METM09 panel discussion

The dynamics of pricing editing jobs

Felicity Neilson, coordinator — Matrix Consultants, France

Now that the dust is settling on the initial global village communication boom, more attention is being paid to the quality of the final published text. Guidelines and recommendations abound and scholarly journals typically recommend that articles written by non-native authors be edited before submission. As language specialists, you have no doubt already been solicited for this type of service.

This panel sets out to explore the ins and outs of pricing editing jobs. Two main schools of thought prevail: by the word or by the hour. As for most good things in life there are pros and cons to both approaches. How can one portray transparency when quoting an hourly rate to a new client? When does the “hour” actually start? And finish? Is it fair to charge by the word when faced with such a variety of complexity, original text quality and author expectations?

And beyond these considerations, we need to define what we mean by “editing”. The job for most of us often comes in as “English” editing but what lurks beneath this seemingly innocent request? How does the client know what to expect? Should we flag up various grades/depths of editing (standard, in-depth, prime...)? Can one job carry two pricing techniques?

The members of this panel have kindly agreed to bare their souls and reveal their secrets. Each of us will give an overview of what works for us and why. Those of you who are thinking of moving into this area, from either a translator’s or language trainer’s position, will pick up some practical tips to help get started. And for those of you who know what we're talking about because you've also been grappling with these issues, your input will be more than welcome.


Felicity Neilson (coordinator) lives in France and is an international communications specialist in the biosciences. Her background as a science graduate coupled with professional experience in communication skills and training has led to a wide scope of interest in this field. She runs Matrix Consultants, a small Paris-based network, offering language focused services in the pharmaceutical and medical sectors in France. Their activities include training, coaching, technical translations, medical writing and interpreting.

Tom O'Boyle is a freelance translator, editor and language facilitator based in Madrid. His MA, from the University of Salford, is in Translating and Interpreting. He works exclusively in the biomedical sector, providing communications services to both the public and private sectors. .

Mary Shaffer moved to France in 1991 after obtaining degrees from the University of Virginia and Johns Hopkins University, as well as studying and working in Italy. Following three years at ESIT (Ecole Supérieure d'Interprétation et de Traduction) in Paris, she worked for one of the big five accounting firms before transferring to a scientific communications agency as manager of English-language writing projects. Since 2006 she has been a freelance translator, interpreter, writer and editor. She specializes in the fields of healthcare, the environment and general science.

Alan Lounds is head of the Language Advisory Unit at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya. The services provided by the Unit include translation of institutional and academic documents, provision of language support services and editing of research articles. Alan's responsibilities include procurement and quality control of editing services for academics working in a wide range of fields. He also has 20 years' experience as a freelance editor and translator for direct clients. .