Your first few jobs as an editor can feel daunting and you may have questions about how best to tackle the initial paperwork so that the project starts without a hitch. Below are six tips to help you to quote efficiently and make sure that the client’s and the editor’s expectations are aligned.

1. Have a clear brief brief icon

Make sure you have a clear brief from the client about what is required. It can be useful to begin by booking a call to discuss the author’s needs and then follow up with an email to confirm what was agreed on. You’ll need to know if the writing is complete and ready for editing, the length of the manuscript and what level of intervention the author would prefer.


2. Ask for a sample

Don’t be pressurised into giving a verbal estimate of the cost before you’ve seen a large sample of the text – preferably the whole manuscript. Although the client may ask for a proofread, the manuscript may actually need both restructuring and extensive editing to make it suitable for the intended audience. You can only assess this once you’ve seen the entire manuscript.


3. Calculate a project quote calculate icon

Calculate a project quote based on word count. For example, a 45 000-word manuscript @ R0.26/word = R11 700. This way, the client knows upfront what the total cost will be and you’re not under pressure to work at a consistent speed and track every hour accurately to the last minute.


4. Add on a few extra days

When calculating the return date, add on a few extra days in case you’re slower than you estimated or you have an unforeseen delay. Often the first few chapters of a book are well-polished, but the text may need more editing further on. More time also allows you to do an extra revision or ask for advice from your PEG colleagues if you need assistance.


5. Provide a formal written quotation

Now you have everything you need to provide a formal written quotation. It should be clear what your services include, how long you need and any exclusions (for example, if you don’t do any fact-checking). If the author accepts the quotation, provide them with a contract covering what was listed in your formal quotation and include your payment terms and bank details. I suggest requesting 50% payment upfront and the balance on completion.


6. Calculate your editing speed

Use your first few projects to calculate your editing speed. Don’t forget to include the time needed for admin and checking resources. Calculating your editing speed gives you important data to help you streamline your processes and schedule your workload in future.


Following these practical steps before you start editing means that the client will know exactly what they’ll be paying for, and the editor is able to set their own terms. Both parties have a clear understanding of what the project will entail. With these legalities out of the way, the real work of editing can begin.


Photo credits: Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels; icons made by Freepik from

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of PEG.

About Tracy Buenk

Tracy Buenk specialises in memoir and fiction. She has worked with writers from many different countries and cultures, and embraces her role in guiding them towards the most engaging way to share their stories.

About PEG

The Professional Editors’ Guild (PEG) is a non-profit company (NPC) in South Africa. Since moving to online activities in March 2020, PEG has been able to offer members across South Africa, and internationally, access to an extensive online webinar programme. Continuing professional development remains a key offering and the first PEG Accreditation Test was administered in August 2020 to benchmark excellence in the field of editing.