An American Editor

March 26, 2012

The Business of Editing: To Post or Not to Post Your Fee Schedule?

Recently, colleague Katharine O’Moore-Klopf gave a link to an article that appeared at The Freelancery blog, “Should you post your fees? Publish your pricing? Hit yourself with a stick?” Having read the article, I am not certain I agree with the author that there are only two reasons for posting a fee schedule: (1) “To make people quit calling” and (2) “When you sell mostly to first-time buyers, one-time clients.”

I am not an advocate of posting a fee schedule, but then the type of work I do doesn’t really warrant a fee schedule. Yet I can see situations in which posting a schedule can be valuable. Afterall, does it matter whether you tell a potential client through a posted schedule that you charge $100 an hour or in a live conversation? If the client is willing to pay that price and wants your services, either method should work; if they are unwilling to pay that price for your work, either method should turn them away except that the latter method required your spending time to lose a client.

There are several issues to consider. First, you need to be knowledgable about your clientele and about the clients you want to attract. Are these the type of people/clients who would expect to see a fee schedule?

Second, what is your reputation for the work you do? Is your reputation such that if you charged a premium the client would hire you anyway? Or is it such that price will overcome your reputation?

Third, you need to be aware of what the “standard” price points are for your services. For example, if you charge $100 an hour for copyediting but most of your competition charges $20, in the absence of a reputation that provokes the feeling of must-have-at-any-price, posting a schedule is a sure way to not get a client, although as noted above, the result would be the same face-to-face. The more your schedule is in line with what the market rate is, the less harm that can occur by posting your schedule. But posting such a schedule can tell clients that here is an editor with a stellar reputation whose fees are in line with what the client expects to pay (or is willing to pay).

I think the third point really is the key to the answer. If clients expect to pay $20 an hour and your schedule, whether posted or not, is $20 an hour, then posting the schedule may well draw in additional clients.

The more I think about it, the more I believe that the answer lies in first evaluating your fee schedule against the “norms” for what you do and then in light of the clients you wish to attract or retain. Another factor that needs to play a part in the decision-making process is how you calculate your fee.

We have been talking about a schedule in terms of dollars, but a schedule can be vaguer than that yet be equally informative. For example, in my case, if I were to post a schedule, I would say something like: “Freelance Editorial Services does not charge an hourly rate. We charge a per-page rate for copyediting with a page calculated as…” or “Freelance Editorial Services does not charge an hourly rate. We charge a project rate, which is calculated as follows: …”

However, posting a schedule by itself is not helpful to you or even to the client. There needs to be a justification for the schedule. For example, I might write something like this: “Over the 28 years of my editing career, my focus has been on medical books written by doctors for doctors. My specialty within that medical community is multithousand-page manuscripts and multiauthor manuscripts that require the use of multiple Freelance Editorial Services editors to complete in a timely and accurate fashion.” Perhaps I would write another sentence or two and then give my fee schedule.

The point is that combining a rationale with a fee schedule can be a fruitful way to generate additional business. Posting a schedule that stands alone, that isn’t surrounded by reasons justifying the schedule may do no harm but is unlikely to do much good either.

As with everything else we do, posting a fee schedule can be turned into a marketing tool. There are so many variables to be considered, that it is not possible to blanketly say never post a fee schedule or always post a fee schedule. The correct answer has to be: it depends on what you want to accomplish and whether posting a fee schedule can help you reach that goal.

A failing of myself and my colleagues is that we seek rigid answers to business questions and problems because we want to focus on what we do and like best: the editorial function. But to succeed, we really need to wear multiple hats and we really need to change hats depending on whether the question is an editorial question or a business question. Although both require analyzation, the type of analyzation process required is different for each.

What reasons do you have for either posting or not posting your fee schedule?

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