The Monthly Q&A: Joely Taylor

Joely Taylor is a Melbourne-based freelance editor, writer and publisher. Her business, Well Writ, was started in 2010 as an exit strategy from her imminently redundant scientific career. Joely edits mainly scientific, technical and academic texts but enjoys the occasional educational textbook as well. Joely started her micropublishing imprint, Billycan Press, in late 2014 as a means of taking her clients’ work through to publication. She’s written and self-published two books since starting her publishing business.

How has your month been?

Over the past month I’ve done some editing for a research organisation and I’ve also edited a report for a consultant whom I work with on a regular basis. I’ve been involved with the IPEd Accreditation Board and I’ve also spent a lot of time marketing my new book and calling libraries to make sure that they know about it. Over the past few months all of my spare time went towards studying for the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences (BELS) exam, which was held in Brisbane in August. I received my official results last week and can now add the postnominal ELS (Editor in the Life Sciences) to my name.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?

My biggest challenge is negotiating contracts with big publishers, especially contracts with indemnity clauses that make me feel uncomfortable. Aside from that, probably finding the time to do all I want to do professionally and striking a balance between editing (for the income) and writing and publishing (for very, very little income)!

What do you love most about your work?

I love the variety of work that I do and the challenges presented by each of my roles. I can be editing a journal paper one day, smiling into a camera the next while marketing my book, or maybe sitting with a potential publishing client talking about their project and what they hope to achieve by publishing a book. I’m also a bit of a control freak and love editing because I can control every word on the page and ‘try’ to make it perfect. Editing means I can get those control freak urges out at work and be a much more laid-back person with my family and friends.

How did you get here?

As mentioned in my bio, I came to editing through my scientific career. I was always the one the team asked to proofread a journal paper or report because I was the one who always noticed discrepancies between numbers in the text and in the tables. While still working as a scientist by day, by night I slowly morphed into a real, trained and accredited editor. I enrolled in RMIT’s Graduate Diploma in Editing and Publishing and took on freelance editing work in the evenings. I studied for, and passed, the IPEd accreditation exam. Just before I completed the course at RMIT I was made redundant from CSIRO and so completed my transformation into a full-time, freelance editor.

What is your average weekly workload? Does it vary throughout the year?

My workload is incredibly erratic but because I have so many parts to my business, if I want to be busy I can certainly find something to do. Not all of my activities result in an income though. Unfortunately, those non-commercial activities are often the ones I derive the most enjoyment from. For example, I just interviewed an incredible woman who runs a dingo sanctuary. I will probably donate her oral history interview to State Library Victoria and hopefully I will be able to use the information from her interview in my next book. It was such a wonderful day, listening to her speak passionately about the conservation of dingoes while sitting in a paddock with dingo puppies playing around me. I mean, how cute is that dingo pup!

 Dingo pup

Dingo pup (Credit: Joely Taylor)

If you are comfortable discussing salary, can you give an idea of an indicate rate of pay for the kind of work you do?

My rate of pay differs depending on the type of work I am doing and the client. I charge more for corporate work and less for editing educational texts. I do feel strongly that we shouldn’t undersell ourselves as editors and, when a client queries my hourly rate, I respond by reiterating my qualifications and reminding them that a house call from a plumber or electrician would cost the same. My hourly rate is from $65 to $100 an hour, with most of my clients at the higher end of the range.

If you didn’t have the job you are in now, what would you like to be doing?

I have to admit I would probably be doing exactly what I do now. When I realised my scientific career was coming to an end in Australia I had to make a choice to either pursue it overseas or to change careers and stay in Australia. I chose the latter, which gave me the freedom to find a career that feels more like a hobby than a job (although I suppose nobody in their right mind would spend that many hours editing scientific content as a hobby). I do wish there were more hours in the day though, which I would spend digging in the garden, practising photography and taking long walks.

Thanks so much, Joely!

You can find Joely at and, or on Twitter at  @BillycanPress.