Posts Tagged ‘freelance editing’

A Day in the Life of a Freelance Editor

I sometimes get questions in my email from other people wanting to get into freelance editing, and so I thought it might be beneficial to share my general day with the Internet at large so people can get an idea how this works.

I do want to emphasize that this is me, personally, and that there are plenty of other good freelance editors out there who probably structure their day completely differently. Also probably plenty of bad freelance editors, which is why you should ask for an editing sample before you hire someone.

I also want to preface this with the disclaimer that I work part-time because I am first and foremost a stay-at-home parent with two pre-school children. On a good day, I can get up to six hours of working time in; on a bad, I may only get an hour, or even nothing.

I have three jobs I do (not counting working on novels/short stories):

  1. Freelance Editor (website here) — I specialize in novels and short stories, but also get a lot of college papers and technical documents because of my background in engineering.
  2. Contract Editor — I’ve worked for a company for almost five years now, where I currently edit college-level lessons before they go live on the website.
  3. Grant Writer — In February I was hired by a local performing arts school to write grants for them. We’ve won two of the grants we submitted for already, so not bad for taking over a job I had absolutely no previous experience with.

General Daily Schedule:

6-6:30: Get up. This varies based on when I went to bed. If I’m going to go to the gym first, I get up at 5:45. It’s completely random as to whether or not I will get dressed or just shuffle downstairs to work.

6:45-8:00: Working time. This is my most reliable section because my charges are still asleep. Usually. Hopefully. Unfortunately, it also tends to be my most unfocused. I normally get started fine, but then get distracted with administrative stuff, such as checking on blog tours, marketing stats, and reading emails.

8:00-10:30: Very little, if any work, gets done in this time frame, so I tend to spend this time with the kids and on things like laundry, dishes, yardwork, etc. Sometimes they’re distracted and then I can sneak some stuff in.

10:30-12:30: The smaller one usually naps at this point, and the bigger one is in school on some days, so this is another, and probably my most productive, working time. If I’m working two jobs at once (which is fairly common; at the moment I’m doing my contract editing and editing the second book in a series for a client) I tend to do one job in the first thing in the morning slot and then switch to the other for this slot so forward progress is being made on both. If one has a tighter time frame, however, I will work that one in both slots.

12:30-3:30: House stuff again. The kids and I normally play a game or do a craft. We also run errands at this point. Often to the library. We apparently have 26 books checked out of the moment.

3:30-5: This is a potential working period. It depends on when the littler one took her nap and if she needs another one (she might go down earlier or later, depending, but sometimes not at all), and if I can distract the older one without just plopping him in front of the TV. Sometimes I can enforce quiet time with him (he should nap, but won’t) which is lovely. But rare.

5-8: Dinner and family time, usually.

8-10: Wildly variable. Sometimes I can swing this for working, but a lot of times I’m just too tired. If I do get working time in this period, I tend to prefer to work on my fiction projects instead of paying ones. It tends to depend on deadlines, but I try to work far ahead so I’m not stressed.

I also get a lot of questions about pay rates, and to that I say: make sure you’re asking enough to justify your time. A lot of starting freelance editors ask for or will take basically nothing in an attempt to garner business, and you’re not really doing yourself any favors. I’ve found that clients who insist on cheaper rates are ones you really don’t want–they’re abrasive and rude, and don’t respect you as a person or a professional. Counter-intuitively, potential clients may also pass you up if you’re too cheap because they think you’re not good or not experienced, and that’s why you’re not charging more.

I have a flat rate for developmental/concept editing, and I charge a sliding scale for proofreading/line editing, depending on the state of the manuscript. Some people have a pretty clean document with only a few stray punctuation marks or typos throughout. Other people still put a carriage return at the end of every single line like a typewriter and write purely in run-on sentences.

So, there you go! Let me know if you have any other questions.

Siri’s and my longer blog tour for City of Hope and Ruin starts today! Our first stop is an interview with me, which can be found here. We’re giving away another $50 Amazon giftcard during this one.

Tips for New Freelance Editors

I’ve been working as a freelance editor for almost two years now, and I found myself wandering to the coffee shop a few days ago, mulling over things I’ve learned and what I wish I’d known when I started. So I thought, hey, maybe other people’d like to know–I know how unhelpful a lot of the websites out there can be–and so this post now exists.

1) Ask for a sample before you give an estimate.
This I learned the hard way. I had someone come to me and offer less than I would normally take for a 150K word novel with the promise of more work in the future, and I mistakenly said yes because at the time I wasn’t getting a lot of novels and would have liked the repeat business. Because this was someone who’d written several books, I also gave them a short turnaround time because I assumed they understood basic grammar and punctuation. Oh my god, mistake. By taking a look at a few pages–and I recommend this for any project longer than about 25 pages–you will be able to see how much work needs to be done, thus being able to set an acceptable rate and time estimate for the project.

2) It’s okay to stay local.
95% of the freelance work I do is local. There’s tons of freelance job websites out there that either list jobs they found on places like craigslist or allow people to list jobs that they want people to bid on, such as at Elance. At the beginning, I tried all of them. But I’ve found it’s been much more beneficial to advertise locally. First of all, people prefer to work with someone close to them. They know that, if needed, we can meet in person or, if they need to reach me by phone, we’re probably on similar schedules. Plus it’s allowed me to significantly limit the amount of time I need to spend looking for new business on a weekly basis.

3) You can raise your prices as necessary.
When I first started, my rates were pretty cheap. Part of that was that I didn’t know what I should be charging (a lot of websites told me $30/hour, but I didn’t think anybody was going to go for that), and part of it was that after lurking about on websites, like the above-mentioned Elance, I didn’t think people were willing to pay for this sort of thing. (Now I know that the people on Elance are delusional.) You can see what you competitors are charging and adjust your rates from there. And, as you become busier and get more experience under your belt, you can raise your rates to reflect that.

4) Don’t take on more than you can handle.
Freelance work is very hit or miss. Some months it’s like the middle of the night, when even the crickets are silent. Some days you have five people email you for quotes, and then not a single one of them hires you. Sometimes, you suddenly have three big projects on your hands and you’ve got to juggle all of them. The temptation is there to take on any projects that come your way, just because you don’t know where the next one is coming from. But know your limits. Know how many hours you can put in in a day before your brain turns to mush. Know how many different storylines you can keep straight before you start confuse one story for another. Each project requires your full attention, and if you start getting sloppy because you’re trying to do too much, it’s going to be hard to get any jobs at all.

Well, I hope that helps someone out there. Now, back to work.