, so outsourcing those duties is usually the right move.
Note: A content manager can also be the editor-in-chief and, in our opinion, should think of themselves this way. If this is their primary role and what they enjoy most, then they should partner with someone else on the strategy side to ensure all necessary parts of content production are being done well.
Option 5: EditorNinja (Or a Similar Service)
Finally, a fifth option for scaling editing alongside content writing is a service like EditorNinja. We are obviously biased, but we exist to come alongside companies scaling content production to prevent editing from becoming a bottleneck.
- Dedicated editors for every account, so the editor gets to know your style guides and preferences.
- A backup editor for every account who can step in when the dedicated editor takes a vacation, gets sick, or moves on to another role.
- Guaranteed turnaround times. You’ll never get an email from us saying your content is delayed or that we can’t handle your content volume.
- Flat-rate pricing. No more being nickel-and-dimed on each piece of content. Simply subscribe and give us your content, and we’ll take it from there.
- The ability to scale up (or down) at any time. We always have editing capacity, so we can scale up when you do, and if you need to scale down for a while, we can do that too!
- Zapier automation support to automate your content submission process (available on accounts with 2+ editing lanes).
Scaling your content and ready to investigate using EditorNinja to solve your editing capacity problems?