Freelance Indexing Info

Subject: Freelance Indexing Info
From: Lori Lathrop <76620 -dot- 456 -at- COMPUSERVE -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 16 Feb 1994 20:55:33 EST

I received an e-mail message from someone today, requesting information on
how to get started as a freelance indexer. In case there are others out
there with the same questions, I'm forwarding my reply to TECHWR-L:


(1) What kind of training to you need to be an indexer?

Some indexers are self-taught, and others have had formal training.
BTW, I offer two-day Indexing Skills Workshop, and I have presented
it to several software development companies and technical
communicators around the country. Please let me know if you want
more info on it.

If you are looking for good books on indexing, I would recommend
INDEXING A TO Z by Hans Wellisch and INDEXING BOOKS by Nancy Mulvany;
however, neither of these books focuses specifically on indexing
technical documentation.

(2) Is it something that can be done in one's spare time?

Yes, it is possible to do indexing on a part-time basis. In fact,
that's how most professional indexers get started.

(3) How does one get started in the business?

First, learn all you can about indexing and practice your skills.
One way to practice is by indexing books that do not already have
indexes. Or, if they do have indexes, don't look at the published
index until after you have developed your own; then compare yours
to the published version. BTW, just because an index is published
doesn't necessarily mean that it's good!

Another recommendation: Join the American Society of Indexers
(P.O. Box 386, Aransas, TX 78373 / (512)749-4052). The fee for
membership is just $50 per year, and their monthly newsletter,
KeyWords, is excellent.

(4) What is the sort of pay one gets by indexing?

You won't get rich as a freelance indexer. However, indexing
technical documentation for software development companies pays
better than indexing non-fiction texts for publishing houses. A
recent survey showed that rates ranged from $18 to #26 per hour
for indexing technical documentation. In comparison, the average
rate paid by a publishing house was considerably lower, about $15
per hour. However, most freelance indexers do not generally charge
by the hour when dealing with publishing hosues. Most indexers
charge either by the page or by the number of index entries. It is
not unusual for a publishing house to set the fee. For example,
an editor might say, "It is a 225-page scholarly manuscript on
comparitive world religions. We can pay you $400 for an index with
a maximum of 983 entries, which contain no more than 22 characters
per line." BTW, that's why I *much* prefer developing indexes for
technical documentation; there isn't generally a limitation on the
size of the index, which is one of the factors in the *quality* of
the index ... and the pay is much better.

BTW, editors at publishing houses usually want to see samples of
your work before contracting your services. If you are just
starting out as a freelancer, you may create an example that
demonstrates your abilities. Take your time to develop an index
for a book of your choice. If the book already has a published
index and the index you create is better, you can show both
versions to the editor. If the book does not have an index, you
may be able to show the editor how much an index would improve the
books usability.

Another option is for the publisher to send you sample chapters
of a new book that already has an index and ask you to create an
index for those chapters. A word of caution: be aware that some
publishers may use this technique to obtain free services. In my
experience, I do not know of any publisher who has done this, but
I have heard about the possibility from other indexers.

I hope this has answered your questions. If you need more info, please
don't hesitate to ask.

Lori Lathrop --------------> INTERNET:76620 -dot- 456 -at- compuserve -dot- com
Lathrop Media Services
P.O. Box 808
Georgetown, CO 80444

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