A new freelancer who is transitioning from work-for-hire to freelance copyediting asked how I recommended quoting a copyediting job. Until recently, she's worked with a single employer, with a predictable level of editing to be done for each project, but as a freelancer, she's starting to see a much wider variety of projects come across her desk. She had just quoted a job without seeing the potential client's work, but she'd no sooner hit "send," than she had second thoughts about the wisdom of doing this. I have changed the actual dollar amounts and altered a few details for privacy. Her question:
A potential client just e-mailed, requesting a quote for editing about 50 short stories. I'm afraid I may've blundered, though. I told him $50 each for editing, $75 each for editing plus proofreading. Are those figures laughably low? I just realized I'd quoted a price without knowing how much work the client has, or knowing how badly it may be written. How do you quote a job?
My answer: Your figures don't sound bad, though sight unseen is always risky. I suggest asking to see a sample of his work before offering a firm quote next time. Here's my method: When I receive the initial request for a quote, I send back a brief e-mail containing the following elements:
- A courteous "thank you" for the opportunity to quote
- Inquiry as to the client's goal for the piece (traditional publication, self-publication, personal satisfaction, etc.) and level of editing desired
- Request for a representative sample of the work (two chapters, three short stories, ten pages, a back issue of a newsletter, etc.)
- Statement of how quickly I can respond with a quote after receiving the samples
After looking over the samples and the client's goals for the document, I prepare a quote, following these steps:
- First, edit a defined portion of the sample material to the client's specifications
- Time how long how long it takes to edit the selection and divide by the number of pages to get the average time per page.
- Multiply this figure by the total number of words or pages in the project
- Multiply the product by my hourly rate
- Add 10%, and that is the estimate.
In short: Calculate editing time per page x number of pages x hourly rate + 10% = quote.
Although it could have turned out differently, this story has a happy ending. Our editor felt that she needed to request a sample before signing a contract in order to make sure that her quote was realistic. She wrote a tactful and businesslike e-mail to the client, who responded with samples, and was agreeable to a slightly higher quote than her initial estimate. She was lucky this time, and next time, she'll definitely remember to ask for a sample before quoting!