And yet, here I am, loving every bit of it too!
But let’s be honest, writing isn’t easy. Not for me, at least. Some time ago I wrote a post on how to write 5000 words every day. Trust me, this didn’t happen overnight. It took a lot of time and effort to get to this place. After I launched The Side Blogger, I spent hours searching for things like, “how to write blog posts“, “how to write a good introduction“, “blog post formatting“, etc. It feels surreal now that in the months that followed, I ended up writing blog posts on the exact topics myself, in this very blog!
But anyway, today’s post is not about how to write a blog post—it’s about something slightly different. I want to talk about whether or not you should seek professional help with your writing, how to know if you need help, and how to hire someone if you’ve decided it is time to hire an editor or a writing coach and which of the two would be the best investment for you.
I launched The Side Blogger in June 2018, but I started writing perhaps a year or so before that on Medium. I also tried to write a book blog, but writing reviews wasn’t much fun for me. So I quit in just a matter of months. I should say that I started taking writing seriously right around when I decided to start this blog. And since then, I’ve worked on my writing almost entirely on my own.
Things have gone pretty well during these years if I say so myself. I’m never going to win the Pulitzer, but from what my readers and subscribers tell me, I seem to have a knack for teaching with my words. Basically, I’m a total blogger material; my writing has evolved around the world of blogging. So, when I tried my hands at writing essays, things didn’t go as planned.
Writing blog posts have a very distinct style — short sentences, short paragraphs, complex ideas broken down into sections using headers and subheaders… all that fancy stuff. Essays are totally different. While blog posts are personal. Essays, even when they’re personal, are devoid of the certain liberation with breaking of the traditional writing rules we bloggers take for granted.
I stopped writing anything akin to an essay after my first semester in college when I had to take an English Composition class. It was mandatory, and I never knew why we had to take that course as an engineer. For most of my professional life, I have written some form of technical reports, and those are yet again a whole different beast.
I give you this background to show you where my strengths and weaknesses lie. Essays are and have always been my weakness. I want to write them, I want to get better at them, but I just can’t figure out how to do them justice. That’s why, when I decided I wanted to branch out and try publishing on magazines (online and/or print) I hired my first writing coach.
In the rest of this post, I want to talk about some of the common mental roadblocks around hiring professional help with writing especially as online content creators, how to overcome them, and finally, I’ll wrap it up by giving you some tips for hiring your first writing coach or editor.
Mental Roadblocks to Seeking Professional Writing Help
If you’re averse to the idea of hiring an editor or a writing coach, consider if your aversion stems from one (or more) of the following reasons.
I’m not writing a book; I have no need for an editor
Ask yourself these questions:
- Am I trying to improve as a writer?
- Am I writing for an audience?
- Am I trying to make money with writing?
If you answered “yes” to all three questions above, then you need an editor, even if all you’re writing are blog posts or personal essays.
Are you trying to improve as a writer?
No matter how much you try to teach yourself all the tricks to being a better writer, there will come a time when you’ll hit a plateau. As creators, we can’t be objective towards our own work; bias will find its way. You may find yourself thinking your writing is better than it really is. Or, the opposite will happen; you’ll be too critical of yourself and lose your drive and motivation in the process. Either way, an editor can help you point out your weaknesses and strengths, giving you the push you need to take your writing to new levels.
To give you an example, I’ve taken plenty of writing courses. I’m part of Marie Forleo’s writing course Copy Cure, I took a creative nonfiction writing course from Kelly Eden, I even signed up for Malcolm Gladwell’s Masterclass (← this one I highly recommend—regardless of what kind of writer you are!) They were all extremely helpful in shaping my writing. I don’t regret spending over a thousand bucks on all of these courses for a second!
The problem lies in what I mentioned earlier — we cannot always remain objective toward our own creation. When you hire an editor or a writing coach (and I’ll point out the difference between the two shortly), they’ll be able to point out what you’ve missed. And that’s one of the most crucial benefits of having a professional look over your work.
Are you writing for an audience?
Often new writers get stuck in their own heads, trying to polish a piece according to what sounds good to them. I’m guilty of this mistake myself. Sometimes I go back to my older blog posts and cringe. I must have read somewhere that stories are great starters (they are!), but when you spend the first 1000 words of a blog post or essay on a somewhat relevant but totally unnecessary personal anecdote, you’ve got a problem. An editor can point out these rookie mistakes.
Are you trying to make money with your writing?
Making money from writing requires some specific skills. But most importantly, people need to like your writing and be able to connect with your voice. You’ll be surprised at how little changes to your tone or choice of words can improve reading times and reader engagement. Regardless of your monetization method, most non-fiction bloggers and essayists need their ideal audience to stay on their site, read what they have to say. An editor will help you make those changes.
I don’t make enough money to hire an editor
This is a legitimate reason for not seeking professional help. Editors don’t come cheap. Some writers are freelancers, and they might make enough money from a single article to justify hiring an editor. But for a vast majority of writers who publish on their own platforms, getting every single article professionally edited will be overkill. But the good news is that you don’t have to hire an editor for all of your articles — you can do that for just one or two pieces, and even that would be helpful.
The trick is not just to have the article edited and then leave it there. For your part, you must study the before and after versions of an edited article, see where the editor suggested changes, how the article has improved after making those edits, and what you can take away from this experience and implement in all of your future projects. The chances are that the same edits will be applicable, more or less, to all of your writing.
When you think about it this way, the couple of hundred bucks that you may spend on professional editing services sounds fair and justified, right?
I’m embarrassed to show my writing
That’s just no excuse, and yet, I did use it as an excuse for a long time. I mean, I was already sharing my writing with the world, so why did I keep telling myself that I was too embarrassed to show it to an editor?
Well, in part, it was because writers enjoy a certain amount of privacy and even anonymity. Even if you produce crap, nobody knows who you are, what you look like, your background, or anything for that matter unless you explicitly disclose that information. Hiring an editor is different because then you lose that privilege. Suddenly someone is in direct contact with you, telling you exactly how your writing is less than absolutely stellar.
Maybe it’s an embarrassment to you, and maybe it’s the judgment you fear. Maybe you’re not very good with criticism. Whatever the reason is, it’s not good enough not to get your work checked by a professional editor whose job it is to help you improve your writing.
The difference between an editor and a writing coach
First, you need to determine whether you need a writing coach or an editor. So, let’s start there!
Who is an editor?
Most people are familiar with the term — editor. An editor is someone who takes a draft and then whips it into shape. They’ll go line by line, word by word, and change, fix, and rearrange things to convert a draft into a publishable piece. All authors go through this process. Nobody ever publishes a book without having it run by a professional editor.
“But that’s for authors, what about bloggers, Maliha?”
Yeah, I hear you, man. Contrary to popular belief, bloggers—the big ones—ones that are rich and much more popular than you or I, tend to hire editors for their blog posts. Yeah, crazy, huh!
Wouldn’t that be a dream?!
And, who is a writing coach?
Well, you see, writing coaches are not like editors. They do not go over a draft word for word or line by line. It’s not their job to polish your unrefined, coarse writing. Instead, writing coaches will take a look at your overall writing style and tone, and they’ll help you recognize your shortcomings as well as strengths. Your job then is to take their advice and implement it in your writing.
Depending on what kind of writer you are, the definition and expectations of a writing coach may vary. But we’ll stick to what I just said above because that’s the best definition of a writing coach for bloggers.
So, do you need an editor? Or a writing coach?
Assuming we’re all bloggers here, let’s try to weigh our options.
As you might guess, hiring an editor for each and every blog post you write will cost a fair bit. Especially so if you want an experienced editor. Now, should you do it?
Here’s the thing. Good writing has its benefits. As bloggers, you want people to stick around your posts, you want your audience to read through them, click the links you share within a post, perhaps purchase a product from you, etc.
Now, maybe you think you’re doing a decent job with your writing. But as I said before, sometimes we writers can get stuck inside our heads and not see some of the obvious errors in our writing. And by error I do not mean grammar or punctuation errors—you have Grammarly for those.
I mean errors in your choice of words or your tone or simple formatting choices. Even something as rudimentary as breaking down a paragraph into two can drastically improve your readers’ experience and result in lower bounce rates and longer reading times.
But is it financially responsible or even feasible for all bloggers?
For some bloggers, yes. If I made over 20K per month consistently from my blog, I’d be more than happy to spend a few hundred bucks on an editor each month to edit a couple of my blog posts. That’s my earning threshold for hiring an editor for all of TSB content. I’m not quite there yet. But hopefully someday?!
Now consider this other scenario.
Let’s say that you’re a new blogger or even an intermediate blogger who recognizes the need to improve their writing. Maybe you come from a traditional writing background which, by the way, is totally different from writing blog posts! Maybe you’ve just heard of SEO writing and are clueless as to where to start optimizing your posts without losing your unique voice, tone, and style.
If you’re lacking some of these basic blogging fundamentals, then my advice is that regardless of your financial situation, you should consider hiring a writing coach before you start dishing out the big bucks to an editor. In fact, you’ll save money when you hire an editor if you already have a solid writing base. And a writing coach can help you get there where you’re ready to hire an editor.
In short, here’s what I like to say to bloggers, and what I’d have said to myself way back in 2018 when I first launched this blog:
But if you’re already confident in your writing? If you already have a solid foundation? If you’re a total blogger material? If you’re already well-versed in blog formatting and SEO writing? Then, for sure, an editor can take your writing to the next level.
Now, let’s talk about actually hiring an editor or a writing coach.
Some advice for hiring your first writing coach or an editor
I’m that annoying writer who fears others’ judgment, gets mad when someone gives advice or points out some flaw, has trouble trusting others with creative input, and perpetually struggles with scarcity mindset to spend on editing services. If you’re like me, here’s some advice that should help.
Consider hiring a writing coach rather than an editor
An editor will tweak your words and make your writing better. A coach will point out the good, the bad, and tell you where you need to improve. Some writers may need an editor, but if you’re a new writer or lack awareness of the imperfections in your writing, if you need help with fundamentals like blog formatting or SEO writing, then a writing coach may be suitable for you.
Seek help with a few pieces; not all of them
If you’re hiring a writing coach for your blog, then it is expected that the person you’re hiring will take a look at a few of your pieces and then give you advice based on those samples. They won’t go over each piece, line by line, word for word. That’s not what they do. Their job is to point out your strengths and weaknesses, and give you pointers to improve your blog posts so that you can then implement them in all of your future blog writing.
But what if you’re confident in your blogging abilities, but need an additional pair of eyeballs to point out some of the recurring errors you’re making unintentionally? Or, to give you some pointers to get to some next-level writing? Then you need an editor.
But what if you don’t have the budget to hire an editor for all of your pieces?
Don’t worry; you can always hire an editor for only a few pieces or even just one of your pieces. Here are some tips to consider when hiring an editor for a select few blog posts.
- Is there a specific blog post that you want more eyeballs on? Perhaps a blog post that works as an entry point to a sales funnel? If there’s a piece that is potentially more money-making, or if there’s a piece that guides your audience to a lead magnet, then consider hiring an editor for those pieces only.
- Do not stop at hiring. Even if you have the budget to get only one of your blog posts edited by a professional editor, do some before-after comparison on your end. See how an edited post has improved your content. Take note of where the editor made changes. Chances are that the same edits will apply to many of your other blog posts.
Seek help specifically with the kind of content you need help with
I’m primarily a blogger and I’m doing a pretty decent job at it too.
But when I tried my hands at writing essays, I struggled. So I enlisted Roz Warren — a writing coach/editor I found on Medium—to help me with that. Instead of asking her to check any random piece of writing, I wanted her to look at an essay I was working on. The things she pointed out made me realize some of the fundamental differences between writing an essay and a blog post — which was awesome!
In your case, you may have experience writing creative essays, and you’re just now venturing into blogging. Maybe you’ve written for the print medium before, and now you’re trying to break into online content marketing. In any case, do not waste time and money getting help with things that won’t benefit you.
To give you an example, writing on Medium is very different from writing on your own WordPress blog. Or, writing a piece that you wish to submit to HuffPost is going to be significantly different from a piece that you may wish to submit to, say, Bitch Magazine.
If you have no clue how these platforms are different from each other, consider hiring a writing coach who can give you guidance.
If you’re already familiar with the platform and your writing specific to that platform, but need someone to help refine your piece, then consider hiring an editor.
Also, remember that editing services are specific, and writing coaching is less so. Hire an editor only when you have a finished piece that you want to refine further. Hire a coach if you’re lost and need help with getting started and building up a body of work.
Hire someone you trust
As I was saying, I’m not good at receiving criticism. I hate it when people tell me how to do my job. I knew I needed help with my writing, but I just couldn’t trust someone to tell me what required fixing.
Many creatives are arrogant in nature. We can’t help it. So, if you’re trying to hire your first editor or writing coach, do your due research and hire someone whose words you trust more than the voices in your head.
When I hired Roz to help me write an essay, I didn’t pick her randomly. I had been following her work obsessively on Medium for several months before I made up my mind about reaching out to her.
I got lucky.
If this is your first time hiring, do your research. There are platforms like Reedsy or Upwork where you can hire editors. You can refine their work by their preferred genre, reviews, locality, etc. Go through these reviews and read their bios to get a feel for them as individuals as well as editors. I’ve also heard of writers finding editors through other writers (in Facebook groups for writers, for example.)
Hiring a writing coach may be a bit more difficult. Reedsy has something called “developmental editing”. Developmental editing, as far as I can tell, is similar to a writing coach. But the main difference is that while a writing coach will improve your writing in general by helping you build a solid writing foundation, a developmental editor will assist you by developing a specific story. This is suitable if you already have an angle for your story, you’re trying to write a book, or publish an essay to a specific magazine or online publication.
If you’re a blogger, however, writing on your own platform, then I suggest you do a Google search for writing coaches. Either that or you can always book a blog writing coaching session with me 🙂 Yep, I do offer that as a service!
– A writing coach will look at a few of your writing pieces to get a feel for your writing style, and then advise you based on their observations to help you improve your content quality.
– An editor will look at a specific piece you have written already, they’ll go through that piece word by word, line by line, and then refine the piece by changing things around. In short, they’ll take a draft to its finished, polished form.
– If you’re a beginning writer, or if you’re venturing into a type of writing that you’re unfamiliar with, or if you’re trying to improve your writing in general, then hire a writing coach.
– If you’re confident that you have a solid writing base, but need help refining a piece further, then hire an editor.
– As a blogger, if you cannot hire an editor for all of your writing, that’s fine. You can start by hiring an editor for the most important blog posts—the ones that act as an entry point to a sales funnel or a lead magnet, for example.
– Hire an editor whose work you trust. Reedsy or Upwork are good places to look for editors. Some Facebook groups for writers can also help you find a trustworthy editor.
– Wiring a writing coach may be slightly more difficult, but asking around Facebook groups for writers can help. I provide blog writing coaching too, FYI.
After working with my first writing coach/editor, Roz, on my essays, my only regret was not doing so much, much earlier in my writing career. Now I’m just so grateful I took this chance and sought professional help. I hope you’ll give yourself the same chance that I did. Even if you’re not writing books, as long as other people are reading your words, it’s your duty to make those words worth your readers’ time as much as possible. A writing coach or an editor can help you with that. So go ahead and hire one!
Also, if you’ve ever worked with a writing coach or editor, I’d love to hear about your experience and how they’ve helped shape your writing. Did you notice a significant difference in the way your audience reacts with you before vs. after? Share with me in the comments!
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