Image of a freelance editor sitting in at a typewriter.

Freelance Editor: The Challenge of Outsourcing Editing Overseas

If you are looking for a freelance editor, you might hear about companies that outsource their editing overseas to cut costs. The idea is that an English speaking freelance editor in India or the Philippines can do the same work that an Australian freelance editor can do.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of outsourcing editing overseas to countries such as India and the Philippines.

Pros of outsourcing editing to an offshore freelance editor

You can probably save money by getting your editing done overseas. Editors in countries such as India and the Philippines will charge substantially less. So even if you go through an outsourcing broker based in Australia the cost will be lower.

Cons of outsourcing editing to an offshore freelance editor

An overseas freelance editor might have good command of English spelling, grammar and punctuation. The problem is how much English can vary from country to country. The only way to know these subtleties is to live in the country where the book or document will be published. It’s not as simple as setting your language preferences in Word to Australian English. It really takes an Australian-based freelance editor (or one who has lived in Australia for many years) to know how English is spoken and written locally.

A freelance editor based in India or the Philippines, who has never lived in Australia, won’t know these subtleties and it will show in their editing. The same will be true of a US freelance editor who tries to edit text for Australian readers or Australian freelance editor who tries to edit text for British readers. Besides the obvious spelling differences, an overseas freelance editor won’t know the nuances of English outside their own country. This is why Australian publishers hire Australian freelance editors to localise books that were written in the US or UK. They realise that a local freelance editor is needed to revise the publication for the Australian market.

In addition to spelling and grammar, each English-speaking country has its own style conventions. To edit Australian publications, you need to know these in depth.

For example, the commonly accepted styles for punctuating and capitalising points in bulleted lists differ between countries (see how it should be done in Australia). If an overseas editor doesn’t know these styles, the work won’t be satisfactory. Another example of one of these idiosyncrasies is how time is expressed. In Australia, the accepted style to use a full stop (a period for American readers) between the hour and minute (for example, 5.30). In the United States, the accepted style is to use a colon between the hour and minute (5:30).

There are hundreds of these minor stylistic points that you need to know to correctly edit publications for the Australian market.

Communication barriers are another drawback to outsourcing editing to an overseas  freelance editor. In many cases, editing is a collaborative effort between the writer and editor. Trying to communicate with someone overseas about a project can be challenging due to cultural differences.

A low hourly rate for editing overseas won’t necessarily translate into a low project price. In the 4-Hour Work Week, Timothy Ferris describes how he had some bad experiences outsourcing to overseas providers. He noted that although the hourly rate was low, it sometimes took substantially more time to get the work done. Whether the hours it took were overstated or it did take longer than expected to complete the work, this is a risk you take when outsourcing to an offshore freelance editor.

Weighing the pros and cons of outsourcing to overseas editors

Before you make a decision, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of outsourcing editing overseas. If price is your only consideration, then it might be the right decision to hire an overseas freelance editor.

If you’re looking for high quality and someone who understands local usage, culture and style conventions, then outsourcing to an overseas editor is not the way to go.