How I Know You’re Undercharging Without Asking What You Charge

It’s very common for newer editors to LOVE IT love it love it when they start booking clients far in advance. It’s March and they’re booked through to September! That is fantastic news, isn’t it? They know they’ll have money coming in for the next six months and they can breathe a sigh of relief.

Right?

I have some bad news for you.

If you’re a freelance editor booking six or more months in advance – and by that I mean every work day is scheduled for client work between now and then, not that a client has asked for a slot six months from now – you are almost certainly undercharging.

Same point, but in a different way: I have never met an editor who was fully booked more than six months in advance who wasn’t undercharging.

Now, I’m sure this unicorn exists! The person who is so in demand that clients will pay top dollar for their edits and wait in line for a year. Undoubtedly there are some freelancers working right now who are in that sweet spot.

But it’s not most of us. It’s not even very many of us.

When editors hire me to coach them, we almost always talk about money because this is the number one issue that freelancers deal with. It is constant and it doesn’t end. What I can tell you (and what I tell them) after more than twenty years of freelancing is that this concern never goes away entirely. The temptation to book far in advance is strong because it assuages the fear that there won’t be enough money.

But the better way to ensure there will be enough money is to charge enough money. Naturally this will lead to a decline in bookings as you won’t match as many potential clients’ budgets. That’s all right. You don’t need to be booked six months out. You can be booked three months out but making more money. You’ll still be fine—in fact, you’ll be better off.

  • You shouldn’t be getting every job you quote for. You shouldn’t even be getting most of them.
  • Booking fewer months in advance gives flexibility – to take time off if needed, to raise your rates or change other procedures, even to nurture a good long-term, ongoing client.
  • Clients drop out when booked too far in advance. They forget, switch gears, or find someone else who can do it sooner.
  • It encourages you to put off marketing, which is something you should always be doing, even when you have clients, because this is how you get more/better/bigger clients.

There’s probably a little bit of ego involved when a freelancer books far in advance; it feels like bragging rights (“Look at me! I’m so in demand that I’m booked through to September!”). But don’t let fear or ego get in the way of making good decisions about how much to charge.

Beginning Developmental Editing for Fiction starts January 9, 2023

how to become a developmental editor

Intermediate Developmental Editing for Fiction starts February 6, 2023

how to become a developmental editor

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