Every so often I post about unreasonable expectations held by potential clients who want to hire professional writers and editors for paltry wages. Their requirements differ, some more interested in quantity than quality; however, none offer what could even remotely be considered a professional wage commensurate with the professional service they demand.

You’ll notice a theme here: the word professional.

Here’s one I just found: I would love a romance book 50,000 words, $48 budget, Deadline 5 Days. Only apply if you can complete this within the time and budget and kindly don’t waste my time if you have a problem with the budget and deadline.”

The buyer then provides a plot summary that I’m not going to comment on and ends with this: “If you can complete this properly I have 200 more stories to write and have to submit them by this year and I am not a story writer so I need someone’s help to complete this. The budget will be double if your writing will be accepted by my boss.”

As I’ve done before, let’s break down the project to get a good understanding of what this will entail:

  1. Time: At an average content production rate of 3 hours and 15 minutes per 1,000 words, this project will take approximately 162-1/2 hours. Sure some writers write more quickly and others more slowly, but this is just an average.
  2. Deadline: A deadline of five days has a maximum of 120 hours from the minute of hire, so this means that the writer will have to produce 1,250 words of content per hour if she wants to put in a standard 40-hour week. That doesn’t leave much time for research, review, self-editing, or revision.
  3. Compensation: Since this solicitation was made through a freelance platform that skims 20% of vendor earnings, the fee earned would be $38.40 for 40 hours of work or a grand wage of $0.32 per hour.

Now, assuming the writer does an incredible job and gets the contract to produce 200 more books at one per week, that’s nearly four years of steady work at $38.40 per 40-hour week producing 1,250 words per hour eight hours every weekday. That works out to a 4-year salary of $7,680.

I enjoy long-term clients and projects as much as anyone, but this is insane and entirely unreasonable.

I bring this issue up, because it’s not just outrageous bid requests like that which have me shaking my head in disgust. Many authors, especially new authors, fail to understand that professional services deserve and command professional fees. On Facebook, one author complained that she paid her editor $1,000 to edit her novel and the published book received criticism regarding errors.

There’s a whole host of misunderstanding going into that, not the least of which are a mismatch between her expectations and the service received and the cost of editing. Sure, $1,000 is a tidy chunk of money, especially when you’re thinking of plonking it down on a hope and prayer. However, your conviction that your story will be the next breakout despite a limited budget, bestselling novel doesn’t justify stiffing a professional editor of fair compensation.

Most editors base their fees on two basic factors: the length (word count) of the manuscript and the depth of editing required. Longer length and deeper editing both require more of the editor’s time. That’s one reason why editors appreciate authors who do their very best to make their manuscripts as good as they can before submitting them for editing.

If you really want to get a good feel for what you should be paying when you hire a ghostwriter or editor, check out the rate guideline published by the Editorial Freelancers Association. Then start saving up, because professional service doesn’t come cheaply, nor should you expect it to.