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Three Things You May Not Know About Being a Freelance Editor

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As my day job, I work as a freelance magazine editor for a regional lifestyle magazine. When I chat with my non-writer friends about the responsibilities of the job, they are usually surprised to learn that I do more than write articles, compile calendar events, and edit the other articles writers turn in. For any writers out there who are considering applying or accepting jobs in this realm, I thought I’d share a few tidbits about the other aspects of this type of writing/editing job. 

Website and magazine editors do more than edit. For our monthly publication, I brainstorm most of the editorial content for the magazine. I’m in charge of creating monthly “themes,” and developing and assigning articles for almost all the departments each month. I accept pitches from other writers, but most of the original ideas start with me. (Note: This is a little different because our magazine strictly uses contract employees. I’ve worked at other magazines that have associate editors and staff writers who can help with the content creation and editing). I also work with freelance photographers and coordinate assignments to run alongside articles and covers each month. The editor also collects invoices from writers and make sure they are paid each month for their assignments. 

Problem solving skills are essential. What are some examples of problems I’ve had to solve? I’ve had photographers and writers accept assignments and then let me know less than a week before they were due that they could not complete an assignment. This leaves me with the task of filling a copy hole in the magazine and arranging for alternative photography or provided/stock images. I’ve had interview subjects or PR firms want to preview their articles before they go to print (we don’t allow that unless it’s a paid advertising piece). I’ve had photographers take an assignment and then turn in one photo, when we needed at least three. Just this past month a writer completed an interview for an upcoming event, and then it was cancelled because of rising COVID cases in our area. 

Finding a way to make content evergreen is a must. By this I mean every year, there will be back-to-school stories, national holidays, recurring special advertising themes, columnists who need to find ways to keep their ideas fresh. Once you work somewhere for more than a year, it will be important to encourage your creative team to think outside the box when coming up with these types of evergreen stories. 

I could write much more on the topic, but I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you ever worked as an editor and had a similar experience? Or, have you had an editor help nurture your freelance writing career? 

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and freelance magazine editor who also hosts and produces the true crime podcast, Missing in the Carolinas.

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