Busy day, so just enough time for a quick rant. I met with a colleague for coffee yesterday. She’s a lawyer by trade, with plenty of courtroom experience and a solid background in the technical aspects of writing, but happens to be new to the freelance writing and editing business. At one point she mentioned that she’s enrolled in an editing certificate program through a well-known university. And something her professor suggested about freelance pricing, well, let’s just say it qualified as academic malpractice.
The instructor’s comment to her class was that $25 an hour is a good rate, at which you can get good freelance editing jobs, and you probably shouldn’t go much higher than that, because you’ll drive away business.
Look, I have nothing against professional educators–but there are some places where many of them probably shouldn’t go. Recommending how to price your freelance business services is apparently one of them.
Advice about…Freelance Pricing Advice
For all the advice I give about freelance pricing, I would never pretend to know exactly what your individual rate should be. That’s your responsibility as a freelance business owner. I can recommend strategies to help determine your rate, and, more important, how you can formulate estimates in order to get your best possible price, with the most negotiating leverage and best incentives to make your clients easy to work with. That’s why I published The Science, Art and Voodoo of Freelance Pricing and Getting Paid.
Calculating your freelance writing rates or editing rates isn’t just a matter of consulting some price charts, although you’re welcome to do that if you like. The more prudent course, I’d suggest, is to take into account a whole host of factors, including but not limited to:
- expenses (business and overall)
- skills and experience
- target audience (industry and specific company)
- geographic location (yours and clients’)
- comparable peer rates
- income and retirement goals
- number of billable hours
- what the market will bear
I’m confident that this instructor could run circles around me when it comes to the nuances of grammar, editorial citations, and style manuals. But without any other data, citing a figure of $25—which pencils out to $50,000, by the way, below the U.S. median wage of $53,891—is just plain reckless and wrongheaded. (And that’s assuming you could do 40 billable hours a week, which is unlikely.)
And, as I wrote in the post title, academic malpractice.
Whew. It’s Friday, and I need a laugh. Let’s revisit the classic Rodney Dangerfield scene in Back to School, when wise-crackin’ business tycoon Thornton Melon smacks his propeller-head professor with some real-world knowledge.