Build Your Developmental Editing Business

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Starting, establishing, and flourishing as an editorial freelancer

Want to edit professionally but don’t know how to get started? Already an editor, but you’d like to change focus, or your business needs a boost? Just plain tired of free sample edits that don’t convert? Finding the authors you’d love to work with who can afford to pay you isn’t a lottery, but a skill set: editing well, communicating your enthusiasm for the book, pricing fairly, and reaching the right clients at the right time.

In this three-part live class, taught by Allison K Williams, you’ll learn how to focus on developmental editing (and what, exactly, that encompasses); how to inspire authors to revise terrible drafts instead of quitting; where to find clients (and how to get them to find you) and systems for running your profitable editing business. We’ll talk dollar amounts, contract language, editorial letter composition and client relationships, and complete three short editing-practice assignments.

Week 1: Developmental editing

  • Developmental edit, book coaching, manuscript evaluation, read-and-respond: what should you provide at each level?
  • What you’re looking for in a manuscript relative to genre, category, and the author’s stage of development
  • Similarities and differences when editing memoir versus fiction
  • Defining voice—and helping the author develop their own
  • Story and structure: how to identify why a plot isn’t working
  • Starting with SUCK: four things the opening pages must do
  • “Mary Sue” and other characters who need more development
  • How much writing craft should you address in a big-picture edit?
  • Live editing, and an editing practice assignment

Week 2: Communicating with clients

  • How to give feedback that inspires rather than discouraging your author
  • Winning new business with sample edits (and looking confident even when you really, really want the gig!)
  • Using margin comments to pinpoint problems they can fix right now
  • Editorial letter components, and the important message Allison sends to every client
  • Three key ways to dramatically speed up your editing
  • What if the book is racist, sexist or just plain offensive?
  • Keeping the author’s publishing goals in mind
  • Dealing with difficult clients: the Cheapskate, the Tire-Kicker, the Late Deliverer, the Perfectionist, and the Next Draft Weakener
  • Ongoing relationships: book coaching, multiple drafts, multiple books
  • Live editing, and an editing practice assignment

Week 3: Making money

  • What to charge and how to discover that number (genre matters!)
  • Why you absolutely must track your time—even if you’re billing by the word
  • Should you start cheap or give discounts? Give free samples?
  • Writing an Editorial Agreement to protect yourself and the client
  • Where to find new clients (it’s not Twitter!)
  • What belongs on your editor website—specific prices? That book you beta-read for a friend?
  • Should you talk to potential clients via phone or Zoom? (ugh, now they have your number!)
  • How can a booking system help your cash flow?
  • Getting and using testimonials
  • How to get paid—and what do you owe your government?
  • What if the client’s not ready for an edit?
  • Turning down or referring projects you’re not right for—can you afford to say no?
  • An editing practice assignment

Premium level: personal feedback and coaching (sold out)

  • Receive written feedback on each of your three editing assignments. Feedback will include an overview paragraph and 5 to 10 bullet points and/or margin comments (including responses to your comments), with tips on how to better phrase your feedback, establish author trust, and where you can improve your own editing skills. 
  • Small-group coaching. After the course, join a small-group Zoom coaching session to answer your follow-up questions, focus your editing business goals, and learn about resources specific to your needs. Sessions are limited to 5 people per session and last 90 minutes. You’ll have access to a recording of your session.

Who should take this class

  • Editors who want to deepen their developmental editing practice
  • Editors who want to improve their cash flow and increase their client base
  • Working in-house editors who want to make the jump to freelancing
  • Copyeditors and proofreaders interested in adding developmental editing or book coaching to their skill set
  • Beginning editors who want to establish best practices for their business
  • Creative writing students and graduates of MFA programs interested in editing professionally
  • Acquisitions editors who want to improve their staff’s editing skills, or know how to better coach writers before publication
  • Writers and readers who love giving feedback and are considering editing or book coaching as a freelance career path

How do I know if this class is worth the cost?

This is an important question, and it’s a tough one to answer—especially since so much online education is available free of charge. Furthermore, every student is different, and a valuable webinar for one person can end up being a disappointment to another. For this reason, we offer full refunds if you register, attend or watch at least one class, and fail to get the information you were looking for.

Do I have to attend the live classes?

No. Everyone who registers will get access to the recording. However, if you’d like to attend live, keep reading.

How do I attend the live class?

This class uses Zoom webinar technology. You will join through your Internet-connected computer or mobile device. When you register, you will receive information via email on how to join the class. If you don’t receive it within 1 hour of registering, please contact us.

  • When: October 20, October 27 and November 3 (Wednesdays)
  • Time: 12 p.m.–2:00 p.m. Eastern Time / 9 a.m. Pacific Time
  • Fee: $199 for all three sessions; $399 for the premium level (sold out)

The webinar is broadcasted via the internet with live audio delivered through your computer or mobile device speakers. The visual presentation is displayed directly from the presenter’s computer to your computer screen. The Q&A is managed through a chat-style submission system with questions read and answered by the presenter for the entire class to hear.

Closed captions are provided during the live class. We use Zoom’s built-in closed caption service, powered by Otter AI, which is about 80%+ accurate. For students joining the class through the Zoom app on a mobile device, you can disable the closed captions by going to your settings and turning off closed captions.

Allison Williams

About the instructor

Allison K Williams is the author of Seven Drafts: Self-Edit Like a Pro From Blank Page to Book. She has edited and coached writers to publishing deals with Penguin Random House, Knopf, Mantle, Spencer Hill, and St. Martin’s Press as well as hybrid and independent presses. She’s guided essayists and humorists to publication in media including the New Yorker, Time, the Guardian, the New York Times, McSweeney’s, Refinery29, Hippocampus, the Belladonna and TED Talks. As Social Media Editor for Brevity, she inspires thousands of writers with weekly blogs on craft and the writing life.

As a memoirist, essayist, and travel journalist, Allison has written craft, culture and comedy for National Public Radio, CBC-Canada, the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, Creative Nonfiction, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Kenyon Review Online, the Prairie Schooner blog, the Drum and Travelers’ Tales and Flash Nonfiction Funny. 

Allison holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University and spent 20 years as a circus aerialist and acrobat before writing and editing full-time. She leads the Rebirth Your Book writing retreats series and co-hosts The Writers Bridge Platform Chat.

I’ve been lucky enough to be one of Allison’s students for several years. Allison coached me from first-ever—very shitty—sentence all the way through publishing my debut novel with Knopf. Anyone will find an abundance of Allison’s wisdom and tender loving (motivating, no-nonsense, but sometimes laugh-out-loud funny) care, and we will all be much better writers for it.

Rhiannon Navin

author, only child

Allison’s was the very best webinar I’ve ever attended on writing, and I’ve gone to a lot.

J. Rich 


I had nearly given up on finding an agent when I decided to rework my manuscript with Allison’s help. After the revisions, an agent who had told me I could resubmit decided to represent me, and my book was acquired by Penguin Random House!

Karen Fine

author, the other family doctor

All students receive the following

  • Access to three interactive class sessions (2 hours each). Allison will take questions during class using in-class chat/text. The class will end after roughly 2 hours.
  • A recording of the class—audio and video. This is especially helpful if you have a conflict with the class time or something comes up and you can’t make the session. Each registration comes with access to the archived version of the program and the materials for six months. You do not have to attend the live event to access the recordings.
  • Presentation slides. All participants receive a copy of the slide presentations in PDF form.
  • Rough transcript. We use Otter to create an automated transcript of the entire webinar, which we’ll share with you in addition to the audio and video recording.
  • Three editing assignments. The first two will be discussed in the subsequent session so you can compare your work with Allison’s recommendations.
  • Sample editing contract. You can copy or adapt the contract for your own business.
  • Time calculator. This will help you figure out your editing prices.

Event Attendance & Anti-Harassment Policy

We strive to provide an environment where all present—whether attendee, presenter, or staff—can feel supported. In order to ensure a welcoming event, here is what we expect from all who participate.

  • That the presenter and the presenter’s work be treated with respect by attendees and that all attendees treat each other with respect and a generosity of spirit.
  • That attendees will refrain from harassment of any sort including (but not limited to) comments or questions of a racist, homophobic, sexist/sexual, or threatening nature. This includes actions that disrupt or interfere with anyone’s ability to participate. Offenders will be disconnected from the live event.

System Requirements to Join the Webinar

We will be using Zoom webinar technology.

You’ll need:

  • An internet connection: broadband wired or wireless (3G or 4G/LTE)
  • Speakers: built-in, USB plug-in or wireless Bluetooth

Recommended bandwidth:

  • 600kbps (down) for high-quality video and 1.2 Mbps (down) for HD video
  • If you connect through audio only: 60-80kbps (down)

Supported operating systems:

Supported tablet and mobile devices:

  • Surface PRO 2 running Win 8.1
  • iOS and Android devices
  • Blackberry devices

Supported browsers:

  • Windows: IE 11+,  Edge 12+, Firefox 27+,  Chrome 30+
  • Mac: Safari 7+, Firefox 27+,  Chrome 30+
  • Linux: Firefox 27+,  Chrome 30+

For a detailed listing of system requirements, check Zoom’s site.