We are a nation where a stiff upper lip prevails. Often, rather than voice discontent, we mentally scuff our toes in the sand, hat in hand and look at the floor, mumbling.
We don’t like to complain, even when things become slightly uncomfortable.
Compensation culture is threatening to undermine society and as recession has us down, then up, then down again, many people are frightened of rocking the boat.
This also applies when it comes to business. The cost of living is going up, savings are a thing of the past and the bills come in thick and fast whether you’ve had a good month or not. Freelances all over the country are feeling the squeeze and are often the last in line to command a fair deal.
It’s difficult to increase your prices when everyone else is having the same problem… but low pay and tight deadlines can lead to anxiety, depression and low self-esteem.
Add to that social isolation and you have a ticking time bomb.
If you have a good relationship with your client it makes communication so much easier when the uncomfortable side of freelancing rears its ugly head. If you can talk to your client, it’s easier to say so when their demands become too much. Unfortunately many clients don’t understand how editors and proofreaders work, so when they come back after negotiation and say ‘… oh and I want you to fact check and sort out the references to make sure they’re all correct’ they may genuinely not realise that this adds hours and hours onto a project. Checking just one reference for correct title, authors and publication dates can easily add on half an hour, especially if it is a rare or specialist text which has been misquoted. What they don’t realise is that by not paying for your time appropriately it can push your hourly rate down to the minimum wage as quickly as you can say Pubmed.
So, in an ideal world, before you take on a project, make a note of the following, and make sure the client agrees:
- Scope of project. What you are expected to do… not just ‘general edit’ or ‘general proofread’ What is expected by one client will be an added extra for another. Make a note of everything your client wants you to do, repeat it to them, and let them know that anything extra will mean a redefinition of fees.
- Make sure the client knows what they are asking for. A proofread is different from a proof-edit, is different from an edit, is different from a developmental edit. Clients all have their own terminology, if theirs doesn’t fit in with yours tell them. The only way clients will begin to understand how we work is if you tell them. If a client wants you to tidy up the final proofs of a tome, complete with reformatting and heavy grammar correction, let them know it’s not a proofread but is entering editing territory. Be nice and polite, but let them know… after all if they aren’t trained to edit and proofread they may genuinely not know the difference.
- If you are being asked to do more than is usual for a project, make sure to let the client know that you will need more time. Sometimes deadlines are tight, but if they want a job doing well they should understand… or lighten the load.
Talking money can be difficult, embarrassing and just downright scary. Publishers may be aware of the difficulties and are unable to budge, or they may just fire off requests and forget how long these extras take and how much they eat into your hourly rate. Self-publishers and corporate clients may genuinely not have a clue about the editorial process at all. Effective communication is the only way to make sure that everyone is happy… and that includes having a happy freelance who can afford to pay their bills at the end of the day.
So what happens when you explain everything but the client still won’t budge on price or time? You need to ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I really want or need this job?
If things are tight you may have to accept and put it down to experience and paying that huge utility bill. In this case remember it’s a short term thing and try not to let it get you down… but make a note of the job for future reference.
If things aren’t that tight, consider walking away. Is it really worth the stress?
- Would this job be good for my portfolio?
If it’s a subject that interests you or for a prestigious client you may consider taking the job, after all if you’ve done it once you can do it again… on your terms.
- Would this showcase my talents to a new client?
Look at the project as a long-term thing. Once the client sees how fabulous you are they may come back for more work, again on your terms.
- Would I learn something new?
If you get the chance to use a new skill then it may be worth your while taking the project on… but only if you know you will not be burning the midnight oil trying to figure out a new system.
So, while the recession continues to bite there are a few ways to make work more effective without pushing up your daily rates. By educating clients, and communicating with them, it may be possible to avoid the situation of too much work for too little payment or time, or alternatively you can look at the added value for you and your portfolio.
Perhaps it’s time to stop scuffing our feet in the sand and look our clients right in the eye.