Last updated: August 9, 2019 by Loz James

content editor

Digital content is an awkward beast. On one hand, you can rapidly and non-destructively alter it, which makes it ideally suited to iterative improvement.

On the other hand, its creative freedom tends to make the finished product (or at least the drafted product) feel more personal, which makes it much harder for the creator to adjust it extensively. The more you care about a piece of your work, the tougher it is to see its weaknesses — no matter how blatant they may be.

That said, caring about your work also means wanting it to fulfil its potential, which typically calls for a lengthy and in-depth bout of editing. You simultaneously want it left untouched and full optimized. How do you reconcile these contrasting desires? It’s simple: you work with an editor.

An editor will have no emotional attachment to the work, allowing them to consider it much more objectively. You’ll need to pay for the privilege, though, and deal with an extended collaborative process that could easily become heated if you’re not careful. Some good, and some bad.

So here’s the important question: assuming you have a content strategy (which you really should, even if your business is small), would it benefit from the input of a professional editor? Is it worth the investment? Let’s consider it by weighing the pros and cons:

Pro: Ease of Achieving Your Vision

There tends to be a significant amount of room between what you intend to achieve with a piece of content and what you actually produce. This could be the result of your time being limited, or simply a consequence of your writing skills not being exceptional — if you don’t write professionally, mainly doing it for your business, then it’s not surprising if you’re not great (of course, you should still try to work on it).

This can easily lead to frustration. You can see the destination in your mind, but you don’t know how to get there, and dwelling on it only makes the matter worse. This is a great time to bring in a professional editor: they can spend time talking to you, get a strong idea of what you were hoping for, and figure out how to move the content in that direction.

And when you produce the kind of content you want to offer, you can subsequently focus on polishing your strategy. The alternative is to be left wondering if you’re not getting anywhere with your content marketing because the tactics are wrong or because the content isn’t doing its job.

Remember that 65% of people surveyed struggle to produce engaging content. That’s a massive percentage given that aspiring content marketers should have plenty to talk about, and are clearly capable in other areas (at least capable enough to get their businesses going). The main obstacle seems to be ability — with a fantastic editor, you can largely get that obstacle out of the way. And with an editor to keep the style and tone in check, you can even bring in more writers (even freelance writers) to make things easier without hugely disrupting the brand.

Pro: Increased Content Consistency

Brand consistency is essential, because you’ll never be memorable if you come across differently whenever someone reads a piece of your content — and inconsistency is common in unedited content, even when professional writers are responsible for it. Writers work differently as their moods change, at different hours, and when pursuing distinct goals — but they don’t actually notice it, because they’re too close to their work to see it.

A professional editor, though, can step in to review every piece of content after its drafted, ensuring that everything lines up. Is there a steady tone? Are the same fonts used? Is there a familiar layout common to everything? Any discrepancies can be flagged, and the content can either be tweaked immediately or passed back to the drafting stage to be revised.

Having the revised content will also make the production process easier in the long run, because there will be more examples of suitable content to draw from. It’s much easier to spot the issues when you’re able to directly compare a fresh draft to several brand-approved pieces.

content editing

Pro: The Benefits of Experience

Regardless of the nature of your business, there’s an excellent chance that you don’t have much experience working on content campaigns. That inexperience may even extend to your team members (if you have a team). And even if you do have some experience, it will likely be fairly limited — perhaps you worked on parts, but nothing cohesive.

Experience is quite important in content marketing because it’s such a drawn-out process. The true success of a content campaign is revealed in years, not months, becasue search rankings trend upwards and brand awareness increases. If you can bring in an editor with experience of working on a long-term content campaign, you can benefit greatly from their insight.

Consider that there are two approaches you can take: you can bring in a seasoned digital content editor with a broad set of skills, or you can bring in an editor for a specific type of content (such as dialogue, scripting, or stories). The former option will realistically limit you to hiring a full-time editor or using a freelancer through a site like Fiverr, because there aren’t many digital-centric editing services.

There are publishing-related editing services, though, so you can try those if your content strategy involves long-form content. Given the arcs that can be worked into multi-year narrative-based content, there may be value in bringing in traditional editors to help chart your course (for instance, Jericho Writers has book editing services that could help with anything from video scripts to story beats).

Regardless of the type of editor you bring in (provided they’re experienced), they’ll be able to help you avoid the most common pitfalls. They may even have some fresh suggestions of how you can improve upon the tactics they’ve seen used before.

Con: Risky Reliance On a Part-Timer

Here’s one of the core difficulties about working with a professional editor: unless you’re going to hire one full-time (which would be expensive, and unnecessary), you’ll be placing the fate of your content strategy in the hands of someone lacking a full commitment to your brand. This won’t affect the quality of their work, because performance is vital as a part-timer or freelancer — but it will introduce the risk that they’ll get a better offer and simply stop working with you.

Provided they don’t disappear in the middle of an edit, you might think that isn’t such a big deal. You can simply bring in another editor. The problem, though, is that you might have come to rely on the first editor’s style and experience — their replacement might have a very different tone (particularly if you’re using freelancers), leading to your content sounding quite different.

Is this a huge con? Not really. Over time, a good editor will be able to adapt to the style that preceded them, so the important thing is leaving enough time for any new editor to get up to speed (and having sample resources they can draw from).

content editor desk

Con: Soaks Up Time & Money

Here’s the other main drawback of using a professional editor: it’s costly, both financially and organizationally. Basic editing can be inexpensive, but if you want your content to be exceptional, that means paying for an exceptional editor… something that’s unlikely to be cheap. And then there’s the inevitable back-and-forth of the editorial process — you provide the draft, receive an edit, make further alterations, get another edit back, and keep going until everyone’s happy.

But what if a piece gets kicked around for months without reaching that point? It may not have been great to begin with, but it might have been better to simply release it as it was than to spend time and money in a futile effort to perfect it.

Again, though, this con isn’t a big reason to be concerned. You’re unlikely to encounter such disagreement with your editor, particularly if you choose them carefully to understand your style and what you’re trying to achieve. And you’ll always have the option of deciding to stop editing a given piece and either use it or discard it.

Content Editing: In Conclusion

On balance, then, it should be clear what the conclusion is. Would your content strategy benefit from the input of a professional editor? Absolutely, yes. Leaving aside the matter of whether it’s justified in your case, it would certainly add to your efforts, leaving your content more consistent and more effective.

Is it worth doing, though? That depends on what your content marketing budget is, what editors are available to you, and what kind of mutually-beneficial arrangements can be achieved. If you could find a place in your business for a full-time editor (perhaps in a split role), that could be extremely useful. I definitely recommend reviewing your options, though — if you can fit an editorial service into your budget, it’s absolutely worth your time.

(Main image credit: Needpix)

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