Hourly editing help?
February 3, 2011 8:02 AM   Subscribe

Another "what do I charge" question, magazine editor edition.

Suddenly, it seems likely I'm going to be offered a job editing a magazine. 50,000-circulation and geared toward sufferers of a particular illness. It's a quarterly publication and I would be considered a freelancer, and part-time (several very busy months and a few crazy weeks per year). I have a lot of experience editing and writing and some supervisory experience, too, though I've never had this particular job title before. I would be responsible for working with writers, developing stories, shepherding drafts into final submissions, etc. I'm excited about this! But what does it pay?

What should I expect to be offered? What should I expect to make? I'm doing some freelance, low-level copy editing now (low level as in I report to someone who reports to someone else) and I am getting about $35 an hour. What should I expect to earn here? Sometimes I think $50 an hour sounds reasonable, sometimes it sounds like a bargain; I can't decide.

Any thoughts? Thanks for the anonymity, I'm trying to be discreet. Thanks.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like this is going to take up enough of your time that it could strongly interfere with your ability to do other work, but it won't be full-time. So a very important question becomes, how many hours will it turn out to be? You need to charge enough to cover for your inability to take another job that would overlap with those "very busy months."
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:14 AM on February 3, 2011

From another anonymous user of MeFi:
I edit a niche-market quarterly with about a 250k circulation, along with three special issues per year, act as talent in affinity video content, produce an event, and a whole bunch of other things. I make just shy of $35/hour, salaried with benefits. When we've had freelancers in comparable positions without benefits, I think they made more like $40 or $45 an hour.

My company is not based on a coast, so salaries are in general lower, but publishing is not exactly an industry flush with money. This may be different for you if you're actually working for a larger organization with more cash, rather than a publishing company per se, but I think based on your current earnings $50 an hour sounds about right.
posted by mathowie at 8:16 AM on February 3, 2011

There's a self link in my profile to a piece I wrote on calculating fees. But I also work in freelance magazine world, so I can shed some light there.

$35 an hour is what I would expect for someone lower level. I was charging that fresh out of college and quickly pushed it up to $65/hr. I then pursued more specialized areas, but my friends in publishing (Canadian, which can be moe underpaid) are making up to $65/hr for editing. So I would think that something in the $50 range should be attainable, depending on the market conditions where you are. I make a lot more than that, but I charge a solution-based rate.

You may want to look at solution-oriented fees, depending on the nature of your work. A package price or retainer may be the way to go. There's some risk in that, so you could also build in a blend of rates.
posted by acoutu at 9:40 AM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

I was aware that magazine publishers had pretty much converted all copy and research editor as well as most of the associate and assistant editor positions to freelance positions, but this is the first time I'm seeing what looks like a full editor position not be a full-time salaried employee. I suppose it makes more sense for a quarterly.

Really as much for your employers sake, I would recommend that you negotiate a fixed per-project rate for each issue instead of having you bill by the hour. As you get closer to closing the book each quarter, there's going to be an insane week or two of working pretty much around the clock. You don't want your employer getting squirrelly about the hours you're working and trying to get you to be "more efficient" when you need to be worrying about getting the magazine to bed. There are a lot of built-in systematic inefficiences when closing the book - time spent waiting for research and then copy to get drafts back to you, waiting for the writer to get back to you about a missing attribution, waiting for art to show you a mock up, fighting with art over whether they can increase the word count for a page. If you're an articles editor, you're the final arbiter of each successive step along the way.

Being a full editor requires taking on ownership of the magazine's content, and keeping working at it until you're proud of it. If you work an hourly rate, I'd be worried about times when you're put in a dilemma of either having to work off the clock to get the copy up to your expectations or putting out a book you're not happy with.

My suggestion would be to find out what an editor at a monthly (or 10 issues a year) would make in your area, and divide it by three, and then add in a little to make up for the lack of benefits and steady paycheck, and then ask to be paid a quarter of that for each issue.
posted by patnasty at 10:01 AM on February 3, 2011

The Editorial Freelancers Association rate chart might help you here.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:54 PM on February 3, 2011

My company refers to the EFA rate chart mentioned by Sidhedevil (I work for a nonprofit where we maintain our own "fee schedule" based on information from freelancers' organizations) and pay our best copy editor, who is a treasure (I mean it, Deborah; you're the best!) US$60 per hour. We have scads of proofreaders who make about US$40 an hour.

These are all contractors. The company prides itself on staying lean and mean (emphasis on mean), so all editorial jobs, even the ones requiring more advanced story-development work are outsourced. I'm speaking solely as a member of the Publication division. The Marketing folks have their own deal. I hear they've gotten pretty stingy paying their freelancers, so their writers get paid like US$30 for the hour.

To more directly answer your question, I believe $50/hr is a bargain. But your prospective employer may be seeking a top-shelf managing editor at a thrifty price. Best of luck to you.
posted by S'Tella Fabula at 1:46 PM on February 3, 2011

« Older Sparky woodstove   |   Help! I'm Alive. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.