Winning Copyediting Work, Part 3: Calculate the Work
To date in this series, I’ve looked at what questions to ask in an initial interview with a potential client and how to prove your skills. Today, I’ll finish the series by talking about what to do with the information from the sample.
Calculating the Work
As I mentioned last week, I note how many words I edited in the sample (usually edit 500–1,000) and how long it took to do that. From there I calculate:
- The number of manuscript pages to edit
- How many pages per hour I edited on the sample.
- How many hours it will take to edit the entire manuscript based on the sample
For example, a manuscript of 97,500 words equals 390 standard pages (97,500/250). If I edited a sample of 1,000 words in 30 minutes, that’s 4 pages (1,000/250) in 0.5 hours (30/60), or 8 pages per hour (4.0/0.5). At that rate, I could edit the 390 pages in 48.75 hours (390/8).
Edit the sample from the middle of the manuscript, which has likely been reworked less often. Remember, though, until you read the entire manuscript, you don’t know what you’re getting into. I read the manuscript once I’ve been hired but before I begin editing. That way, if I discover something that will drastically throw off my estimate, I can renegotiate with the client.
Send your proposal to the client, telling them what level of edit you think the manuscript needs, such as a heavy copyedit, and include a list of some items you’ll edit for. I try to keep the categories of items broad (see my website for some examples) and include such wording as “and similar tasks.” Leave yourself some wiggle room.
If you’re offering a project rate, include the rate, payment schedule, and other relevant details in the proposal. With a new client, I always ask for a down payment before beginning any work. If you’re offering an hourly rate, include the rate and an estimate of the hours it will take. Again, in either case, leave yourself some wiggle room.
Occasionally, a manuscript needs more developing before it can be copyedited. Copyeditors often sweat over whether to tell the potential client this or not. No one likes to lose work, but we all want the manuscript to be the best it can be.
I advise the client to do this work first, emphasizing the needs of the document (rather than the writer’s skills) to make it the best it can be. I don’t even propose what I could do on the manuscript (or the cost) if it needs something else first. Should the work be done, the manuscript will change, and so will my estimates. I then invite the client to resubmit the manuscript if they choose to get the work done.
Once you’ve won the work, no matter how you’re paid, track time and word counts. By doing this for every project, you’ll get a more accurate idea of how long it takes to edit various types of manuscripts and at various levels of editing. You’ll also create more accurate estimates.
As I said at the beginning of this series, the goal is for both parties to walk away happy. Getting to know the project and working to create accurate estimates help set expectations on both sides. When expectations are met (or exceeded), the client is happy. When the client is happy, you can be happy—and paid!—too.
Photo by Thinkstock.