In my eternal quest for new projects and clients, I came across two opportunities last week that appeared promising. The first was right up my alley, ghostwriting a fantasy romance novel. Then came the details. The second was for a “position” as a freelance editor for a company that offers ghostwriting and manuscript editing services. Then came the details.

First, the fantasy romance novel. Here are the parameters: 90,000 words delivered in 30 days. The posted budget is $40, although the buyer does request bidders insert what they’d really charge. There are several issues with the solicitation, not the least of which is delivering 90,000 words within 30 days. December has 23 weekdays. If I worked on nothing but that project, I’d expect to put in 12 hours and 45 minutes every weekday on it. For $40. I can’t think of anyone who would do that. I’d rather give my work away for free … oh, wait, I’ve done that. (If you’ve been paying attention to this blog and taking advantage of the Book of the Month promotions, then you know this.)

Anyway, I responded to the post in the (faint) hope that the buyer could be educated. That seldom works. Usually, I get no response whatsoever. Occasionally, I get a rude reply basically stating that my rates are unseemly and exorbitant–no one’s worth that much! Regardless, I stated in my bid that the project would take several months to complete and I entered my fee, considerably more than $40.

Let’s not forget to mention that the platform on which this magnificent project was posted skims 20% of vendor earnings and then charges another $1 to transfer earned funds to the vendor’s bank account. Therefore, the oh-so-generous, posted fee of $40 would net the vendor $31 before taxes.

Second, the editing gig (see image below). A platform which shall remain unnamed but isn’t Fiverr, Guru, or Upwork, offers ghostwriting and manuscript editing services. That’s their specialty. They pay freelance contractors a flat rate of $5 per 1,000 words to edit (and $15 per 1,000 words to write). Well, in comparison with the above gig, that doesn’t seem so bad, does it?

There is no standard average for editing speed, but the unofficial rule of thumb is 1,500 words per hour. Some editors are faster, some slower. The quality of the manuscript affects speed a great deal. Some documents need more intensive editing which takes longer; some need less intensive editing which takes less time. Let’s assume a 20,000-word novella lands on my desk. Without even looking at the quality of the written material, I calculate an initial estimate that this project will take around 13 hours and 20 minutes for which I would be paid $100 or, roughly, $7.50 per hour.

Now look at the scope of work under “Fiction Copyeditor tasks.” That’s a lot of skill and expertise to expect for 25 cents more per hour than federal minimum wage ($7.25/hour). If fast food workers can demand and get twice that for the work they do, then why should a skilled professional accept less?

When someone wants to hire a ghostwriter or editor, there’s often an element of sticker shock that accompanies the fees quoted. Of course, the buyer wants to pay as little as possible. Of course, the vendor wants to earn as much as possible. There’s a happy medium where both compromise. That’s where I set my rates. I won’t get rich on those rates, but they establish me as a professional who commands professional rates.