How and When to Work with Freelancers

By Ericka McIntyre on February 18, 2021
By Ericka McIntyre on February 18, 2021

By Ericka McIntyre on February 18, 2021

If you’re an author who intends to self-publish, first of all, congratulations! You’re entering the publishing game at an exciting time, and if you have completed a book manuscript, you have already done something that many set out to, but only a select few actually accomplish.

Before you go looking for freelance service providers, though, you need to be ready. And once you are ready, how do you best work with freelancers to save everyone’s time and money, and make the self-publishing process as smooth as it can be?

First Things First

  • Is your manuscript complete?
  • Have you gotten beta readers for it?

If you can’t say yes to both of those questions (or if you don’t even know what a beta reader is), sit back down at your writing desk. You have work to do, and it’s not of the publishing variety, not just yet.

Once your manuscript is complete, you have gotten beta readers for it, and you’ve revised, then you’re ready to take the first step and hire a development editor and start your self-publishing journey.

Set a Budget

Before you make inquiries, however, you need to set a budget for your publishing project.

If you don’t know what services should cost, or how much you’re able and prepared to spend, or even what services you’ll need, you’re going to be in for some unhappy surprises, and you’re also very likely to waste a freelancer’s time—don’t do this. Do yourself and every freelancer you work with a favor and have a budget first.

Think Beyond the Manuscript

You will at minimum need to hire:

  • a development/content editor
  • a copyeditor
  • a book designer
  • a proofreader

That’s bare-bones. If you’re really going to take this seriously, and treat your self-publishing enterprise as what it truly is—a business—you need to also be prepared to hire marketing and sales help.

It’s a question I have asked authors many times—if a book lands on Amazon, and no one is there to see it, does it make a sale? Hardly. Unless you’re already a sales and marketing whiz, and in the unique sphere that is book publishing, you are going to need to hire help.

Think about the title “self-publisher”—that means you’re more than a writer. You’re a publisher, too. What does the person with the title of “publisher” do at a traditional publishing house? They oversee an entire team of editors, designers, marketers, and sales and fulfillment people. You now have to do the same for your book when you decide to self-publish.


I always refer people to the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) website for a schedule of rates and fees, if you plan to hire editors and designers ala carte. If you plan to go with an all-in-one publishing service, that is fine, too. But make sure you do your homework.

Sadly, there are many outfits who claim to help you self-publish, take a good chunk of money from you, but don’t deliver on the promises they make. Always vet them.

I use Alliance of Independent Authors'(ALLi’s) list often for this purpose. If you’re a member of any writers’ groups, you can usually find out if individuals and companies are on the up and up through these networks, too.

Reaching Out

Once you’ve decided whether to go all-in-one or à la carte, and once you know what your budget and goals are, make sure that you are respectful of freelancers’ time.

Don’t expect a freelancer to give you more than a brief consultation for free. If you want to spend hours on the phone or via email talking through your project, that’s fine, but be prepared to pay for that time.

Freelancers cover all their own overhead, taxes, and healthcare—freelance indeed does not at all mean “free.” Have your project ready to go, so they can give an accurate bid. Know the timeline that you want to complete tasks on, and if you want quick turns, be prepared to pay for that, too. Don’t ever make a freelancer guess what you want—this will only lead to disappointment on both sides.

Final Advice

In essence, be respectful at all times—of your work and your goals, of what publishing truly entails, and of the freelancers and service providers you work with.

It may seem like obvious advice, and for many it is. But the golden rule applies just as much in the world of books as it does everywhere else. Follow it, and you will have a much easier go at publishing your work than if you don’t.

Ericka McIntyre is a freelance writer and editor. She has over twenty years of experience working in media and publishing, for a wide array of employers and clients. She is also currently Editor-at-Large of Writer’s Digest, a 100-year-old brand serving the writing community. In her current work, she focuses on writing for a handful of regular clients, with a heavy emphasis on editing, book coaching, and manuscript evaluation for authors of all kinds. She works on fiction and nonfiction, across multiple genres. She also copy edits and proofreads books. Learn more about her and her work at

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