Steal Your Dad’s Money Tree, or, Is My Editor Bleeding Me Dry?

If you’re an academic who’s thinking about hiring an editor, you might find yourself asking what a fair rate might be.  And if you’re a new freelancer, you might find yourself asking how much you can charge.  And if you’re a seasoned editor, you might find yourself asking what other people earn.  What do to?

The Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) did a poll of its members to gauge average rates.  Here are the results:

Type of Work Estimated Pace Range of Fees
Copyediting, basic 5-10 ms pgs/hr $30-40/hr
Copyediting, heavy 2–5 ms pgs/hr $40–50/hr
Developmental editing 1–5 pgs/hr $60–80/hr
Indexing 8-20 pr pg/hr $35-65/hr
$3.50-12 pr ind pg
Layout | books 6-10 pgs/hr $45-85/hr
Layout | newsletters 1-4 pgs/hr $40-100/pr hr
Project Management NA $9-30/pr pg
$40-90/hr
Proofreading 9-13 ms pgs/hr $30-35/hr
Researching NA $40-75/hr
Substantive | line editing 1–6 ms pgs/hr $50–60/hr
Transcribing variable $3-5/pg
Translating 300-500 wds/hr 20-50¢/wd
Writing 1-3 ms pgs/hr $50-100/hr
5¢-$2/wd

(Found at http://www.the-efa.org/res/rates.php)

The findings indicate that most editors charge somewhere between $40 to $50 dollars for “heavy copyediting,” which, given the challenging nature of the writing, academic editing might fairly be considered.  In my experience, these rates are laughably high, and what I’ve heard from other Chicago-area freelancers confirms that.  According to word of mouth, $15 per hour is a reasonable rate for a beginner editor.  And even if you reach the point where you can charge more, you may have to adjust downward to fit your client’s budget.  The EFA’s absolute rock-bottom for basic copyediting, $30, is reportedly in the neighborhood of what big institutions like the University of Chicago Press pay their freelancers, not, in my experience, what individuals can afford.

I would guess that even $15 per hour seem astronomically high to people on the hunt for freelancers, but when you subtract one-third for taxes and consider that we often have to pay for our own health insurance, I hope it starts looking more reasonable.

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One thought on “Steal Your Dad’s Money Tree, or, Is My Editor Bleeding Me Dry?

  1. Looks very reasonable to me! I think most writers (those that have never worked with a good editor) do not understand the hard work involved in looking at every single word, every sentence and its structure, every paragraph, consistency throughout the MS, etc. It’s hard work, very labor intensive!

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