For several years, I worked very part-time as a freelance copy editor on foreign-language college textbooks. It didn’t pay much, but it was interesting, and besides, I just love making sure that commas are in the right place, and ensuring that if a photo caption says that Juan and Miguel are sitting by a fountain, the photo shows two guys and water. I’ve also done translation from Italian to English, and had a few interpreting jobs (once in a courtroom, which was fascinating).
So when I’m thinking of ways to earn a bit of money after next May 11, these writing-related activities occur to me.
The major problem is—how do I decide what to charge?
I’ve read a lot of articles on charging for freelance writing, and I just can’t wrap my mind around the most common advice: Figure out how much you need to earn, divide that by how many hours you’re going to work, and then set that as your hourly rate.
Huh? How do I know how many hours I’m going to work? Forty a week is unrealistic; if I were going to do that, I might as well stay in my teaching job and get health insurance and an IT department that will fix my computer when it seizes up. Ten hours? Twenty? And just because I want to work X number of hours, I have no idea if I actually will.
A fee per word is unrealistic too. A word of legalese takes much longer to translate than a word in an instruction manual. Sometimes you don’t know until you get into something how difficult it will be.
And as for how much I need to earn—I suppose I could come up with a minimum, but who wants to earn their minimum?
Some professional organizations publish recommended fees, but often you have to belong to the organization in order to get access to those lists. I can’t afford the dues for all of them, and anyway, the range of fees is huge. Where do I fit?
So, those of you who do this—how do you decide what to ask? How much negotiating are you open to?