*A version of this blog post was originally published on the CIEP blog, 15 April 2022.
How can editors earn more money in their freelance editing business? Carla DeSantis discusses the advice presented by Malini Devadas at a Toronto CIEP (Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading) local group meeting:
One of the benefits of being a CIEP member is the option to participate in local group meetings—getting to know other local editors, sharing information, and making collegial connections. As the global pandemic forced groups online, one advantage has been the ability not only to include Canadian editors outside of Toronto but also to host guest speakers from around the world at these local gatherings.
In January 2022, Toronto CIEP local group coordinator Janet MacMillan invited Malini Devadas, based in Australia, to speak to our group on how to earn more money in our freelance editing businesses. At the time, in addition to her other services, Malini was coaching editors through her business Edit Boost, helping editors to find more clients and earn more money. She now focuses on coaching academic writers.
Common Mistakes When Setting Rates
Malini began the Toronto CIEP session by outlining four common mistakes that editors make when thinking about their rates:
Mindset and Strategy
In order to counter these common mistakes that editors can make in their businesses, Malini suggested adopting the following mindset and strategy:
1. Be confident in your ability to help people
How do you help your target client? When content marketing, talk about the issues that are of interest to your clients, not necessarily to other editors. What are your clients worrying about? According to Malini, it most likely is not simply punctuation and word choice. Show your clients that you can solve their problems for them. Since Malini also coaches academic and scholarly authors, she emphasized the need to normalize the idea of academics being edited.
2. Realize that you cannot help everyone who contacts you
As an editor, you may be limited by your schedule, what you need to earn, and your expertise. It is important to determine when you do not have the subject expertise necessary for a project and to perhaps pass it on to a suitable colleague. If a client is not able to pay what you need to earn in order to properly complete a job, it is okay to say no. Conversely, if you do not really want the job or already have too much work on your plate, you could possibly charge more (like a rush fee).
3. You are allowed to earn whatever you want to earn
Frequently, editors figure out what this amount is by working backwards from what their expenses are. It is important to take into consideration any specialized skills or knowledge that you may have, professional designations, or how long you have been an editor. While it is easy to assume that certain disciplines (such as academia) may pose an unspoken limit on acceptable rates, Malini suggested that editors should not generalize about a discipline’s ability to pay, as sources of revenue may exist, despite your assumptions.
4. Life balance is a necessity, not a luxury
Everyone needs sleep and rest, even (or especially) editors! It is important for freelance editors to adopt a mindset that allows them to plan for life balance within their work schedule.
5. Market your business to attract the people who value what you do
If you focus your message on your ideal clients, you will automatically repel the clients who are not right for you. And remember, you do not necessarily need a lot of clients per year, just the right number of key clients to keep you busy for the time that you wish to be working (this could work out to, for example, twelve clients a year, if your average project lasts a month—fewer if you factor in vacation time). If you focus on marketing to the right people, you will get more inquiries from those potential clients who have the budget to pay your desired rates. If you are able to increase the number of inquiries coming in, you may then be able to earn more money by working fewer hours (which leads to #4 above). And remember #2 above: you do not have to take every job.
Marketing Your Freelance Editing Business
So, what should freelance editors’ marketing strategy include in order to increase inquiries and, consequently, their ability to raise rates? Malini suggested using the some of the following sources:
The key, however, is to use whatever platform you are comfortable with, as long as you do some form of marketing.
I am grateful that the Toronto CIEP group provided a forum for our local group to connect with Malini at our meeting. The international editing community has been lucky to have someone like Malini as a resource to constantly encourage us to value our skills, services, and time. I have taken many of Malini’s suggestions into account over the past several years and have seen my business and income grow as a result. It is easy for freelance editors—frequently working in isolation—to undervalue themselves without cause. Malini’s main message, which is one that all freelance editors should embrace, is that editors running their own businesses offer significant value that should be properly compensated. Confidence to advocate for ourselves is key.
What strategies have you used to increase the income from your freelance editing business? Did it involve changing your mindset?
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I am Carla DeSantis, and welcome to my blog! I love language and words and books, and have turned this love into a business, helping others to perfect their written message.