On Friday 12 April, 14 SENSE members gathered at Park Plaza Utrecht to receive an answer to the question: ‘Do online editing services have a place in your client portfolio?’
After a short introduction round, Curtis Barrett took the floor to share his past experience working for one of the largest international online science editing agencies. A scientist originally from New York, Curtis emigrated to the Netherlands nearly 12 years ago to work as a senior researcher at Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC). As a native English-speaking scientist, he realized that his PhD and postdoc years had given him a wealth of scientific expertise as well as sound academic writing skills, and he discovered an affinity for science editing. After leaving LUMC and accepting a freelance contract position at the editing agency, he learned the ins and outs of editing and discovered his full value as a science editor. During his presentation, Curtis explained how he progressed from being a junior editor to a senior editor at the agency, identifying the potential pros and cons of working with an online agency, and enlightened us with some excellent take-home messages.
Curtis identified the following advantages and disadvantages of working for online editing agencies:
- On-the-job training: working for an agency proved a valuable learning experience. They had guidelines and a glossary available, which included explanations about the split infinitive, the serial comma, why the first person is preferable to the third person, ‘which’ vs. ‘that’, etc.;
- Work acquisition: the agency was saturating the internet, thereby guaranteeing a high volume of editing jobs;
- Variety/diversity: editing jobs were offered for a wide range of topics varying from biology to genetics;
- Anonymity (also a con);
- Assurance of payment.
- Relatively low pay (but editors could often negotiate);
- Tight deadlines;
- Anonymity: at this agency, editors only have contact with the managing editor, not the author.
- Editors often receive little or no feedback from either the client or the agency. There is usually no opportunity to discuss anything with the author, for instance if important pieces of text seem to be missing.
- Low-cost, short-turnaround editing;
- Quality can suffer in order to maintain quantity;
- The agency’s house style may be pushed on you.
To answer the key question: yes, online editing services can have a place in your client portfolio, provided you do some research in advance. If you are considering an offer to work with an agency but are in doubt, enquire on the members-only SENSE forum. And don’t shy away if the agency wants you to take a test, even if it's not a paid test.