One of the most common questions we’re asked at Copyediting is how much can someone earn working as a copyeditor. I first addressed this question in 2012 and then again in 2014. How has the landscape changed since my last review?
Let’s find out.
Employee Salaries Continue to Rise
Editor can be a broad term, even when only text editing is meant. As a result, finding data specific to copyeditors is a bit challenging. Staffing firm Robert Half International (RHI) has been a good source of information because its subsidiary The Creative Group breaks down editors by type and includes copyeditors and proofreaders in its annual salary review.
Table 1 presents the salary ranges for experienced copyeditors (more than three years), new copyeditors (one to three years), and proofreaders for 2012, 2014, and 2017.
Table 1. US Salary Ranges for Copyeditors and Proofreaders, 2012, 2014, and 2017 ($)
|Copyeditor (3+ yrs.)||49,500–68,500||54,000–74,500||56,250–78,000|
|Copyeditor (1–3 yrs.)||36,750–49,750||39,500–54,250||42,500–57,500|
Two caveats: The Creative Group specializes in creative and marketing jobs, which typically pay more than editorial jobs in other industries, such as books and newspapers. Also keep in mind that these are numbers for the entire United States. Editors can use several tools to drill down to states and major metropolitan areas:
- RHI’s Salary Calculator (drills into RHI’s data)
- LinkedIn’s Salary tool (requires free sign-up and anonymous salary data)
- Glassdoor’s Salaries tool (requires free sign-up and anonymous employment and salary data)
Clearly, salaries are still increasing—and at a higher rate than inflation. According to inflation.eu, inflation rates were 1.74% for 2012, 0.76% for 2014, and 2.07% for 2016. Salary increases, meanwhile, were as follows:
Table 2: US Salary Increases by Role, 2012–2017 (%)
|Copyeditor (3+ yrs.)||9% for low end; 9% for high end||4% for low end; 5% for high end|
|Copyeditor (1–3 yrs.)||7% for low end; 9% for high end||8% for low end; 6% for high end|
|Proofreader||7% for low end; 8% for high end||9% for low end; 7% for high end|
Although all the salary increases are moving in the right direction, they seem to be slowing down. (Note, though, that the date ranges aren’t equal; I wasn’t able to get the 2015 report for this blog post.) The increases raise many questions: Did 2016’s higher inflation contribute to that? Why did experienced copyeditors get a comparatively smaller increase? Are the salaries reaching a saturation point for the moment?
Are There Any Editing Job Openings?
A more immediate question is: How many editing jobs are out there?
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists editors as people who “plan, review, and revise content for publication.” It’s a broad definition that includes editors who don’t actually work on the text (e.g., executive editors), which is what we’re concerned with here. BLS’s latest numbers are from 2014, as well, so take the following numbers with a grain of salt.
In 2014, there were about 117,200 people working as editors. Almost half worked for newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers. BLS is predicting a 5% decrease in the number of editing jobs by 2024, which is just over 111,000 jobs.
How many openings are out there? At the time of writing, Glassdoor listed about 8,000 copyeditor jobs available in the United States—that’s 6% of 2014’s 117,200 jobs. Copyediting’s own job board listed 1,066 jobs with editor in the title, nearly 400 of them copyeditor positions.
By comparison, Copyediting’s job board has over 7,000 registered job seekers—job seekers interested in editing-related jobs. While those might be good odds for companies,* they mean a tough battle for job seekers.
Which is why so many editors (including yours truly) are working as freelancers instead.
Why Freelance Rates Are Challenging
In 2012 and 2014, I reported freelance editor rates as well (although RHI’s figures include some freelancers). Unfortunately, the available sources do not have any new data to share. The Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) publishes the most-quoted rate chart, and its current listings match those from 2014:
Table 3: Common Freelance Editing Rates, 2017
|Type of Work||Range of Fees|
|Editing, basic copyediting||$30–40/hr|
|Editing, heavy copyediting||$40–50/hr|
That leaves freelancers to either follow outdated guidelines or guess what their particular markets will bear while juggling all the other variables that go into setting rates.
To help remedy that situation, Copyediting is now in the planning stages of publishing a freelance editor survey. Stay tuned!
* If you have an editing-related job opening, contact me about listing it on the Copyediting job board. We have the audience you’re looking for!