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.

Editor Quotations: What Writers Think about Their Editor

For many people, the work an editor does is a mystery. What do editors do and what do writers think of them?

Here are a few quotations about editors that might answer these questions. You probably will recognise some of the well-known writers who have offered their opinions on editors—some positive, some not.


A good editor understands what you’re talking and writing about and doesn’t meddle too much.

Irwin Shaw


A good many young writers make the mistake of enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, big enough for the manuscript to come back in. This is too much of a temptation to the editor.

Ring Lardner


A good novel editor is invisible.

Terri Windling


A literary journal is intended to connect writer with reader; the role of the editor is to mediate.

John Barton


A very good editor is almost a collaborator.

Ken Follett


Always point your finger at the chest of the person with whom you are being.  An editor becomes kind of your mother. You expect love and encouragement from an editor.

Jackie Kennedy


An editor is someone who separates the wheat from the chaff and then prints the chaff.

Adlai E. Stevenson


And that’s another piece of advice I’ll give junior writers; when you get to the point where they take you to lunch, let the editor suggest where to go.

Jerry Pournelle


Anyone nit-picking enough to write a letter of correction to an editor doubtless deserves the error that provoked it.

Alvin Toffler


Book writing is a little different because, in my case, my editor is a year younger than me and basically has the same sensibility as me.

Chuck Klosterman


But for me, being an editor I’ve been an editor of all kinds of books being an editor of poetry has been the way in which I could give a crucial part of my time to what I love most.

Peter Davison


Dealing with poetry is a daunting task, simply because the reason one does it as an editor at all is because one is constantly coming to terms with one’s own understanding of how to understand the world.

Peter Davison


Dullness is the only crime for which an editor ought to be hung.

Josephus Daniels


Editor: a person employed by a newspaper, whose business it is to separate the wheat from the chaff, and to see that the chaff is printed.

Elbert Hubbard


I feel sorry for people who have to edit me. Which is why book writing is by far the most enjoyable. Really the only thing it’s based on is whether it’s good or not. No book editor, in my experience, is getting a manuscript and trying to rewrite it.

Chuck Klosterman


I remember when an editor at the National Geographic promised to run about a dozen of my landscape pictures from a story on the John Muir trail as an essay, but when the group of editors got together, someone said that my pictures looked like postcards.

Galen Rowell


I was surprised that my wife thought it was a good idea, then again with my agent, another woman, then my editor, another woman – in spite of the fact that all three of them reacted positively I still have this fear.

Michael Chabon


I’m a writer first and an editor second… or maybe third or even fourth. Successful editing requires a very specific set of skills, and I don’t claim to have all of them at my command.

Lynn Abbey


If every editor turns you down, maybe you should take a second look at your text, however, just in case.

Piers Anthony


It is also one of the pleasures of oral biography, in that the reader, rather than editor, is jury.

George Plimpton


My only claim to fame, if I have one, is that I’m an editor.

Woody Herman


Not too many people know who the editor is.

Julius Schwartz


Publishing your work is important. Even if you are giving a piece to some smaller publication for free, you will learn something about your writing. The editor will say something, friends will mention it. You will learn.

Tim Cahill


Some editors are failed writers, but so are most writers.

T.S. Eliot quotes (American born English Editor, Playwright, Poet and Critic, 1888-1965)


SYCOPHANT, n. One who approaches Greatness on his belly so that he may not be commanded to turn and be kicked. He is sometimes an editor.

Ambrose Bierce


An editor should tell the author his writing is better than it is. Not a lot better, a little better.

T.S. Eliot (American born English Editor, Playwright, Poet and Critic, 1888-1965)


How often we recall, with regret, that Napoleon once shot at a magazine editor and missed him and killed a publisher. But we remember with charity that his intentions were good.

Mark Twain  (American Humorist, Writer and Lecturer. 1835-1910)


I know many journalists who would like to comment on the deep structure of their profession and its suck-up to advertisers, not to mention the dominant social order. But their editors won’t let them.

Richard Goldstein


Writers take words seriously-perhaps the last professional class that does-and they struggle to steer their own through the crosswinds of meddling editors and careless typesetters and obtuse and malevolent reviewers into the lap of the ideal reader.

John Updike (American writer, b.1932)


Editors are constantly on the watch to discover new talents in old names.

Israel Zangwill (English Writer, 1864-1926)