The first thing I did on joining the EFA, after setting up my member profile, was join the Discussion List (DL). I was eager to learn from and get to know my peers here because a variety of online groups have been invaluable to me over the years. I’ve learned, felt supported, and (I hope) helped others—wonderful people I’d never have been able to connect with in person. As Chicago style guru and author Carol Saller says about online editorial communities, “Even if you get conflicting answers, odds are it will at least help you articulate the issue. And at least you won’t feel alone.” (What a relief to know I’m not the only one who has badly underestimated a project—and how gratifying to be able to pay forward what I learned from that experience!)

Of course, EFA and DL members aren’t just copyeditors. The DL is open to all EFA members, so every imaginable aspect of word- and book-related work seems to come up, and it’s open only to EFA members, so discussion topics are focused on the work we do and how we do it (with an occasional bit of fluff under the #CHAT hashtag). Whatever our professional specialty may be, we all face the same issues of finding work, marketing our services, managing our time and relationships with clients, wrangling sometimes recalcitrant tech, setting rates, getting paid, commiserating over missteps, and celebrating successes. 

For this post, I planned to compile a “top ten” list of Discussion List advice, but the things that come up range from highly specific (how to set up Excel to automatically convert a time such as one hour and fifteen minutes to a decimal such as 1.25) to tricky issues where a variety of potential solutions are offered. A search of the DL archives for the phrase “Can anyone recommend” turns up nearly 200 queries, including: 

  • … software or other tools to create maps?
  • … useful e-commerce platforms [for selling a workbook]?
  • … a style reference source [specifically pertaining to the liquor industry]?
  • … a good blue blocker screen for my 27-inch monitor?
  • … some good resources on writing effective marketing copy?
  • … an accounting program that is user-friendly for authors, editors, and other freelancers?
  • … a printer in the US that’s high quality and reasonably priced?
  • … a publication that you think might be a good fit for an essay like this?
  • … an online biographical dictionary?
  • … a bar code generator?
  • … an online style sheet or an ebook glossary of medical terms?
  • … an online plagiarism checker?
  • … a short, digestible reference on design principles for digital publishing?

—and well over a hundred more, all with multiple responses offering useful suggestions and links to references, resources, and software. It would be impossible to pick just ten! 

As a diverse group of professionals, DL members do tend towards consensus on some matters, especially business best practices. Here are a few of my favorites on the frequent topic of pricing and setting rates:

  • In contracts, proposals, or estimates, always specify what’s included in your fee and what isn’t. Make it clear that any work that falls outside the defined scope will require an additional agreement and payment.
  • Try package or tiered pricing, so prospective clients can choose the level of service that suits their budget.
  • Don’t sell short your own value and time to match a client’s budget. If a prospect balks at your fee, instead of lowering your price for the same work, offer a reduced level of services for the lower rate. 
  • If you want to post your rates, you can show them as a range. With the low end a bit less than the lowest rate you’ve charged for that service, and the high end a bit more than the most you’ve charged, you have leeway for any projects that may take less or more time than similar past projects. ​
  • If no one balks at your fees, they’re too low. If everyone does, they’re too high. 

The full Discussion List guidelines and directions for how to sign up and log in are on the Discussion List page on the EFA website. If you’re leery of the time it might take to read all those emails, never fear! There are several options for receiving and viewing messages and following or muting topics, so you can easily set up your account however works best for you, including just popping in online when you have a minute, or a pressing question.

The Discussion List Community Manager team, which I chair, strives to ensure that it offers a safe and collegial environment where everyone can learn and contribute. It’s a great place for professional development, support, collaboration, and brainstorming, and all EFA members are welcome to participate. However, slightly more than half are not currently subscribed. Why not take advantage of the opportunity to share your expertise, learn things that can help you be a smarter editor and business owner, and get to know your colleagues better? I hope you’ll join the discussion!

Jean Gazis, Discussion List Chairperson
EFA Board of Governors

Office Closed Monday April 8.

The EFA Offices will be closed Monday, April 8, 2024. We will reopen on Tuesday, April 9. Job postings, discussion list subscriptions, and other customer service requests may not be responded to until then.

Solar eclipse