Setting your proofreading and copyediting rates is an important aspect of a freelance editorial business. You have the freedom to choose how much you earn; however, determining your rates can be a daunting task with a variety of factors to consider.
In this blog post, I’ll explore the different elements you should take into account, as well as tips and strategies for charging for your proofreading and copyediting services. I’ll also discuss when you should raise your rates and how you can earn more by bundling your services. Whether you’re a seasoned proofreader or copy editor, or you’re just starting out, this guide will give you the info you need to confidently set your rates and attract clients.
Factors To Consider When Setting Your Proofreading And Copyediting Rates
Your rates should convey your value to clients. To reach a reasonable rate for your editorial services, consider your level of experience, how efficiently you work, and any specialization or skills you currently have. Later in this post you’ll learn what the industry guidelines are, but first, you need to take some things into account.
Your Experience And Skill Level
The more experience you have, the more money you can command for your editorial services. A proofreader or editor who has experience working with clients and/or an editorial team, who knows industry standards, and who can work in more than one English style can charge more. Being able to jump into a project with full knowledge of what to expect and confidence that you have the ability to meet expectations can only be learned through a mix of real-world experience and top-tier editorial training.
If you’ve received professional training in proofreading and copyediting, then you can command a higher rate. Knowing editorial processes and having relevant industry knowledge means you can step into a project with little learning curve, if any at all. Quality clients are always willing to pay for expert-level work, so don’t sell yourself short.
Having proven experience in a niche can also command higher proofreading and editing rates. Christine Wheary is a proofreader and editor who specializes in romance fiction. By focusing on the romance genre, Christine has grown a reputation for herself among the romance writing community, and attracts clients via referrals. Her rates reflect her expertise in romance fiction. You can learn more about Christine in this interview.
The Scope Of Work Agreed Upon
Each editorial skill has its own unique tasks. It is important to stick to the tasks and the scope of the project so you don’t do more work than necessary without being compensated. For example, if you are hired to proofread a book, you should not be rewriting and rearranging words or sentences, which is actually what line editors do.
Stay within the scope of what a proofreader and copy editor does; otherwise, you are selling yourself short and setting a precedent that can harm your business in the long run. If you find yourself wanting to do more than proofreading and copyediting, then it’s a sign that you are ready to learn and add another editorial service to your business.
The Type Of Industry And Niche
Some niches pay more than others. For example, medical content commands a higher rate due to the complex nature of the writing. You also may be required to be knowledgeable in the medical field or have a background in it. Other high-paying niches include computer software, engineering, business content, and academia.
Proofreader and copy editor, Eucharia-Remy Kingsley, is also a registered nurse. She works with medical content and health entrepreneurs and businesses. Her professional background and experiences give her a unique advantage to editing content that someone with no background in health can have. Read my interview with Eucharia here.
What Other Professionals Are Charging
When setting your proofreading and copyediting rates, I highly recommend you research other proofreaders’ and copy editors’ rates within your niche to give yourself a benchmark, and to make the process less time consuming. It is good to know how much the competition charges so you are aware of what the average going rate is. This is especially important to do if you are entering a specialized field with higher rates like medical or business, for example.
Should You Charge By Hour, Word Or Project?
There isn’t an industry standard for how you should charge for projects. It’s your business so you determine what works best for you. However, after 20 years of working as a proofreader and editor, here is what I recommend:
Smaller Projects: Since you are working with a smaller word count, it’s best to charge by hour or with a flat fee. Examples of smaller projects are press releases, social media posts, brochures and short guides, and slide decks.
Larger projects: You can charge numerous ways here: by hour, word, or a flat fee. Take into account how complex and long the project is, and what state the content is in. If it’s messy and you need to dedicate more time towards it, you may have to focus only on this project. For a project that could take weeks of your time, you want to make sure you are fairly compensated.
Setting Proofreading Rates And Copyediting Rates
There are three ways you can charge for your services: by hour, by word, and by project. There are no industry standards for how you should charge. It is your business, so you choose what works best for you and your clients. If you’re not sure how to set your proofreading and copyediting rates, you may want to test your pricing model to see what works best. Nothing is written in stone, so if you find you don’t like charging by word, you can move to charging by hour or a flat project fee.
The following are guidelines for setting proofreading and copyediting rates. These rates are based on what is quoted by various editing associations, my personal experience, and other professional proofreaders’ and copy editors’ prices.
Fiction: $20 – $35/hour, $.02/word and up
Nonfiction & Business communications: $35 – $40/hour, $.02/word and up
Median salary (US): $56,000
Fiction: $35 – $40/hour, $.02/word and up
Nonfiction & Business communications: $40 – $50/hour, $.03/word and up
Median salary (US): $74,000
If you’re an aspiring proofreader and copy editor, or are looking to grow your value as an editorial pro, we invite you to sign up for our free training masterclass. You’ll learn everything you need to know to run a profitable editorial business.
Time can also be a factor in determining your rates. Sometimes clients will require a rush job. These projects are time sensitive and require you to drop everything so you can focus on them. Because of that, you can charge an extra rush fee.
Proofreading And Copyediting Rates For Retainer Clients
If you have retainer clients, clients who provide you with consistent work and income every month, you need to decide how to price your services. Setting your proofreading and copyediting rates for these clients can be done with a flat monthly fee or an hourly rate.
Personally, I prefer to charge a flat fee. This way, you guarantee a certain income coming in every month, and you can schedule your other client work around it. The best way to choose how to set your monthly retainer rates is to assess how much work you do on average per month and align it with your hourly rate.
Bundling Your Services
Once you have set your rates, you can look at bundling your proofreading and copyediting services together and charging an hourly rate or a flat rate. Bundling editorial services is a great way to sign a client on to more than one service, increase your earnings per project, and set yourself up for long-term profitability and business growth.
It also enables you to outperform the competition by meeting the expectations of high-paying niche clients who require more than proofreading. These clients desire copyediting because it goes deeper than the surface-only checks of proofreading.
Not only do these two skills work very well together, copyediting will future-proof your editorial business as diversifying your skills enables you to work on more content. Emerging niches, like AI-generated text, is a great example of content that requires a copyediting service.
When Should You Raise Your Proofreading And Copyediting Rates?
It is important to raise your rates to reflect your increased expertise and experience, client demand, and inflation. Raising your rates ensures you continue to make a livable income and that you are properly compensated for your knowledge and expertise. You should assess whether you need to raise your rates every year. I recommend you raise your proofreading and copyediting rates once a year or every 18 months.
What Do You Think?
Determining your proofreading and copyediting rates requires you to take in various factors like your experience, your training and background, and the type of content you work with. If you offer only one skill, then setting your rates is a simple process. However, if you know more than one editorial skill, you can exponentially grow your income and business by offering more standalone services or bundling them.
Ultimately, it is your business, and you have full control over how much you want to charge and how. Your starting point should be reasonable not just for the client, but for you, too, because you need to make an income that supports your lifestyle. Remember to reevaluate rates periodically so you stay competitive and profitable.
Your Next Steps
All of the information I shared in this blog post and on our site is based on my real-world knowledge and experience as a proofreader and editor with 20+ years of experience. I keep up-to-date on the industry and emerging trends, and share them here and on my social accounts. Want daily proofreading, editing, freelancing, and business advice at your fingertips? Follow us on Facebook and Instagram.