Freelance Tips: How to Set Freelance Editing Rates

Knowing how much to charge for your services can be difficult for new freelancers. You don’t want to undersell yourself, but nor do you want to price yourself out of the market. And while there’s no single perfect way to set freelance editing rates, we have a few helpful tips:

  1. Deciding whether to charge by the hour, word, or page.
  2. Research typical rates for your services and experience level.
  3. Establish a baseline rate for each service you provide.
  4. Adapt your baseline rates to fit each job.

Read on for more advice on setting freelance editing rates.

1. Decide How You’ll Charge

The most common ways to charge for freelance editing services are by the hour, by the word (or number of words, such as per 1,000 words), or by the page.

Each of these has its own merits. Charging by the hour means you are guaranteed to be paid for your time. However, it is also easy to misjudge how long a job will take, especially when you’re just starting out. You might therefore either quote too much or too little for the whole project and end up underpaying yourself or overcharging your client.

Charging by the word or by the page, meanwhile, makes it easy to quote a price for a project. But different projects may require different amounts of work, even for documents of a similar length. And if you don’t take that into account, you may find yourself charging the same for a well-written document that only requires minor tweaks as for one that needs significant work.

Ultimately, whether you advertise your services with rates set by the hour, word, or page will be a matter of preference, with the best choice depending on what you think will appeal to your target clients (e.g., if you mostly work on longer documents, a per-page rate may be most appealing to potential clients). But flexibility is also helpful here: e.g., if you list your rates by the hour, you can add a note saying that you’re willing to quote by the word or page if preferred.

2. Research Standard Editing Rates

Once you know how you plan to charge, you will need to decide how much you will charge. And a good tip here is researching the standard editing rates in your region.

These average rates will change over time, though. Therefore, if you’re researching how much the average editor charges, check how up to date (or otherwise) the information is.

And don’t forget, research can be as simple as asking a friend in the same field how much they charge for their services. If you don’t know any freelance editors, you can always find other editors’ websites via search engines or connect with editors via social media.

Do your best to find people at a similar experience level, though, as well as people who are providing the same service(s) as you. A new freelancer offering basic proofreading services can’t expect to charge the same as a seasoned editor offering a full developmental edit.

3. Work Out Baseline Rate(s)

Once you’ve done your research, you can decide on baseline rates for all of the services you provide. Note the plural here: you should price separate services differently. Think about the services you’re able to offer and their respective levels of difficulty.

Typically, this should reflect the amount of work involved, so heavier editing services will have a higher baseline rate. For instance, a new freelance editor might decide to charge $15 per 1000 words for copy editing, and $25 per 1000 words for comprehensive editing.

Your baseline rates will act as a guide to help you quote prices for each job.

4. Adapt Your Rates to Reflect the Work

Baseline rates are just that: a baseline. You won’t want to depart from them too far when quoting prices (after all, potential clients are not likely to stick around if you ask them to pay a rate way over the one you advertise). But, as long as you clearly label them as a baseline, there is room to adapt your rates to fit the situation at hand.

For example, while you might have a base rate for developmental editing, different editing jobs can vary significantly. One client might ask to you review a manuscript and offer advice on how to improve it, after which they will redraft themselves. Another client, though, might ask you to take the lead on redrafting the document yourself. As such, you would want to charge a different rate for each job to reflect the work involved.

Similarly, you may want to adjust your rates to reflect the relationship you have with your client. Many editors, for example, offer a discount for clients who provide regular work.

Thus, key factors to consider when quoting a price for a job include:

  • The service type and level of editing requested (you may want to ask to see a writing sample, or offer a sample edit, to get a stronger sense of the latter).
  • Whether the job requires any specialized knowledge.
  • The volume of work involved (e.g., whether the client is seeking a single pass on a document or ongoing support, whether it is one document or several, the basic length of the document).

You can then use this information to decide whether you need to adjust your baseline rates when quoting a price for a job. Likewise, if required, you can change the way your charge (e.g., charging by the page when your usual rates are by the hour). It’s about finding an arrangement that works for both you and the client before you start working on a document.

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