Strategies for Editors to Find Work

Reviewing Our Survival Strategies: Finding Work

Moderated by Hilary Powers
Notes by Gail Saari
January 20, 2004

We began our roundtable discussion sharing strategies, problems, and solutions. Some ideas were discussed as follows:

How to Generate Business

Show your face periodically by dropping in for short visits with past clients.

Update your portfolio, taking advantage of the most appropriate technologies. Not only does this serve to present your work in the best light, it also demonstrates your abilities with the relevant technologies such as Adobe PDF documents, Web sites, and CDs.

In the age of word-processed resumes, it is recommended that each resume sent be unique to the particular client solicited and that your skills and experience be expressed to emphasize a close fit to the client's particular needs. Look at the Editorial Freelancers Association Web site ( for examples of how resumes are done.

Some members have found work through employment agencies and job boards such as Thinknicity (, Techprose (, the Society for Technical Communication (, Editcetera (, Bookbuilders West (, and the International Association of Business Communicators (

Taking classes with organizations like Editcetera and UC Extension is an excellent way to make contact with people in the business as well as to hone skills. Editcetera, by the way, has begun offering some of its excellent editorial courses online.

Discussion participants expressed interest in finding corporate work, because business clients generally pay better than publishers, non-profits, and their ilk. To find corporations with information departments, keep an eye on the business sections of the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Jose Mercury News. You can subscribe to job lists with BAEF and the East Bay Editors' Guild ( Keep a running list or database of corporations with documentation departments and, if possible, the name of the communications director.

Contacts can be made through Chambers of Commerce and various business associations. The Bay Area Business Women (, a free publication, contains a comprehensive listing of business leads and networking groups.

Another lucrative niche is the writing and editing of prospectuses and fund raising case statements for charitable and research non-profits. A rate of $125 per hour was mentioned -- premium rates paid because of the nature of the target audience (possible contributors and funding agencies) and the nature of the finished product, typically a high-quality, printed document.

Journals, not notably lucrative, can often provide interesting work and impressive credentials. You can start by getting small jobs, and even if this is done as volunteer work (for free, in other words), you don't need to mention that.

A lot of people supplement editorial income with transcription, word processing, database entry, writing, and other services.

Negotiating Rates

Begin by asking the client what his or her budget for the project is. It helps to know what the client is working with and whether he or she is looking for a light, medium, or heavy copyedit (see the definitions on the BAEF Web site).

Editors quote rates in terms of time, number of words, or number of pages. Page rates can vary widely depending on the nature of the client and the nature of the work, with $5.00 to $10.00 per page considered acceptable. When charging by number of hours estimated, many editors offer to cap their total at a specified upper amount.

Often editors and their clients agree on a price for editing one chapter. After submitting the completed work on one chapter along with an estimate for the whole job, both the editor and the client have a chance to review the editorial approach taken as well as the budget, preventing misunderstandings.

Under no circumstances, said Powers, should you feel obligated to let your client know how long, exactly, it has taken you to do their job.

Discussing whether to charge for printing out manuscripts, one copyeditor said that she charges ten cents per page for the cost of cartridge ink, paper, and her time. Others build the cost into their regular hourly or per word rate. Travel is usually charged as an extra expense.


You always think that this is the last client you'll ever have. Beware of the WEWA (will I ever work again) syndrome.

The first telephone call is the hardest.

No client lasts forever; life is change.



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