Time for a little business talk. I’m not sure how many of my readers out there are looking to get into the freelance editing business, but maybe these thoughts can help anyway. In general.
I felt compelled to write this because once every few months I get a response from a client about the pricing of my quote. These responses range from disappointed to confused to downright angry.
Of course, I typically charge under the average as per this Reedsy post. But this still incenses some people.
Which, by the way, is completely okay. This is an exchange of value. If you don’t understand the value in what I’m doing, god bless. I’ve seen plenty of people go somewhere else, like Fiverr, and come back a while later with a mea culpa. One client (who was more than happy to pay my quoted fee) had a Fiverr editor who lied. She’d never edited a book before. So, not only did she do a shit job, she went in and changed entire sentences without telling him. You know, to make the book better.
A key principle to freelancing is to understand your value. What are you bringing to the table? What can you do that no one else can? How long is this going to take you? How messy is the project to begin with?
It might not seem on the surface like you’re really doing enough to earn your money. I know books, and fixing them is easy for me. I’ve been able to do it since I was a little kid. My dad would leave his manuscripts on the family computer, and there I was at 12, going through and changing sentences, leaving him notes to find when he got back from work. So it’s innate, but the tricky thing about innate skill is that, well, it just comes naturally. You didn’t have to work as hard for it (or at it). It’s not mining coal.
However, I realized about halfway through my career that I was doing something that not very many people can do. If they could, they wouldn’t need editorial services to begin with. Sure there are plenty of freelancers on Reedsy, but overall it’s a very, very specialized position. Lawyers know law, doctors know medicine, and I understand exactly why something isn’t working in a book.
Once you understand your value, you have to stick to that. There were so many times when a client would quibble with me over price, and I caved because I needed the money. I regretted it almost every time. The reason for this is that someone who is going to negotiate with you is not going to end the negotiation once you’ve changed the price. While I don’t mind going the extra mile for a client after a job is done if they’ve paid me properly, it’s hard not to feel a little bitter when you’ve given your time on the cheap and the person at the other end keeps extracting more.
In summary, if you’re striking out on your own, understand your value, take your experience into consideration, and never, ever negotiate your price. Unless you’re highballing to begin with. But then, what are you? Some kind of car salesman?
PS I’ve compiled the entire list of books I published under Broken River from 2013 to 2019. You can find that list here.