Congratulations, editor. You’ve taken the brave step of quitting your full-time job in search of the (hopefully) greener pastures of freelancing. Now it’s time to find your freelance editor rate.
‘How much should I charge as a freelance editor?’ is one of the biggest questions aspiring freelance editors often ask.
While it’s easy to just go with the salary you received as an in-house editor, know that the freelance world is a completely different ball game.
For first-time freelance editors, it’s easy to make mistakes in setting their freelance hourly rates.
The pitfalls of setting your own rate
Some freelance editors ask for too little, jeopardizing their potential income, while others ask for too much and struggle with landing jobs in a competitive market.
While hard and fast rules abound, like charging one cent per word for proofreading and two cents per word for copyediting, calculating your freelance rate this way isn’t exactly accurate as it doesn’t consider various integral factors.
Finding the sweet spot is hard enough; add to that the challenge of factoring in the cost of being your own employer and your time spent working, and the task becomes a complete ordeal.
To help you accurately size up your editing rates, we compiled everything you need to know in this comprehensive step-by-step list.
Factors that influence hourly editor rates
1. The type of editing needed
Not all types of editing are equal. Here are some of the various types of editing work arranged according to difficulty, with the hardest one first.
Developmental editing: Developmental editing requires a big-picture approach. It includes content editing and macro editing.
Copyediting: This requires grammar editing, micro editing, as well as editing the flow and structure of the piece
Proofreading: Proofreading requires the least amount of work. It includes editing the piece’s format, consistency, and layout.
As such, more challenging tasks naturally cost more than easier jobs.
2. The word count
How much does it cost to have someone edit your book?
Book editing rates vary from person to person. Most book editors charge by word count or page count, while others, though rare, charge by the hour when editing longer books.
3. The complexity of the piece being edited
Editing a novel, according to the Chicago Manual of Style, will cost less than editing an academic work to align with a niche style guide.
Books with hundreds of endnotes and footnotes are more challenging to edit than books without citations.
The complexity of the work being edited also influences the freelance editor rate.
4. The deadline
Are you taking on an urgent project, or is the deadline more flexible? The faster you need to get the job done, the more you may have to charge.
If you’re copyediting a 150,000-word novel within two weeks, you may need to charge a premium price especially when you’re already booked.
5. The writer’s experience
Is the work being edited or written by a novice writer or an experienced one? Editing the work of an inexperienced writer may be harder than going over the work of an experienced one, raising the fees.
6. Your experience
This should go without saying, but the more experienced you are, the higher your freelance editor rate should be. A lot of freelance editors lack self-awareness and confidence, which leads them to sell themselves short. Thoroughly analyze your skills to figure out the best rate.
7. Your flexibility
Are you booked a month in advance, or do you have much time to spare? The more ongoing projects you have under your belt, the higher you’ll have to charge, especially if the writer requires his work to be accomplished faster.
See Related: Best Books for Freelancing
Five steps to determine your freelance editing rates
Here’s a tip: if you want to determine the most accurate freelance editor rate, you’ll need to do the work. This means doing thorough research and figuring out your expenses, among others. Here are five steps to do just that.
1. Conduct market research
The most important step in figuring out your freelance editor rate is conducting market research. One of the best ways to do this is to go through online resources to study ballparks and averages. The Editorial Freelancers Association lays out the suggested rate for various services.
Another way to conduct market research is to ask your peers. Connect with your fellow editors and ask them how much they charge for their services and figure out the average. For good measure, ask editors who have been in the game just long as you are.
Once you have a number, consider all the factors listed in the previous section: your experience, the word count, the writer’s experience, etc., and adjust your rate accordingly.
2. Figure out your business costs
Neglecting business costs is a mistake common to freelancers, especially when they’re starting out. After setting their rate and getting as much work as possible, they still have a deficit in their income after realizing that the cost of working and living eats away from their earnings.
As your own boss, a part of your responsibility is putting together a business plan that factors in your non-billable time, time spent developing your skills, the costs of software, workspace, materials, and insurance (if necessary).
Figuring out how much money you need to make sure these costs are covered while living a lifestyle you’re comfortable with is essential when figuring out your freelance editor rate.
Another important factor to consider is your geography. If you live in New York with a higher cost of living compared to other states, then you may need to charge more.
Our Freelance Hourly Rate Calculator factors in your sales, travel and marketing expenses, software/license expenses, platform fees, and business development costs. This is a great way to arrive at your starting rate!
3. Find out your baseline rate
So you’ve researched the market, compared yourself to other editors of the same caliber, and successfully factored in your business costs using our Freelance Hourly Rate Calculator. Now that you have all this information, you can start determining your baseline rates.
Since editors do various types of editing, it’s wise to set rates for each type of editing you plan to do and perhaps another set of rates for each type of genre you’re interested in working in. These starting numbers will help you determine the cost of an average project.
Since many factors come into play when determining a fair price, you’ll discover that there really are no average projects.
You will most likely add or subtract from your established rate, depending on the circumstances.
4. Adjust your baseline rates to align with project needs
Before quoting your client, you’ll want to look into what the project entails so you can make necessary adjustments to your baseline rate.
We already discussed what factors should influence your final rate, but here are some questions that you need to ask yourself.
How long will it take to finish the project?
If you’re familiar with the editing process, you most likely have an idea about how long it takes to edit various types of manuscripts. Estimate how long it will take you to finish the assignment and adjust your rate accordingly.
Make sure to consider factors that might affect your duration estimates, like content complexity and your familiarity with the topic.
What stage is the material at?
The project’s maturity largely dictates how much time you’ll spend on it, so it’s essential to thoroughly inspect the material to check if it’s ripe for editing. When communicating with your client for the first time, it’s integral to adjust their perceptions.
Be wary about signing up for work that isn’t ready for editing, especially those that haven’t gone through the redrafting stage.
You’ll be setting yourself up for a miserable time trying to rewrite a “young” piece when you should actually be enhancing and polishing. After the project is complete, you’ll most likely wish you charged twice.
Here’s what to do when the material isn’t ready for editing just yet: tell the author that more structural work is needed and recommend services that they would benefit more from.
You’ll most likely tell the client that you’ll turn down the project for now, with an encouragement to come back to you once the manuscript is ready.
How much is extra work needed?
Freelancers know that apart from the actual work, every job involves micro-tasks that eat away from their time. Before setting your freelance editor rate, be aware of these extra tasks.
This may include explaining your process, communicating with your client throughout the project, managing your client’s expectations, delivering the work, chasing payments, and so on.
Once you’re aware of these, you’ll discover how long client management actually takes.
Be aware that some clients may be more difficult than others (e.g. they’re difficult to communicate with, have challenging requests, and are very busy).
Your time as a freelancer is valuable. It’s important to realize that every email, phone call, or meeting your make will take precious time. After weighing the extra work needed, you’ll be able to easily estimate how much effort is required to complete the whole project, giving you more insights on how to adjust your freelance editor rate.
Your interest in the project can influence your rate. Sometimes, we love a project so much that we’re willing to give discounted prices. Other times, you won’t like the project, but you understand its value in your portfolio. These are viable reasons to give lower rates. It all depends on you.
See Related: 10 Easy, Proven Ways to Sell Your Skills Online
5. Periodically go through your rates
Your freelance editor rate isn’t set in stone. As your experience grows, so will your asking price.
But how do you know when it’s time to increase your rate?
Here are some things to ask yourself.
Do authors always accept your rate without negotiating?
While this could also mean that your credentials are worth your asking price, sometimes, authors accepting proposals without questioning your fees might be indicative of your below-industry average market price.
Authors haggling for a better price from time to time is healthy, especially when your rate already considers the potential that your clients may haggle, as it helps you arrive at a rate that’s favorable to you.
Did industry rates change?
The first step on this list is something you will need to do annually. Research the market at least once a year and recheck the rates across your industry to determine if you’re still charging the right freelance editor rate.
Are you getting better at your job?
Self-awareness is essential when it comes to figuring out if it’s time for a raise. Did you learn new skills? Are you getting 5-star reviews all the time? Revisit your rates when you feel like you’re worth more.
Are you struggling with your work expenses?
Due to inflation, the cost of doing business costs more and more every year. Freelancers who don’t consider the rise in living costs could make less.
When notifying your clients about increasing your rates, it’s integral that emphasize the value that you bring to your client.
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