An American Editor

April 27, 2016

The Business of Editing: 8 Reasons Why Editors Are Underpaid II

Part I discussed the first four reasons why editing is undervalued by clients. Those reasons were as follows:

  1. Few editors know their required effective hourly rate.
  2. Our profession has failed to convince “clients” of editing’s value.
  3. The market views us as low-level professionals who provide an unnecessary service.
  4. It is too easy to open an editorial business.

Part II discusses reasons five through eight.

5. For too many editors, the income is a second income.

For many entrants to the profession, editing is a second income, not the primary source of household income. Consequently, they offer absurdly low rates (I have seen as low as 50 cents a page) with promises of high quality and speedy return. Those offers get published all over the Internet — just look at LinkedIn — and thus form the “standard” that clients expect. As a group, we have done nothing successful to combat those low rates and to keep them from becoming the standard.

As a second income, this is usually money for vacations or to buy a better car, not usually money needed for survival. The result is that there is no need to justify a rate other than that the rate brings in business. If your basic necessities of life are already covered by a primary income, then your primary (and often only) concern is getting business. Consequently, too many second-income editors set their rates low and that low level is seen repeatedly. It soon becomes the “standard” that clients expect.

6. We refer clients to “rate charts” to justify our fee.

In my view, we make the problem worse by referring to fee schedules that are published but are clearly not statistically sound, such as the EFA rate schedule.

The EFA chart, which is the fee schedule commonly referred to in the United States, is 100% statistically invalid. The history of the chart is that a small percentage of EFA members respond to the survey, not all of whom are editors or proofreaders, but all of whom are EFA members. In addition, not all the responders define what they do the same, and not all are freelancers. It is one of the least-meaningful guides available for setting rates.

One problem with past EFA rate surveys was that there was no uniform basis for how responders calculated (i.e., originally determined) their fee, or of the rationale for the amount charged, or of what services were included in the charge. One editor who participated in a past EFA survey told me she was retired and had cut her fee in half because she didn’t really need the money but wanted the occasional project to work on.

My point is this: Experienced editors should know better than to consider the EFA survey as having any value whatsoever as a guide for setting or justifying a fee, and they should not be telling clients (or colleagues) to look to it for guidance. The usual reply is that it is better than nothing, or that it is the only thing out there, or at least that it gives the range. But even to the casual observer it is clear that the EFA rate survey is so riddled with holes that it is an unreliable guide. Consequently, instead of helping us convince the world that editors are worth more than a pittance, we are reinforcing the client’s beliefs by being unable to point to something objectively valid that supports our view.

7. We fail to give a client a cogent explanation of why we can’t accept a job.

We compound the problem of inadequate compensation by failing to provide a detailed explanation of why we cannot accept a particular job at the price offered, and by failing to explain what services are included and excluded at various price points. When we buy an automobile, we are told how much the basic car costs and then how much each add-on package costs and what is included in each package. Why aren’t we doing the same for editing?

How many of us take the time to explain our editing workday and workweek? Clients assume that because we are freelancers working from home (usually), we are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Few editors I know ever say otherwise. When I respond to a client’s project offer, I carefully delineate the editing workday and workweek, explain what services are included and excluded, and I offer various options at different prices. I let the client choose the editing package and price. In my early years I didn’t do this; today I almost always offer choices. This reinforces to the client that I am a professional and that the client can have certain expectations at certain price points.

The failure to give a cogent explanation and to offer choices reinforces the perception of low-level professionalism and justifies, in the client’s mind, the low compensation.

8. The lack of standard definitions for editorial services.

As professionals we have failed to establish standard definitions of various editorial tasks that all professionals adopt. Each of us defines copyediting, for example, differently — sometimes the difference is small, and sometimes it is great — but we all call it copyediting. Consequently, when a client sees that A will do copyediting for $7.50 an hour and B will do it for $35 an hour, the client has no reason to think of the services as other than identical, and will often choose A because of price.

The lack of standard definitions means that we need to diligently explain to a client what is included and excluded for the price we are charging. Yet most of us do not provide that detailed explanation. Consequently, if editor B includes the kitchen sink as part of her copyediting services, the client hiring editor A expects the kitchen sink to be included by editor A regardless of the disparity between what editor B and editor A charge for copyediting. And if editor A explains that it is not included, the editor may well lose the client. To save the job, editor A will include the kitchen sink, thereby setting a standard to which all editors will be held — a low price that includes the kitchen sink.

Our failure as group to establish uniform standards results in our hurting our own cause and in our (generally) not being well paid. If we tackled these eight reasons using a national organization with accrediting authority, we could greatly improve how professional editing and editors are perceived, valued, and paid.

The eight reasons discussed are not all of the reasons for the low pay–high expectations syndrome in editing; I am confident you can add additional reasons. Ultimately, the question we need to face and solve is this: We know the problem and the reasons. What as a group are we going to do to solve the problem?

What do you suggest? What will you do?

Richard Adin, An American Editor


  1. Richard, your eighth point is why the Editors’ Association of Canada has a document called _Professional Editorial Standards_. It specifies what an editor is expected to do at each level of editing. It’s a free download on the Publications page at

    Excellent pair of articles. Thanks for writing and posting them.


    Comment by Anne Brennan — April 27, 2016 @ 6:19 am | Reply

  2. AE asks: “We know the problem and the reasons. What as a group are we going to do to solve the problem?” Key phrase here is “as a group.” As individuals, we’re moving forward by exchanging information through venues like this, and upgrading our procedures and presence to higher professional levels. But here in the U.S. we don’t have a unified group that can establish standards and promote itself, which is the missing piece. That requires a strong leader and dedicated startup team, plus resources . . . who among us wants to be that person and those people, who has those resources? I know that I don’t qualify, nor do many editors of my acquaintance. We have a few fine editorial organizations but none has yet gained the eminence and process to represent the majority of editors nationally and improve our visibility and prestige in a meaningful way.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Carolyn — April 27, 2016 @ 8:11 am | Reply

  3. The Society for Editors and Proofreaders had definitions of editorial tasks, as well as editorial standards and a code of practice:


    Comment by Janet MacMillan — April 27, 2016 @ 8:55 am | Reply

  4. Thank you, Richard, for these excellent articles. Numbers 2 and 5 in your list really annoy me! Regarding number 8, the Australian Institute of Professional Editors has published some editing standards: As to what we can do, I’m not sure. Personally I do my best to promote the profession wherever and whenever I can. However, I often feel despair at our collective lack of progress in this area. I’m hoping that others will have some suggestions!


    Comment by Malini Devadas — April 27, 2016 @ 9:18 am | Reply

  5. Another reason for this problem is that editing, and especially freelance editing, is a female-dominant profession, and women are generally not as assertive as men in promoting themselves or regarding themselves as professionals worthy of charging high rates. This is a generalization, of course, and I do know several women editors who do not fit into that category. But I’ve often been frustrated by discussions, online and face-to-face, in which most of the women are sheepish about charging good rates, while many of the men are much more assertive with clients and in discussions with peers.


    Comment by Teresa Barensfeld — April 27, 2016 @ 10:23 am | Reply

    • I’ve been wondering how much of that relates to the number of discussions and articles I’ve seen in recent months about the “imposter syndrome.” So many people out there, especially woman, who’ve had to reinvent themselves as businesspeople when that was never their intention or expectation in life, and for which their personalities aren’t well suited, never mind their educations.


      Comment by Carolyn — April 27, 2016 @ 10:36 am | Reply

    • Ouch, because yes, I think you’ve hit a sore spot, Teresa. I few businesswomen have offered me a reduced rate, and when I ask why, they say, “Well, professional courtesy.” Or “We can do that for each other.” I let them know I think they should charge me their full rate. If they show or describe discomfort with that, I ask them about it. And I let them know I’m okay with charging them my full rate. “I think our services are worth it,” I say. (Sigh.)


      Comment by Camille DeSalme — April 27, 2016 @ 12:33 pm | Reply

      • Rich, I well recall many of those discussions on the EFA discussion list, where some resisted mightily the idea of running their business like a business. Which brings up another psychological hurdle that some freelancers have. You can be the most skillful editor in the world, but if you’re a freelancer, sole proprietor, or independent contractor (all essentially the same thing), you have to put on your businessperson hat sometimes and take care of the business aspects of your work. It’s not enough to be an great editor if you’re working on your own. Some people have been put in this position unwillingly as a result of a layoff from a publishing house, but them’s the breaks. Gotta make lemonade out of lemons in that case.


        Comment by Teresa Barensfeld — April 27, 2016 @ 3:58 pm | Reply

    • Sadly, Teresa, you are correct. It is another reason but one I didn’t mention because when I have, I have been bombarded with shouts that I am sexist (and some less nice names). However, it is not just a female problem. Plenty of males fit that mold as well. Do you remember years ago when we both were EFA members and I raised these issues (at least 25 years ago) how some of the male members reacted? It was very defensively because they couldn’t or wouldn’t objectively look at themselves and recognize that they were part of the problem, not part of the solution. (Even today I can recall two in particular — no names here — whose attitudes were exactly wrong for the betterment of editing as a profession.)

      Those who attended my sessions at Ruth’s Communication Central Conferences will, I am sure, recall my saying I am the world’s greatest editor — repeatedly. I was always surprised at two things: first, how few understood the point I was trying to make and second, of those few, how long it took them to get the point. I was not surprised at how most of the participants bristled at my repeating that mantra.

      That mantra is exactly the point that needs recognition. If you do not believe you are the world’s greatest editor, no one else will either. If you do not believe you are the world’s greatest editor, you will not have the confidence to insist on what you deserve. If you do not believe you are the world’s greatest editor, and if you do not communicate that belief to your clients, you will always have difficulty saying no. (BTW, you do not have to literally say to a client “I am the world’s greatest editor”. I am talking about an internal attitudinal approach that gives you a confidence foundation.)

      If you need to see the importance of such an attitudinal shift, you need look no further than Donald Trump’s so-far successful run for the Republican presidential nomination. He never really says much of substance but he always does say how much greater he and his ideas and how he will do things are — and millions have absorbed his message and now regurgitate it.


      Comment by americaneditor — April 27, 2016 @ 2:20 pm | Reply

      • I’m one of the ones who challenged your “I am the world’s greatest editor” idea and will do it again here. While self-affirming ideas do make great mantras for confidence building, a concept like this can create false confidence or, worse, arrogance. Once you’re the greatest at something, then why should you learn more, strive more, or open your mind to other ideas? Also, true confidence comes from gaining competence, which comes with familiarity and experience, which comes from doing, including doing things wrong or working from the bottom up. I’m not sure when I gained confidence in myself as a professional indie editor, but it definitely didn’t arise because I told myself so. It came from working successfully with people and companies, solving tough problems, and receiving remuneration for my efforts that changed the way I have to do taxes.


        Comment by Carolyn — April 27, 2016 @ 3:08 pm | Reply

        • It’s important because it affects the way that you present yourself to a client. If you tell yourself you’re an impostor, or that you really don’t deserve the work because so many other people can do it better, it affects the tone of your communications to your client. Rich Adin tells himself that he is the world’s greatest editor, but there is no evidence that he is arrogant or closed-minded.


          Comment by Karin Cather — April 27, 2016 @ 3:33 pm | Reply

  6. Unless there’s some standard of training or accreditation, there’s no justification for a standard higher rate. Someone who’s decided, with no background or experience, to do some editing as a sideline absolutely *should not* be charging the same rate as someone with 20 years of experience and extensive training. It doesn’t bother me at all if inexperienced editors charge less and I lose some jobs to those editors — the clients will get what they pay for. And clients who want to pay a pittance for inferior work aren’t the type of clients I want in any case. Also, for inexperienced editors trying to compete with experienced editors, how else are they going to land clients and start getting experience? I’ve raised my rates gradually over the years as I’ve become more experienced (especially after I became a certified editor through Editors Canada), and it hasn’t been any problem. Maybe I’ve been lucky.


    Comment by Dawn Loewen — April 27, 2016 @ 11:10 am | Reply

  7. Thanks especially for number 7, Rich. I rarely offer various options at different prices, but I want to change that. After reading this post, I offered a potential client an option with fewer services and a lower fee. I already specify included and excluded services, partly because I think many potential clients don’t have an idea what copyediting does and doesn’t involve. The other reason? CYA.


    Comment by Camille DeSalme — April 27, 2016 @ 12:24 pm | Reply

  8. I think that credentialing would solve many of these ills. To call yourself a lawyer, you have to attend law school and you have to pass a bar exam. Only *after* you pass the bar exam and get your license can you call yourself a lawyer and begin to practice law. With editing, anyone can call themselves an editor, even if they have no training and have read nothing. There are certification exams for editors—BELS, AMWA, and Editors Canada, for instance—but they require an editor to have been practicing for years before they can even take the exam in the first place. It seems to me that that has it backwards. I think that if people did have to go through the trouble to study for weeks for an exam (most bar exams involve twelve hours of testing) and then spend hours and hours sitting for that exam, they might value their own services more highly and feel more comfortable charging what they’re worth. And saying, “Yes, I charge $35, $40, or $50 an hour, but I’m a certified editor” has some weight behind it. And people might stop saying “I have to charge $15 an hour because that’s all the market will bear” and getting defensive when someone suggests that’s too little.

    By the way, that test might contain ethics questions. Do you make your dissertation-writers clear your involvement with their supervisors? if so, how? Do you have a separate bank account for advances and only transfer the money when you earn it? Can you recognize certain forms of plagiarism and are you clear on your obligations when you see it?

    Setting boundaries is also another way to command respect and win better treatment from clients. Setting work hours, for instance. In terms of scope of work, my contracts don’t say “copyediting,” “light copyediting,” “developmental editing,” or similar. Mine list the very specific tasks. So, for example, “move sentences within paragraphs for clarity, revise jargon, edit for spelling, punctuation, mechanics, and usage.” I specify the number of passes. I make clear that, for example, while I’m going to make sure that the references conform to the style guide, I’m not going to complete them without more. I add a provision that says that the client can’t revise the manuscript between the time they give it to me to start work and the second pass, and that any additional work has to be the subject of a second contract. That allows clients to see what they’re getting and avoid scope creep.

    I can’t help but think, though, that nothing will change without some sort of formal certification.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Karin Cather — April 27, 2016 @ 1:59 pm | Reply

    • I agree, Karin. Credentialing would solve much of the problem. What is needed is not only the credentialing exam, but government licensing, which is what lawyers, doctors, CPAs, even plumbers have.


      Comment by americaneditor — April 27, 2016 @ 2:23 pm | Reply

      • Agreed. That is a separate hill to climb, though. It would require lobbying for those changes and it would require a panel of editors in each state or province to monitor compliance, and it would require editors to pay dues to that licensing agency to pay for the monitoring and compliance. On the other hand, that would *certainly* instill self-respect in editors who otherwise have been raised/trained that self-advocacy is wrong. For what it’s worth, I think doing that is important enough that, if there were a critical mass of editors who were interested, I’d be glad to help. To be fair, I think editors’ associations would have to get behind this idea or it won’t work.

        As an aside, I do agree that sexism is a big problem for women, not only in editing but also in other professions. Male lawyers are always assertive, tough, and uncompromising; women lawyers who engage in the same conduct are bitches. Male lawyers who say no are excellent advocates for their clients; women are rude.


        Comment by Karin Cather — April 27, 2016 @ 2:31 pm | Reply

      • The reason that lawyers, doctors, CPAs, plumbers, electricians, etc. have government licensing is that there can be serious negative consequences to incompetence. For many applications of editing, that is not true. Obviously, certain technical documents that people learn from and refer to for accuracy in their (usually licensed or degreed) trades need very competent writers and editors to prepare; but for oodles of other applications, editing mistakes are only embarrassing or inconvenient, not life threatening or financially devastating.


        Comment by Carolyn — April 27, 2016 @ 3:17 pm | Reply

        • Dog groomers and cosmetologists are also licensed.

          I agree that no one will die or lose their home or their liberty if their editor is incompetent, but the author could get sued without an editor who flags something and reminds the author to get permission or queries about potential libel. If the author submits an unedited, or poorly edited, article to a journal and never gets published, that affects their career. An editor of a news source who puts the picture of the child molester too close to the article about the teacher could trash a reputation and expose the publication to a lawsuit. And, while most fiction writers are not Andy Weir, Andy Weir wouldn’t have been Andy Weir without the right editor.

          I still say that some kind of certification would bring credibility to a profession that many people think can be done with spell check.


          Comment by Karin Cather — April 27, 2016 @ 3:29 pm | Reply

        • Carolyn, what if the editor changes 150 micrograms of a medication to 150 milligrams or 150 grams and the error is not caught? And for what its worth, the history of licensing of doctors, lawyers, and plumbers is that it was a way for governments to raise revenue and for the professions to limit numbers. It was a way of perpetuating the old guilds.


          Comment by americaneditor — April 27, 2016 @ 3:55 pm | Reply

          • Rich, that’s correct, which is why the pass rate for licensing exams fluctuates so dramatically from year to year and why some states allow reciprocity with other states and some don’t.


            Comment by Karin Cather — April 27, 2016 @ 4:02 pm

          • That 150 milli/microgram type error is what I had in mind with my comment “certain technical documents that people learn from and refer to for accuracy in their … trades need very competent writers and editors to prepare.” I called that out to compare against errors in the many contexts that will not have dire consequences. I’m also trying to convey that currently licensed occupations seem to be focused on physical things, especially bodies or property, and including Karin’s examples of cosmetologists and dog groomers. So if licensing is to ever be applied to the occupation of working on someone else’s writing, I think it would have to be tiered. The consequences of goofing in a surgical procedure manual or an aircraft engine repair manual (which comes to mind because I recently saw an air accident investigation program where the crash was caused by the wrong size screw) or a legal agreement involving millions of dollars, and the like, are much more severe than grammatical or typographical errors in a novel, or misspelling of a product name in a catalogue. Then again, trying to assign hazard value to all the possible goofs across all industries that use writers, editors, and proofreaders could drive everyone involved to the loony bin. I was fired from my first proofreading job in an ad agency because I botched a zip code. A colleague in another place caught hell by not spotting an extra number in a direct-mail campaign. I’ve heard of calendar dates being wrong which lost an event thousands of dollars. How do you establish the value of accuracy across the board? This question lies behind debates about errors and omissions insurance. If our profession became certified, would every editor have to carry such insurance? Who would decide what our rate ranges should be, for what sub-editing tasks, based on what criteria?

            In response to your second sentence, I had no idea that licensing of other trades was “a way for governments to raise revenue and for the professions to limit numbers. It was a way of perpetuating the old guilds.” I find that both easy and hard to believe. But if that’s the case, why were the word trades not included?


            Comment by Carolyn — April 27, 2016 @ 5:02 pm

          • Credentialing and setting rates are two very different things. I think the credentialing came up because it is a way of establishing validity in a professional or trade and gives the person more justification in charging high rates, compared to an uncredentialed person. The individual person or company that is run by or employs credentialed people is still going to set his/her/its own rates. And what might that be? Ideally, it is whatever the market will bear — unless people persist in undercharging even with credentialing! And we get back to the original problem… though I do agree that credentialing will help in the long run.

            Liked by 1 person

            Comment by Teresa Barensfeld — April 27, 2016 @ 5:23 pm

          • Yes, part of licensure is liability insurance. I think the painting contractor has to have that as part of their licensing, as well. As far as price-fixing, nobody can do that, but the lawyer who advises you on how to maintain your intellectual property rights to a font you designed isn’t going to cost you your liberty if that lawyer gets the zip code wrong, not without more. The box of medicine might be delivered to the wrong Toronto, though. That being said, there isn’t a pricing scheme for lawyers any more than there is for doctors or editors. But I’ll bet someone wouldn’t pay a family lawyer $350 an hour and hand over a $5000 retainer if anyone could be a family lawyer, just because they have a bachelor’s degree, are really good at arguing, have a copy of the state statute book, and an Internet browser. And that’s true no matter how many references that lawyer had.


            Comment by Karin Cather — April 27, 2016 @ 5:38 pm

    • The licensing or credentialing comparison is often made. In some sense it is apt, but in others, not. And it doesn’t always hold up — in my county there is no licensing for plumbers, electricians — or contractors of any sort really. So, how do you know you’ll get a good, safe wiring job and not a fire waiting to happen? By getting references, word-of-mouth referrals, checking Angie’s List (and similar), and that type of thing. So it goes with editing. I get most of my work via online professional listings, and often people will ask for even more documentation — contact info to actually check my references, an editing test, or a request for an editing sample. So, while credentialing may help in the long run, right now, we can do a lot to justify charging “what we’re worth” (which is pretty subjective). Being assertive about pricing is going to be necessary with a lot of clients whether or not you have a credential that says you’re an editor.


      Comment by Teresa Barensfeld — April 27, 2016 @ 3:51 pm | Reply

  9. Why don’t the current editing associations implement an entry-level exam before granting membership? This can be followed up with a tiered-membership structure based on one’s training, competency, and experience.


    Comment by Vivek Kumar — April 28, 2016 @ 3:34 am | Reply

    • Yes. This. What Vivek said.


      Comment by Karin Cather — April 28, 2016 @ 4:13 am | Reply

    • Because most current associations are social organizations run by volunteers. Bar associations that govern lawyers are rarely volunteer-run social organizations. They are expensive to join and maintain and they are run by professional staff.

      Consider this too: To maintain one’s license as a lawyer, doctor, or CPA, at least in many US states, requires not only membership in the local professional organization but continuing education — the earning of x number of credits over the course of a limited period of time. Although none of the schemes that exist are perfect, they do act as a buffer between the consumer of the service and the service provider and do act as an assurance of a minimal level of competence. The editing profession requires nothing, does not act as a buffer, and does not provide any assurance of competence (and we all know that taking the editing tests that some clients require certainly do not demonstrate on-the-job competence). And, unfortunately, editorial incompetence does not appear until late in the process.

      Which lets me swing off on yet another tangent: client incompetence. A significant problem — at least in my editorial practice but I suspect in the practice of other editors as well — is packager-client who hires me for my editing skills but always knows better than me. For example in the use of language. It is not unusual for a non-American packager-client to hire me to provide an American edit of a manuscript yet demand a sample edit that the client takes many days to go through and return with “corrections” the packager-client wants implemented. I used to send detailed explanations why certain wanted corrections were wrong but have stopped doing so because the packager-client — for whom American English is a secondary or tertiary language — “knows” better. It has hired me because its publisher-client insists on an American editor but my packager-client “knows” it could do the job itself and do it better than any American editor.

      I think credentialing would dampen this “knowing”. Currently, my foundation for having the better answer is years of experience with American English being my primary language. But I find that holds little water when a packager-client realizes that if it did the editing itself, it would have a high profit stream (the difference between what it charges its publisher-client and pays its local editor). Credentialing would add significant foundational value to editing knowledge and skills.


      Comment by americaneditor — April 28, 2016 @ 4:28 am | Reply

      • Packager-clients are to be blamed for taking on jobs for which they don’t have the necessary personnel but they have been allowed to do so only by publisher-clients who are no less greedy than the packager-clients. Following the Editcetera model might be one possible solution.


        Comment by Vivek Kumar — April 28, 2016 @ 4:53 am | Reply

    • The Society for Editors and Proofreaders requires continuing education, and to become a Professional Member or an Advanced Professional Members, lower-level members, e.g. entry level and intermediate level, the member has to show much more than that they can pass a test. APM and PM is not automatic. So there is already am membership structure based on training, competency, experience and references – and continuing education thereafter.


      Comment by Janet MacMillan — April 28, 2016 @ 5:06 am | Reply

      • The SfEP is an exception and I wish the other associations also put in stringent entry requirements.


        Comment by Vivek Kumar — April 28, 2016 @ 5:13 am | Reply

  10. Continuing education is a must. Only in Australia are editors accredited by the IPED required to appear for a reaccreditation exam after 5 years.


    Comment by Vivek Kumar — April 28, 2016 @ 5:00 am | Reply

    • Editors certified by Editors Canada have to prove that they’re engaging in professional development every year. Well, it’s a bit more complex that this, but this is what it boils down to.


      Comment by Anne Brennan — April 28, 2016 @ 4:19 pm | Reply

      • Thanks Anne Brennan for providing the info about professional development being a requirement for editors even after they have been certified. I was not aware of this.


        Comment by Vivek Kumar — April 28, 2016 @ 11:53 pm | Reply

        • In Australia, there is no reaccreditation exam. To become reaccredited (every 5 years) you have to show that you have continued to work as an editor, have attended conferences and other professional devlepment activities, etc.


          Comment by Malini Devadas — April 28, 2016 @ 11:58 pm | Reply

          • Thanks Malini. So, basically Editor Canada and IPED follow the same process.


            Comment by Vivek Kumar — April 29, 2016 @ 12:02 am

          • And SfEP. As said above, SfEP requires APMs (and PMs) to undertake continuing professional development.


            Comment by Janet MacMillan — April 29, 2016 @ 3:00 am

  11. If “Clients assume that because we are freelancers working from home (usually), we are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” you would think they’d pay more, not less!


    Comment by Ruth E. Thaler-Carter — April 29, 2016 @ 10:54 am | Reply

  12. “As a second income, this is usually money for vacations or to buy a better car, not usually money needed for survival.”

    I would like to see some documentation on that as well as your claim that freelance editing for second income leads to low rates. It sounds more like speculation or opinion rather than fact. You seem to be presenting it as a fact.

    Also: “For too many editors, the income is a second income.” In addition to providing some supporting documentation for you claims, please tell us, oh wise editor, just how many freelancers editing for second income would be “enough” and where, exactly, we cross the line into “too many.”

    And please be more specific about how editors should spend their money in order to be worthy in your eyes.


    Comment by Phil — May 3, 2016 @ 10:49 am | Reply

    • People who edit for a living, because it’s their only source of income, generally don’t volunteer to edit a three-volume series for $500. If an editor is supported by someone else, then they may have no incentive to charge what they’re worth, and so they might be willing to edit for substandard rates.


      Comment by Karin Cather — May 3, 2016 @ 6:53 pm | Reply

      • I know people who have retired from government jobs and receive generous superannuation payments each month and then take up editing to fill in their time. I also know people who have full-time jobs (not as editors) who do some editing in the evenings and on weekends for a bit of extra money. In both these cases, these people charge very little — certainly not enough to live on.


        Comment by Malini Devadas — May 3, 2016 @ 7:37 pm | Reply

      • “may have no incentive” is the operative part of your reasoning. The “American Editor” seems to imply that any editor working for a second income will charge less and then makes a snarky, judgmental comment about how second-incomers use their money. He also states that there are “too many editors” working for second income. There’s a whole lot of judgment and pomposity in his opinions and little to no demonstrable fact.

        Gee, your royal highness, pardon the poor slobs who actually need a second income and/or are trying to develop an editing business, a professional-level business–before they quit their day jobs. Sure, shift the blame on all of us for not charging enough (without having any facts to base that on except maybe a few examples). You know maybe, just maybe, your wrong, and one reason for the decline in respect and payment for editors might have something to do with the holier-than-thou attitude on display there.


        Comment by Phil — May 5, 2016 @ 9:37 am | Reply

    • Most families need two incomes nowadays — two well-paying incomes. But I have also see the case of freelancers who are working on projects for “pin money” who undercharge. I had one person working for me like that several years ago. No, I didn’t underpay her, but she would have taken anything I offered. She actually used the term “pin money.”

      OTOH, when I “retire,” I intend to keep taking copyediting work, but pick and choose those projects that I like to do and that pay well. It wouldn’t make any sense, to me anyway, to waste my time at that point in life doing low-paying work. But then I’ve been a full-time freelance copyeditor for the past 25 years, and I do not want to undercut any of my colleagues by undercharging when I’m retired and doing fewer projects. Those who freelance in retirement after a working as an employee or who moonlight while still working at the day jobs may not understand that the hourly rate of freelancers should include compensation to cover all the benefits that their employment or retirement benefits may cover.


      Comment by Teresa Barensfeld — May 4, 2016 @ 11:44 am | Reply

      • I once knew two people named Teresa who were crazy. All Teresas are crazy. See how that works?


        Comment by Phil — May 5, 2016 @ 9:40 am | Reply

        • I understand the difference between statistical data and anecdotal evidence, if that was what your snarky comment was alluding to (why not just say that?). It was obvious that I was offering my experience with the “pin money” freelancer as the latter and not the former. I also offered a counter-example of my own intention to do the opposite — only take well-paying jobs in retirement. In lieu of any sort of statistical data on this topic, we have our experiences as freelancers, and, for some of us, both as freelancers and as contractors who hire freelancers.

          I’ve known people named Phil who engage in civil discussion on a professional blog and one who does not. I’m not sure what that proves, but there it is.


          Comment by Teresa Barensfeld — May 5, 2016 @ 12:43 pm | Reply

          • Teresa, it’s clear at this point that Phil is a troll.

            It’s also clear, Teresa, that some sort of formal certification program should exist, and it should be available to brand-new editors, not only to editors who have been editing for years. Being able to say, “I’m a real editor, because I’ve been certified” conveys credibility. Right now, anyone can say they’re an editor, even if they have no training.


            Comment by Karin Cather — May 5, 2016 @ 12:57 pm

      • Teresa, good point. Plus, in the States, we have to pay for our own health insurance. When you retire, I’m sure you won’t edit a textbook for $350 because you are afraid to advocate for yourself, but, agreed, people who don’t need the money don’t have the same incentive to charge what the service is worth.


        Comment by Karin Cather — May 5, 2016 @ 1:00 pm | Reply

        • True. Posts like this one and discussion boards help to encourage freelancers not to undercharge.


          Comment by Teresa Barensfeld — May 5, 2016 @ 3:06 pm | Reply

  13. […] Last month, Rich Adin wrote about the value of the editing profession—specifically in the context of how much editors should get paid.[1] He gives eight reasons in two articles for why editing is undervalued. Here are four of those reasons: […]


    Pingback by A Proposal for the Uniform Certification of Copyeditors - Karin Cather Editorial Services LLC — May 13, 2016 @ 12:34 am | Reply

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