An American Editor

July 17, 2019

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

Filed under: Editorial Matters — An American Editor @ 10:25 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 It’s All About the Benjamins! EditTools’ Time Tracker (Part II), I discussed Time Trackers’ Project Summary. Now it’s time to create a project’s data set so Time Tracker can collect data for you.

The Create/Update Project Dialog

To create a data set for a new project, click Create Project (see image below) in the Project Summary dialog. If, instead, you want to modify the data set for an existing project (e.g., you are charging a project fee for the project you are currently working on and want to modify the project fee and the number of pages entries because the client has sent you a new, additional chapter), first select the project in the list of projects (#1 in the image below) and then click Update Project (#2 in image below). Both Create Project and Update Project open the same form, but with a difference: Create Project opens an empty dialog whereas the Update Project opens the dialog filled with the selected project’s details.

Creating a dataset for a new project

As noted, clicking Create Project opens an empty Create/Update Project dialog (shown below) so initial details about a project can be entered. The only required data element is the project name (#3). Without that name, the project cannot be added to the list of projects (#1 in image above), which means Time Tracker cannot be used to track the time spent on that project. Although not required, if you do not provide the fee information (#17), the Effective Hourly Rate (EHR) cannot be calculated or tracked.

The only other possibly required information is whether the project will have subparts (#16). The default is no (N), which means you cannot add subparts to a listed project (unless, of course, once the project is created, you use Update Project). If you change the N to Y (#16) to indicate there are subparts, you will be able to add subparts as needed to an existing project.

The Create/Update Project dialog

Most of the items in the Create/Update Project dialog are self-explanatory; the importance of several may not be obvious and those are discussed here. (For a detailed look at all elements, visit the Time Tracker page to download the complete help document in PDF format.)

The first items whose importance may not be obvious are the Start Date (#13), Scheduled End Date (#14), and Actual End Date (#15). These dates are important because they can give you an indication of how to schedule future projects. For example, suppose the start date is April 1, 2019, and the scheduled end date is May 31, 2019. (Tip: If a client says the first documents for editing will be sent to you on March 22, enter March 22 as the start date. If the client doesn’t send the first documents until April 1, change the start date to April 1 by clicking Update Project [#2 in earlier image] and make a note in the Comments [#21] that the scheduled start date had been March 22. This will enable you to track the likelihood that future projects from the client will be provided as promised.)

The Scheduled End Date (#14) is important because it enables you to track how good your and your client’s time estimates are, which matters when scheduling future projects, especially when you combine the Scheduled End Date data with the Actual End Date (#15) data. The Actual End Date data will let you track how often you finish earlier or later than the scheduled end date. If, over the course of several projects, you discover that projects for Client X are almost always scheduled for 10 days longer than the projects actually take, that information might be the difference between agreeing to take on another project or rejecting that project offer. It also provides information about your efficiency.

From my perspective, the most-important information to provide is fee data (#17; see image below). I need and want to know whether I am making or losing money. Although I like to know that answer for the project I am currently working on (however, I adhere to the rule of three, which I discussed in my AAE essay, “The Rule of Three”), what I really want and need to know is my overall profit/loss status. This is important because my overall profit/loss status, along with my required EHR (rEHR), helps me decide whether to accept or reject a proffered project, whether the proffered fee is acceptable or unacceptable, and what fee I need to charge for a project.

Fee calculation data

There are four method choices for calculating a fee: per page (#A); per word (#B); per hour (#C); and per project (#D). Depending on which method is chosen, the information asked for in #E changes. The image above shows #E asking for the per-page rate because that rate is the default for #E. When you click per page (#A) in response to “How is your fee calculated,” #E will ask “Fee per page?” But if you choose one of the other methods, #E will change accordingly, as shown in the following images:

The per-word method

The per-word method (#B) asks for information about the rate per word and how many words, even though you are charging per word, will equal one manuscript page.

The per-hour method

If the per-hour method (#C) is chosen, #E asks the hourly rate being charged. Nothing more is needed because whatever hourly rate is being charged equals the EHR. It doesn’t change as long as you complete the project within the maximum number of hours for which the client will pay. For example, if your quote is that the project will take up to 100 hours at $25 per hour and the client agrees to pay for up to 100 hours, the EHR for every hour from 1 to 100 will be $25. What happens if the project takes more than 100 hours? Assume that you begin to exceed 100 hours and the client agrees to pay for up to 10 more hours (total of 110), but that hours 111 and beyond are at your expense. If you complete the project in 110 hours or less, then the EHR remains $25. But if the project takes 117 hours and the client is only paying for 110 hours, then the EHR changes (becomes lower) because the seven unpaid hours have to be accounted for. The best way to do this is to select the project in the Project Summary dialog, click Update Project, and then change the fee information from per hour at $25 per hour to per project with a project fee equal to $2,750 (110 × $25) and enter the page count for the project.

The project-fee method

Note that with the exception of the per-hour method, all of the other methods are based on a page. Ultimately, even an hourly rate is based on pages. It is true that it doesn’t matter whether a project is 500 pages or 800 pages if you are charging by the hour, except that it is the rare client who doesn’t want an estimate of the time it will take to do the project and/or a price quote for how much the project will cost.

To estimate the time — something you need to do for yourself, even if not for the client, so you can schedule the next project — it will take to complete the project, you have to know how many pages an hour you expect to be able to edit (Average Pages per Hour [APH]). To get to that number, you need to know what constitutes a page — is it 1,600 characters (with or without spaces) or 275 words or some other measure? Whatever the measure, you need to know what constitutes one page.

Even if you calculate using words — for example, you expect to be able to edit 2,500 words an hour on average — you can convert that to pages. (The easiest way to do these calculations is to use EditTools’ Counter macro.)

The bottom line is that when you are asked to estimate time or quote a price, no matter how you calculate your fee, you are doing so based on your expected APH and on the manuscript’s length. Again, even if you base your calculations on number of words, that method is easily convertible to pages.

After the project is complete, it is worth updating the project information by grading the project (#19 above and below). This information will eventually give you an idea about whether it is advantageous to keep accepting certain types of projects or to focus on particular types. It will also give you an indication of whether you should continue accepting work from a particular client. For example, if client X’s projects consistently are rated 5 or 6 and just meet your rEHR, while client Y’s projects consistently rate 2 or 3 and always exceed your rEHR and meet or approach your desired EHR (dEHR), wouldn’t it be better for you to try to replace the work you receive from X with more work from Y? The idea of being a freelancer is to maximize profit while enjoying the work.

Rating a project

The other item worth mentioning here is the Totals (#20 above and below) section. When you create a new project profile, the Totals area is blank. It remains blank until the Project Status is changed to Completed (#4 below). At that time, the Totals area will be populated with a summary of the data — Time, Pages, Amount Earned, EHR, and APH — for the project. Even if the project is no longer visible in the Project Summary dialog, the data are retained in the dataset.

The Totals data

Next

In Part IV, we will complete a project profile and work with some of the other tools that are part of Time Tracker.

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.

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