Event review: International editing

by Amy Haagsma

Review of panel discussion on international editing at the EAC-BC branch meeting on April 16, 2014.

One very appealing aspect of a career in editing is its flexibility. Work can be done from almost anywhere and planned around a variety of schedules. After attending EAC-BC’s April meeting on international editing, I realized that another benefit is how vast your potential client base can be. Even if you have a niche specialty, a global market makes it easier to find clients who need your services.

The Panel
Three editors were on the panel, sharing their experiences editing for international clients. Theresa Best is an editing instructor at SFU who also takes on some contract and freelance work. Her experience includes more than 15 years in publishing, primarily as an in-house managing editor. Eva van Emden is a freelance editor and Dutch-English translator with a background in biology and computer science. Carol Zhong works mainly in academia, editing theses, dissertations and journal articles for graduate students and professors. Anne Brennan moderated the discussion, but also welcomed questions, comments and participation from the audience. Anne is a certified professional editor who went freelance in 2008 after 25 years of working in house, mostly as a managing editor.


Finding Clients
The panelists described a number of ways to break in to the international market. Theresa and Carol had both lived overseas and were able to keep and expand on their work after moving to Canada. Eva’s first international work was for a U.S. magazine, a position she found through a posting on the American Copy Editors Society’s online job bank.

To help clients find you, the panelists recommended having a great website and listing your services in EAC’s Online Directory of Editors. You can also source projects by approaching organizations you’d like to work for and develop connections with managing editors. It seems that no matter where you are in the world networking can be an effective way to find work.

While Carol mentioned that most of her work is done directly for professors, there was much interest in and discussion about international editing agencies. Credibility can vary, the panelists warned, so look at each on a case-by-case basis, and check out the agency’s website and client list. Publishers will often recommend specific agencies to authors hoping to get published, which can give you some good leads. Editor Jean Lawrence also provided a helpful list of editing associations and agencies, along with tips and other resources, which is available for download from the EAC website for members only.


Language Barriers and Cultural Differences
International authors are under enormous pressure to get published in English-language journals, and there is a great need for qualified editors. One caveat is that English proficiency can be low in non-native speakers. According to the panelists, knowing a second (and sometimes third and fourth) language can be helpful, but it’s not essential.

Theresa worked in the U.K., so language was not an issue, although she did mention having to be conscious of British spelling versus Canadian. (Theresa also mentioned how some of her British colleagues found it amusing that Oxford had published an entire dictionary just for Canadian spelling.)

Eva has working proficiency in French and is fluent in Dutch. Both have come in handy for client communication and she has also been able to find work in Dutch-English translation. Carol, who has picked up some French, Spanish, Italian, Cantonese and Mandarin, expressed that the main benefit for her was not in author communication but in understanding the intended meaning of the text and how certain errors are brought in.

Another consideration with international clients is cultural differences. As editors, we are all aware of the importance of maintaining a positive author-editor relationship. But, when working with authors from other cultures, the issue can be even more prevalent. It’s crucial to be aware of cultural nuances and to be sensitive when providing comments.


Getting Paid
Hourly rates can vary significantly, and you need to know what your skills are worth in other countries. Some authors and agencies simply will not be able to pay what we would expect to charge Canadian clients. On the flip side, sometimes the reverse is true. Someone in the audience recalled working for a client based in Iceland, where she charged well above her normal rate and the client still felt they were getting a deal.

PayPal can be an easy way to collect payment, but hefty fees in some countries can make it too expensive to be practical. Cheques tend to be a good option, but be aware of additional charges and holds from your bank. All three panelists highly recommended having a separate bank account for foreign currency, which can make the process smoother. Eva also noted that bank transfers are fairly common in Europe, so opening a Euro account can make it easier to get paid by clients all across Europe.


Clients in Different Time Zones
Working with clients in different time zones can be challenging, but there are also some benefits. It can be difficult to speak with authors and project managers directly as well as to attend meetings, as your clients are likely asleep while you’re working and vice versa. On the plus side, you might be able to complete your clients’ projects overnight for them. Just be careful of what you agree to: a two-day turnaround as requested by your client could mean only one working day for you. Also, always check that your communications have been received, as lost time can have a significant effect.

Missed the meeting? Download the audio file (EAC members only).


Amy Haagsma is a marketing communications professional and a student in SFU’s Editing Certificate program.

Image by Shutterstock.

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