In this article I’m going to share my learning points from a job I’ve recently done, copy-typing a manuscript which had originally been typewritten. In this case, it had the added complications of having hand-written alterations and corrections made to the typescript, all of which had to be taken into account. Here’s what I learned, but first a quick round-up of what copy-typing actually is.
What is copy-typing?
Copy-typing means creating a Word document (usually) out of a document which is not editable in Word. This might be handwritten notes in a notebook, notes made during meetings on large sheets of paper, typescripts or PDFs that it’s not possible to convert using Optical Character Recognition.
What format do copy-typing jobs come in?
The copy-typing jobs that I have done have come in PDF format or sets of images. I’ve worked with photographed hand-written notes and in the latest case, a set of pages that had originally been typed out on a typewriter, then amended by hand, then, a long time afterwards, scanned and put into one big PDF.
You might also copy-type hand-written or typed documents on their original paper (if this is the case, do invest in a document stand). You could also receive a scanned or printed copy of a word-processed document where the original has been lost and only the printed pages are available!
It is possible to convert PDFs of type-written or word-processed script into Word documents using Optical Character recognition.
Why is this not used instead of paying someone to type out every sheet by hand?
- Even if you have the document converted, some errors are bound to creep in (ever read a Kindle book that’s been scanned in and notice weird spellings or gaps in words?). So someone will still need to proof-read the resulting text to check it is the same as the original.
- Some PDFs are simply not suitable for conversion – the pages may have copied dark, there may be all sorts of annotations and scribblings on the typescript which will confuse the convertor, there might be speckles, blotches and rings of coffee on the typescript, or the type itself might be fuzzy and indistinct.
How do you charge for copy-typing?
It’s difficult to charge a per-word rate for copy-typing because you cannot know how many words the original has.An hourly rate often works well, as this can also take into account any indistinct pages or sections, adding in annotations, etc. none of which would be covered by a per-word rate.
I tend to charge for copy-typing on an hourly basis, although this does have the disadvantage that you don’t know exactly how long the job is going to take so how much it will cost.
In order to quote either a fair (to you and the client) per-word rate or to estimate how many hours a job will take, I recommend doing a test copy-type.
When doing a test copy-type, I will typically spend an hour on a representative sample of pages from the document (usually the most complex and wordy pages, so I over-estimate how long it will take, rather than under-estimating). I will see how many pages I can type out during that hour, then divide the total number of pages by that number to see how long it will take (for example, with my last job, I managed four pages in the hour, so if the document had 60 pages, I knew it would take me around 15 hours. This gave me a ball-park figure of 40 hours for the whole job. I did it in 39 and felt quite smug).
Of course, as with all jobs, if it looks like you are going to go significantly over your original estimate, work out why (had the client only sent you a few pages, and the others had more text or alterations?) and warn your client in good time.
In this article we’ve reminded ourselves what professional copy-typing is, looked at what formats copy-typing jobs can come in and discussed why sometimes conversion from PDF to Word isn’t a viable option. I’ve also given some suggestions on how to price copy-typing. In the next article, you’ll find hints and tips for the actual process.
Other relevant articles on this blog
Copy-typing hints and tips 2: how do I do the actual work?