Don’t Edit for Free

Don’t Edit for Free

Give me your child. Right now. Don’t be mad, you have a second one – or you could if you started to miss the one I’m taking.



Give me your shoes. Stand up right now and give them to me. No, I’m not going to pay for them. You have them, and I want them.

Simple as that.

Oh, you think that’s crazy, but you’re willing to give your talent up for free anytime your friend, mom or neighbor asks?

… See where I’m going with this? Why on earth would you edit for free?

Don’t Edit for Free, PLEASE

It’s like the hairdresser that goes out of business because she doesn’t have time to work with paying clients because she’s too busy doing her sister’s kids hair in her garage.

Once you start giving your editing services away to one person, suddenly everyone in the neighborhood finds out, and pretty soon you’re editing the Christmas letter of Tom’s sister’s cousin with the twitchy eye.

Respect your craft.

Don’t do edit for free.

And no, those people don’t mean any disrespect by it. People always want things for free, including your services. It’s human nature.

But editing for free is not only counterproductive to building a business, it’s a pretty dick move for the other writers and editors hard at work out in the world. If you’re giving the milk away for free, why would anyone buy our cow? Okay, this metaphor is getting out of control. Bottom line: Don’t do it.

Set Your Boundaries with Editing Services

It’s time to set your boundaries. And since you won’t change people, that means you need to change yourself.

I know that’s easier said than done when someone is standing in front of you asking for your help. But do what I do: Pretend they’re asking for your shoes. Seriously, what would your response be? Because mine would be slightly open-mouthed shock. Uh … what? No. I got these on Sale at Nordstrom and they don’t even MAKE this pair of Steve Maddens anymore.

If you wouldn’t give them your shoes, don’t give them your expertise.

I always have some quick comebacks at the ready for when people ask for my services for free. Sometimes I’ll say, “Sure, I would love to edit your work … here’s how much I charge per hour.”

It might seem rude to do to your cousin, but it’s not. This is your business. These are your shoes!!!

The other thing I say is, “Oh, I would love to, but I’m just too busy at the moment with paying clients to do work for free.” That one usually shuts people up real fast.

And honestly, you shouldn’t ever work for friends or family anyway. Take it from me: They usually aren’t professionals and won’t act professionally towards you and your critiques.

Sure, it might be easy to do a little spelling and grammar corrections for them (still don’t), but if you get into actual critiquing or changing phrases, you would be amazed at how badly a novice can take criticism.

In the beginning of my career, I made a few suggestions on a family friend’s story. Whoops. Judging from his response, you would have thought I’d slapped his cat. No, thank you.

Respect Your Work, Respect Yourself

So remember what I’ve said before: No one is going to respect what you do unless you respect it yourself.

Your cousin the heart surgeon isn’t going to do open-heart surgery on Grandpa in your aunt’s sewing room before dinner on Thanksgiving – and if he is, you should call someone about that. So why should you be giving your talent away for free? (But seriously, if that was last Thanksgiving for you, you should really call the board of health. Your aunt’s carving knife shouldn’t be used on the elderly.)

So have your quick comebacks at the ready and keep your self-confidence up. What you do is special, and it deserves monetary reward.

So you can buy more shoes.

And keep them.

(Looking for hints on how to become a better writer or editor in the first place? Totally happy to help. Check out that free resource library below!)

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