I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about my editing business, more specifically about how far it’s come and how far I can take it. While it has certainly come a long way from the days of offering free edits in exchange for experience and testimonials for my website, I’m don’t think I can take it much further on my own, not without raising prices and increasing clients waiting times, at least. Neither of which I want to do at this stage.

I’ve often joked about needing a clone or two to help tackle my ever-increasing workload, but as that science isn’t yet available (to me), I have opted for an alternative. After much thought and consideration, I have made the decision to take on a trainee editor. They are somebody I know well, who I trust and respect, and who I have worked with before. They happened to mention that they would like to specialise in developmental editing, and their timing couldn’t have been more perfect. We entered into negotiations and discussed methods of making this work for both of us.

To allay any clients concerns – before I continue waffling on – this does not mean your manuscripts are going to be (solely) worked on by an unknown editor. Your contract is with me, and it will be me editing your manuscript. Besides which, I would never show a third-party editor a client’s manuscript without a client’s express permission. I hold confidentiality in the highest regard.


The benefits are three-fold:

  • The trainee will receive full training on every aspect of writing and (developmental) editing that I know, as well as mundane things like administration and marketing.
  • Clients will have two sets of eyes on their manuscript, but it will be me, ultimately, doing the editing.
  • Yours truly gets the push she needs to write some training materials, develop coaching skills, and hopefully grow the editing business.

Vendor Agreement

Both myself and the trainee have signed a legally binding contract. It is very much like the contract clients sign, but is much more restrictive as I have to protect my reputation. As we are both in the United Kingdom, we are bound by the same laws (near enough). I have been very specific in each of the clauses, detailing what the trainee can and can’t do with regards to confidentiality, sharing information, social media, obtaining work etc.

How it will work

My first step is to assess the trainee’s knowledge of all things writing and editing so I can draw up a training program that will last several months at a minimum. As the best way to learn is to write, and revise, and study techniques, and then write and revise some more, they will – surprise surprise – be doing lots of writing in the background. Lots and lots of writing.

As the trainee becomes familiar with specific techniques,  I intend to set them the task of identifying/locating specific techniques (or the lack of/overuse of) within a manuscript as part of their training, but the bulk of the work will be done by me. If they are ‘on the ball’ with an observation/comment, I’ll leave it in. If not, I would delete and overwrite it.

When we reach the point that the trainee is ready to do a full edit on their own, it would be under supervision. I would still do my usual two reads and assessment, but that scenario is several months to a year away just yet.

*Current clients who would prefer not to give permission for the trainee to look at or work on parts of their manuscript are within their rights to say so.*

Other (immediate) changes

Newer clients will be aware of this change already, but for those who don’t, I am in the process of changing my business name and structure. Michelle Dunbar Editing Services is run as a sole trader, but I have processed recent projects under the name of ISF Author Services, which is a trading name of Bolide Publishing Limited. My aim is to place all of my websites (all of which relate to either writing, editing, or publishing) under one business.

Moving Forward

It is not unusual for editors to pair (or group) up and offer multi-editor services. Usually, they are fully trained and have an established business in their own right, but I’m a great believer in training from the bottom up – assessing what a person knows and giving them the tools (knowledge in this case) to progress. I’ve trained many a person in my time, in my role as a credit controller supervisor, but I have never trained an editor. Based on that experience though, the less someone knows about a subject matter, the easier it is to train them because they don’t come with established (bad) habits. That’s not to say my trainee is without knowledge in editing – he is – and we’ll keep the good parts and do some training in weaker areas of knowledge.

I don’t know yet how this will end as I need to see how this works out, but I can envisage three scenarios:

  1. The trainee does a remarkable job of learning and decides to set-up shop on their own
  2. The trainee does a remarkable job of learning and I decide to move forward with my plan to run a multi-editor business
  3. We fall out, and everything goes to pot, but at least we tried. (This is my least preferred scenario)Vendor Agreement

And finally… allow me to introduce my trainee to you

Some of you will already know Steve (of Steve Frost Editing). He’s been editing for a while and I have been mentoring him from afar (we’re at opposite ends of the country). We’ve been chatting about ways to move our businesses forward, as well as professional development of our own skills, and have even worked together on a couple of jobs. But anyway, we got talking about developmental editing specifically, and I offered to train him up on some of the finer points, which is what led to this arrangement.

You can find Steve here: