Is a sample or trial edit worthwhile?

Sometimes a potential client may ask a potential editor to do a sample or test edit.

There are several reasons why this can be useful. An inexperienced client may think it can help choose an editor, but it is rarely a good guide to the total time and cost required to edit a long piece of work.

More or less time?

A sample edit may take less time or be done at a faster work rate than the full work if:

  • an easy or well-written section is chosen for the trial that does not reflect the full work
  • it is not ‘for real’.

A sample edit may take more time and be done at a slower work rate for several reasons:

  • it takes time to get used to the writing style and content
  • it takes time to make key editing choices and do a style sheet
  • it takes time to read and apply a specific style guide
  • the section is particularly difficult or time-consuming.

As a professional editor I avoid doing unpaid sample edits. A very short piece is unlikely to sufficiently show my skills, while a longer piece takes time away from doing paid editing work.

I have a detailed website to help clients decide if I am the right editor for them. It explains my experience here, provides information on what affects the price of editing here, and contains many words that I have written and edited, including all these blogs here.

The Institute of Professional Editors has an online directory of professional members, including Accredited Editors such as me who have passed IPEd’s accreditation exam.

When receiving any new work to quote on or edit, it is important to check technical and practical issues like versions of software and compatibility. I always ask the client to send the full file when I prepare a quote to test these issues. My quotes also specify that I edit in track changes and by inserting comments. In preparing a quote, I use my extensive experience on similar work to inform the fixed price I quote.

Better uses of time

In summary, while a sample edit may appear useful, there are usually better uses of both a client’s and an editor’s time to help choose the most appropriate editor for a job. Clients can research appropriate editors, and editors can prepare well-informed quotes.

For advice on editing, please contact me on rhdaniels@bigpond.com

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