Deciding how to charge for editing can be difficult. Here are some of the issues involved.
Occasionally, I am asked to edit something. When I first started out as a freelancer, I took editing jobs because I had to. Now, though, I try to avoid editing jobs. Because it’s not something I’m overly fond of. But, if I really like you, I can be induced to edit something for you.
One of the reasons I don’t like taking editing jobs is because it’s such a pain to figure out how to charge. Anytime you have to set rates as a freelancer, it requires thought. However, it just seems like setting rates for editing is much more fraught with difficulty. When you write, it’s easy to say, “This is how much I charge for a blog post. This is how much I charge for creating a press release. This is what web content will cost you.”
Editing is a different animal altogether. But, as you consider your rates, here are some things to keep in mind:
What Type of Editing Are You Doing?
The first task is to identify what type of editing you are doing. Different types of editing come with different challenges and difficulties. Some types of editing are more involved than others. There are three main types of editing:
- Proofreading: This is the easiest type of editing. Proofreading is about getting rid of the cosmetic errors. It is usually the last step in the writing/editing process. It’s not meant to be comprehensive; when you are proofreading, you shouldn’t be re-working text, or re-arranging content. Proofreading is about doing a last run-through to catch surface problems with the content.
- Copy editing: Copy editing is about improving style, formatting, and accuracy. Copy editing is about making sure there aren’t inconsistencies, and that the style flows well — in addition to being grammatically correct. There are different levels of copy editing: light, medium, and heavy. Light copy editing might consist of double-checking accuracy and taking care of most grammatical issues. Medium copy editing includes heavier lifting, such as correcting flow and re-working some of the text. With heavy copy editing, the editor might re-structure some paragraphs, or heavily correct style, flow, and grammar.
- Content editing: When you are involved in content editing, the work is much more intensive. You might need to add things that were left out, or re-write sections of content. This takes copy editing to the next level, and can include some level of content creation along with making corrections.
Your first job is to figure out which type of editing will be done. The harder the work, the more you should charge.
Hourly? Or Per-Page?
Once you figure out what type of work you will be doing, you need to figure out how you will charge. If you charge hourly, often the difficulty takes care of itself. After all, the more intense your efforts, the longer it will take, and the more the job will pay. A beginning editor can expect to charge right around $20 an hour. However, an experienced content editor can charge more, as much as $50 to $85 an hour. Even as a proofreader, after you have established yourself, you can charge $25 – $35 an hour.
Another option is to charge by the page. (It’s possible to charge by the word, but that can get tricky in some cases, especially if you have to add quite a bit.) Many editors like to charge by the page. When charging by the page, the type of editing matters. According to The Writer’s Market, the average for proofreading is $3 per page, for copy editing $4 per page, and for content editing you can expect to charge around $7.50 per page.
I have charged both hourly, and per-page, and don’t really have a preference. When I’m going through and editing old posts that a blogger might have, I often charge by the hour. When I have a manuscript, though, I usually charge by the page. In the end, though, it’s about how much experience you have, and how much work you are putting in.
Image source: The Land via Wikimedia Commons
One of the most frequent search terms leading visitors to Hourigan & Co., as well as one of our most common client questions, is how much does it cost to edit a PhD thesis?
You might want to sit down for this, because the answer is usually some version of “more than you think.” The first thing to remember is that a PhD thesis (or even an MA thesis) is a long piece of work—it takes time to read and even longer to edit. Editing a PhD thesis will usually be no less than a full week’s work, and often the process can continue for several weeks if we have queries for you or your supervisor asks you to make further revisions. In the meantime, us editor types have to eat and pay our rent and so on. Trust me: nobody is getting rich off this.
Here’s the short answer: editing a PhD thesis could cost you between $1,800 and $3,600. An MA thesis could cost you between $750 and $1,800.
When we do a full edit of a novel or a similar book-length work, we often charge around $600 (in Australian dollars, but it’s roughly equal in USD) to edit each 10,000 words. For a full edit of a thesis, we charge the same rate per 10,000 words, so a full edit of a 60,000-word PhD thesis could be up to $3,600. A master’s thesis of 30,000 words might be up to $1,800.
This is a significant investment, and for some graduate students who are from non-English-speaking backgrounds, it’s worthwhile spending this much on getting their degree. We’ve even had one Chinese-speaking client here whose PhD examiners required him to get a professional edit before they would pass the thesis.
The good news is that most PhD or master’s candidates won’t need this level of work done. When I talk about a full edit, I mean that we not only correct mistakes in spelling and grammar, but rewrite poorly worded or ambiguous sentences, point out obvious factual errors, offer commentary on methodology and standards of argument, format the thesis to departmental requirements, and check that the referencing is correct. This can be a lot of work, especially if the author isn’t a confident writer.
But for PhD students especially, it’s expected that your graduate studies will involve a significant amount of education in academic writing. You’ll redraft multiple times on your own and with your supervisors, and after a long candidature you should already be a pretty good writer.
As a result, what we recommend to most graduate students is that we do proofreading and formatting. For this we charge $300 per 10,000 words, so a 60,000-word thesis would cost $1,800.
In this process, we correct errors only (no rewriting for clarity or style), check that your citations and reference list are written out correctly, and format the thesis to your departmental requirements, putting on a little extra polish from our expert knowledge of typographical conventions.
We actually find that formatting is one of the areas where students need the most help with their theses. Microsoft Word doesn’t make it that easy for the average user to format a document consistently over 30,000 to 60,000 words, and we will usually spend three to four hours on formatting alone. For most students, the result is a dramatic overhaul of their thesis’s appearance, which makes it much more attractive and readable.
Here’s a few final tips:
Things to watch out for
- Be wary of low-cost editing. Often these edits will be performed by staff whose English is non-standard (e.g. in India or the Philippines), or the price will not give the editor adequate time to review your document thoroughly and attend to all errors and formatting and referencing issues. At Hourigan & Co. we have seen many clients that paid for an edit elsewhere and then had to pay a second time for us to correct the remaining issues.
- Don’t forget that the word-count you need to give to your editor includes your bibliography or reference list, and your appendices, if you want these to be professionally formatted and error free like the rest of your document.
How to help your editor and keep costs down
- Make sure your entire thesis, including appendices, is contained in a single document.
- Use heading styles to mark chapter and section titles.
- Tell the editor up-front which English you are using (US, UK, Canadian, Australian), which style guide you are using (e.g. APA, Chicago), and where they can find your department’s thesis formatting guidelines.
Do you need our help or have a question? Contact us today.