Why Should Clients Pay for Copyediting?
Last week on Twitter, I linked to an article by Rich Adin about editing freelancers not underselling their services. In response, @wattsteph tweeted:
Good question. Good editors can’t stop poor editors or bad business owners from undercutting them. Those folks who will accept a $10-an-hour rate aren’t going away, and Adin did a good job of explaining why the rest of us can’t lower our rates just to compete.
To be successful, then, we have to convince prospective clients that we’re worth the price.
The first step is to determine how much you’ll actually charge. Your rate should reflect a realistic idea of:
- What you need to earn. Adin's topic covered this in detail in his “Business of Editing: What to Charge” series.
- What the current market rates are. The EFA has an editing rate chart based on a member survey, and Robert Half International posted these numbers for 2014:
Both should be taken with a grain of salt, however. A lot of variables go into rates, including which industry you work in.
- What extras you bring to the relationship. For example, if you’re a subject-matter expert in nuclear physics, you should be able to charge more than an editor with no expertise in nuclear physics.
The hardest part, though, is persuading a client to pay your desired rate. No one willingly pays more for something than they have to. You must persuade prospects that your work is valuable to them. You have to sell your services.
In setting your rate, you look at the situation from your point of view. When selling your services, you must look at it from the buyer’s point of view.
Why should anyone pay for copyediting? (Hint: it’s not for quality copy.)
We buy products and services to solve a problem or fulfill a desire. While you may have the occasional client who hires you to copyedit to fulfill their desire for beautiful copy, most often the client is trying to solve a problem.
And the problem isn’t wretched copy; it’s what results from wretched copy. Perhaps the result is a book publisher selling fewer books, or a newspaper being sued for libel. It could be that a company doesn’t win a big project because its proposal didn’t meet the requirements. The key is for you to figure out what happens if this client publishes poor-quality writing and get them to understand how painful that result would be. To avoid that pain, they need to hire a copyeditor.
However we see it, for our clients correcting the copy isn’t an end in itself; it’s a means to an end.
You won’t sway everyone, of course. There will always be clients who can’t see how copyediting will help them or who won’t pay for it, even when the results of error-laden writing is killing the bottom line.
Let those folks go on their way. Let them hire $10-an-hour copyeditors and get what they pay for.
Spend your time looking for and negotiating with clients who can be persuaded to see the value in what you do and are willing to pay for it.
Join @Copyediting on March 4 at 2 pm EST for #GrammarChat. We’ll celebrate National Grammar Day with @JuneCasagrande of Grammar Underground for a Twitter chat on grammar. Bring your questions for June to answer!