Deciding how to charge for freelance 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, maybe, 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 a great deal of careful thought. However, it seems like setting rates for freelancing 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 freelance 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 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 (or even more, depending on what you're doing). 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 Editorial Freelancers Association, the average for basic copywriting, on pace for between five and 10 manuscript pages per hour, is going to amount to $30 to $40. That breaks down to between $3 and $6 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.
Things to Consider When Setting Freelance Editing Rates
When deciding how to set your rates, a few things should be considered:
- The intensity of the work: How involved is the work? The more you're required to do, the more you should charge. If you're doing serious line editing, or if you're helping with development, your fee should be higher than if you're just reviewing spelling and grammar.
- Your level of experience: Don't forget to factor in your experience. Remember — if you've been editing for a long time, a client isn't paying for the hour you spend today. They're paying for the years of experience that have made you a superior editor.
- Your area of expertise: Your ability to provide insight related to a niche area can also allow you to charge more. I'm going to charge on the low end if I decide to edit fiction. However, if I decide to edit financial content, I can charge more because financial content is my wheelhouse.
- Other services: Are you providing other services, such as layout or translation? When setting freelance editing rates, don't forget to include those services. You can charge a premium if you have value you can add.
Just like anything else, it can be tough to set your freelance editing rates. The good news, though, is that you can find resources to help you get a feel for market rates. Do a little poking around. You can also join forums and groups and talk to other freelance editors. I've found that, as we are more transparent in our groups about our fees, we're more likely to be paid what we're worth.
Image source: The Land via Wikimedia Commons