You’ve got a dilemma.
You have a project, there’s a budget, it’s quite small, but you need the job doing properly. What do you do?
Does this sound familiar…
- You get your copy written – a book (that took months of your life), a journal (that you hope to get out on time), an academic paper (that you hope gets accepted), a business brochure (to impress potential clients)… *insert wordy creation of your choice here*
- You realise, your line manager or your publisher tells you, that you need to hire an editor / proofreader / indexer.
- You don’t have a clue where to find one, then after finding a suitable pool of talent (the SfEP or the Society of Indexers, for example) you approach people for a quote.
- You sit back and wait for the quotes to roll in…
- Then accept the lowest quote and relax.
That’s all well and good, but how do you know that you are getting the best for your money? Are you going for the cheapest rather than the best or most appropriate?
There’s an old adage that you get what you pay for. But when money is tight why should you fork out when someone else is quoting a pound a page?
Well… I certainly couldn’t work for a pound a page.
The fact is, different jobs need different skills and when you are looking for someone to work on your material you should take the time to make sure that they are trained for the job, and are using their skills in a way best suited to your needs. For example… are you hiring an editor or someone who will just “style” your document in Word, quickly run a spell check over your document and charge you for the privilege? Are you hiring a trained proofreader or someone who will just pick out the odd spelling mistake?
You wouldn’t trust your children with an untrained childminder, or take your car to an unqualified mechanic would you? Why should your publications or business documentation be any different?
I’m not saying that the cheapest won’t necessarily be fit for your purpose, sometimes it is, but when thinking things through, once the quotes have come in, keep the following in mind:
How many pages does your document consist of and what type of work needs to be done on it?
If your book comes to 200 pages and you are offered a quote of £200 look closely at how many pages per hour that may work out at… to edit a book at 10 pages an hour (remember, that’s one page every 6 minutes) is only feasible if the edit is really light or the work is nearly perfect. Take time to really think through what needs to be done. Keep in mind that although the book is 200 pages there may be time to add on for admin / time for the editor to ask questions and get them sorted out etc.
How much training has the editor / proofreader / indexer had?
You will be hiring a trained professional, can they give you evidence of their training? I’m not saying that you should ask to see their certificates, but never be afraid to ask what their qualifications are. Are they members of a professional society?
Don’t be afraid to take on newly qualified professionals.
They may have just qualified, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t good. They may have oodles of experience in your subject field, but have just started to diversify. This doesn’t mean they will be cheap, but they may be slightly cheaper. Everyone needs to build up their portfolio.
Does the editor / proofreader / indexer understand your subject?
While you are paying for a professional to work on your stuff, make sure they understand your subject. If you find that the quote seems on the cheap side, and your work is academic in nature, or not for general readership, it may be that they are not a subject specialist.
You will pay more for a specialist. However, if you are prepared to hire someone with less experience in your field you may be able to negotiate a cheaper rate. I’m not saying hire an geography major to edit your highly technical physics academic paper, but if the work isn’t too technical someone who is less of a specialist may quote slightly cheaper for you.
Don’t be afraid to ask.
If a quote comes back high, ask what is included. Are you paying for a specialist, a different level of editing (what you think needs doing may not be what the professional editor sees as needing doing), or is there a tight deadline?
If the quote comes through low, again ask. It may be that the editor / indexer / proofreader really likes your work and wants to be part of it, may be building their portfolio, can fit it in easily with their schedule or is a “whizz at this type of thing”. They may even have misquoted (it happens sometimes), or may have no qualifications at all.
In these days of no money, we all have to be careful. But it also true, that you get what you pay for. If a quote seems too good to be true, then it probably is. But if you find that the perfect fit for your project is just outside of your budget, why not ask?
You get what you pay for, but there’s also the old saying… “don’t ask, don’t get”