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Harsha Basu09

This post is very informative. Currently, I am working on a manuscript which is taking more than the expected time. Editors should not be perfectionists. However, our trainers might still be.


Great advice, and something I've learning with experience. I give a project estimate, but I let clients know I bill by the hour.

On two recent large projects for university clients I gave a range based on their limited information, and I was told, "OK, we'll take the lower amount." I guess I need to work on how I phrase my initial estimate. But because I started with a range, I had no trouble letting them know when the project was exceeding the minimum.

Carol Saller

Mark, it's interesting that you did the estimate; in my experience, the hiring party gives the freelancer an estimate.

Account Deleted

These are some of the best tips I have ever read from an editor. Its difficult to be the kind of editor that one would wish to be, we always bow down to the demands of the clients knowing fully well that they may not be right. But yes...sometimes its best to give-in and let go of our editorial notions. Thank you Carol.

Carol Saller

After all, we are copyeditors--not martyrs.


One solution I've developed for this is to provide an editorial assessment before I'm hired for a project. Anyone is able to send me their manuscript; I read it cover to cover and let the potential client know what the strengths and weaknesses are and what action I feel is necessary to correct the manuscript (i.e., which levels of editing are required). Based on the length of the manuscript and the level of edit, I'm able to give a really good estimate of the time it will take (i.e., 5 pages per hour for a heavy edit, 20 pages per hour for a proofread, etc.). I also let them know the hourly rate for that level of edit. I include in the agreement letter that I will update them when I have worked half the time and let them know if more time will be required. If it's only five or so hours over, I usually don't bother with charging more and chalk it up to possibly working more slowly than normal.

Yes, there are times that I have read a manuscript and not been hired by the client, but that's pretty rare, and even those that get away become great referral sources!

Clearly this only works for independent authors. Most publishers I have worked with pay per page, and if not, I try to follow the EFA's (Editorial Freelance Association) standards for how many pages can be read in an hour.

I've never had to go back to a client and ask for more money nor have I ever been scolded by a publisher for charging too much.


This is terrific advice. I hire freelance editors regularly. I'm not allowed to pay by the hour, and we set our budgets when all we have to base our numbers on is a proposal and a sample chapter. If the project is taking drastically more work than anticipated, I might need to kill it, or we might need to compromise on the work that gets done, but my copy-editor is never the person who should be paying the price for a bad signing. I want the editors who work for me to do the best they can in a time that constitutes a reasonable wage for them, no more than that.


When I get a job that turns out to be more demanding, complex or messy, or just plain bigger, than I expected, I contact my client right away and ask if we can renegotiate. They usually say yes, but, if they have budget restrictions and can't increase the rate, I finish up anyhow and either renegotiate future projects with that client or politely turn down further work.

I try to remember to let new clients know ahead of time that I define a page as 250 words, regardless of how the ms. looks when it reaches me; that heads off many problems - but not all, of course.

Ian Welsh

Very good rule.

Got really burned on this once. A novel that was supposed to just be a light English cleanup, turned out to need really heavy editing including what amounted to me rewriting most scenes. Got it done but was pushed to return it to the client before it was really ready, and of course some actual grammatical errors were still in.

So, I did more work than i was supposed to, for less money than it was worth, and looked completely unprofessional and unable to catch the basic stuff (because when I'm writing, I have trouble catching my own errors without taking some time off.)

Never, ever, again.

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