Avoid Rewrite Nightmares: Keep the Edit Cycles to a Minimum

One secret every freelancer has to learn is the writing part of the job pales by comparison to time needed for work to be edited. I have worked for very good and very bad editors over the years. From the best editors, I have learned how to sharpen my writing and improve how I frame particular ideas. From the bad ones, I have learned patience and, well, read on.

There are some clients that just can’t seem to help themselves and have to rewrite almost everything from top to bottom. To avoid getting trapped in these situations, you need to be crystal clear about how your work will be treated once it leaves your computer. Some clients think they are better writers than you, others want to show to their bosses that they have added value to your work.

Now, my contracts are very explicit about this process. I put in language that exactly says I will perform one edit cycle: I write it, the client makes comments, and I submit the final version. If they want to go back and forth endlessly, I charge more.  In some cases, a lot more, such as two or three times my original rate. That usually gets my point across: the editing is almost more time consuming than the original writing. If you don’t have a standard contract, now is the time to look around onlineand modify one that will suit your purpose.

I am not saying that every word that I create is precious and needs to be in the final piece. Just that I enjoy writing, not fiddling with syntax and word usage.

It also helps to have a clear idea of who is going to be involved in the actual editing process itself. Sometimes you get stuck between two editors, one who undoes the changes of the other. Insist (and in writing too) on a single point of contact at your client and have them consolidate and filter all the requests for changes to you. Otherwise, you go nuts with this back-and-forth. And put that in your contract too.

With some writing projects that I have done, I wanted to get multiple comments from reviewers very quickly into my draft, almost happening in real-time. For these situations, I have used one of the real-time editing tools such as Google Docs or PiratePad.net. Both tools reflect requested changes with a scrolling chat window and different colors to represent each person’s changes. But you have to know your client very well to implement something like this.

If all else fails, then don’t work for these clients: They can make you work much harder  for an end product that isn’t always superior. In the end, you will be happier and enjoy the writing process more if you limit the number of edit cycles and approvals up front.

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