One challenge that self-employed editors face is convincing potential clients that their fees are worthwhile. Clients have budget limits, and some clients will want to pay unrealistically low fees. But you need to earn enough to support yourself. What steps can you take to get clients to see your fees as reasonable?
Explain What You Do When You Edit
Editing can mean different processes to different clients, so it’s important to make it clear—without overwhelming your clients with too much information—what you do when you edit. First, define the type of editing you’ll be doing for the individual client. Keep in mind that there are no universal definitions for each one.
- Developmental editing: This can involve defining a manuscript’s themes, plots (for fiction), organization, and audience, and identifying holes in content.
- Technical editing: This can involve verifying usefulness or currentness of items discussed, editing to ensure that the audience will understand the material, editing for logic, and verifying specialized terms.
- Structural editing: This involves deconstructing a manuscript to check that its structure (heading levels and topic flow) makes reader comprehension easier.
- Language editing: This involves editing to ensure that a manuscript written by a non-native English speaker reads as if the author is a native speaker.
- Copyediting: This can involve editing for spelling, syntax, grammar, consistency, and appropriateness of tone for the audience; verifying the relevance of tabular content and figures to the area in text where they’re discussed; checking for legal or other issues that must be dealt with by the client; and editing tables, figure legends, and reference lists.
Then discuss with the client the technical issues that must be dealt with:
- Formatting: Italics, boldface, superscript, and so on, indicated through applying file styles; correcting spacing; setting up text to match a publisher’s or other organization’s expectations
- The number of rounds of editing: Will you do just one round of editing, or will you review the client’s edits and then finalize the file? Will there be additional intervening rounds of editing for groups with a stake in the final publication?
Explain How Your Editing Helps the Client
Clients may come to you simply because they were instructed by a supervisor or publisher to get a document edited. They may think that editing shouldn’t take very long because it’s “just reading.” For these and other reasons, they assume that editing shouldn’t cost much. You need to have a list ready like the following one of reasons editing is necessary, so that you can adapt it for each situation. Edited text
- Flows well so that readers understand the points being made
- Consistently gets to the point quickly
- Is organized well so that it makes logical sense
- Holds the reader’s attention
- Explains terms that readers might not know
- Does not have information gaps
- Does not contain factual errors
- Helps the author come across as knowledgeable, which is useful for many reasons, including getting a job and getting promoted
The better you do at educating clients about editing, the more likely it is that you can command the level of fees that you require.