Updated: Nov 21, 2020
One of the hot topics in the writing and editing world is editing rates. How much do editors charge? How much should editors charge? Both independent authors and new freelance editors want to know about the money side of the business.
Before we dive in to how editors determine their rates and what authors can expect to pay, we need to remember that both editors and authors are human beings who need to make a living. Editors need to make enough to cover their grocery bills, rent, marketing costs, gas, health insurance, loan payments, etc. For many independent authors, hiring an editor depends on their budget because they have similar costs to think of.
Let's look at how editors determine their rates so we can understand the numbers.
How Do Editors Determine Their Rates?
Editing rates depend on multiple factors:
Seniority and experience of the editor
Complexity of the project
Deadline of the project
Costs of business and living
Level of editing needed. The deeper the level of editing, the more expensive it becomes. For example, developmental editing is big-picture editing that helps an author strengthen the foundation of their text. This requires the editor to read the manuscript, make comments, write a detailed editorial report, and perhaps do some actual editing on the structure of the manuscript. Because of the scale of developmental editing, it will be more expensive than copyediting, which focuses on sentence-level editing. Likewise, copyediting will be more expensive than proofreading because it requires more time and energy.
Seniority and experience of the editor. If an editor has two editing certificates and ten years of copyediting under their belt, they will charge more than a new freelance editor who is still taking classes and has only worked on one project. When you pay for expert work, you pay for the work itself but also for all of that experience and training.
Complexity of the project. A project that is more complex will cost more because the editor needs to do more work to help the author improve that manuscript. Some projects can skip the developmental editing stage and go straight for copyediting, but copyediting still varies in price depending on the complexity of the project. A light copyedit will take less time and effort and will therefore cost less than a heavy copyedit. A shorter project will also cost less than a longer project because there are fewer words to edit.
Deadline of the project. If you need a manuscript edited as quickly as possible, editors will charge a rush fee. Editing is a job like any other, and if editors have to work overtime to get something done, they need overtime pay. Freelance editors have flexible schedules, but if work cuts into family time or into other work, there needs to be compensation for that.
Costs of business and living. Editing rates may seem high when you compare them to minimum wage, but keep in mind that editors train to be experts, and editing consists of more than reading a book and fixing some errors. Freelancers pay for their own education, benefits, and business costs as well; their job needs to cover all their bills. On top of that, the rate you pay covers all of the administration work an editor does for the project that doesn't involve editing but is still work.
Per Hour or Per Word?
The two most common ways that freelance editors charge are per hour and per word. These usually work out to the same amount, but each editor will have a preference for how they charge. This will also depend on the type of editing; for example, it's difficult to charge per word when it comes to large-scale editing.
I charge per-word for the majority of my projects because I can estimate how long it will take me to edit a text if I can see a sample of it. I find charging per-word a bit more author-friendly because then you know the cost up-front instead of waiting for a timesheet.
That said, I provide quotes in the form of a project fee. This includes the editing fee plus an administration fee and any other necessary costs such as consultation meetings. The entire editing process is easier for the editor and the client if they work out everything up front.
Each editor will have their own way of receiving payment. Some request e-transfer, some request cheques (yes, that still happens), and some will use PayPal. Many editors request a retainer fee or a deposit; this is standard business practice. Keep in mind that editors also need to charge taxes depending on the laws where they live.
What Are the Numbers?
Now you know the process behind determining editing rates, but what are the actual numbers? The Editorial Freelancers Association has a chart with general editing rates to give you an idea of what you can expect. Editors Canada also provides general guidelines about what editors charge. The best way to know what an editor charges, though, is to ask!
If you are a new freelancer wondering what to charge, remember not to sell yourself short. Know your value, and charge accordingly.
If you are author looking for an editor, remember that you often get what you pay for. If you want quality work, you will likely have to pay more, but it will be worth it.