Copyediting is often a thankless job. Writers complain about your changes. Clients want to know why you “scribble” all over their documents. Sometimes you feel like no one takes you seriously.
The truth is, a copyeditor can be a writer’s best friend. Good copyeditors produce work that is almost invisible. Their editing polishes the writer’s work, making it shine. Most writers who work with good copyeditors say that their copyeditor makes them look good in print.
So make an effort to make friends with your copyeditor by learning to speak their language—-the language of copyeditor marks. If you don’t know what copyeditor marks look like or if it’s been a while and you’d like to refresh your memory, check out the New York Book Editors Copyediting Marks.
It’s such a relief to copyeditors, line editors, and proofreaders when the writers they work with understand the meaning behind those strange “scribbles” we make on their documents. It makes our lives so much easier because we don’t have explain every change we’ve made or why we made it. In fact, if we’ve done our job well, most of the writers we work with will thank us for helping them look like writing rock stars.
Although more writers and editors exchange documents online and use Track Changes to edit documents, a lot of documents are still edited in hard copy. If you know how to speak the language of your editors, in the form of copyeditor marks, you will quickly become a favorite of the editors you work with.
What do you think about copyediting marks? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section below. (If you’re reading this post on the Writers Inkwell home page, please click on the headline to leave a comment, then scroll to the bottom of the post.)
Most writers, being creative types, are loathe to talk about money. They especially dislike when they have to tell a new client their rates or when they have to invoice a client. I know that side of freelancing can be difficult because I, too, struggled with that when I first began freelancing.
If you want to be a successful freelance writer or editor, you must overcome your resistance to talking about and asking for money. You do like to eat, right? I’ll bet you also like to live in a warm home with heat and air conditioning and, well, all the comforts of home, right?
So, as Cher said to Nick Cage in the movie, Moonstruck, “get over it!”
Here are 3 easy ways to present your rate to clients. Feel free to reword them to make them your own and practice saying them until you feel comfortable. When they ask what your rate is, answer calmly and clearly without missing a beat:
1. “My rate is $xx per hour and on long-term projects such as this one, I will invoice you every 2 weeks.”
2. “My rate is $xx per hour and with first-time clients, I require X percent up front prior to beginning work. The remaining X percent will be due Net 15 days (or Net 30 days) upon completion.
Note: If this is a long-term project, instead of the remaining X percent being due upon completion, explain that “upon completing X percent of the project, explain that you will begin billing every two weeks and each invoice is due in Net 15 days (or Net 30 days).” Make sure you choose an approach that works best for each project.
3. If you’re working for a mid-size to large company that has provided you with a purchase order, you know they’ve signaled their intent to pay you. In these instances, I usually say, “My rate is $xx per hour and since we’ll be working on this project/these projects long term, I will invoice you every 2 weeks beginning on (month/day/year).”
These are just a few ways to present your rate to clients. What are some of the ways you present rates to clients? Dip your pen into the inkwell and share what works for you!
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Writers are the ultimate dreamers. How else could they create the fabulous fiction and nonfiction works they create? Our daydreams provide a guide for us to that fabulous inner world where creativity resides.
Usually, I find my daydreams are closely tied to my intuition and you should always follow intuition. How many times have you said, “I had a feeling that would happen?” Always listen to your intuition. It’s that part of you that is connected to the greater good of the universe and it looks out for you—if only you will listen to it.
I use my intuition a lot when I’m editing, too. Sometimes what the writer is saying doesn’t quite mesh with the intent of the document or story as a whole. When that happens, my intuition raises a red flag that leads me to look more closely at what the writer is trying to say. More often than not, when I ask the writer for clarification, also suggesting alternative phrasing, my intuition is rewarded with the writer saying, “Yes, that’s what I was trying to say! I just couldn’t figure out how to say it.”
So daydream whenever you can and follow your intuition. You just may find it takes you to some marvelously creative places.
At my Business of Freelancing workshop, I recommend that each freelance writer or editor set their rates based on research and on the number that feels most comfortable to them. I still set my rate this way. Why?
You must feel comfortable with the rate you are charging. By comfortable, I mean you must feel and believe that the rate you charge is right for you and fair for your clients, as well as competitive in the marketplace.
But what do you do when a potential client asks you to lower your rate just for them? This is something every freelance writer and editor deals with on occasion. The solution is simple. Let me give you an example:
Over the years, there have been times when potential clients have challenged the rate I was charging. Some presented strong, but usually selfish arguments for lowering my rate, such as they only wanted to spend a certain amount or they thought that because theirs was a non-profit they should get a discounted rate.
On the few occasions when I granted a potential client’s request to lower my rate, I struggled to complete those jobs. Why? First, I felt that I was not getting paid a fair rate for the work I was doing. Consequently, my self esteem and my self confidence faltered. Second, those clients proved to be extremely high maintenance.
Comparing notes with other freelance writers and editors, I’ve found that if a potential client does not want to pay the going rate, which is fair and competitive, they are more likely to be a high maintenance client, which means the writer or editor will be working harder for less pay.
If you are charging a fair rate, one that is competitive with other technical writers and editors in your field, and if you are good at what you do, there is no reason for you to lower your rate. In my opinion, to do so shortchanges both you and your client—it short changes you because you don’t get paid what your services are worth and it short changes your fellow technical writers and editors because it sets clients’ expectations that prices are random and can be lowered upon request. In other words, it under values the services offered.
In addition, the almost inevitable high maintenance factor results in you getting paid less than the project is worth because you have to spend a lot of time dealing with the drama created by these high-maintenance clients.
Shortly after those experiences, I realized that I was quite comfortable charging clients my current going rate. I am also quite comfortable ending the conversation when a client presses me to lower my rates. I calmly explain that the rate I charge is fair and competitive and in line with the experience I bring to each project. I then suggest that they may be more comfortable working with someone whose rates are more in line with their budget and I politely close the conversation.
As a result, I enjoy my work and my clients, which makes my workdays worthwhile.
Dip your pen into the inkwell and tell us how you deal with clients who ask you to lower your rate.
New writers and editors often ask me how to set rates for their consulting work. Establishing a set rate for your work is one of the most important things you will do in your business. Does that surprise you? Let me tell you why setting your rate is so important.
The rate you set for the consulting work you do, whether it’s writing or editing, determines your overall income. Your rate also sets you apart from the amateurs and ranks you with the professionals in your field, that is, if it’s a competitive rate.
When I first decided to be a freelance editor and writer, I called several people I knew who were already doing what I wanted to do. I asked them what the current rate was for freelance editors and freelance writers. To do this, I had to, essentially, overcome my aversion to talking about money and ask them what they charged. (This is something you will need to do as well, if you want to join the ranks of professional writers.)
A few (a very few) refused to answer. Obviously, they were even more loath to talk about money than I was. The other writers and editors were happy to discuss their rates with me and to share how they determined what to charge (and when to raise their rates).
After doing this research, I sat down with the data I’d gathered and weighed my experience against that of the more experienced professionals who had so generously shared their strategies and their rates with me. I set my rate and began marketing myself as a freelance editor and writer.
I encourage you to do the same. Ask other writers (or editors, if you’re an editor) what the current rates are for doing the type of work you want to do. Make sure you ask this of pros who are already doing what you want to do. Then sit down with the data you’ve collected and weigh your experience and expertise against theirs to determine your rate.
How do you set your rates? I invite you to share your approach in the comments section below.
Note: If you’re reading this post on the home page and you want to leave a comment, please click the Title of this post and you will see the comments box at the bottom of the new page. This is a glitch I’m working to resolve in the theme I’m using. Please do leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!
Until next time, Write On!
When I was first starting out as a technical editor, one of my biggest concerns was how much to charge. The idea of setting a rate for my work was exciting and frightening at the same time.
I had no idea where to begin. I’d heard that technical writers earned more than technical editors, but knowing that didn’t help me figure out what to charge for my services. How much was more?
Deciding to be proactive about setting my rates, I picked up the phone and called three technical writers I knew. They referred me to some editors they knew.
The editors were very helpful, although a few of them refused to share rate information. Those who were willing to share rate information also shared some tips about how to present rates to clients. I’ll cover that in an upcoming post.
I learned that rates for technical editors covered a broad range—from $15 to $65 or more per hour, depending on your knowledge, skill, and experience (length of time working as a technical editor).
After talking with two of the technical writers I knew who each had almost 20 years of experience and were mentoring me, I decided to charge $20 per hour. They thought I was experienced enough to charge $25, but I was nervous, so I started lower. Within six months, I raised my hourly rate to $25 because I realized they were right. A year later, thanks to one of my mentors, I raised my hourly rate to $35.
In my next post, I’ll explain how that happened and in a future post, I’ll talk about how to set your rate.
Technical writing and editing are not for everyone. In fact, the majority of technical writers I’ve worked with over the years either fell into technical writing or wanted to write fiction. Let’s face it, technical writing is boring, dry, and uninspiring, unless you’re crazy about technology and how it works. Then technical writing is interesting, even fascinating, because you’re often writing about products that are new and about to change people’s lives.
I was one of those writers who fell into working in the high-tech arena. You might say I entered it with more than a little trepidation, even kicking and screaming a bit. I credit the legendary Stewart Alsop II and Apple’s 128k Macintosh computer, with helping me overcome my aversion to computers.
We started working at InfoWorld magazine within a day of each other. Stewart was our new editor-in-chief. I was an editorial assistant and knew nothing about computers except how to make them crash (although I didn’t understand just how I managed to do that).
Stewart met with each member of the editorial staff in an effort to get to know his new team. When I confessed my love of publishing, along with my deep reservations that I may have chosen the wrong magazine to work for because of my strong aversion to computers, Stewart encouraged me to give InfoWorld a chance. He told me that as long as I knew how to write, he could teach me about computers. He asked me to give it six months. Although I had strong reservations, Stewart was very certain, so I agreed.
That was August. It took only three months before I was explaining computers to anyone who would listen, thanks to Stewart and his faith in me, and the 128k Mac, Apple’s first Macintosh computer.
When InfoWorld’s editorial staff received a 128k Macintosh to review prior to its release, so we could write about it in time for Apple’s big announcement, I fell in love with it immediately. I’d finally met a computer I could understand. A computer that spoke my language. And it didn’t crash.
A year and a half later, I opened my own editorial consulting business working as a technical editor at such high-tech companies as Apple, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi America, and many more—and I never looked back because technology was finally interesting to me.
I’ve sat on both sides of the editorial desk and I’ve learned a few things from being both a writer and an editor.
Writing, even freelance writing, bears similarities to regular jobs. Writers often develop business relationships and even friendships with the editors they regularly work with. However, there are some things writers should not ever tell editors, not even editors they consider friends.
Here are 5 things writers should not ever tell editors:
1. I Hate Writing About This Topic.
Editors appreciate writers who are enthusiastic about their assignments. Although editors know that the most successful articles are written by writers who are passionate about a topic, sometimes they just don’t have a choice. They have to assign a topic to someone who probably is not be interested in it. That’s when they ask one of their trusted writers to help them out. If the writer tells the editor that they dislike or hate the topic they’re going to write about, when the editor needs to assign future articles, the writer may only receive assignments that are in his specialty area.
2. I’m Only Writing for You Until I Get Published Elsewhere.
No one appreciates knowing that they are second choice. Editors know that every writer is looking for their next writing gig. However, only those who are indifferent to others’ feelings would say so out loud. Make each editor you work with feel like they’re the best one.
3. I Only Write Because I Have To.
Editors love what they do and they know that the best writers are those who love to write. They also know that the best writing comes from writers who are passionate about writing and about what they write. So do your best to be enthusiastic, even if you’re only pretending. Who knows? You may talk yourself into liking writing.
4. I Earn More Money Than You Do.
Editors already know this. They don’t appreciate you reminding them. And although technical editors earn more than most editors, they still earn less than technical writers. In spite of the fact that editors already know that writers earn more than they do, they prefer to work with you as part of a team and not think about how much more you earn.
5. Don’t Change What I Write Without Letting Me See It First.
Editors work with many writers. They do not have time, nor do most publications permit their editors to provide writers with a copy of their articles prior to publication.
I’ve been both a writer and an editor. Sitting on both sides of the hiring desk has provided me with an insight that most writers don’t have access to. What’s more, there are three things editors don’t want writers to know because if writers knew these things, editors fear they would lose their negotiating power.
The three things that editors don’t want writers to know are:
1. They Need You.
Editors need writers. Writers provide editors with job security. Without writers and what they write, editors would not have jobs.
2. Editors Depend on Writers.
Editors know that they can depend on professional writers to meet the deadlines they set for them. This is important because if a writer misses a deadline, the editor may have to come up with a replacement article at the last minute. And editors do not like to have to do this. So editors depend on their stable of writers to meet their deadlines on time or even early.
3. Editors Have Favorite Writers.
Editors, like teachers, have favorites among the writers they work with. Their favorite writers meet the deadlines they set and often over deliver. That is, they provide sidebars, graphics, and backup information that editors can use to enhance page layouts and provide filler. All of this makes the editor’s job easier. Who wouldn’t like working with someone who does this?
You have a meeting with a potential client and you’re excited. The phone is finally beginning to ring and your business is taking off. Congratulations!
After the euphoria subsides and you slowly float to earth, the anxiety sets in and you begin to worry about what to do, what to say, and how to make sure he hires you and not some other freelancer.
Here are 3 Do’s and Don’ts to help you make a great first impression and turn this potential client into a paying client.
2. Observe the proprieties.
Make eye contact, smile, and shake hands firmly. Okay, that’s three packaged as one because you do them simultaneously when you first meet someone.
3. Arrive prepared.
Arrive prepared to sign this client at this meeting. Make sure you have the following items with you: your business cards, marketing brochures, laptop, portfolio, and two copies of your contract (one for you and one for your client, so you both have a signed copy).
2. Do not answer your cell phone.
Better yet, turn it off as you enter the meeting. When I am in meetings with clients or potential clients, and even when I visit with friends, I turn off my cell phone, so I can give them my undivided attention. When I first enter a business meeting of any type, I usually take out my cell phone and casually say, “Let me turn off my cell phone, so we’re not interrupted.” This subtly indicates that I think they are special because they deserve my undivided attention. It also acts as a prompt for them to shut off or silence their cell phones, as well.
3. Do not lie.
When you lie about your experience or on your resume, you will inevitably get caught because the publications community is a small one and people talk to each other.
Use these three Do’s at every meeting you attend, avoid the 3 Don’ts, and you will be on your way to impressing potential clients right into hiring you on the spot.
Do you have a favorite Do or Don’t for meetings with potential clients? I invite you to share it with us.
Write On With Confidence!
The Writers Inkwell Muse