An American Editor

September 2, 2019

On the Basics — 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.

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


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.

July 10, 2019

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

Filed under: Editorial Matters — An American Editor @ 10:17 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. Although freelancers make decisions every day that affect their current and future incomes, most do so without adequate data or, if they have adequate data, without analyzing that data.

One reason for the lack of proper analysis is that it isn’t easy to get a quick overview of collected data. A second problem is that the data aren’t kept in an easily accessible standardized format. A third problem is it is too easy to forget to track the data. This is where EditTools 9’s Time Tracker comes into play: Time Tracker automates some of the analysis process and helps keep the data in a standardized format, along with making it easy to track the data.

Time Tracker has a lot of features, far too many to discuss in depth in an essay on An American Editor (AAE). (The Time Tracker Help file is 55 pages long. You can download the complete Time Tracker Help file in PDF format using this link.) Consequently, what you will get here is simply an overview.

But before you begin . . .

Before you begin using Time Tracker and analyzing your data, you should calculate your required Effective Hourly Rate (rEHR). If you don’t, you will have data, but that 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. I’ll provide a fuller discussion of how to calculate your rEHR at some other time; here I just summarize the rEHR.

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 (which include food, shelter, and utilities) at a breakeven point — that is, no loss and no profit — or where 100% of revenue in becomes 100% of revenue out with all taxes paid.

Here is a quick illustration to explain the different terms: Your GROSS income for your fiscal year represents every dollar you earned BEFORE you paid anything, including self-employment taxes, to anyone, including yourself. Your NET income is the amount that is left from your gross income AFTER you have paid the required self-employment taxes (e.g., Medicare and Social Security) and either paid or set aside money to pay your quarterly withholding. So, if your gross income is expected to be $50,000 and your tax withholdings and payments (i.e., self-employment taxes and quarterly payments) combined equal $12,500, your NET income is $37,500.

That net income, however, only represents your actual income after taxes; it is not your rEHR. Your rEHR is the total of all costs for you to live and do business that are paid out of NET income divided by the number of billable hours you work. That some of these expenses may later be a deduction when you calculate your tax return is irrelevant; you still have to pay the expense from NET income.

The rEHR is important to know because it is the baseline against which you need to measure your GROSS and NET incomes. If your rEHR equals $40,000, but your NET income equals $37,500, you are not earning enough to breakeven. Conversely, if your rEHR equals $30,000, but your NET income equals $37,500, you are earning a decent profit. Whether you are earning too little, just enough, or making a profit affects your EHR. (I realize that I am mixing hourly [rEHR] and yearly [gross and net income] numbers, but you have to expand the rEHR to a yearly equivalent so that it can be compared against gross and net income.)

As I said earlier, this will be discussed more fully in a future essay. Now, let’s turn to Time Tracker.

Accessing Time Tracker

You access Time Tracker via the EditTools Ribbon, as shown here:

The Time Tracker icon

Time Tracker acts, among other things, as a timer, document backer upper, and data driver. Each of these roles is controlled and accessed through the Ribbon, beginning with the Off “button.” Clicking the Off button brings up the main Time Tracker dialog — the Time Tracker Project Summary:

Time Tracker Project Summary

The Project Summary dialog is the main control “room” for Time Tracker. Here is where all your projects are listed, until they are completed and removed from the active projects window. A completed project can be removed from the active projects window and saved (just not visible on this Project Summary dialog) or removed and deleted (this is not advised unless you don’t need to keep any of its data). This is also where you access the dialog for new projects. When you start your workday, this is where you select which project to activate for your work session.

Also notice the displayed summaries of project data. In the below image, the boxed material labeled #1 contains the project name and the identifiers of any subparts. In the example, the project is the “Giant Peaches of McCandy Province.”

Note that the project, as of today, has two subparts. Subparts generally represent billing groups. A client with a large project that is expected to last several months, for example, may want edited material submitted in batches, and a subpart can represent each batch — a way to track what has been done and what has been earned. Subparts are created as needed. As with everything in the Project Summary, subpart data, including the subpart name, are editable.

A closer look

The boxed material labeled #2 contains changing pieces of financial project data. At a glance, you can see the number of pages you have edited, how much you have earned, your EHR for the individual project, the average number of pages you are editing per hour (APH), the project’s status, and how you are calculating the fee (project, per page, per word, per character, or hourly).

The arrows labeled #3 above show the correlation between the project/subpart (#1) and the data (#2). The top arrow links the project as a project to the cumulative data, while the bottom two arrows correlate each subpart with its own data. For the “Giant Peaches” project, to date a total of 9 hours and 36 minutes has been spent editing, amounting to a total of 127 pages for which $635 has been earned. The overall EHR for the Giant Peaches project is $66.15 and an average of 13.23 pages have been edited each hour. The project is still open and the client is being charged a project fee.

The next two data lines (aligned with the bottom two arrows) show the breakdown of the cumulative data. For example, “Chapters 1-5,” the first subpart, was 66 pages and took 5 hours and 31 minutes to complete. The subpart accounted for $330 of the total earnings to date. For that subpart, the EHR was $59.80 and the APH was 11.96. Although the status is marked as Open, if the client has been billed for that subpart, it could be marked as Completed. Changing a subpart’s status to Completed does not affect the status of any other subpart or of the project. However, marking the main project line (the Giant Peaches line in this example) as Complete would affect all of the subparts.

As the image above shows, you can readily see how you are doing on an individual project basis. But that is not enough information. Although you may be doing very well so far on this project, what you need to know is how well you are doing over all of your projects. For that quick overview, look to the bottom of the Project Summary (see image below), where you see your EHR and APH data for the year to date (YTD) and over all of the projects you have tracked over the years (Lifetime).

The cumulative EHR and APH data

As noted earlier, the Giant Peaches EHR is $66.15 and APH is 13.23. But Giant Peaches is only one project that has been worked on since January 1 (the YTD data is calculated on a calendar-year basis) and, eventually, only one of many projects over multiple years (Lifetime data include every project in the Time Tracker dataset; in this instance, the first Time Tracker project was this calendar year, so the YTD and Lifetime numbers are the same). As the image above illustrates, over all of the projects worked on to date (project status does not affect inclusion or exclusion from the cumulative data; the cumulative data reflect all projects in the dataset, whether open or completed, but does not include data from deleted projects), the YTD and Lifetime EHRs are $46.89 and APHs are 13.13.

The data summarized here should be compared to the rEHR to determine how well the business is doing. If compared to the “going rate” numbers that float around chat lists, which usually range between $15 and $30 per hour, the business is doing quite well. Alas, the “going rate” numbers are not really helpful, even though most of us do like to compare what we are “charging” to what our colleagues are “charging.”

One last thing before we end Part II

If you charge only by the hour and charge, for example, $25 an hour, your EHR will always equal $25, unless you account for those hours spent working on a project that you cannot charge to the client. There are several ways to do so using Time Tracker. One way is to always use a subpart. The first subpart would be for all billable hours; then, if you run into overtime at your expense, create a second subpart for those data and set the fee for that subpart at $0 per hour. A second method (and one I like better) is to change the fee for the project from per hour to per project and enter the total amount you can bill the client as the project fee. Then you can keep timing and, as the hours increase but the fee does not, the EHR will decline.


In Part III, we will create a new project using the Create/Update Project dialog, which is where we enter all of the “permanent” information about a project.

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 5, 2019

Why Do You Edit?

By Daniel Heuman

When I present at editing conferences, I’ve started asking the audience one question: Why do you edit?

The answers I get back are amazing and diverse; for example:

  • I like helping people tell their stories.
  • I contribute to medical research and change lives.
  • It gives me a good work-life balance.
  • I make science happen.
  • I help people communicate.
  • I get paid to read books!

The one answer that I’ve never heard is “I like checking consistency of hyphenation.” Nobody has ever told me that their driving force, the reason that gets them out of bed in the morning, is “making sure abbreviations are defined when they are first used.” That’s why editors love PerfectIt. It makes the mechanical elements of editing faster and easier, so you can focus on what matters. And that’s why I’m excited to announce the details of PerfectIt 4, our first new edition for Windows users since 2015.

The Basics of PerfectIt

If you haven’t used PerfectIt, its core philosophy is that humans make the best editing decisions, and they always will. The role of software is to help people make those decisions faster. PerfectIt doesn’t know what’s right. Instead, it alerts you to points in the document that could be errors. It leaves every decision up to you.

Here are some of the errors that PerfectIt helps you find:

  • Inconsistent hyphenation (e.g., “email” in one place, but “e-mail” in another).
  • Abbreviations that haven’t been defined or have been used before they’re defined.
  • Capitalization inconsistency (e.g., “Government” or “government”).
  • Brackets and quotes left open.
  • Numbers in the middle of sentences (spelled out or in numerals).
  • Inconsistencies in list punctuation and capitalization.
  • Use of sentence case or title case in headings.
  • Different spellings of the same word (e.g., “adviser” or “advisor”).
  • Common typos that spellcheck won’t find (no more “line mangers” or “pubic consultations”).

You can also use PerfectIt to enforce house style rules. The program is customizable so you can build in your own preferences. That’s useful for both freelance and in-house editors. If you’re a freelancer, PerfectIt lets you build in a style sheet for each client so it’s easy to keep track of different preferences. For an in-house editor, PerfectIt helps you enforce your style manual. You can set up your team with PerfectIt and make sure everyone at your organization follows the style manual (at long last).

PerfectIt doesn’t do anything that you can’t do. You can find and correct every error described above manually. However, these errors are time-consuming to find and easy to miss — and checking them is not why you edit! Checking mechanical errors is necessary work, but every minute you can save on the mechanics is more time for substantive editing.

What’s New in PerfectIt 4

In PerfectIt 4, we concentrated on one thing: increasing that time saving. We did that in two ways: improving PerfectIt’s initial scan and changing the interface. You can see it here.

In the past, PerfectIt’s initial scan was when you could step away from the computer and treat yourself to a cup of coffee or check your social media. With PerfectIt 4, a scan that could take as long as 5 or 10 minutes is now over in seconds. Coffee and social media will have to wait!

The biggest change in the interface is that every location now has a separate fix button. That makes it easier to use the preview text to see context and make changes. The time saving is just a second or two for each fix. However, the effect is cumulative. If you save a second or two on each fix, that can be a minute or two on each document. When you add that up over the course of a year, it’s significant.

Time savings aren’t the only improvement. We’ve also made changes to PerfectIt’s styles. We’ve added support for GPO Style, and we’ve updated WHO Style, UN Style, EU Style and American Legal Style. In addition, you can now base a style on an existing style. So if you do legal editing, you can start with PerfectIt’s built-in American Legal Style and build your own preferences on top of that.

Do More of What You Love

We made saving time the focus of PerfectIt 4 because that’s what every professional needs. Time saved on mechanics is more time for substantive editing (or more time for family, hobbies, and things that have nothing to do with editing). Do something you love. Checking for consistency mistakes is an important part of the job, but it isn’t why you edit.

Daniel Heuman is the CEO and founder of Intelligent Editing. PerfectIt is available for a 14-day free trial or a $70 per year purchase at You can purchase it for just $49 per year (30% discount) if you’re a member of one of these professional editing associations.

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