Ready to uncover the traits that transform a good video editor into a great one?

Nowadays, anybody with a cell phone can say they’re a video editor…

But if you want to stand out and be a truly great editor, there are some qualities and skills that are absolutely necessary.

Modern video editing workstation with a sleek monitor displaying editing software, speakers, keyboard, and tablet.  There is one prominent word on the screen that says "Skills."

As a pro-video editor with over 20 years experience, I’ve worked on just about every kind of video project under the sun… full length documentaries, music videos, children’s television shows, corporate promos, and much much more!

In this article, I’m sharing the 12 essential skills of a great video editorplus exactly how you can improve in these areas.

Video Editing Skill #1: Technical Expertise

Arguably, the most important skill of a great video editor is technical proficiency… because without it—how could you possibly be great?

A pro editor knows their editing software inside and out, and can make any necessary adjustments, additions, or edits quickly—while maintaining a high standard of quality and consistency.

If a producer asks you to make a specific change, you should know the most efficient and effective way to make it happen in your editing program.

How to Improve Your Technical Editing Skills:

There are numerous ways to improve your technical video editing skills—but the most important is simply to practice. Then, as you begin to get more comfortable in your editing program, I’d highly recommend exploring and utilizing keyboard shortcuts… as well as finding plugins, add-ons, or services that can help you enhance your editing quality and workflow.

Additionally, you can take online courses… or find a coach or mentor to learn about their editing process, strategies, and workflow.

Video Editing Skill #2: Patience and Focus

Video editing can be a tedious and time-consuming process.

Depending on your project, you must have the patience to sift through what could be hours of footage or material on a topic you are just plain NOT INTERESTED in.

In my 20+ years of editing, I’ve made countless videos about topics that I wasn’t a fan of… but you still have to be able to do your job AND make the end result a satisfying one for your client and it’s intended audience.

Achieving that takes patience… and focus. These two go hand in hand.

Focus isn’t just about the ability to work through distractions and push through a project you don’t find interesting—but also narrowing in on what the core message of that video is, and making sure it comes across in your video.

How to Improve Your Patience and Focus as an Editor:

The easiest way to improve your focus is to minimize distractions in your editing space. Also, take regular breaks during long editing sessions to avoid losing objectivity.

Video Editing Skill #3: Good Judgment and Creative Vision

To me, good judgment is the ultimate meta skill—the skill of skills.

Learning the technical skills of video editing is the easy part… but it’s much more difficult to teach someone good judgment and creative vision.

An editor with these skills:

  • Knows what a quality video should look and sound like—and how to get it there
  • Understands their audience’s preferences and expectations… and how to meet them
  • Knows how to balance and present the many creative elements involved in video—voice, music, sound effects, visuals, photos, graphics, and more…

It’s about having a holistic understanding of creative storytelling—pacing, dynamics, tone, messaging, technical audio quality, visual aesthetics and overall presentation—a full package that could be narrowed down to one word: style.

Style is what separates good editors from great ones.

How to Improve Your Judgment and Creative Vision:

Don’t just consume content—instead… study the films, videos, and creators you admire. Analyze their editing style and flow.

Ask yourself: What are they doing that you aren’t?

Video Editing Skill #4: Problem-Solving

Video editing is a continuous problem-solving, decision-making process.

Editors constantly need to find creative solutions to technical and/or narrative challenges.

This shot before that shot… hmm. I think that works.

Does the color match the rest?

Does that sound right? Is the music too loud?

Does this make sense here?

I should use this line at the end—NO WAIT! That’s the opener...

It can be mentally exhausting.

This problem-solving process can be further intensified by time constraints or deadlines—knowing that this needs to be solved within a set amount of time (more on this in #8 below).

How to Improve Your Problem-Solving Skills as a Video Editor:

One way is to break down complex tasks into smaller steps. Experiment with different solutions, and tweak approaches.

Also, instead of getting frustrated—be curious when you run into problems or challenges—quick to look up tutorials or ask questions in forums when you are stuck. A video editing subreddit can be a great resource for this.

Video Editing Skill #5: Communication and Collaboration

Not only do you need to be able to communicate the core message of every video you edit… you also need to be able to communicate with the team that’s behind it.

As a video editor, you may work with a ton of different types of people:

  • Writers
  • Directors
  • Producers
  • Camera operators
  • Motion designers or visual effects artists
  • Sound departments or music composers…

Or if you’re a freelance editor, you might work with:

  • Artists
  • YouTubers
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Business owners

You need to be able to speak their language, understand their point of view, and collaborate with them in a creative environment.

You also want to be someone they enjoy working with. This means having top notch communication skills—both personal and professional.

How to Improve Your Communication and Collaboration Skills as an Editor:

When working with a client—always discuss project goals and preferences. If you’re working with a team… make sure to check-in regularly and maintain transparency.

Don’t be afraid to tell them if you’re not feeling great about an edit or deadline. Honesty will get you more points than dropping the ball.

Video Editing Skill #6: Adaptability and Flexibility

A great editor must be able to adapt to different working environments, schedules, client expectations, video styles, and more.

For instance, in the span of just 1 week, I’ve gone from:

  • Editing gritty hip hop music videos
  • … to a children’s television show
  • … to an exercise equipment infomercial
  • … to a corporate presentation
  • … and right back to edgy hip hop music videos.

Each client and project had a vastly different tone, style, and expectation of the resulting final product.

As an editor, you must have the flexibility to create engaging videos—no matter the project.

How to Improve Your Adaptability and Flexibility as a Video Editor:

In professional settings, you have to remember that it’s not your video. You should always be open to feedback and new directions, and willing to adjust course.

Being prepared, and having a wide variety of tricks to pull from can also make you extremely flexible… so, continually upgrade your skills and set aside time to research new tools and tech that you can add to your toolbox.

Video Editing Skill #7: Organization

On a fast-paced edit or production, things can pile up quickly.

You might be working with many different types of people, media, and departments.

Having a consistent system for organization is not only helpful—it’s a MUST… for your sanity if nothing else.

As an editor, you will constantly have to track down specific files—graphics, photos, videos, notes, emails, and more…

An unprepared, unorganized editor will not only be much slower—but potentially neglectful of important project files.

How to Improve Your Video Editing Projects Organization:

Label your files and media descriptively, and have a consistent system for categorization. Here’s an in-depth article that shows you how to organize your video projects like a pro.

Also, don’t save project media or files to your computer’s local hard drive… get a good external drive, and backup your work often!

Video Editing Skill #8: Resilience Under Pressure

It’s a world of deadlines—and video editing is no different.

You’ll need to balance your creative experimentation and technical skills with the due-date of a project.

Your job is to maintain the highest quality work allowed while under the pressure of deadlines.

How to Improve Your Resilience Under Pressure:

First, know that this is JUST A VIDEO—not a life or death situation. Try to stay positive with editing challenges, and step away when frustrated. Trust your skills and past experience, and do your best to delivery quality work on time.

If it’s really feeling like too much—be honest and tell your client/team. It’s better to be open about the pressure of the situation, so they have the option to bring in additional help if it’s necessary.

Video Editing Skill #9: Attention to Detail

A polished video edit always comes down to the details.

Anybody can put video clips in a row, but a great editor knows how to make the viewing experience seamless and expressive…

So, how do you do that?

Make the small tweaks that make the big difference.

Like it or not, the video editor is often the main quality control backstop of a project.

How to Improve Your Attention to Detail as a Video Editor:

Always double check your workespecially before sending it to the client or publishing.

Double check your transitions, continuity, audio levels, titles, effects… take it scene by scene if it’s a long video.

Video Editing Skill #10: Self-Motivation & Reliability

While communication & collaboration skills are important—self-motivation is just as critical.

A great video editor often works alone, and must have the drive to keep themselves accountable for making progress and meeting their responsibilities—without requiring supervision.

Being self-motivated also means being willing to explore different creative ideas, techniques, and styles without being directed by someone else.

Along the same lines: Reliability as an editor cannot be understated.

Consistency and follow-through are a must.

How to Improve Your Self-Motivation and Reliability:

Set achievable goals, and meet them.

Create with high standards, knowing that your name is attached to each and every video you put out.

Video Editing Skill #11: Ethics and Morals

Let’s be honest—the job of a video editor is to manipulate, persuade, and influence through video.

And unfortunately, it’s easy to mislead, misinform, or mischaracterize the actions or thoughts of people and businesses with video content.

That’s why I place a high importance on ethics and morals.

Editing is a position of responsibility, and that means there is always the possibility of abusing that power.

How to Improve Your Ethical Decision Making as an Editor:

Always respect confidentiality and permissions. Make sure to credit others’ work properly.

Try to represent the content fairly and appropriately. Do your best to maintain integrity, and don’t be afraid to be honest with a client if they ask you to do something you don’t feel is right.

Video Editing Skill #12: Open-Minded and Experimental

Last, but certainly not least, is the willingness to be open-minded, and creatively experimental.

A great video editor is built—not born.

You grow more with each creative project—after much trial and error—learning what works, what doesn’t work… and eventually: how to get to what works faster.

And as you’re refining your edits… you must be open to different points of view, and how what you’re creating is being presented.

How to Improve Your Open-Mindedness as an Editor:

Be willing to try new approaches… new software, new plugins, and techniques. Practice often, and don’t be afraid to take stylistic risks—even if you end up reverting.

The best way to learn and grow as an editor is by trial and error—experimentation followed by analysis.

Your Turn

There you have it—12 essential skills of a great video editor!

Here’s a quick TL;DR version on how to improve your video editing skills:

  1. Invest in learning. Technical skills are the easiest to learn—but they are only one part of the puzzle. Continually look for ways to enhance your skills.
  2. Don’t just consume content—study it. Study videos and creators who you feel are at the top of their game. Look at their editing style and flow, and determine what they are doing that you aren’t.
  3. Follow my “Create Smarter” newsletter. Every week, I share pro-insights on how to become a more confident video creator. Sign up here, and start receiving FREE weekly insights right in your email inbox.
  4. Edit, edit, and edit more! I don’t like to say practice makes perfect… because there is always room for improvement. But regular practice, experimentation, self-motivation and analysis will ensure you are constantly improving.

If you’re struggling with a particular area of video editing or video creation… feel free to respond in the comments section below, or reach out on X.

I’m actively researching the problems and challenges people are running into to see how I can help.

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