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Business Admin for New Freelance Editors, Part 2: How do I track my project rates, quotes, and income?

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.

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