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Confessions of a Professional Blogger

How Should You Charge for Freelance Editing?

Deciding how to charge for editing can be difficult. Here are some of the issues involved.

Occasionally, I am asked to edit something. When I first started out as a freelancer, I took editing jobs because I had to. Now, though, I try to avoid editing jobs. Because it’s not something I’m overly fond of. But, if I really¬†like you, I can be induced to edit something for you.

One of the reasons I don’t like taking editing jobs is because it’s such a pain to figure out how to charge. Anytime you have to set rates as a freelancer, it requires thought. However, it just seems like setting rates for editing is much more fraught with difficulty. When you write, it’s easy to say, “This is how much I charge for a blog post. This is how much I charge for creating a press release. This is what web content will cost you.”

Editing is a different animal altogether. But, as you consider your rates, here are some things to keep in mind:

What Type of Editing Are You Doing?

The first task is to identify what type of editing you are doing. Different types of editing come with different challenges and difficulties. Some types of editing are more involved than others. There are three main types of editing:

  • Proofreading: This is the easiest type of editing. Proofreading is about getting rid of the cosmetic errors. It is usually the last step in the writing/editing process. It’s not meant to be comprehensive; when you are proofreading, you shouldn’t be re-working text, or re-arranging content. Proofreading is about doing a last run-through to catch surface¬†problems with the content.
  • Copy editing: Copy editing is about improving style, formatting, and accuracy. Copy editing is about making sure there aren’t inconsistencies, and that the style flows well — in addition to being grammatically correct. There are different levels of copy editing: light, medium, and heavy. Light copy editing might consist of double-checking accuracy and taking care of most grammatical issues. Medium copy editing includes heavier lifting, such as correcting flow and re-working some of the text. With heavy copy editing, the editor might re-structure some paragraphs, or heavily correct style, flow, and grammar.
  • Content editing: When you are involved in content editing, the work is much more intensive. You might need to add things that were left out, or re-write sections of content. This takes copy editing to the next level, and can include some level of content creation along with making corrections.

Your first job is to figure out which type of editing will be done. The harder the work, the more you should charge.

Hourly? Or Per-Page?

Once you figure out what type of work you will be doing, you need to figure out how you will charge. If you charge hourly, often the difficulty takes care of itself. After all, the more intense your efforts, the longer it will take, and the more the job will pay. A beginning editor can expect to charge right around $20 an hour. However, an experienced content editor can charge more, as much as $50 to $85 an hour. Even as a proofreader, after you have established yourself, you can charge $25 – $35 an hour.

Another option is to charge by the page. (It’s possible to charge by the word, but that can get tricky in some cases, especially if you have to add quite a bit.) Many editors like to charge by the page. When charging by the page, the type of editing matters. According to The Writer’s Market, the average for proofreading is $3 per page, for copy editing $4 per page, and for content editing you can expect to charge around $7.50 per page.

I have charged both hourly, and per-page, and don’t really have a preference. When I’m going through and editing old posts that a blogger might have, I often charge by the hour. When I have a manuscript, though, I usually charge by the page. In the end, though, it’s about how much experience you have, and how much work you are putting in.

Image source: The Land via Wikimedia Commons

17 Responses to How Should You Charge for Freelance Editing?

  1. I am finding that figuring out how much to charge for self-employment is among the most difficult parts of the whole process. Being paid for your time and not driving away customers is difficult, since the business I am starting is in tax preparation. The free programs are generally okay, but I find they each seem to have their quirks. The large franchises charge a premium based on their overhead and franchise costs. The do-it-yourself programs are nice, but if the user has a concept error, their only assistance is someone on the other end of a phone, reading from a playbook.

    • Trying to find that balance between what you think you’re worth, and what others think you’re worth, is definitely hard. And I can see where it would be hard with tax prep, since there are so many cheap programs. But I’m right there with you. I have an accountant that I’ve used for years do my taxes. It’s worth the money to get that personal service.

  2. This was a very timely post for me! Question, how are you providing your editing remarks to your clients. I use track changes and comments in word to mark up their original Word doc…and I also provide a “clean edit” version so they can read how it flows without being interrupted by the mark-ups. My rates are a good bit higher – especially for content editing – than what you noted. It can take 1/4 – 1/2 hour to content edit a page depending on the condition of the original draft so $7.50 would be a tad too low. Plus there’s the time for collaborating with the author…

    • I agree that it’s hard to figure out what to charge. I think I’d be more inclined to do it per-hour, instead of per-page. Like you, I thought the $7.50 per page sounded a little low for content editing, but that’s what I could find on a couple of different sites. Like you, I use track changes, plus a clean one, when track changes is possible.

  3. Hi Miranda,
    I found your article quite helpful. If I could impose, I thought I’d ask for your opinion on a delicate issue, which freelancers might face from time to time.

    How do you handle requests for editing a large project for charitable purposes. In this case, one of my wife’s colleagues is writing a book about his experiences with leukemia. He says it will be partly a fundraiser for The Leukemia Society as well as for his own future medical expenses. He’s planning on 85K words and has about 60K completed.

    It seems he needs something between proofreading and content editing. I don’t have to tell you how much work this will be. I’m going to do it for him pro bono, but in general, how would you handle such requests? There is a reality that one is operating a business and only has so much time.

    Thanks

    Steve

    • If I believe in the cause, I’m happy to help out, gratis. But I do warn that it might be slower going, since I have to fit it around the paid work. And, there are times that, just as when you have to say no, you need to pass. Really it comes down to what you can handle, and what you have time for. And for a large project like that, I would be up front about it taking a little bit longer. You want to help out, but you also need to earn a living.

  4. Thank you. I’ve done a lot of editing as a “favor” in my writer’s group, but am now being asked outside of that group and I didn’t have a clue.
    I believe I’ll charge by the single space page.

  5. This might be a silly question, but if I’m providing light copy editing and proofreading together, is the rate combined? (Ex. if a going rate for proofreading is $3/hr and light copy editing $4/hr – would you combine both under the $4 rate?).

    Thank you for your website. It is very user friendly and informative!

  6. If you think a company may want to use you on a regular basis, what would you think about charging a kind of retainer fee, i.e., per month or per issue if a publication.

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