Running Editing Businesses with Data: An interview with Maya Berger

To wrap up the year, the West Coast Editor chatted with Maya Berger about TEA, a data analysis tool she developed for tracking business progress. Maya shares the story behind this tool and how editors can use it. Maya is January’s seminar facilitator. 

WC: Thank you for taking the time to chat with us today. Can you share a little about yourself and what inspires the work you do?

I’m Maya Berger, an editor, a proofreader, a business admin educator, and an unapologetic Excel fan. I worked as an editor and editorial manager in the higher education publishing sector for over 10 years before deciding to start my own editorial business, What I Mean to Say, in 2016. I love helping authors get their meanings across and working with them to remove any barriers to clear communication.

Being self-employed and managing a range of projects, client relationships, invoicing procedures, marketing strategies, and continuing professional development has shown me the value of data, scalability, and process in keeping my business healthy. With data analysis, results spur further results, and I can see at a glance which strategies have been successful and which ones need a rethink. I want to share these insights with other editors, helping them run their businesses more confidently and efficiently.

WC: You created The Editor’s Affairs (TEA) to help editors “capture, report and analyze” business data. Can you share the story behind this? 

I initially created TEA for myself when I left my salaried job and went freelance. I did it to keep track of my project details and income and expenses and remind myself that my business’s direction is under my control (And because I love spreadsheets!).

The more I talked to other self-employed editors about their businesses, the more I felt that TEA could be useful for them too. In May 2020, I launched the Standard TEA package, which consists of an income and expense spreadsheet with built-in formulas, a detailed guide to using the spreadsheet, and a project timesheet template for recording progress on editorial projects. It was also important to me to make TEA customizable to fit each editor’s business and professional goals.

Since then, I’ve continued learning about editors’ business administration needs and how Excel’s functionality can meet them. I’ll be introducing TEA Expertise business administration consultations in 2023, and I hope to deliver more workshops as well, so stay tuned!

WC: TEA sounds quite mathematical with its promise of analyzed data, automated calculations, and accounting. Do you have a background in business analysis or accounting, or are you just an Excel genius? 🙂

Haha! “Genius” is a strong word, but I’ve always had an affinity for logic and formulas, and my previous work experience built on that.

Before becoming a freelancer, I spent nearly a decade managing a team of editors working on various projects for a higher education publisher. As part of my management training, I completed an Excel course that covered basic formulas and creating summaries and charts, and I also learned about Excel from colleagues in the finance, IT, and sales departments. I became very familiar with Excel by creating weekly team schedules, monthly reports, project budgets and timelines, and salary-increase proposals.

While TEA data can be an essential part of a freelance editor’s accounting or business forecasting, I am not an accountant, nor is TEA meant to replace dedicated accounting software. The TEA calculations are primarily designed to assist editors in tracking their personal metrics toward their business goals.

WC: What top three things would you tell editors as they look forward to 2023?

a) Make time for administration

This includes billing administration time in your project quotes. Invoicing, logging project details, responding to queries, and all the non-editing work we do for our clients are just as important as editing or proofreading, so they shouldn’t be an afterthought. If we don’t quote for projects (or evaluate the quotes clients offer us), we can’t reach agreements and start working on projects; and if we don’t send invoices, we don’t get paid. Administration is essential.

b) Practice, practice, practice!

I know this sounds like advice on getting into Julliard, but it’s advice that we can all adopt into our working routines. Each day is an opportunity to practice our craft, and each day we learn something new about editing, language, and running our businesses. Each day is also an opportunity to practice self-care and set realistic goals, striving for excellence without demanding perfection of ourselves.

c) Prioritize 

Because there’s always something new to learn, it‘s easy to feel burnt-out taking on too much continuing professional development—enrolling in too many courses and buying too many books—and completing too many jobs at the same time. Let’s face it—that TBR (to-be-read) pile never really gets smaller, so it’s ok to take a step back and focus on a few things (or even just one thing) at a time. Ask yourself which activities are central to your personal and professional goals, and let that be your guide! 

Image copyright: phittavas/123rf.COM


Maya Berger (she/her) launched The Editor’s Affairs (TEA) in May 2020 to help fellow freelance editors manage their business affairs. She has presented on Excel and business data at recent Editors Canada, CIEP, ACES, and IPEd annual conferences as well as for SENSE, and she appeared as a guest on The Editing Podcast to speak about editing erotica. Maya edits and proofreads speculative fiction, erotica, and academic texts in the humanities and social sciences. After spending 13 years in the UK, Maya moved back to Canada in 2017 and currently lives in Toronto. She is a CIEP Advanced Professional Member.

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