Unfortunately, the arena that may most interest some freelance editors but that consistently pays low rates and even angles for lower rates is academic publishing. University presses historically have had little funding and thus very small budgets, which means they pay very low rates to freelancers. If academic book and journal manuscripts are your focus, then, you're going to earn very little. As the saying goes, you can't get blood from a turnip.
There is no shame in pulling in low fees if you do it for love of the material you edit. But if money is a problem, you'll have to decide which is more important to you: working on materials that you love—but earning very little because that's what that kind of work pays—or being able to command higher fees, even if the topics that you edit aren't perhaps your first love. If you decide that you want to go where the money is, you can do either of two things:
- Look for arenas that pay more and that don't require you to earn additional degrees or certifications, such as business-to-business materials, web-site copy, public-relations materials, books and articles published outside academia.
- Do some research to find a potentially interesting and higher-paying niche that requires more training ... and then invest time and money in getting that training, additional degree(s), or certification.
It's like the situation my husband, a cabinetmaker, faces: He'd love to not have to travel much and work on cabinetry only for nearby folks, but if he did, he'd go out of business for lack of funds. Most of the local folks are members of the middle class and can't and won't pay much at all for his services. So he travels a bit more to go out to Long Island's Hamptons, home to many extremely wealthy people who want all sorts of unheard-of things done with cabinetry and will pay whatever they have to to get those things. He's chosen his market, and it's not the penny-pinching middle class.
Have you put thought into finding a higher-paying clientele?
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