An American Editor

September 6, 2019

Discount day for “Be a Better Freelancer”® conference!

Filed under: Editorial Matters — An American Editor @ 10:15 am

To celebrate National Read a Book Day, Communication Central and the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (NAIWE) will allow colleagues to use the early bird rate today for “Gateway to Success,” the 14th annual “Be a Better Freelancer”® conference, October 11-13, 2019, in St. Louis, MO. For speakers, session topics, local attractions and registration info, go to:


Who knows – your, or your client’s, book might be the one someone reads today!

By the way, the An American Editor blog is among the conference sponsors, in the good company of Intelligent Editing/PerfectIt, Digital Reader and more.

September 4, 2019

Conference update – deadline for hotel rate, special offer for AAE subscribers

We have a new hotel contact for “Gateway to Success,” the 2019 “Be a Better Freelancer”® conference, who has reminded me that the deadline to use our rate for hotel rooms is September 10. This year’s conference, co-hosted by Communication Central and — for the first time — the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (NAIWE,) and sponsored in part by Intelligent Editing, home of the popular PerfectIt consistency-checking tool (thank you, Daniel Heuman!), will be held October 11–13, 2019, at the Chase-Park Plaza Hotel in St. Louis, across the street from gorgeous Forest Park and in the heart of a vibrant, walkable neighborhood of shops, restaurants and even a national chess museum, with a movie theater right in the hotel!

The conference program includes breakfast and lunch on the 11th and 12th, with dinner outings to be arranged as separate activities.

While the early bird deadline has passed, AAE subscribers may use the NAIWE/former conference attendee rates to save on registration. Full details of sessions and speakers can be found at or

Hope to see lots of you there!

On the Basics: The ongoing challenge of finding editorial work

Filed under: Editorial Matters — An American Editor @ 9:35 am

By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Owner, An American Editor

I’ve started seeing (along with the seemingly constant flow of phony job offers) announcements of new platforms promising to help editorial professionals connect more effectively and efficiently with prospective clients. Some are more open than others; some have confusing business models. One claimed to only work with the 300 “best” editors, with a model that involves somehow pitting them against each other through a process being called consensus editing. The creator of another was planning to charge an editor $50/month to participate, as far as I could tell, and asked for input on his business model — that is, he wanted editors to pay $50 each to test his business model when it wasn’t even up and running yet. (A request that was roundly scotched, by the way.)

These may not be outright scams, but they are among the many sites or companies supposedly trying to put editors and clients together. The savvy entrepreneurs who come up with such “services” are taking advantage of the many people who are desperate for income or portfolio-building projects because they don’t have the experience and networking contacts for better types of clients and projects, or who are more hobbyists than professionals and willing to work for peanuts for the fun of being published somewhere — anywhere. Some of these sites charge the editors to participate, some don’t. Most of them profit from fees paid by both authors and editors.

Some of the more-established ones are being called helpful in creating regular streams of work for editors and our colleagues in other skillsets. Others are considered scams of some sort.

The problem with most of these, both established and startup, is that they usually don’t pay very well. That may not be an issue for people who are just starting out; even low-paying jobs do help you build a portfolio and experience. The low fees also might be acceptable even to more-experienced colleagues who appreciate (or desperately need) a steady flow of income, or a few bucks to fill in the gaps between better-paying projects. Some of them have more-demanding, micro-management-style oversight systems than others, and their critiques aren’t always as helpful (or accurate) as we might like.

Because the legitimate versions of these businesses do find favor with colleagues, they will continue to proliferate. As long as you know the limits and accept the pay rates or overbearing oversight, working for them is no real problem. It might be more profitable, though, to spend some of that time and effort on looking for better clients, even though doing that can be daunting.

Better options

For many of us, the best source of new and well-paying work is word of mouth or referrals from existing and previous clients. Of course, if you’re new to the field, you may not have such resources. Those resources include:

  • Membership in professional associations for your editorial niche,
  • Environments like this blog where you can “meet” colleagues and display your knowledge in comments or guest posts (contact me if you have an idea for a guest column),
  • Participation in professional groups at LinkedIn and Facebook,
  • Your own website to showcase your skills and experience,
  • Current and past clients, and colleagues, for testimonials and recommendations or referrals,
  • Cold queries,
  • Conference attendance where you interact with colleagues in person (because they’re more likely to remember you if you’ve met in the real world) or encounter people looking for freelancers, etc.

Several colleagues over the years have said that telling current clients you have a vacation coming up is practically a guarantee that you’ll hear from people with urgent “Please do this before you leave!” projects who might not have contacted you otherwise.

Another good tactic is to contact past clients every so often to share something relevant to their business, or just to say hello, as a reminder that you exist. When I’ve done that, at least one client has said something like, “Oh, what great timing — you made me realize that we could use your help on such-and-such an upcoming or new project!”

If there are any people in your network of past colleagues whom you haven’t told about your freelance or independent editorial business and services, now is the time to do so. People who know and respect you from working together can be a great source of new business. If they don’t need you (or can’t afford you), they may well know people who do — but you might have to let them know (a) that you’re available and (b) what you offer. They might assume that you’re too busy for new clients or projects, or not be sure of what you want to do in your freelance role.

Platforms like LinkedIn can be quite useful; their ProFinder service has yielded a couple of worthwhile projects, and I’m told that their paid service can be a good investment as well. Signing on with temp agencies also can work in our favor, depending on the agency and its understanding of what we do.

A little light

Despite the proliferation of often-questionable outlets for freelance work, there is good news. In the same week as pitches from the two newest such “services” popped up, I got a call from someone local (St. Louis, MO) who wants to start a new publishing company and turned out to be legit. That, at least, promises to be useful by generating actual work for me as a consultant and for any editors, book designers, layout professionals, etc., who work with him. How did he find me? Through my website. That experience will fuel my website presentation at “Gateway to Success,” this year’s Communication Central “Be a Better Freelancer”® conference (, — in partnership with the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (NAIWE) for the first time — keep it in mind!

In recent weeks, I landed two new projects through Facebook business groups, and I just got a message from a long-time editing client who wanted to know if I’d be interested in writing an ongoing column for his business. Would I ever! I’ve also seen posts from colleagues recently who got new projects or clients by being listed in an association membership directory.

There are ways to find freelance work that does pay a decent rate. Don’t let the cheapskates get you down!

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter ( is an award-winning provider of editorial and publishing services for publications, independent authors, publishers, associations, nonprofits and companies worldwide, and the editor-in-chief and— as of 2019 — owner of An American Editor. She also hosts the annual Communication Central “Be a Better Freelancer”® conference for colleagues (, this year co-hosted with the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors ( She can be reached at or

September 2, 2019

Why a website? Highlights of a conference session

Filed under: Editorial Matters — An American Editor @ 10:24 am

By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Communication Central owner and
NAIWE Board of Experts member for Networking; An American Editor owner

As some of you may have seen if you belong to the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (NAIWE), I’m looking forward to talking about websites for freelancers at “Gateway to Success,” this year’s “Be a Better Freelancer® conference, coming up October 11–13, 2019, in St. Louis. This is the 14th offering of the conference, the first time it’s been held beyond the East Coast, and the first-ever partnership between Communication Central and NAIWE.

AAE subscribers may use the NAIWE/past attendee rate. The early bird closes on September 3; hotel reservations must be made by September 10 (you won’t be charged until you arrive, but the conference rate ends on that date).

This topic is always fun to discuss because there’s always something new in the world of creating and managing websites, and because it lends itself so well to graphics and illustrations. It’s also fun to share what doesn’t work in a website, alongside what does make an effective site to promote your freelance business.

It’s become common knowledge that freelancers in any skill set need websites to build and support our business efforts. Sure, you can promote your business at LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, but a website is important because:

  • It’s all yours; no one else controls or limits how it looks and what it presents.
  • It helps you be found — it comes up when someone searches for the skills and services you provide. That’s especially important for anyone starting out, because unknown freelancers won’t be found by their names.
  • It gives you a permanent e-mail address.
  • It’s flexible — you can choose what to post, what and when to update it, the amount of information you provide, etc.
  • It speaks for you with clients who aren’t local — it’s your portfolio in an era when you probably will work with more clients who aren’t in your geographic area than ones who are, whom you aren’t likely to meet in person to show your work samples.

Even if you already have a website for your freelance services, it can probably benefit from insights to be offered at this session. You might gain new resources for making it look or read better, and more effective at getting you business and educating prospective clients about who you are and how you work. Depending on timing, we might even do critiques of participants’ websites.

Think of your website as the base and office of your freelance business. It’s your showroom. It’s your path to being a better freelancer!

The conference as a whole is an invaluable resource of information about creating, enhancing and managing a freelance editorial business, no matter what your skills and services might be, and where you are on the thinking about-launching-having-enhancing your business. And freelancing is a business; a perspective that many people find difficult to embrace, but that is essential to success.

To benefit from this session — and many other ones featuring respected colleagues from around the country — by registering for the conference, go to We hope to see you there!

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter ( is an award-winning provider of editorial and publishing services for publications, independent authors, publishers, associations, nonprofits and companies worldwide, and the editor-in-chief and — as of 2019 — owner of An American Editor. She also hosts the annual Communication Central “Be a Better Freelancer”® conference for colleagues (, this year co-hosted with the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors ( She can be reached at or

August 30, 2019

On the Basics — About getting older

Filed under: Editorial Matters — An American Editor @ 9:21 am

By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Owner, An American Editor

Inspired by a colleague’s request to write about birthdays, I came up with a few thoughts that I posted to my NAIWE blog, and thought colleagues here might enjoy this version as well. While not specifically about editing, the topic is relevant to all of us.

Here I am in my 60s, and not quite sure what it means — but not worried about it.

Supposedly I’m old — but I don’t feel old. Of course, it helps that I seem to still be mentally intact and involved, can still look after myself, continue to be able to do the work I love — work that keeps me involved with a wide range of topics and people, constantly learning new skills and information. I think it also helps that I have a marvelous network of long-time friends who keep me feeling young, perhaps because we keep our wacky childhood and high school memories so fresh by staying close and seeing, or at least communicating with, each other fairly often.

Even if I did feel old, why would that be a bad thing? I’ve survived more than just the passing of the years, but a wide range of crises over those years, and that’s something to be proud of. It’s why I don’t let myself be pressured into coloring my hair when I go to the salon for haircuts (well, other than a splash of purple nowadays!): I earned every gray or white hair, and see no need to cover them up.

I know how I got here: born, raised, lived; still living. That’s a good thing. As my mom used to say whenever someone complained about the infelicities and challenges of increasing age, “Consider the alternative.”

Some aspects of all these birthdays are a nuisance — my knees and hips have started to creak a bit and make it difficult to get up from a chair or the bed, and to negotiate stairs, but … consider the alternative.

Getting older does mean dealing with loss. Both of my parents have died, and I miss them constantly, but … I had my dad in my life for more than 40 years and my mom for 60; that’s a lot longer than many friends can claim, and those were all wonderful, loving, supportive, fun years — also more and better than many people experience. And it’s natural for parents to go before their children. When life takes the opposite direction, it’s unimaginable.

My beloved husband, who was 12 years older than me, died last year and I miss him every moment of every day, but … we had 30 delightful years together, which is — again — more than many people get from their relationships and marriages. He was a tough guy (a retired steelworker; my man of steel!) who accepted the limits of aging with surprising grace; rather than complain (“Consider the alternative!”) or give up, he focused on what he still could do. His attitude toward birthdays, aging and increasing fragility was admirable: “I can’t do what I used to, but I’ll find a way to do as much as possible. If I can’t walk on my own, I’ll use a walker so I can still get around and go places. If I can’t carry all my cameras, lenses and gear, I’ll switch to digital. If I have dietary issues, I’ll reconfigure my favorite recipes so I can still enjoy some of the things I love to eat …”

Keeping in mind that increasing age probably will mean decreasing physical ability, I made a huge life change last year. What started out as thinking about moving locally to a neighborhood that would be more walkable and accessible turned into moving halfway across the country and becoming a first-time homeowner at this ripe age! While my new place — a condo — doesn’t have the front desk and onsite staff of the building I left, it is right across the street from a beautiful park and within two to five blocks of everything from shops to restaurants to a library branch, small concert venue, bookstore, medical center and more. I’m prepared for pretty much anything; I even have a dedicated guest room in case I ever need live-in care, instead of having to use a second bedroom as my workspace. That’s because the front room of my new space faces the beautiful Forest Park, and I’ve set up half of that area as my home office so I can enjoy and benefit from the green view as I work.

Being “old” has its advantages. I qualify for Medicare, so I save a bundle on medical insurance, and can start getting my Social Security benefits whenever I’m ready to stop working (if that ever happens; I do find retirement hard to envision, but that’s because I enjoy what I do, and not — mainly thanks to my financial genius of a mom — because I have to keep working). And I get a kick out of senior discounts, even though I don’t see myself as “senior.” (My recollection, although my brothers disagree, is that my dad loved using his 60-plus discounts; he said he earned and deserved them, and I concur.)

I see every birthday as a type of new year, so I have more than January 1 as a moment to reflect, refresh and sometimes revamp. A birthday is an opportunity to celebrate still being here and to think about what new things I might do to stay as sharp, engaged and active as possible, both physically and mentally; socially and professionally; intellectually and maybe even emotionally. This year, I decided that my birthday present to myself would to be more creative and expand my interests beyond activities related to my work life. I’ve started playing around with painting and glasswork — neither of which I do very well (yet), but who knows where these might go! — and am looking into going back to a long-ago hobby of ceramics.

These projects are birthday gifts to myself that I think will take me into increasing age with increasing creativity and continuing mental and physical agility, a sense of joy and achievement, and appreciation for survival on many levels. They are my ways of fulfilling the concept of “I’m not (just) getting older; I’m getting better.” As actress Renée Zellweger told the AARP magazine (yup, I’m an AARP member) recently, “… I don’t call it aging; I call it winning.” I like that perspective. I try to embrace getting older and having more birthdays. After all, “consider the alternative.”

Here’s to happy birthdays for all of us, and graceful, grateful perspectives on getting older!

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter ( is an award-winning provider of editorial and publishing services for publications, independent authors, publishers, associations, nonprofits and companies worldwide, and the editor-in-chief and — as of 2019 — owner of An American Editor. She also hosts the annual Communication Central “Be a Better Freelancer”® conference for colleagues (, this year co-hosted with the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors ( She can be reached at or

August 23, 2019

Measuring and Managing for Greater Productivity and Profit

By Jack Lyon

The famous management consultant W. Edwards Deming is often quoted as saying “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Here’s what he actually said: “It is wrong to suppose that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it — a costly myth.” (The New Economics, 35.)

An example of something that can’t always be measured (but can be managed) is the quality of copyediting on a particular manuscript. Two different editors might not always see the same problems or fix them in the same way. So how do you manage your effectiveness as an editor? Is it based on your consistency in styling citations? Does it depend on your knowledge of a manuscript’s subject matter? Could it have to do with the comprehensiveness of your reference library? Copyediting depends on a number of factors that can only be described as subjective.

But unless you’re editing only as a hobby, there is one thing you should definitely be measuring and managing: your income — to be specific, your effective hourly rate. American Editor Rich Adin has written about this at some length (see, for example, “Thinking About Money: What Freelancers Need to Understand” and “Business of Editing: What to Charge”), and you should definitely read and heed his advice about this. You’re probably someone who works mostly with words, so don’t be put off by the math in these articles! It’s really important to understand what Rich is saying.

I know editors who make just enough money to stay above the poverty line; I also know editors who consistently make an income of six figures (yes, really). Would you like to know what makes the difference?

Those in the first group charge by the hour.

Those in the second group charge by the project (or the page, or the word, or even the character).

If you charge $50 an hour for your editing services, the most you can ever make is $50 an hour. But if you charge $5 a page, your hourly income depends on how many pages you can edit during that hour. If you can edit 10 pages, you’ll still make $50 an hour. But if you can edit 20 pages, you’ll make $100 an hour. To do that, you’ll have to be more productive (while still maintaining your usual quality), which means you’ll need the Microsoft Word add-ins I provide at the Editorium, particularly Editor’s ToolKit Plus.

Daniel Heuman’s PerfectIt will add even more to your productivity by automatically ensuring the consistency of your work.

Rich Adin’s EditTools provides a wealth of features created especially for the working editor. I particularly like Never Spell Word and Toggle Word.

To manage your effective hourly rate, though, there’s one thing you really need to measure: how many hours you spend on every project you edit. Now, if only someone would invent some software specifically for editors to track those hours. Well, that’s exactly what Rich Adin has done in his latest version of EditTools.

Rich calls this new feature Time Tracker, and you’ll find it on the left side of the EditTools ribbon:

Time Tracker on EditTools Ribbon

Time Tracker on EditTools Ribbon

Time Tracker alone is well worth the price of admission, even if you never use any of the other features in EditTools (although you will). I won’t go into all the specifics about how to use Time Tracker, because Rich has already done so in an impressive series of articles at An American Editor called “It’s All About the Benjamins” (the complete 55-page Time Tracker Help file in PDF format is also available for download). And by “Benjamins,” Rich means money — which you should have more of, if you follow his advice and use this new tool.

By keeping careful track of the amount of time you spend and the amount of money you make on each project, you’ll soon be able take advantage of the PDSA (Plan-Do-Study-Act) cycle, made popular by our old friend W. Edwards Deming. The Deming Institute defines this cycle as “a systematic process for gaining valuable learning and knowledge for the continual improvement of a product, process, or service.” Making money, for example.

If you keep track of your effective hourly rate (EHR), you’ll be able to answer questions like these:

  • What kinds of jobs bring in the most money?
  • Which clients actually pay the best overall?
  • When during the day am I at my most productive?

Then, using the PDSA (Plan-Do-Study-Act) cycle, you can do things like this:

  • Focus on the kinds of jobs that bring in the most money, and turn down those that don’t.
  • Solicit more work from clients that pay the best, and drop those that don’t.
  • Work when you’re at your most productive, and do something else when you’re not.

As you continue to use this cycle of improvement, you should see dramatic improvements over time in your overall income. Others have done it, and you can, too. It’s simply a matter of measuring and managing, using the right tools to improve your productivity and efficiency, and collecting and analyzing the data.

Jack Lyon ( owns and operates the Editorium, which provides macros and information to help editors and publishers do mundane tasks quickly and efficiently. He is the author of Microsoft Word for Publishing Professionals, Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word, and of Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word. Both books will help you learn more about macros and how to use them.

August 12, 2019

Get Your Finger Off that Search Button: How Not to Index

Filed under: Editorial Matters — An American Editor @ 6:06 pm

By Ælfwine Mischler

A client whose book I indexed some months ago — some call him … Tim — wrote to say that his book had finally been published, and he wanted to show me some additions he had made to the index. His email revealed two common misconceptions about indexing.

  • The first was that the index should list every page on which a name of a person or place is mentioned.

Tim had added strings of page numbers after many of the names — up to 15! He had evidently used the Search feature in the PDF and added a page number for every instance of the names. (I had created an embedded index in a Word file and did not have the PDFs to check, but it was obvious what he had done.)

Those strings! He ruined my index, I moaned in an indexing forum. Colleagues commiserated, some adding their own stories of clients going crazy with the Search function. I replied to Tim that if he ever recommended me to another author, he should explain that his index included additions by him that did not follow established indexing practice. I don’t want anyone to think that I would write an index entry like this one:

I do not note every page on which a name occurs when I index, nor do I index every name in the book. If a name is mentioned in passing (that is, there is not substantial information about the person), I do not include that page. Sometimes deciding whether a particular mention of a name should be indexed is a bit subjective. If there is only a brief sentence about the person and it’s not a name that I know will recur in the book, I use the Search function to see if the person comes up again in the book with enough about them to justify indexing them. If so, I am more likely to include such borderline cases in the index. If they don’t appear again, I am more likely to exclude them, especially if space for the index is limited.

If my search reveals that the person does come up a lot in the book, I know that I have to make subentries to avoid a string of page numbers such as Tim produced.

In “How to Index Your Book (And Why I’ll Never Do It Again),” Kathleen Fitzpatrick described her indexing method, which was similar to the one Tim had used for his additions: Find a name, then use the Search to find every instance of the same and list every page number. Go back to the first page, find the next name and do the same. Repeat over and over.

No, this is not the way professional indexers work. We actually read the book cover-to-cover and index as we go, choosing the terms and creating subentries as needed. (Note also that the prices Fitzpatrick gives, writing in 2010, are much too low for professionally made indexes today.)

There are exceptions about indexing passing mentions. In local histories, the norm is to index every mention of every person, street, building, etc., because these bits might provide the only clues for later researchers. A handbook of literature might index every single author, even those simply named in a list with others. This was the editor’s request for the handbook I indexed, but book titles were to be indexed only if they had won an award or there were at least two or three sentences about them. Exceptions for including passing mentions are dictated by the nature of the book and how it will be used.

  • My client Tim’s second misconception was that names of sources should be indexed.

Tim’s book, in the field of Islamic studies, contained a number of hadiths (narrative records of the sayings or actions of Muhammad and his companions that form the second source of Islamic law after the Qur’an) that had been collected and recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim. Tim wanted to add these names to the index, but the project editor would not let him add new entries, only page numbers to existing entries.

I explained to Tim that I hadn’t included al-Bukhari and Muslim because they are the collectors of hadith and are therefore a source in his book. Those who have read his book and want to look for one of the quoted hadith are unlikely to look for the source; rather, they’ll remember the person who is quoted or the event that is talked about in the hadith, and they’ll look for (and find) that in the index.

On the other hand, of course, if the author talks about someone and one or more of their ideas or theories, I will index that person’s name, since they are not just a source in the book.

The practice of indexing sources does vary from one field to another. In psychology and some other sciences, the norm is to index every single source name in parentheses in a separate name index, without making subentries (and to charge a higher fee for such as index).

Heading off the headache

If you are an indexer, tell your author clients at the beginning of project negotiations how you handle passing mentions and sources. Ask if they have any questions or special requests for the index, such as including their dissertation adviser’s name. Communicating from the start can prevent problems later, although it is no guarantee that a client won’t insist that you go back and add all the names that they had previously agreed to omit.

If you are hiring an indexer, make sure from the start that the indexer understands the best practices in your field, and that you and the indexer agree on what names should be indexed.

Ælfwine Mischler is an American copyeditor and indexer in Cairo, Egypt, who has been the head copyeditor at a large Islamic website and a senior editor for an EFL textbook publisher. She often edits and indexes books about Islamic studies, Middle East studies, and Egyptology.

August 7, 2019

The Value of Calculating Your Business Baseline

Filed under: Editorial Matters — An American Editor @ 12:35 pm

By Richard Adin, AAE Founder

Even though you can use EditTools’ Time Tracker to accumulate important data regarding your business, you need to calculate your required Effective Hourly Rate (rEHR) before you begin analyzing that data. If you don’t, your analysis won’t be as meaningful and useful as it could be because the rEHR is the baseline value for determining what you need to charge and what you need to earn each working hour.

Suppose, for example, your data show that your EHR over your five most-recent projects is $25.10. What does that mean? On the surface, the $25.10 EHR looks good, especially compared to what others earn; after all, you won’t earn $25.10 an hour delivering pizza. What is missing, however, is a baseline number — a comparator — that makes that EHR relevant to you. That baseline number is your rEHR, which makes calculating your rEHR your most-important preparatory task.

The rEHR has been discussed in previous AAE essays, beginning with my 2010 essay, “Thinking About Money: What Freelancers Need to Understand” and in many subsequent essays, including my 2017 essay, “Do You Know Your Business’ Health?” Basically, the rEHR is the net (i.e., after tax) amount you need to earn each hour of work to pay all of your bills (including food, shelter, and clothing) at a breakeven point; that is, no loss and no profit — or 100% of after-tax (net) revenue coming in equals 100% net revenue going out.

It is important to note that the rEHR it is calculated based on only the actual number of billable work hours, not the number of work hours. In other words, if you work seven hours a day for five days a week (a 35-hour workweek) but only do work for which you can send a client a bill for 25 of those 35 hours, your rEHR is based on 25 hours, not 35 hours. In addition, if you plan on working only the equivalent of 46 weeks during the calendar year, and not 52 weeks, then the rEHR is calculated on the 46 workweeks, not the 52 calendar-year weeks.

Here is an example of the effect of calculating your rEHR incorrectly. Assume these parameters:

  1. Living costs (all bills of any kind) equal $725 per week (divide monthly expenses, such as rent or mortgage, by 4.3 to get the weekly amount; be sure to include annual [divide by 52], semiannual [divide by 26], and quarterly [divide by 13] expenses such as insurance or property taxes that are paid once or twice a year in the weekly number);
  2. Billable hours are 25 hours per week;
  3. The work year is 48 weeks; and
  4. Over the last five projects, your EHR has averaged $25.10.

For one year, the expense number equals $37,700 ($725 [weekly living costs] × 52 [weeks in the calendar year; remember that expenses continue even when you are not working, thus 52 instead of 48]). Because $37,700 is net, you need to earn more than $37,700 to be able to pay income and Social Security taxes.

The QuickBooks Resource Center offers a free Self-Employed Tax Calculator. Enter your net self-employment income and it will calculate your self-employment tax (Medicare and Social Security). For $37,700, the self-employment tax is $5,768.10, bringing us to a gross income of $43,468.10. However, that does not include any money to pay income tax or other required federal or state taxes. The additional amount needed is difficult to calculate because of the variations. (The best way for estimation purposes is to use the amount you paid last year.) To work with round numbers, let’s assume that altogether, you need a gross income of $50,000 to meet your net income requirement of $37,700.

To calculate the rEHR, follow these steps:

  1. Divide $50,000 by 48 (the number of workweeks in your fiscal year) to determine the gross income you are required to earn in each of the 48 workweeks you expect to work: $50,000 ÷ 48 = $1,041.67 (the required gross income per workweek).
  2. Divide $1,041.67 by 25 (the number of billable hours per workweek) to determine your rEHR: $1,041.67 ÷ 25 = $41.67 (your rEHR).

This illustrates why knowing your rEHR is so important. We said earlier that your EHR over your five most-recent projects was $25.10.

It is important to note that the EHR is an average number. Your EHR on one project may have been $47.80, but $10.08 on another project. The EHR almost always differs project-by-project; what we seek is an average EHR over all projects — the Year-to-Date (YTD) and Lifetime EHRs that EditTools’ Time Tracker calculates and tracks, and that at a minimum equals the rEHR and at best exceeds the rEHR. (For a detailed discussion of Time Tracker, see the recent AAE five-part series “It’s All About the Benjamins! EditTools’ Time Tracker” and the Time Tracker Help file, which is available as a downloadable PDF.) The only time the EHR remains constant is if you use an hourly fee method and never have to work nonbillable hours on a project.

Based on the given parameters, your calculated rEHR is $41.67, but your EHR is $25.10, which means that you are losing $16.57 every hour you work.

Without knowing your rEHR, the $25.10 EHR looks pretty good. After all, if you check the rate surveys published by various editorial organizations (for a discussion of rate surveys, see “The Quest for Rate Charts”), somewhere between $20 and $30 an hour appears to be the “going rate” (for a discussion of “going rate,” see “A Continuing Frustration — The “Going Rate”) for the services you provide and a $25.10 EHR is in the middle. But the reality is different. An EHR of $25.10 is not good for you unless you make some significant lifestyle changes that will reduce your living costs. Perhaps giving up health insurance, even though you are 55 years old and have a preexisting condition, will be enough. Maybe if you stop saving for retirement and hope to work until you are 80.

As you can see, knowing your baseline (rEHR) is fundamental. Of course, knowing the rEHR is insufficient in the overall scheme of things. You also have to know your YTD and Lifetime EHRs (data that EditTools’ Time Tracker can provide) because it may well be that those five most-recent projects do not really reflect the overall health of your business — the EHR for those five projects may be lower or higher than the YTD and Lifetime EHRs. In other words, it is possible that overall you are doing worse or better than the selected data for the last five projects show.

Knowing your rEHR and YTD and Lifetime EHRs can help you devise a plan to improve your efficiency and productivity. One of the features of EditTools’ Time Tracker is that it tracks the EHR and APH (Average Pages per Hour) data for individual projects as well as YTD and Lifetime. When I found that my EHR was not where I wanted it to be, I was able to manipulate the data to determine what I needed to do to get the EHR where I wanted it.

A good example of how to manipulate the data and the effect of doing so is covered in the essay “It’s All About the Benjamins! EditTools’ Time Tracker” at the end of the discussion about updating information. By way of demonstration, I changed the page count by one page and showed how that small a change affected the EHR numbers. Perhaps all I need to do is slightly increase my APH.

  • Caution: Before modifying any data for the purpose of finding a way to improve your EHR, make a note of the correct data so you can, when done, reset the manipulated data to the original numbers. Keeping correct data is critical.

Another option is to change how you charge for a project. For example, if you charge an hourly rate of $25, there is nothing you can do to increase your EHR from $25. Something to note, however, is this: Just because you charge $25 an hour does not mean your EHR is $25 an hour; what it does mean is that the EHR cannot be more than $25. It can, however, be less than $25 an hour. Charging by the hour is the worst method for multiple reasons, all of which boil down to this: If you charge $25 an hour, the most you can ever earn is $25 an hour — but it is not the least you can earn per hour.

A third option is to redefine what constitutes a page. For all methods of charging, the page is the common item, unless you do not need to provide a client with an estimate of hours when charging by the hour. But even then, you would want to know for your own scheduling approximately how long a project will take, making the page count important even when the fee method is hourly.

Many people will tell you that a page equals 250 words, but that is a holdover from the typewriter days when a manuscript page had to have one-inch margins and the text had to be typed in 12-point Courier, double-spaced, with two spaces following sentence-ending punctuation, and when it was expected that the average word would have five characters. In other words, that was the standard in prehistoric (editorially speaking) times.

Today, because of computers and word-processing and desktop publishing software, the standard is nonexistent. I don’t use 250 words and many of my clients do not use 250 words as the equivalent of a page. Some of my clients use 275 words, some 300 words, some 350 words, and one tried to use 500 words. Others use characters counts such as 1,500 characters excluding spaces; 1,600 characters with spaces; or 1,750 characters. The point is that a page is not always a page — a page is whatever it is defined as (for additional discussion, see “A Page Is a Page — Or Is It?”).

Once you have calculated your rEHR and have collected data using EditTools’ Time Tracker (see the recent AAE five-part series “It’s All About the Benjamins! EditTools’ Time Tracker” and the Time Tracker Help file, which is available as a downloadable PDF), you can explore the best way to make your business profitable for you. Data are the key to all successful businesses, and your rEHR is founded on the data. Without knowing your rEHR, you cannot know what to charge, what to bid/quote, or whether you are making or losing money.

Richard (Rich) Adin is the founder of the An American Editor blog, author of The Business of Editing, owner of wordsnSync, and creator/owner of EditTools.

July 31, 2019

It’s All About the Benjamins! EditTools’ Time Tracker (Part V)

By Richard Adin, Founder, An American Editor

In It’s All About the Benjamins! EditTools’ Time Tracker (Part I), I discussed the importance of collecting data; in Part II, I discussed Time Trackers’ Project Summary; in Part III, I discussed some of the key elements of the Create/Update Project dialog, and in Part IV, a project was created and data to evaluate how the new project was going were created. This final discussion (Part V) focuses on some of the other important features of Time Tracker.

Updating Information

Sometimes things change and we need to change the project information we originally entered. Time Tracker has two different types of information updating.

The first is updating the basic project information itself. To change the original project information, select the project name — not a subpart’s name — and click Update Project (#2), as in the image below.

Updating a project

Clicking Update Project opens the Create/Update Project form for the selected project (see below). Once that form is open, you can modify any of the data. For example, if the client contact information changes, you can replace the outdated information with the new information.

The Update Project form

If instead of updating the general project information, you want to modify already-recorded data (the project details), select the project line if the project has no subparts, or the subpart that you want to modify if the project has subparts, and click Update Details (#A below). Note: The selected project or subpart must have some already-recorded data or Update Details will not be accessible. For example, in the image below, contrast the subpart 01 Bumble Batch 1, which is selected, with the no-subpart project Visions in Freudian Therapy (green highlight). If Visions in Freudian Therapy was selected, Update Details would not be accessible because the project has no already-recorded data to modify.

Selecting the data to be modified

Clicking Update Details (#A above) opens the Update Record (below) where the data modifications are entered.

The Update Record form

The Update Record form shows all of the data entries that are part of the selected subpart (#B) (or project, if there are no subparts). The first entry line (“0 hours, 0 minutes, 0 pages”) was created when the subpart/project was created. That line should be left alone because modifying it will distort your data. The next two lines shown (#B) are the data from the two work sessions that were part of Batch 1 (see Part IV of this series). Because the second work session is selected for modification, the component parts of its data are shown in the modification area (#C).

You can either modify some or all of the data, or leave the information as is. To leave it as is, click Close. Otherwise, modify the data that need modification (see below) and click Update (#D) to make the modifications. In this example, two modifications are being made: the subpart name (“(Preliminary)” is added) and the page count (increased from 17 to 18, which changes the total page count for the batch from 22 to 23, and for the project from 53 to 54).

Modifying work session 2 data

Once Update (#D in above image) is clicked, the modifications are recorded and visible on the Project Summary (green highlight in image below).

  • Important: Compare the highlighted numbers for the Effective Hourly Rate (EHR) and Average Pages per Hour (APH) for the project, batch, Year-to-Date (YTD), and Lifetime shown here with the same numbers, before the modification, shown in the previous image of the Project Summary. It is worth noting the effect a one-page change, from 17 to 18 completed pages, has, especially on the EHR.

The modified data displayed on the Project Summary

Other Options: Removing/Reinstating Projects from/to the Project Summary

As time goes by, the number of projects will increase, which, if not removed from the Project Summary, will make it difficult to access current projects. Consequently, Time Tracker lets you remove completed projects from the Project Summary and save them. But removal from the Project Summary doesn’t mean the project dataset is lost.

Completed projects that have been removed from the Project Summary can be accessed using the History button (see image above).

To remove a completed project from the Project Summary, select the project, not a project subpart, to make the Remove From List button accessible. Then click Remove From List.

  • Caution: If a subpart is marked completed but there are still open subparts for the project, selecting the completed subpart and clicking Remove From List removes the entire project, not just the completed subpart. If that happens, go to the History and reinstate the project.

A removed project can be reinstated in the Project Summary via the History button. In addition, a completed project, once reinstated in the Project Summary, can be reopened via the Reopen button.

For more-detailed information about removing and reinstating projects, as well as reopening projects, see the Time Tracker Help file.

Other Options: Archives

Part IV of this essay series discussed Time Tracker’s autosave feature. However, there is another part of the autosave feature that was not discussed in Part IV: autosaving of the Time Tracker data.

Time Tracker’s Archive is a temporary backup of project data in the event that something happens while you are working on the project. (It is called “temporary” because only 10 datasets are saved; when the 11th save occurs, the oldest dataset is automatically deleted, leaving 10 available saved datasets. When a project is completed, the saved “temporary” datasets — up to 10 — remain available.

One other item to note: Unlike Word’s temporary files, these datasets do not use the .tmp extension. For more detailed information about Archive files, see the Time Tracker Help file. Should data become corrupted or lost from an unexpected event like a document crash, the Archive file can give you the data from the time of your last (up to 10) timing stop. Every time you stop Time Tracker, it creates an Archive file. The problem is that the archive is created only when you stop timing. Consequently, if you last stopped timing two hours ago and Word crashes, in addition to having lost some of your work, you will have lost the time calculation that occurred between the last stop and the crash.

The Archives, however, prevent a total loss of data and can tell you when the last stop occurred, so you can calculate how much time passed between the last stop and the crash event. To protect against total data loss, you can access up to the last 10 data saves; when the 11th save occurs, the oldest save is deleted.

For more-detailed information about the archiving feature, see the Time Tracker Help file.

A Final Word

Time Tracker is probably the most-valuable macro an editor can have and use. Truthfully, I wish I had it when I started my editing career 35 years ago. The data that Time Tracker tracks are the data I have tracked over those years, because for me, there was nothing more important than being sure I was making a profit.

I had a family to support, retirement to plan for, health insurance to buy, a mortgage to pay, children heading to college, insurances and taxes to pay, and the list goes on. It made no sense to work at something that couldn’t support me and my family, no matter how much I enjoyed my work and no matter how good I was at it. Family brings on more paramount concerns and obligations, making knowledge about how my business was doing essential.

Having been in other businesses before becoming an editor, I was aware that it is easy to be fooled into living paycheck to paycheck, just getting by, and not really earning a living wage. As the years passed and the editorial business changed (when I began, it was the publisher who directly hired you, not a low-priced, third-party, offshore company), the compensation battle became more difficult. As people lost jobs or couldn’t find work, more people offered editorial services (“I love to read and easily found spelling errors in XYZ book, so perhaps I should be an editor!”), so competition increased. All of this and more made keeping and interpreting data ever more important.

Properly used, Time Tracker will help you track how you are doing so you know whether you can continue as you are or need to find ways to become more productive and efficient so you can increase your Effective Hourly Rate (EHR). Time Tracker will help you prepare better bids based on past similar projects and determine whether current clients are desirable clients.

In addition, Time Tracker data, combined with knowing your required EHR (rEHR), will help you determine what to charge. For example, if your rEHR is $30 but your average EHR (i.e., over multiple projects — the YTD and Lifetime calculations) is $25, you know that you need to either increase your rate or find a way to be more efficient and productive so that the YTD and Lifetime EHRs exceed $30.

Finally, Time Tracker data can help you ascertain which method of setting a fee works best for you over multiple projects (see my AAE essay, “The Rule of Three”), as well as which types of projects (e.g., fiction or nonfiction, fantasy or romance, biography or medical, short or long documents) and services (e.g., copyediting, proofreading, developmental editing, indexing) generate the most work, income, and profit.

The complete and detailed Time Tracker Help file is available for download from wordsnSync.

Richard (Rich) Adin is the founder of the An American Editor blog, author of The Business of Editing, owner of wordsnSync, and creator/owner of EditTools.

July 24, 2019

It’s All About the Benjamins! EditTools’ Time Tracker (Part IV)

Filed under: Editorial Matters — An American Editor @ 11:55 am

By Richard Adin, Founder, An American Editor

In It’s All About the Benjamins! EditTools’ Time Tracker (Part I), I discussed the importance of collecting data; in Part II, I discussed Time Trackers’ Project Summary; and in Part III, I discussed some of the key elements of the Create/Update Project dialog. Part IV discusses collecting the data.

First, Create a Project

The new “project” is Bumble, Harris & Crank’s Searching for the American Biographical Soul, clearly a fictitious project. The first step is to create a project that Time Tracker can time and track. As shown in Part III, a new project is created using the Create/Update Project dialog accessed by clicking the Create Project button on the Project Summary. The image below shows a completed new Create/Update Project dialog for this project.

Completed project form for the Bumble project

Note in the form above that the fee is a project fee and that the fee and number of pages information has been provided. To calculate the page count, and ultimately to set the fee, I used the EditTools Counter macro to generate the following report:

Page count for the Bumble project

Once you have completed the form, click Create (#22 above) to create the new project and add it to the Project Summary, as shown below.

The Bumble project appears on the Project Summary

However, before timing the project can begin, you need to create a subpart for the project because when completing the Create/Update Project form, the default N was changed to Y (#16 above). To create a subpart, click Add Subpart (#23 above). Clicking Add Subpart opens the form shown below; enter a name for the subpart and click OK.

Creating a subpart for the Bumble project

When you click OK, the subpart appears in the Project Summary, as shown below. Compare the image below with the Project Summary image earlier. Not only has the subpart been added to the Project Summary, but when the subpart is selected, as it is in the image below, Start (#24), which initiates timing, becomes available.

The Bumble project subpart is added to the Project Summary
& Start becomes available

Clicking Start (#24) will turn on the timer for the Bumble project. Equally as important as the timer, however, is the document save interval.

A Slight Detour: The Document Save Interval & What Document(s) to Save

The Document Save interval and which document(s) to save are key features of Time Tracker. Most users of Microsoft Word use Word’s autosave feature to save open Word documents at some specified interval. However, the documents aren’t really being saved. If Word crashes, Word will ask you if you want to open the autosaved document and then ask you to formally save the document. Longtime users of Word know, however, that the autosave option is far from a sure thing. Sometimes files are corrupted, often changes are lost, and Word saves the files as temporary files using a naming system different from what most users use.

Time Tracker does not use Word’s autosave feature. Instead, it actually saves your document, just as if you went to File > Save. With Time Tracker, you can choose whether to save just the Word document you are working on or all open Word documents. For example, if you have a chapter text file, a file of tables for the chapter, and a stylesheet all open at the same time, you can either choose to save all three open documents or just the one document you are working in when it is time to execute the save command. (Thus, if you are working in the stylesheet at the time and you have chosen to save just the document you are working in, only the stylesheet will be saved. In general, the best option is to save all open documents, not just the document you are working in.)

In addition, you can set the save interval. The intervals are in 30-minute segments beginning at 1 hour through 4 hours. (There is also a 5-minute test interval. It is not recommended that you use this interval except for testing because it will interrupt your work too frequently.) The suggested interval is 1.5 hours. When choosing an interval, consider how you work. Should Word crash, the amount of work you may lose depends on the interval chosen (and, of course, how well Word’s built-in autosave works). For example, if you choose an interval of 1.5 hours and the last time that interval was reached was 42 minutes ago, depending on how well Word’s autosave works, you can have lost up to 42 minutes of work.

To set the save interval and which document(s) to save, click Settings (#25 above), which opens the dialog shown here:

The Save Settings dialog

Whatever settings you choose remain the default settings until changed, so all future subparts for the Bumble project and any new, reopened, or restarted projects will use these settings.

For more detailed information, see the Time Tracker Help file.

Timing the Work Session

As noted earlier, to start timing a project, select the project (or, if the project has subparts, the appropriate subpart) as shown in the Project Summary image above, and click Start (#24 above). Clicking Start opens a message box (below) asking you to insert a bookmark at the point where you are going to start working. The reason is that many documents take more than a single work session to complete. Inserting the bookmark lets you mark where the current work session begins so when you quit for the day, you can calculate the necessary information for your dataset.

Marking a starting point for the current work session

If you do not need a bookmark, click No Bookmark to start Time Tracker; if one is needed, click Insert Bookmark to insert a bookmark and start Time Tracker. For more detailed information, see the Time Tracker Help file.

Once you make your choice and click the button, the Project Summary dialog will close and Time Tracker will start. The EditTools Ribbon will also change. What was just a red Off button now becomes a green Running button with a yellow Pause and a red Stop button alongside, as shown here:

Time Tracker on the EditTools Ribbon

These buttons control Time Tracker. To Pause Time Tracker while you get a cup of tea or check email, click the yellow Pause. The green Running button will become yellow Pause and the yellow Pause button will become green Running. When ready to start again, click green Running. When you are ready to end the current work session, click the red Stop button.

You will be asked how many pages were completed during the work session (see below) so your Effective Hourly Rate (EHR) and Average Pages per Hour (APH) for the work session can be calculated.

Pages completed during the work session

When you have entered the number and clicked OK, a message box (below) will appear summarizing the data that were entered for the work session.

Summary of the work session

If you need to modify the data entry — for example, change 5 pages to 6 pages — you can. How to modify the data will be discussed part V of this series and in detail in the Time Tracker Help file.

The Project Summary form displays the new data as shown below. Because this is the first work session for the Bumble project, the data displayed are just for this one session.

The work session 1 data

Restarting the Work Session

The Bumble project is a long project so it isn’t unexpected that multiple work sessions are required. Because of the project’s length, the client has asked that edited chapters be submitted in batches (the reason for creating subparts). My practice is to always include an invoice with a batch. For this project, I want the first batch to include at least chapters 1 through 4, and possibly chapter 5.

(Tip: Once a batch is complete, rename the subpart to reflect what is included in the batch. For example, if the first batch of Bumble includes chapters 1– 4, I will rename the subpart from “01 Bumble Batch 1” to “01 Bumble Batch 1: chs 1-4.” This helps me track both the project and the invoice.)

My batch 1 work is not yet complete, so I need to start a new work session. The procedure is the same:

  1. Click the red Off button on the EditTools Ribbon to open the Project Summary.
  2. Select the project or subpart in the Project Summary.
  3. Click Start.

(Reminder: If you want to change the save interval, you need to click Settings, make the change, and then click Start. Once timing starts, the only way to change the save interval is to click Stop and restart the work session.)

When it is time to end this work session, the procedure remains the same:

  1. Click Stop.
  2. Enter the number of pages edited.
  3. Review the data that will be entered and click OK.

If you open the Project Summary, you can verify that the data have been entered. Below is the Project Summary at the close of this second work session. Compare it to the Project Summary showing just the data for the first work session (see “The work session 1 data” above). The Project Summary displays the accumulated data for Batch 1. (For more detailed information, see the Time Tracker Help file.)

The work session 2 data

There is one anomaly, however, with the data displayed on the Project Summary: the YTD (year-to-date) and Lifetime EHR and APH numbers. If you look at the Project Summary images for the two work sessions, you will see that the data are the same even though additional data have been added. That’s because the Project Summary form has not closed. The information is recalculated automatically when the form is closed and reopened. There is no need to do that, however. Just click Refresh and the data will be recalculated, as shown below.

The recalculated YTD and Lifetime EHR and APH

A New Subpart & Work Session

The examples above are based on a single subpart. Consequently, the data for the subpart and the data for the project are identical. Now I will illustrate what happens when a second subpart is added to the project.

The procedures remain the same as outlined above. To create a second subpart to the Bumble project, select the main project line, not the Batch 1 subpart line; click Add Subpart; and give the subpart a name (for this example, it is named “02 Bumble Batch 2”).

When ready to begin the work session, select the project or subpart to be worked on and click Start. For this example, “02 Bumble Batch 2” is selected.

When the work session ends, click Stop in the EditTools Ribbon and state the number of pages edited during this session. Opening the Project Summary displays the following information (Refresh was clicked to update the YTD and Lifetime data in the image):

The work session 3 data

As was true for the first subpart, the second subpart line shows the data for all work done that is attributed to that subpart. In the image above, the second subpart (Batch 2) data show that the work session was 2 hours 23 minutes and for the first subpart (Batch 1), it was 1 hour 8 minutes total for the two work sessions that are part of Batch 1. Note, however, that the project line (green highlight) shows that 3 hours 31 minutes have been spent to date working on the Bumble project — the project line is the totals line, whereas the subpart lines are the component lines.

For me, the most important data are the EHR and APH, which are profit/loss indicators and difficulty indicators. For example, the EHR and APH for Batch 2 are significantly less than for Batch 1, which indicates that the material in Batch 2 was more difficult and more time-consuming. If the decline continues, I need to figure out why. At these levels, however, especially considering the total project numbers to date for the EHR and APH, I do not need to panic; an hourly rate of $90.42 (EHR) and a speed of 15 pages an hour (APH) is not worrisome, especially in comparison to the YTD and Lifetime numbers (and what I know about my required EHR [rEHR]).

The YTD numbers indicate how I am doing over all of the projects I have worked on this calendar year. The Lifetime numbers tell me how I am doing over all the years I have been tracking the information (the numbers in the image are identical because the only data available are for the current year. Next year at this time, the numbers will differ and Lifetime will show numbers-based data for 19 months.)


Part V will discuss some of the other features of Time Tracker, such as modifying the data.

Richard (Rich) Adin is the founder of the An American Editor blog, author of The Business of Editing, owner of wordsnSync Ltd., and creator/owner of EditTools.

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