In this article, I consider several approaches to increasing editing income and declining lower-paid work. These respect editors' differing circumstances, client bases and business goals.
How to increase editing and proofreading income
Taking annual action to increase income from freelance editorial work is simply good business practice.
Earnings need to keep up with cost-of-living increases else our editorial businesses could fail. Even if they don't fail, the decline in profitability could have a significant impact on our lifestyle and well-being.
What we earn is determined by the following:
Increasing our earnings is not always straightforward, though. You or I might think our desired rate increase is entirely justified (for example, because of inflation). However, what you or I think is not the issue. Any change to a pricing model must consider the client’s response for the simple reason that the client might not be prepared to pay. Remember:
Decisions about what to set or accept therefore need to be carefully planned.
Avoiding knee-jerk thinking
If a colleague states that they’ve decided to no longer edit for ‘low’ rates, by all means congratulate them on their business decision. Don’t assume, though, that their decision is the same one you should be making.
Before you impulsively follow their lead, ask yourself the following questions:
In other words, don’t feel compelled to decline work just because your colleagues deem what’s on offer as a bum deal. Their current circumstances might be very different from yours.
Not everyone can afford to be unemployed, and the choices available to a mature freelance-business owner may be very different from those on offer to the beginner.
Case study – the price-accepter
When you’re a price-accepter, the process for managing rates is usually one of the following:
In the first five years of owning my editorial business, I was almost exclusively a price-accepter. My main clients were publishers and packagers. Returning to the knee-jerk-avoidance issues:
During that phase, I was a negotiator and a phase-outer. I’d take the work to ensure a full schedule. I gained experience and testimonials, and I expanded my portfolio – all great marketing tools. As I acquired better-paying clients, I phased out the 15-pounder, then the 18-pounder, then the 20-pounder, and so on. It was a gradual process.
In 2017, my marketing strategy has paid off. I’m highly visible. I’ve got the experience, the testimonials and the portfolio to make me interesting to enough non-publisher clients that I can decline a price and walk away. I’ve moved from negotiation and phasing-out to responding with a flat refusal.
Case study – the price-setter
When you’re a price-setter, the process for managing rates is usually one of the following:
In the first five years of owning my editorial business, I had few clients for whom I set the price, and I was still developing my visibility. If there was space in my schedule, I’d try to fill it by negotiating and offering phased-in fee increases for regular clients.
In 2017, things have changed. I’m a flat-increaser. If the client doesn’t like the fee on offer, no problem. I thank them for their interest and wish them luck. Returning to the knee-jerk-avoidance issues:
As I hope the two examples above show, the approaches we take can vary over time and depend on individual circumstances. There’s no one-size-fits-all response.
Some additional thoughts
Managing rates is a journey
Increasing earnings isn’t about knee-jerk reactions. Rather, it’s a journey. Depending on your circumstances, you might handle things one way now, and another way further down the road.
Whether you buckle, negotiate, phase in/out, or make flat-out decisions will be based on your circumstances. There’s no one, true way to do it and there’s no shame in any of those choices as long as they’re done in relation to an analysis of your business needs and goals.
Louise Harnby is a line editor, copyeditor and proofreader who specializes in working with crime, mystery, suspense and thriller writers.
She is an Advanced Professional Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP), a member of ACES, a Partner Member of The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), and co-hosts The Editing Podcast.
Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Fiction Editor & Proofreader, say hello on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, connect via Facebook and LinkedIn, and check out her books and courses.
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