This article appeared under the same heading in PEGboard July 2018.
Time | Quality | Price
Prompt delivery (time), excellent standards (quality) and affordability (price). As editors, this is what we want to deliver and it’s what clients of editing services should expect. I’ve heard it said that most skilled editors can offer all three but, more frequently, can only deliver on two. And that’s perfectly reasonable in an editing context; we know clients want work produced quickly but affordably and, preferably, to the highest possible standard. How then do editors who offer quality and meet deadlines decide on their rates?
A skilled editor will assess the time needed to deliver work after initial contact with a client. Light editing requires fewer changes and less time. Heavy editing demands more time and back-and-forth communication between authors and editors to approve changes in content, structure, organisation and flow.
It goes without saying that the amount of editing needed will have an impact on the time required to complete the job. Clients must be realistic about what they need edited and by when. We must be able to accurately estimate what can be achieved within specified time frames. Too little time to complete a task could compromise quality, while requesting extended time may mean negotiating a slightly lower rate. Similarly, meeting acceptable standards within a tight deadline (time-sensitive work) comes at a higher price (to the pocket and the editor).
I believe the standard of an editor’s work relies on three things: inherent skill or aptitude, formal training and a commitment to the profession. As we know, editing practice in South Africa has yet to be regulated and many of us have found our way into this field indirectly, for example, through jobs that required ‘informal’ glances at written material, or work as educators that led to assisting students. Others of us are trained language practitioners, journalists or writers who have extended our skills to include editing.
Most editors complete some formal training in editing to support a natural flair for playing with words – especially words others have written. Our membership with a professional organisation makes sure we know how language conventions change and that we employ best practice in our field.
High standards in editing are best supported through ongoing education and the development of professional skills and knowledge. Sharing this expertise with our clients builds trust, develops a good reputation and maintains our credibility as editors.
Clients want the best service at the lowest price; editors want to earn what is fair. Editing rates vary tremendously, as do clients’ needs, but professional organisations have established trends in pricing that can guide us on what to charge for specific services.
Price should remain relative to skill, knowledge and confidence as well as to the time required to complete a task. Editors must juggle these factors to strike a balance that is both reasonable and comfortable (or unreasonable but worth it for a step in the door or cash in the hand).
If we wish to deliver all three, time, quality and price have to work in unison. This may not be so easy and the reason for this is simple:
- Quick turnaround at a good price may lead to delivering less than was bargained for (time + price > quality).
- Quality work on time should carry a higher rate (quality + time < price).
- An affordable rate and quality work needs sufficient time (price + quality < time).
All in all, it is possible to deliver all three, but only by being fair to each measure and fair to ourselves.