I charge for my editing services as a customized project fee, composed of the specific tasks involved in bringing your manuscript to a state ready to submit for publication. Before beginning the project, I will review your material and present you with a proposed fee, based on an estimate of the average speed for editing 1,000 words (a standard unit of text), the number of references to be formatted, and other tasks you request. The speed will depend on the degree of editing needed, which, in turn, will depend on the particular kind of service you want (copy, stylistic, and/or structural editing) and the initial state of the text (whether closer to a rough draft or to a finished piece). Since estimates, by definition, cannot pinpoint the exact amount of work that will actually unfold, I formulate the proposed project fee as a range (“between $X and $Y”) presented to you ahead of time and included in the contract we negotiate. The final charge for editing your manuscript, based on the actual work performed, will not vary more than 10% from the estimate, as long as the scope of the project did not change in the meantime. If a major change in the project is suggested while work is underway (for instance, if you decide to add new material or format references yourself), we will discuss and adjust the fee at that point. In other words, you will not have to worry about unpredictable pricing based on an open-ended, unforeseen number of hours, which some freelancers use as method of calculating invoices. Since you will know from the beginning and throughout the project what the estimated fee is, there will be no unpleasant surprises in the final invoice.
How do I calculate the estimate and determine the final project fee? I start by getting details from you about the kind of editing you are looking for, your vision of what the final product should look like, your target publication venue, your time frame, and so on. I will then review your manuscript to make sure the project falls within my areas of expertise and range of services. To get a sense of how much work the manuscript will likely require, I will edit two to four pages as a sample at no charge. The sample will also allow you to get a sense of what my editing can do for your text and if it meets your needs.
Based on that sample, I will give you an initial idea of the costs for the editing services you are considering. If you decide to move forward with the project, I will draw up a precise proposal with the project fee and the specific editing services it covers. The fee will include the first round of revisions I will send you, as well as additional rounds (usually two or three) based on your responses to comments and queries I make in the text. After we discuss the proposal and agree on the terms, I will draw up a contract and invite you to contribute any terms you wish to include before we sign it.
What is the purpose of a contract? Although contracts are sometimes viewed as simply legal documents to enforce the reciprocal delivery of services and payment, my training has taught me to view a contract as more than that — as a road map that clarifies expectations for both parties about what the project will involve and how it will proceed. The very process of discussing the terms of a contract enables both author and editor to ask questions, spell out their expectations and promises, and agree on their contributions to moving the project forward. This prevents misunderstandings or assumptions, which people may not realize they carry, from causing problems later in the project. It is, in other words, a tool of communication — and communication is precisely what editors aim to improve.
Once we both sign the contract, I will then proceed with the work itself. As mentioned earlier, if the scope of the project changes markedly after work has begun, we can discuss and adjust the terms of our agreement to make it fair and satisfactory to both of us. If the project ends up needing less time or work than predicted, the final charge will be lower; if it takes more, the final invoice will never be higher than 10% above the project estimate — even if the amount of work I end up doing involves more. I offer this guarantee so you can budget your cost with predictability.
Please note that, when drawing up the proposed fee, negotiating our contract, and submitting invoices, I follow standard practices used by all professional freelance editors, such as adding a surcharge for rush jobs, requiring installment payments for new clients or lengthy manuscripts, and making certain guarantees for the quality of my services. For an explanation of how these practices protect both the editor and the client, please see the “Code of Fair Practices” published by the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA), to which I belong.