Another spin-off: where to find writing jobs that are NOT IT related?

Subject: Another spin-off: where to find writing jobs that are NOT IT related?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 09 Jun 2005 09:54:40 -0400

Kevin wondered about my response: <<I'm sure it works, or you wouldn't be here telling us about it.>>

Indeed. In my first year of freelancing, I earned something like 2/3 my wage slave salary, and this year I'm on track for matching my salary. It's letting me freelance quite comfortably, though I'm still trying to get past the "Oh my God! I've got so much work" phase to the "Thank God! I've got so much work" phase. <g>

<<Certainly you widen your potential customer base when you go after the individual writers/researchers (who are many), rather than just the publishing companies (relatively far fewer).>>

The publishing companies have no money, and pay less. Go after the individuals and the companies who employ them. (Government clients can also be very lucrative.) The downside is that you end up with 100 clients instead of one or two big ones, and sometimes they all want a piece of you simultaneously. And there's much more overhead printing up 100 invoices and holding 100 pairs of hands instead of only one or two. But it's a good living once you find your niche.

<<My question is whether the targets are individually rich enough.>>

Depends on the targets. Tenured professors and other senior researchers unquestionably have research budgets that will cover your costs, and they're happy to do so... even though I charge a premium rate. Grad students and researchers in the developing world don't have much money; the former can sometimes get their prof to pay, but when they can't, both these groups are a low-payoff clientele. I do some work for them pro bono, but pass on other clients to colleagues who need the work and charge less.

I do a lot of work for Chinese clients for half my usual rate both because it's semi-pro bono work and because I expect to be earning a lot more per hour once China floats the RMB ("real soon now", I'm told). I do some work for students at half price because they'll eventually grow up, get a real job, and become clients at full price. It's called investing in my future.

<<I don't know many budding authors, and almost none in technical and scientific fields>>

The thing to remember about scientists is that they must publish or perish... literally. It's a condition for getting tenure and promotions. So they have to work hard, particularly in their early careers, to publish journal articles. Anyone who can help them do this... An economist colleague demonstrated that researchers can spend something like 25% of the money they get from a grant simply paying back the time they lost in writing the grant. That's a no-brainer when it comes to reminding a scientist they'd rather be in the lab than writing grants (and a great "prove your worth" proposition).

Details: McKenney, D.W. 1994. On the cost of chasing research dollars. Can. J. Agric. Econ. 42:105-112.

<<... my impression is that most unpublished authors don't have a lot of money to throw at major editing and re-writes>>

Very true in the popular press (e.g., popular science books, novels), but I'm not talking about them: I'm talking about researchers, most of whom are well-funded and very happy to find help getting published. You can make a decent living editing for book publishers, but not nearly as good a living as if you work directly with well-funded authors.

<<So, what kind of money would a body make from editing/re-writing a hefty technical paper/article that was poorly written by an ESL author?>>

I'm not spilling any state secrets when I report that my standard rate is C$60/hour (or a comparable rate when I work per word); this information is freely available in the "standard terms" brochure I send to all my clients.

I could almost certainly charge more, and may soon try raising my rates slightly to see whether I can lower my workload <g>. But please note that I'm a specialist, with very few people who can do my job; other editors charge much less. In more rarefied fields (e.g., medical writing and editing), C$80 is not unheard of. I imagine that U.S. rates in high-rent areas like Silicon Valley are even higher, but the cost of living here in Montreal is unbelievably low compared with most parts of the developed world, even after allowing for taxes.

And for French translation of the kinds of things for which translation memory and MT isn't useful (i.e., very little reuse of phrases), I can earn an embarrasingly higher rate. I charge by the word, but produce a great many words per hour, so...

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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
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RE: Another spin-off: where to find writing jobs that are NOT IT related?: From: mlist

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