When I began in the writing/content creation field I began as a pro-bono writer, then freelance, and then into a staff writing position. During my time as a staff writer, I had a few opportunities to back up the site’s content editor when he would go on vacation or need time off.
At one point the content editor was getting ready to attend a firefighter academy and needed to take a few months off. When he had asked me to fill in, I knew this was my chance. If I could prove myself in this short period of time, then maybe there would be a spot for me on the media team as a content editor.
Long story short, after a few short months I was offered the position as a content editor for the site I had been writing for. Becoming a content editor meant more responsibilities from leading a team of writers to developing content strategies and technical SEO work. I’ve learned a lot over the years as an editor and would like to shed some light on that position.
What Exactly Does a Content Editor Do
In a nutshell, a content editor drives the content strategy, writes, edits, and assigns out writing projects. The day-to-day responsibilities vary depending on the medium (print, digital, book, social media) and specific job responsibilities within your company, but, in general, editors spend their days (and sometimes nights) pitching ideas, reporting on analytics, overseeing social media, curating content, supporting special projects, managing a team of staff writers and freelancers, creating content calendars, and copy editing.
One of the best parts of the job is that it really is different every day. Depending on the level of editing I’m doing, I might be reading a book or freewriting which helps cultivate new ideas for topics or stories to write about. Part of managing the content calendar and team of writers is keeping a steady flow of fresh content ideas in the hopper. As a content editor, you need to make time for that creative energy.
What Skills Does a Content Editor Need
Of course, you need writing and editing skills. You know that, and we know you know that, but we felt we should state the obvious. Done. Now that we got that out of the way, it’s vital that you understand how important attention to detail is.
You must be willing to check and double-check grammar, punctuation, ensuring the point of view is consistent throughout the entire piece and those small things such as oxford commas, if used or not used, are consistent throughout the entire piece. If you’re not willing to put the time into all this and then some, then this probably isn’t the job for you.
Knowledge of AP and/or Chicago style, proficiency in Microsoft Office and software such as InDesign, and experience with social media are important. Having a working knowledge of WordPress, Google Analytics, SEMrush, and other online tools is necessary. If you put the time into learning these tools, life as a content editor is going to be much more enjoyable.
My Content Editing Process
To give you an idea of what it takes when editing an article to be published on a client’s website or blog, here is my high-level process. Since there is a lot to evaluate, I break it down into three different editing passes.
The first pass is just to read through the content and correct any grammatical errors, punctuation, headings, and tone of voice.
Insert other images at your discretion to break up the content for ease of reading
Follow SEO guidelines for writing ALT tags and filenames
Use the Preview feature in WordPress throughout the editing process before publishing to ensure everything is formatted correctly.
Who Does a Content Editor Report To
It depends where you work. In my personal experience, it has been both a managing editor and editor-in-chief. Those two titles can be used interchangeably within the content writing industry.
Rolling up to you would be associate editors, site editors, and obviously the writing staff, but it all depends on the accountability structure of where you are working.
What Does It Take To Excel As a Content Editor
You have to juggle three different aspects; the writer, the reader, and the text itself. When you can serve the interests of all three, and do it well, that’s where editorial magic happens. You need to make content come alive and engage the reader.
You also need to make sure content reads naturally as if you were having a conversation with another person. When appropriate add some flair to the writing. To use that same content for social media, ask yourself, would this content work better with a photo (or three), a gif, or in a microblog format.