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What editors charge
Most editorial projects go through several editing stages and rounds of revisions. And each industry has its own expectations and rates of pay.
Editors are professionals who possess a specific set of skills. Rates for editorial work can vary depending on the type and complexity of work being performed, the deadline(s), the industry, and the editor’s level of experience and training.
Types of editing
Most projects go through several editing stages:
- Substantive/structural editing: Clarifying or reorganizing a manuscript for content and structure
- Stylistic editing: Clarifying meaning, eliminating jargon, polishing language, and other line-by-line editing
- Copy editing: Editing for grammar, usage, spelling, punctuation, and other mechanics of style; checking for consistency of mechanics and for internal consistency of facts; inserting head levels and approximate placement of art; editing tables, figures, and lists; notifying the designer of any unusual production requirements
- Proofreading: Checking page proofs of formatted, edited material for adherence to design and for minor, mechanical errors in copy (such as spelling mistakes or small deviations from the style sheet)
Editors may also provide developmental editing, coaching, rewriting, production coordination/editing, fact-checking, picture research, permissions, mark-up/electronic coding/tagging, desktop publishing, SEO and indexing services. For more details on what each stage of editing and each additional service involves and does not involve, please see the Professional Editorial Standards document prepared by Editors Canada. This document is available in both English and French.
Rates and billing
Each industry—trade publishing, custom publishing, educational publishing, academic publishing, government publishing, corporate communications, non-profit publishing, and individuals preparing a manuscript to submit to agents or publishing companies or to self-publish—has its own set of expectations and, often, sets its own rates. If you would expect to pay an editor $60,000 a year in your industry, you should expect to pay a freelance editor about $60 an hour.
Sometimes the fee is calculated as an hourly rate; other times it is calculated as a flat project fee, often based on the word count of the document. Hourly rates vary depending on the type of work and the difficulty of the text. For example, a substantive edit of a document written by someone working with highly specialized terminology (for example, an academic) or by someone for whom English is a second language is more time-consuming than a proofread of a children’s book for a trade publishing company.
Amy Einsohn and Marilyn Schwartz’s The Copyeditor’s Handbook, Fourth Edition (University of California Press, 2019) provides the following guide for estimating the amount of time a particular project may take:
- Substantive, structural, or stylistic editing of a difficult text: 1 to 2 pages/hour
- Substantive, structural, or stylistic editing of a standard text: 2 to 3 pages/hour
- Copy editing a difficult text: 2 to 4 pages/hour
- Copy editing a standard text: 4 to 7 pages/hour
- Proofreading a difficult text: 4 to 6 pages/hour
- Proofreading a standard text: 6 to 9 pages/hour
Like any self-employed service provider, a freelance editor charges hourly rates that reflect the cost of operating a business. An experienced freelance editor will, typically, bill between 20 and 25 hours per week.
Depending on their annual income, editors may be required to collect tax on top of their work. In Ontario, this tax is the HST and is 13%. However, an editor performing a service for a client in another province must charge according to the other province’s tax rate. For example, an Ontario-based editor who edits a document for a client in British Columbia would charge that client 5% HST rather than 13% HST.
Editors Canada recommends that expectations from both parties be established before a project is started. Our Standard Freelance Editorial Agreement spells out which elements should be clarified in advance.
Editors Canada regularly surveys its members to determine average rates. This information is available to members only.