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The Editor's Affairs (TEA)

Bring TEA into your working day and get your affairs in order

Maya's TEA Blog

On a wooden surface are a clear mug of tea and a small notebook with a pair of glasses on top of it.

Welcome to my TEA blog!

Here you'll find my articles about The Editor's Affairs (TEA), business administration, productivity, and other aspects of running an editorial business.

  • 11 Jan 2023 4:51 PM | Maya Berger (Administrator)

    My biggest tip for converting a first-time client into one who will send you repeat work is a simple one: stay in touch.

    The torso, arms, and hands of a person sitting in front of a MacBook laptop on a wooden surface and holding an iPhone

    Photo by on Unsplash

    When I’ve had a positive experience working with a client and I’d like to work with them again, I write them an email letting them know that:

    • I hope their writing is going well

    • I’m planning my schedule for the next few months

    • I enjoyed working on their previous text

    • I’d like to set aside time for them if they have any writing that’s ready for an editor

    • My current rates are $XX

    An email like this doesn’t take long to compose and send, especially if you have boilerplate text for it. The wording can be formal or informal, depending on your rapport with the client, and feel free to ask about the client’s kids / pets / local weather / unusual hobby if they’ve mentioned them during your previous collaboration.

    ​Overall, though, keep the tone professional and confident rather than entitled or apologetic. The client doesn’t owe you any future business just because you worked with them in the past, but nor are you bothering them by sending the email. You’re simply checking in.

    An airport check-in sign

    Photo by Larissa Gies on Unsplash

    Why should you check in with clients?

    To remind the client that you exist

    We’re not part of day-to-day life for many of our academic or independent author clients, or for our contacts at businesses or other organizations, so it can be helpful to remind them of who their go-to editor is.

    To make the client feel valued

    Taking the time to get in touch, ask about their writing, and offer to set aside time to work with them shows that you value them as a client and are making an effort to keep the working relationship strong.

    The text "You Matter" written on a sheet of yellow notebook paper, against a graffiti-style background

    Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

    To demonstrate your initiative and time-management skills

    Letting clients know that you’re planning your projects months in advance inspires confidence that you will give their manuscript the proper time and attention. It shows you’re organized and proactive, two qualities that are likely to make their lives easier if they work with you again.

    To show that you’re in demand

    Offering to reserve a time slot for a client’s project implies the existence of other time slots that may already be filled with other projects, and reminding your clients that you have other commitments shows not only that other people trust and value you as an editor but also that they don’t have an unlimited claim on your time. You’re managing expectations before you even start a new project!

    To prompt the client to keep writing

    I’ve had clients thank me for getting in touch because they’d been neglecting their half-finished work-in-progress, and my email gave them the necessary nudge to get back into the writing habit. They completed their drafts, and I got repeat business - everybody wins!

    Two colleagues (one male-presenting and one female-presenting) give each other a high-five while smiling at each other. They are seated at a wooden table with a laptop, papers, mugs, water glasses, pens, and a phone on it.

    Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash

    Because it feels good

    We’re all human, and even the most introverted among us appreciate hearing from people we’ve had positive working relationships with. Our clients may be in different cities or countries from us, and often we don’t get to meet them in person; keeping in touch with them makes each client feel more like a human being and less like the other end of a business transaction.

    ​And the same is true from the client’s perspective. The independent author struggling to fit their work-in-progress around their day job and the rest of their life and the project editor at a publisher or other organization will see you as a collaborator and not just a wielder of a red pen.

    When should you check in with clients?

    I record when I last touched base with each of my clients in a spreadsheet, along with how many hours of work I’ve done for them and my income from them in the year to date. For my independent author clients, I like to email them every six months if I haven’t heard from them before then – most of them don’t write full time, and contacting them more often hasn’t been productive for me.

    The publishers and other organizations I work with are more likely to have a regular stream of work available, so I often email them every three months or on an ad hoc basis when I have an unexpected gap in my schedule or to let them know my availability for the summer or winter holidays.

    Consider who your clients are, what their writing schedules are like, and how often they are likely to have new projects for you, and build your client check-in schedule around these details.

    How do you keep in touch with your clients?

    What’s your client check-in routine? Scheduled like clockwork, or ad hoc when you’re less busy with other work? Let me know by leaving a comment, or connect with me on LinkedIn or Bluesky.

  • 17 May 2022 4:44 PM | Maya Berger (Administrator)

    CW: death of an extended family member; death of a pet

    This post took me a long time to write, and the thoughts in it are still a little unpolished, but it felt good to finally get it out of my drafts folder. Each person’s grief is unique, and we’ve all had more than our share of losses over the past few years. I don’t pretend that my losses are bigger than anyone else’s or give me special insight, but I’m sharing my thoughts in case someone finds them helpful.

    An out-of-focus photo of a sun setting behind mountains, with water reflecting the sun's rays

    Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

    Distractibility is a symptom of grief for which I was unprepared. The ability to focus on the nuances of the text in front of us is something that we editors pride ourselves on – and rely on to make a living – and it can be destabilizing to lose that ability, even for a day.

    During the past 14 months I suffered two personal losses, and I’ve often found myself sitting at my desk reading the same sentence over and over or stopping midway through writing an author query to doomscroll or check up on a family member or respond to someone kindly checking in on me.

    The fear spiral

    I’m hardly alone in being easily distracted these days, and I know this, but there’s a particular kind of spiralling fear that sets in when my powers of concentration go AWOL. It goes something like this:

    “I need to finish this project today so I can invoice for it and get paid next month and pay my bills and maybe a walk will clear my head but I don’t have time for a walk because I need to finish this project today and also the dishes need washing and also the world’s on fire and all I want to do is look at memes and OH YEAH, THE DEADLINE, and where did that last hour go, and now I’m further behind and my brain is so full that I can barely remember the plot of the book I’m editing and oh crap oh crap oh crap.”

    The fear spiral can lead to the disappointed-in-myself spiral (“I only managed two hours of work today, and that sucks”), and sometimes the grief-guilt counterspiral complicates matters (“Am I heartless for thinking about work at all right now?”), making it even harder to shift my focus back to my editing.

    It can feel almost callous to try to shut out everything else going on in our lives and in the world and turn our minds to fact-checking period-specific details in a historical novel or hunting down awkward line breaks on page proofs, but this is what editing and proofreading demand. Not 24/7, of course, but even a 20-minute pomodoro can feel like an eternity when it involves trying to shove aside texts, emails, an interesting article someone tweeted about, sadness, anger, strong memories, fading memories, and the sudden realization that someone important to me isn’t there anymore – a realization that is no less jarring the 20th time it hits me that day.

    Editorial assistants

    My grandmother died in March 2021. We were very close, and she was a university librarian and my professional inspiration. She was very active in her professional society, and she loved to hear about my experiences at CIEP meetings and conferences. Her death hit me with a sadness and an unexpected anger that exhausted me. I waited for that grief to move out of the acute stage, and it did, but another grief was waiting in the wings.

    In April 2022, I had to euthanize my cat after months and months of vet visits, expensive tests, and the thankless daily task of giving pills to a cat who’s in pain and trying to get her to eat when her liver is failing. I used to call her “Business Cat” and joke about how she needed the latest quarterly report on her desk by Monday, filed in triplicate. She loved to sit on the couch and listen attentively when I talked to anyone about a book I was editing or a new metric I was adding to my business admin spreadsheet.

    In their own ways, my grandmother and my cat both contributed to my work life, and I’m having to adjust to being an editor without their motivational boosts.

    Editing in a new context

    I’m not always patient with myself, but I’m trying to do better. I know that processing grief involves giving ourselves time and compassion so the grief can weave itself into the stories of our lives. It doesn’t go away; it becomes a part of our larger context, and a good editor knows that context is key to understanding. Maybe the knowledge of chronic myelomonocytic leukemia that I gained during my grandmother’s final year or everything I learned about the end stages of feline liver failure and cirrhosis will come in handy during an edit one day. But more fundamentally, loving, losing, and remembering loved ones will shape who I am as a person and an editorial professional, and I hope my experiences help me to approach authors and my colleagues with kindness and empathy whenever they need it. I think that would be a fitting tribute.

  • 2 Dec 2021 3:25 PM | Maya Berger (Administrator)

    In Part 4 of this series for new freelance editors, we’ll look at how to track the time and money you invest in your business: your business expenses and your marketing activities.

    Welcome to the rewarding world of freelance editing!

    With a little organization and planning, you can get as much satisfaction from quoting, invoicing, recording your expenses, analyzing your marketing efforts, and tracking your professional development as you do from editing or proofreading.

    An hourglass with pink sand in it inside a thick black frame, euro coins of various denominations, and a gold ring, all against a light grey background

    Photo by Ricardo Diaz on Unsplash

    Business expenses: don’t wait until tax time!

    As freelancers, we need to record our allowable business expenses so we can declare them on our tax forms. Your local tax authority will have information about how to file your taxes as a sole trader, and I recommend familiarizing yourself with their filing processes and their guidelines about what counts as an allowable expense as soon as possible if you haven’t already.
    For some of us, “doing my expenses” means one fun-filled day per year with a calculator, a shoebox of receipts and 365 days’ worth of bank statements. But why settle for only one day a year when you have an overview of what you’ve spent on your business when you could have that insight all the time?
    It may seem like a giant pain to get out that calculator and those receipts more often, but as I mentioned in Part 1 of this series, there are tools out there that can do the calculations for you, and you can start with a simple Excel spreadsheet listing:

    • each of your expenses;
    • the date when it was incurred;
    • how much it cost; and
    • the receipt format (e.g., printed receipt or credit card statement).

    Tracking your expenses throughout the year has other huge advantages. Not only will it tell you whether you can afford all of your planned expenses, it also helps you see what sorts of investments you’ve been prioritizing for your business and examine that alongside your project and efficiency data.

    A seated person's legs, wearing black trousers, are visible around an open folder containing tax forms, a pen and a calculator on a white, wooden floor. The person's left hand holds the folder.

    Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

    Keeping on top of your expenses can tell you whether those expenses are relevant to the work you’ve been doing, such as a course in a niche area of editing that you’d like to move into. And the sooner you notice a discrepancy between your working practices and your business spending, like buying a style guide that none of your clients follow, the sooner you can do something about it, like selling the style guide to a colleague or marketing yourself to clients who do follow it.

    Identify the best marketing activities for your freelance editorial business

    When you’re just starting out and establishing a client base, you might choose to advertise your services on every social media channel, author forum, and editor directory you can think of, as well as tapping into your existing network and cold-calling publishers and other prospective clients. Or you may be a more selective marketer, pursuing one avenue at a time and giving it your all. Wherever and however you market your editorial business, though, it’s important to keep records of your marketing efforts from day one. This will help you identify and prioritize the marketing activities that bring in your preferred clients and stop spending time and money on the ones that don’t.

    A close-up of a cell phone with Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn icons on the screen

    Photo by Hello I'm Nik on Unsplash

    When you’re self-employed, your staff consists of just you, and you only have so many hours in a day to advertise and market yourself, on top of all the editing, training, invoicing, emailing, tea-drinking and everything else a freelance editor does. We don’t have entire marketing departments dedicated to social media strategies or long ad campaigns, so identifying the marketing activities that pay off for you is essential.

    Where do I start?

    It’s ok to start small. I’d recommend writing down the details of each of your marketing avenues, including the name, audience, any costs involved and when you began marketing yourself there. Then, whenever a new potential client gets in touch, ask them how they heard about your services and record their answers. Gradually, you’ll build up a picture of which marketing activities are worth your continued investment. The marketing activities that are the sources of the most (or best) clients are the ones to stick with.

    My marketing strategies can evolve with my business

    Where to focus your marketing energy is a decision you’ll likely revisit throughout your freelancing life. The same strategies won’t work for everyone at every point in their careers. As a new freelancer, you may be relying on cold-emailing publishers that you want to work with, or taking on some volunteer editorial work, but before long you may have a bigger professional network of authors, businesses and fellow editors who send you work.

    A pie chart with income sources data from The Editor's Affairs (TEA)

    Income sources data in The Editor's Affairs (TEA)

    Keeping track of your source for each project you work on lets you spot patterns about where your work comes from. If you’ve been spending a lot of money on Google or Facebook ads, or a lot of time in online forums, but not seeing any paid work come in from them, you can pivot to focus your marketing in more lucrative directions. And if you start out by casting a wide net but then choose to work within a more specialized niche, you’ll already have some valuable data about what types of projects came in from your existing marketing activities.

    Bottom line: Tracking your expenses and marketing activities helps you connect the dots

    Business data is all about making connections between everything we do for our businesses. Tracking your expenses throughout the year keeps you accountable to yourself, keeps your spending in line with your business priorities, and keeps your accountant happy. And analyzing your marketing activities ensures you focus on the avenues that lead your dream clients and dream projects right to your door.

    More articles in this series

    Check out Part 1, which addresses the basics of business admin

    • what it includes,
    • why it’s crucial for the health of your business, and
    • how to start taking control of it.

    Check out Part 2, which addresses the “making money” aspects of business admin:

    • setting and enforcing fair and data-supported rates,
    • quoting with confidence, and
    • tracking your income.

    Check out Part 3, which addresses recording and analyzing the personal side of your business:

    • tracking your work-life balance, and
    • recording your continuing professional development (CPD) activities.
  • 29 Nov 2021 7:45 PM | Maya Berger (Administrator)

    In Part 3 of this series for new freelance editors, we’ll look at recording and analyzing the personal side of your business: tracking your work-life balance and your continuing professional development (CPD) activities.

    Welcome to the rewarding world of freelance editing!

    With a little organization and planning, you can get as much satisfaction from quoting, invoicing, recording your expenses, analyzing your marketing efforts, and tracking your professional development as you do from editing or 

    A female-presenting person sitting up in bed on a Macbook laptop. The room is dark, indicating that it is nighttime, with the only light coming from the laptop.

    Photo by Victoria Heath on Unsplash

    How can business admin help me maintain a good work-life balance?

    When you’re self-employed, you have the luxury of choosing your own working hours, but it’s amazing how quickly that sense of freedom can morph into pressure to work on evenings and weekends “just to get ahead for next week” or “just to catch up on some admin.” I’m as guilty of this as the next freelancer, and my best defense against overworking is – you guessed it – data.
    My “record and analyze” mantra means that I note every day off I give myself (whether they’re statutory holidays or not), and I keep track of all the paid and unpaid hours that I spend on editorial, admin, marketing, training, networking and other work-related activities. There’s nothing like a visual representation of my working hours piling up to force me into taking some downtime. I use the free version of Toggl Track to record the time I spend on each activity, but there are tons of digital tracking options out there (as well as good old pen and paper). Pick the one that works for you, and soon tracking your working time will be second nature to you.

    How can I track my CPD as a freelance editor?

    Some activities can blur the line between business and pleasure, and for many editors CPD falls into this category. As much fun as a course, a webinar, a networking event or an editing-related blog post can be, when we’re engaging with them we’re not switched off from work, and we’re constantly thinking about how to apply what we learn to our editorial businesses.

    Four people are seated round a white table in a conference room taking notes on laptops and on paper. A fifth person stands at a wall near the head of the table pointing to sticky notes on the wall.

    Photo by Jason Goodman on Unsplash

    That’s why it’s worth tracking the time and money you spend on CPD, and it’s important to choose your CPD activities as mindfully as you choose the projects you work on. Ideally, your CPD activities will be relevant to the work you’re doing already or the kind of work you intend to do – if they’re not, your CPD data can help you cut back on the learning activities that are more fun than fundamental to your business.

    And when you have a record of the time and money you spend on CPD activities that are core to your editing work, you can see the effects they have on your business in real time. If you track your CPD activities data alongside your editing speed and your project rates, you can see if a particular course has increased your words-per-hour speed or given you the confidence to negotiate higher project fees. Seeing the impact of your business decisions on your bottom line or the quality of your work can be a huge motivational boost, so I recommend getting into the habit from the beginning of your career!

    Bottom line: Business data helps you be your own dream boss

    As freelancers, we have to be our own bosses, and that includes keeping ourselves from burning out and keeping our CPD activities in line with our business practices and goals. For more on how to manage yourself as a self-employed editorial professional, check out my article “How to Be Your Own Boss as a Freelancer.”

    A mug on a wooden surface with a computer keyboard out of focus in the foreground. The mug says, "World's Best Boss."

    Photo by Pablo Varela on Unsplash

    Without solid data to guide your decision-making, you only have guesswork to rely on when planning next month’s workload or choosing which courses or conferences to invest in. You might end up agreeing to a client's impossible deadlines or overlooking the training that will benefit you the most. Recording and analyzing your working hours and CPD activities will help you run your editorial businesses strategically and with confidence.

    More articles in this series

    Check out Part 1, which addresses the basics of business admin

    • what it includes,
    • why it’s crucial for the health of your business, and
    • how to start taking control of it.

    Check out Part 2, which addresses the “making money” aspects of business admin:

    • setting and enforcing fair and data-supported rates,
    • quoting with confidence, and
    • tracking your income.

    Check out Part 4, which addresses tracking the time and money you invest in your business:

    • the business expenses you declare at tax time, and
    • your marketing activities.
  • 22 Nov 2021 7:32 PM | Maya Berger (Administrator)

    In Part 2 of this series for new freelance editors, we’ll cover the “making money” aspects of business admin: setting and enforcing fair and data-supported rates, quoting with confidence and tracking your income.

    Welcome to the rewarding world of freelance editing!

    With a little organization and planning, you can get as much satisfaction from quoting, invoicing, recording your expenses, analyzing your marketing efforts, and tracking your professional development as you do from editing or proofreading.

    Close-up of a calculator, five one-hundred-dollar bills, five small stacks of pennies, and a white pen, on a white and grey surface.

    Photo by Sasun Bughdaryan on Unsplash

    Setting rates and calculating quotes

    In your early days as a self-employed editor, you may be tempted to accept whatever rate a client offers – or even work for free – to build up experience. While each editor must decide for themselves what to charge for their work, it’s important to remember that you are an equal participant in any project negotiation, and your labour and your time have value even when you’re just starting out.

    With that in mind, I’d suggest asking yourself a few questions about how you currently quote—or how you'd like to quote, if you don't have much experience yet. There’s no one way to price a project, so think about what will work best for you:

    1. Do you have any “absolute” amounts?

    These are figures that you want to remain fixed, such as an hourly rate that you hope to earn or a minimum monthly income that you need to meet your living expenses, and they can be your anchors when you feel unsure of how much to charge for a job.

    2. How do you estimate your working speed for each project?

    Do you do a sample edit and then use it to extrapolate a words- or pages-per-hour working speed? Do you often have to take a guess at how long a project will take or accept a client’s timeline before you see the manuscript? With repeat clients, you can get to know their writing style and quality, and you may grow to feel confident quoting for their projects sight unseen, but many editors rely on seeing the manuscript and performing a sample edit (to share with the client or for their own reference) as the basis for their quoting.

    3. How do you come up with a per-project quote for your projects?

    You might, for example, multiply your desired hourly rate by the number of hours you estimate you’ll need to complete the project, or perhaps you quote purely based on the project’s word count.

    4. What role do your clients play in setting rates?

    Do you primarily work (or intend to work) with clients who set the budget for each project themselves, such as traditional publishers, hybrid publishers, or corporate clients? Or do you work more with clients who expect you to offer a quote, such as independent authors or academics?

    Two female-presenting people sitting next to each other, talking, in black office chairs at a large wooden table. One of them holds two thin books in their right hand, and there is also a laptop and a piece of paper on the table.

    Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash

    Don't worry if you don't have easy answers for these questions. Even experienced freelancers can struggle to quote consistently, and we all have to revisit these questions as we progress in our careers. But the more you drill down into how you want to calculate your rates, the more confident and efficient you’ll be when quoting.

    Income: Record everything

    Thinking about your rates and quoting processes is valuable, but writing down the details of every project you quote for – even the ones you don’t end up working on – is what gives you concrete data you can refer back to and learn from.

    Whether you’re using Excel or investing in online accounting software, for each project I’d suggest recording:

    • The amount you quoted, and the amount you agreed on (if you reached an agreement);
    • The project timeline;
    • The scope of the work (e.g., copyediting a 90,000-word crime novel); and
    • Any other information about the project that you’d find it helpful to analyze. 

    Editorial project data in The Editor's Affairs (TEA).

    Editorial project data in The Editor's Affairs (TEA)

    For the projects you didn’t end up working on, record the reason why (such as the client’s timeline being too short for what you felt the work required, or your rates being too high for the client’s budget). This can help you distinguish the clients you’d like another chance to work with from the ones who aren’t a good fit for your services.

    For the projects you did work on, make a note of when the invoices are due so you can chase any late ones, and record your payment dates to keep track of your monthly earnings for tax and personal budgeting purposes.

    This data is your foundation, and from it you can:

    • Generate summaries of how much you earn from each client or from each editorial service you provide;
    • Track what percentage of the quotes you provide result in paid work for you; and
    • Spot trends, such as more “yeses” from potential clients when you quote a per-word rate versus a per-hour rate.

    Bottom line: Mindful quoting and income tracking make empowered editors

    I hope you now feel more empowered by the options that open up to you once you quote mindfully and track your income consistently. You’ll be able to prioritize the projects and clients that serve the needs of your business, and you’ll be able to act quickly if problems like late invoices crop up. You’ll have greater control of your business, making informed decisions that set you up for success.

    More articles in this series

    Check out Part 1, which addresses the basics of business admin

    • what it includes,
    • why it’s crucial for the health of your business, and
    • how to start taking control of it.

    Check out Part 3, which addresses recording and analyzing the personal side of your business:

    • tracking your work-life balance, and
    • recording your continuing professional development (CPD) activities.

    Check out Part 4, which addresses tracking the time and money you invest in your business:

    • the business expenses you declare at tax time, and
    • your marketing activities.
  • 15 Nov 2021 5:41 PM | Maya Berger (Administrator)

    In Part 1 of this series for new freelance editors, we’ll cover the basics of business admin: what it includes, why it’s crucial for the health of your business, and how to start taking control of it.

    Welcome to the rewarding world of freelance editing!

    ​With a little organization and planning, you can get as much satisfaction from quoting, invoicing, recording your expenses, analyzing your marketing efforts, and tracking your professional development as you do from editing or proofreading.

    Over-the-shoulder view of a male-presenting person wearing a dress shirt and slacks, seated with right ankle crossed over left knee, looking at charts and graphs on a tablet and holding a stylus.

    Photo by Adeolu Eletu on Unsplash

    Why should I care about business admin as a freelance editor?

    Managing your rates, income, expenses, marketing, and continuing professional development (CPD) activities can feel daunting when you’re just getting your freelance career off the ground, but it’s vital for the health of your business.

    Neglecting the admin side of being a freelancer can have serious consequences. If you’re not tracking your business spending, whether your invoices are getting paid on time and in full, and whether your actual hourly rates are anywhere near your estimated ones, you might be earning less than you need to meet your expenses – and you’ll have no idea why. And if you aren’t tracking the time and money you spend on CPD and marketing alongside the projects you take on, you won’t know whether they’re helping you get the work you love at the rates you want.

    Keeping on top of your admin will give your editorial business the best possible chance to succeed. Tracking your business data helps you see the big picture for your business, make more informed decisions, and achieve your professional goals. Plus, colourful charts and graphs are fun to look at!

    Analyzing all the data you collect can also give you a motivational boost. Think of your business admin data as a record of all your goals and achievements – something that inspires you and fills you with professional pride. I still remember how good it felt to record my first client payment when I went freelance, and each time I mark a project “Complete” or an invoice as “Paid” in my admin spreadsheet, I feel that familiar little buzz.

    Where do I start?

    A female-presenting person wearing glasses, biting a pencil and looking stressed while seated in front of a laptop, looking at the screen. A mesh container of coloured pencils is out of focus in the foreground.

    Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

    I’d suggest starting with your values. This might seem like odd advice for dealing with cold, hard data, but one of the best things about working for yourself is the fact that your values and priorities guide every business decision you make. And that means they also determine which metrics and data points you monitor for your business.

    You don’t need an advanced accounting degree to keep track of how your business is doing – you just need to focus on what’s most important to you by setting some professional goals. They can be short-term (such as completing a course) or longer-term (such as supporting yourself solely through fiction editing within three years). If you’ve already started getting some paid work, think about the work you’re currently doing, the clients you’re doing it for, and how it’s helping you reach your goals.

    If you value financial security above all else, you could start tracking your hourly rates and whether your clients offer you steady work. If you require defined project scopes and predictable payment schedules, you might want to brainstorm ways to market yourself to traditional publishers and record which of those marketing endeavours lead to the most work from them. If your goal is become a more efficient proofreader, you might find it helpful to record your estimated and actual proofreading speed for each project and then track that data alongside any proofreading or efficiency training you complete. It all comes down to what’s important to you and your business.

    Where do I record all my editorial business data?

    Once you have some ideas about the kinds of business admin data you want to monitor, invest a little time and energy in deciding how you’re going to track and analyze that data. This initial setup can involve creating your own business data spreadsheet template into which you can plug the details of each project and transaction, along with formulas to generate monthly summaries, annual expense totals, and other calculations. Or, if that’s not your idea of a fun afternoon, you can eliminate set-up stress and invest in a ready-made system where the structure and formulas have been created for you.

    Excel spreadsheet templates, like the ones in my business data system, The Editor's Affairs (TEA), remain local on your computer, so there’s no risk of anyone else seeing your data. You can also opt for online accounting software, like QuickBooks, Wave or Sage. Whatever option you choose, once you have your system set up, the day-to-day calculations will be minimal or nonexistent.

    A screen shot of a TEA spreadsheet showing project due dates, dates paid, payment status and job notes.

    Editorial project data in The Editor's Affairs (TEA)

    Bottom line: Business admin is essential for freelance editors

    Tracking your income, expenses, project info, and client details is a necessary part of being self-employed. There’s no getting around it, so my advice is to find an approach that works for you and use the data that you track to celebrate your professional wins. If you’re looking for a little extra push to get you started, check out my article on Making Time for Admin in your Editing Workday

    Recording the details of how you landed your first paid editorial job, seeing that you achieved your desired hourly rate on a challenging project, and watching your words-per-hour speed increase over time are powerful motivators, and business admin is the key to it all.

    More articles in this series

    Check out Part 2, which addresses the “making money” aspects of business admin:

    • setting and enforcing fair and data-supported rates,
    • quoting with confidence, and
    • tracking your income.

    Check out Part 3, which addresses recording and analyzing the personal side of your business:

    • tracking your work-life balance, and
    • recording your continuing professional development (CPD) activities.

    Check out Part 4, which addresses tracking the time and money you invest in your business:

    • the business expenses you declare at tax time, and
    • your marketing activities.

  • 25 Aug 2020 2:32 PM | Maya Berger (Administrator)

    As editorial freelancers, we're encouraged to monitor "success metrics" such as income, client feedback, and editing efficiency, but does the wellbeing of one's business always translate to personal job satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment, and a healthy work-life balance? If we had bosses, it would be part of their job to check in with us about these things; since we work for ourselves, that responsibility – and that power – rests with us.

    A piece of paper with a stylish marbled background and the word "empower" written on it, a pen, and a smartphone with the calculator app open.

    Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

    The following suggestions helped me transition from working in-house, where I not only had a line manager but also managed my own team of editors, to working for myself alone. If you're anything like me, you may find an extra layer of structure and accountability keeps you focused and motivated when the going gets tough.

    Keep track of your holidays and sick days

    If you tend to take very few sick days and vacation days (or none at all), recognize that you’re not a machine and we all need a break now and then. Even if you’re worried about the loss of income from the days you’re not working, bear in mind that ignoring the need for time off can have a big impact on your physical and mental health and affect your ability to work at all. With some advance planning, you can take short breaks that won’t hit your bottom line too hard in any given month, and you can start saving to cover the cost of not working during illnesses and longer vacations.
    Conversely, if you've taken a lot of sick days lately for stress or fatigue you're certainly not alone. Maintaining your normal workload may not always be possible if you're dealing with public health concerns, caring responsibilities, isolation or any number of other stressors. As well as being mindful of these factors, it's worth asking yourself whether your working practices give you a healthy work-life balance or contribute to your risk of burnout. Perhaps there are simple improvements you can make, such as enforcing your working hours and stopping yourself from answering work emails or phone calls outside those hours.

    A good boss knows that employees don't have the ability or motivation to perform at their best when they're overworked, so ask yourself whether your working practices would seem exploitative if they were imposed on you by an employer.

    Raise your rates regularly

    Look at your income as an annual salary, and increase it periodically in line with cost-of-living increases and your growing expertise.
    For freelancers, increasing your rates involves more than simply allocating yourself more money. You will need to let each of your clients know about your higher rates, either as part of the negotiation for your next project with them or in a separate email.
    If you worry that you'll struggle to justify higher rates to any of your clients (or even to yourself), arm yourself with as much supporting data as possible. I use The Editor's Affairs (TEA) system of Excel spreadsheets to record and analyze my working practices, and that gives me answers to the following questions any time I need them:

    • What are your current rates, and how do they compare with industry standard rates?
    • Are your current rates in line with the cost of living where you live?
    • How long have you maintained your current rates?
    • Has your editing/proofreading speed improved since you last raised your rates?
    • Have you invested in macros, software or other tools that increased your efficiency since you last raised your rates?
    • What continuing professional development have you completed since you last raised your rates?

    A good boss would consider all these factors as part of an annual salary review, and they're just as relevant for freelancers when we set our rates.

    Conduct annual performance reviews

    Reviewing your performance on a regular basis can work wonders for a freelancer's motivation and sense of professionalism. I find it especially empowering because I'm performing according to standards and priorities that I set for myself rather than ones imposed on me by an employer. If I want to expand my business or change direction, the only approval I need is my own.

    Set and review your editorial goals

    Perhaps you have your heart set on getting onto a specific publisher's freelance roster, or you may want to branch out into plain-language editing or PDF proofreading. Being accountable to yourself can help motivate you when you're tempted to put off training or marketing efforts.

    Set and review your business development goals

    • What does your ideal project look like, in terms of text type, style, length and time frame, and how can you attract more projects like it?

    • What is your ideal client like? Are they an indie author, a business, an NGO, a packager or a traditional publisher, and how can you make sure they know of your existence?

    Reflect on the projects you completed and the clients you interacted with

    • Were you working in your preferred genres, disciplines or industries? For the projects you worked on in other areas, are there enough incentives (such as supportive project managers, good rates or flexible deadlines) for you to accept similar work in the future?

    • Did you and the client both have a clear understanding of the scope and process from the outset? If there were any misunderstandings, what lessons can you take away from them?

    The boss you always wished for

    A close up of a mug with "World's Best Boss" written on it.

    Photo by Pablo Varela on Unsplash

    As a freelancer, you may have joked on occasion that your boss is a real tyrant. I know I have – and sometimes I push myself so hard that it feels true. But more often I'm grateful that I get to work for someone who respects my contribution to the editing industry and whose work ethic and vision inspire me every day. Isn't it time we celebrated the boss in each of us?

  • 21 Apr 2020 2:50 PM | Maya Berger (Administrator)

    We are editors, not accountants or administrators. Our job satisfaction primarily comes from helping authors deliver their messages to their readers as clearly as possible, not from crunching numbers. And I doubt many freelance editors started their own businesses simply for the joy of budgeting and tracking their allowable expenses.

    An open notebook, USB stick, pen, pencil, calculator, and apple, all on a dark wooden surface

    Photo by Iryna Tysiak on Unsplash

    With all the spinning plates that editing and proofreading involve – plus the other responsibilities we have in our everyday lives – keeping on top of your business affairs might not be your highest priority.

    Running a business is tough, and I'm not here to wag a disapproving finger or put pressure on anyone who lets their admin slide a little. But if you're looking to get organized with your business data and add regular admin check-ins to your working life, the tips in this article can help you cut through the barriers that may be holding you back.

    I have no time for admin in a full day of editorial work

    Thinking ahead can be a real advantage here. If you’re not already including admin time when you quote for a project and plan out your working day, you’re telling your client (and yourself) that invoicing, responding to emails, monitoring your editing speed as you go, flagging any major problems early on, and all the other responsibilities under the “admin” umbrella aren’t valuable. And that’s simply not true.

    These tasks aren’t just extras that you can squeeze into an already full day; if the admin doesn’t get done, projects fall apart, clients are dissatisfied and you don’t get repeat business. Building in admin hours to each one of your project quotes – the number of admin hours will depend on the complexity of the project and your knowledge of the client – will ensure the editorial work doesn’t eat up all of your time.

    And chances are that by investing in your admin, you’ll be less tired and rushed while doing your editing work, because you’ll be more knowledgeable about your editing speeds for different types of projects and you’ll have identified the clients who offer fair rates and manageable turnaround times.

    Admin is boring

    Recognizing the importance of admin work to your business can in itself make the admin seem more interesting, but there’s also nothing wrong with making an effort to jazz it up a bit.

    Colourful column headings for income invoiced and income received in various currencies, from The Editor's Affairs (TEA) Income and Expenses spreadsheet

    Colourful column headings from The Editor's Affairs (TEA) Income and Expenses spreadsheet

    I find that colours motivate me and brighten my mood, and my Excel spreadsheets are no exception! My income from Canadian clients is highlighted in one colour and my income from British clients in another, and I even have cells that turn red to alert me when a client is late paying an invoice.

    Think of your business data as a record of all your achievements, something to look at to inspire you and fill you with professional pride. Feel free to add little motivational notes in your private files, and celebrate milestones such as upping your hourly rate, getting a new client, or increasing your working speed.

    In the end, you may have to accept that checking in with the financial side of your business is boring but necessary. My good friend and fellow editor Janet MacMillan has a saying about an editor’s need to stay on top of copyright rules: “Better bored than sued.” A similar principle applies to the admin side of your business:

    “Better bored than barely afloat.”

    If you’re not on top of your business spending, whether your invoices are getting paid on time and in full, and whether your actual hourly rate is anywhere near your estimated one, you might be earning less than you need to meet your expenses – and you’ll have no idea why. Tracking that data will put your business in the best position to succeed.

    I can't cope with all the calculations

    A silhouette of a person writing equations on a whiteboard

    Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

    Getting organized and investing a little time and energy in deciding how you’re going to track and analyze your business data will save you hours with a calculator down the road. This initial set-up can involve creating your own business metadata templates where you can plug in the details of each project and transaction. Or, if that’s not your idea of a fun afternoon, invest in a ready-made system where the structure and formulas have been created for you. Once you have your system set up, the day-to-day calculations will be minimal or nonexistent.

    That initial set-up investment will also pay dividends during tax season. Just think of how much less stressful it will be –for you and your accountant – if you have all your income and expenses details ready when it comes time to file your taxes.

    My business is too new / too established to track

    If you don’t have a regular roster of clients and paid projects yet, your priorities may be courses, marketing, networking and volunteer editorial work. You may think that you don’t have enough business data to record and analyze. Similarly, if you have steady paid work coming in, it’s easy to make that the only priority in your working hours. And if you haven’t run into any issues with your clients, then tracking who they are, how long it takes you to complete their projects, and what percentage of your income you receive from them can feel unnecessary.

    I encourage you to challenge both of these assumptions. Failing to keep up with your financial affairs can have major consequences for the health of your business, and this is true whether you’re new to freelancing and struggling to get your first clients or whether your business has been going strong for decades.

    If you’re new to freelance editing, it’s worth recording how much time you spend on each of your marketing endeavours and how much work they bring in. If you’re doing some work, whether paid or volunteer, tracking your editing/proofreading speed will help you quote more accurately for projects in the future.

    And if you’ve been in the biz for many years, you may have been relying too heavily on ongoing work from a single client and failing to reach out to other clients or invest in marketing; you may have fallen behind with your continuing professional development in the areas of knowledge that bring you the most work; or you may have lost track of when you last raised your rates.

    Final thoughts

    I hope this article has helped you understand why having regularly updated admin data all in one place will save you time and mental energy down the line. It can motivate you to celebrate business wins, and tracking your data can be as simple as picking a system and then plugging your income and expenses into it. Most importantly, embracing the admin side of freelance life will empower you to keep your editorial business healthy and strong.

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