As I mentioned last week, there are different pricing models for invoicing your work as a freelance editor.
The most frequently encountered pricing models include:
- By the hour. You’re probably the most familiar with this model, and it has the advantage of clarity: you work x hours, you get y pay. If you work quickly, this isn’t the best model for you—you’ll end up with fewer billable hours. On the other hand, if the work is precise and painstaking, this can ensure that you’re compensated adequately for something that may take longer than the client anticipated. It’s also a good model to use if the scope of work hasn’t been spelled out to your satisfaction—we’re all familiar with features creep, and an hourly rate will keep you from doing a lot of work for nothing.
- By the project. This model works extremely well if you trust that your scope of work is accurate and not likely to change. It has the advantage of telling both you and the client exactly how much money will be involved in the transaction.
- By the word. I like this model for editing. Typically I look at the level of editing required (via a sample of the material, not via what the client thinks is needed, as clients invariably underestimate what has to be done) and then cite a cost-per-word that takes the amount of editing into account. Again, this gives the both parties a total figure for the project, and puts you in the driver’s seat in assessing what that figure should be.
- By royalties. Some publishers will want to pay you out of the royalties that will be received once the book is published. Another version of this model is part-royalties, part-fee. Authors may be willing to assume the uncertainties of royalties; editors should not. Say you edit a 70,000-word project that will be published in ebook format for $2.99. Say (and I’m being generous here) 300 copies sell. Say you receive 30% of what the author receives, which is around 60% of that $2.99. Now figure what kind of hourly rate that ends up being.
Sometimes, of course, you won’t have a choice. Publishing houses, for example, have a set way that they pay editors and really don’t care if that’s not the way you like to work.
On the other hand, if you work directly with authors (we’ll talk in a future column about the advantages/disadvantages of doing this), you have some options in terms of the pricing model, so think about what will be the most beneficial to you. And no matter what model you use, factor in the time it will take, not just to do the actual editing, but also in correspondence with the client, invoicing, etc. Always be aware of what your time is worth and what you’re getting paid for it.
Next week I’ll give you a sample contract to use, but for today I just want to say that you must always use a contract, and that contract must spell out clearly what the pricing model is, how you’re calculating what’s owed, when payments are due, and so on. The only person protecting you now is … you, so make sure that you do it well!