Last week, my copyediting students asked about pay rates for editors and how they could determine what to charge. I’ve talked in this space before about what a copyeditor earns, but this seems like a good opportunity for an update.
Last time, I pointed to the Editorial Freelancers Association as a good place to start for determining your rate (at least for US editors). That’s still true. Since then, the numbers have been updated and different types of editing have been added:
|Type of Work||Estimated Pace||Range of Fees|
|Basic copyediting||5-10 ms pgs/hr||$30-$40/hr|
|Heavy copyediting||2–5 ms pgs/hr||$40–$50/hr|
|Developmental editing||1–5 pgs/hr||$45–$55/hr|
|Substantive or line editing||1–6 ms pgs/hr||$40–$60/hr|
|PROOFREADING||9–13 ms pgs/hr||$30–$35/hr|
NOTE: ms = manuscript, pg = page, hr = hour
Source: Editorial Freelancers Association, 2013
But although industry standard rates are a good start, other factors come in to play as well:
- How much experience does the editor have?
- Does the editor have specialized skills or knowledge?
- Is the editor also a subject-matter expert?
- Does the editor have a strong reputation that creates demand?
- Is the editor good at negotiating rates?
- Is there strong competition for this type of editing job?
Many of these items are based on what you bring to the project. The more experience, skills, specialized knowledge, and subject-matter expertise an editor has, the more they can charge, up to the client’s threshold.
Being in demand can mean higher rates as well. When you have a busy schedule and a client is desperate to have you do the job, that can translate into higher rates for you.
And no matter how good at editing you are, if you’re good at negotiating, you can negotiate a better deal for yourself.
The last item is simply supply versus demand, which is not something you can control. The more editors there are that the client can easily hire to do the project, the less money the client will want to pay. You can set your prices more realistically, though, when you know how much demand there is for the kind of editing you do. And you can argue why you’re worth more money.
None of these items will guarantee that you’ll earn a higher rate. Naturally, the client will want to pay the lowest rate possible for the work desired, and the state of the economy will dictate how much money the client has to spend in the first place.
Knowing what you bring to the project and being able to argue the value of it, connecting the dots between quality editing and a successful publication for the client, can go a long way toward being able to set pay rates that are fair to both parties.