Updated: Nov 10
UK and US rates for proofreading and editing vary widely. The industry is unregulated, so in principle, anyone can claim to offer these services. In summary:
There is no simple answer or upper limit to rates for proofreading and editing
Novices in the UK and USA should charge at least a living wage
Professionally trained proofreaders and editors with substantial experience should charge at least the CIEP minimum rate
Professional editing organisations, such as the CIEP and EFA, publish guidance on rates
There is likely a loose positive correlation between price and quality
Rates for editing and proofreading vary widely, and there is no guarantee that a higher price equals a better service. The field is unregulated, which means that anyone can offer their services as an editor or proofreader.
Now, you will be able to find an editor at all price points, but the service you receive will vary drastically.
Editing and proofreading are both jobs that require a lot of technical and linguistic know-how.
This means that a professional editor or proofreader should be trained. Equally, they need not be a good or accomplished writer as editing is a different skill. For heavier editorial work, having excellent writing skills perfected over several years can be a great help. These fields include editing for multilingual authors, line-editing, developmental editing, and rewriting.
What are professional rates for editing and proofreading in the UK?
The CIEP offer guidance on what standards they expect a professional copyeditor to meet. This includes:
references from satisfied clients
a minimum of 500 hours of experience
editorial training with feedback from experienced editors
If an editor meets these criteria, they can list their services in the CIEP directory. They recommend that editors charge the CIEP minimum rates (£31.30 for copyediting or £36 for line-editing in 2022). You’ll find most editors charge per 1000 words, though, and their speed per hour could be anything from 1000 words per hour for an intensive line edit or multilingual author edit to 3000 words per hour for a very light copyedit.
These rates for proofreading and editing are comparable to entry rates for junior copywriters, and you will find that very experienced editors will likely charge substantially more than this.
Equally, you will find entry-level editors with no or little training (but perhaps with substantial expertise in a subject area and a desire to learn and improve their editorial skills) offering services for much lower rates. Nobody should offer rates that work out lower than a living wage, however. Arguably, freelance rates should be substantially higher than a living wage as independent business owners also have to pay for all business expenses, pension contributions etc.
What are professional rates for editing and proofreading in the USA?
In the USA, the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) publish median rates based on a survey of their membership.
What about editing on a budget?
You know the adage: cheap, fast, good – pick two of the above! If you are looking to save money but also work with a professional editor, you could try offering an extended deadline so that the editor can fit the work in around other jobs.
Per hour, per word, or per project?
Many editors – including myself – typically charge per word or per project. This is always based on an estimate of how long it will take us. It is easier for the client if they receive a fixed price for a job rather than a rate per hour. Editors’ per word pricing is typically based on an expected speed.
In my experience, there is the odd text that reads like a dream. Yes, there is also the occasional problematic text in which I frequently have to guess the meaning, but most of the time, I can copyedit around 2000 words of fiction or ethnography per hour, or do a heavy edit (line edit) of 1000 words. Editing for multilingual authors is usually comparable in pace to a line edit. And fiction is usually a little bit quicker than non-fiction.
Per project pricing can work well if the task involves several services, e.g. consultation or coaching calls followed by several rounds of editing and proofreading.
What kind of editor should you pick?
My advice is to always pick an editor who specialises in your topic. Don’t hire a fiction editor to edit your legal manuscript, for example. My specialist areas are fiction editing (especially science fiction and fantasy) and ethnography (cultural anthropology). I’d say that 95% of the work I do falls in these areas.
Besides expertise, for deeper kinds of editing, it is important to have a good rapport with the editor and to feel comfortable wih the changes they make. Finally, you should check that they are trained and have experience in your specialism. Besides looking at their editorial credentials (e.g. membership of editorial societies, training, experience, etc.), take a look at the kind of books or articles they work on – do they speak to your interests?
Andrew Hodges, PhD is a copyeditor and developmental editor who specializes in editing fiction for science fiction and fantasy writers. His expertise is in worldbuilding and cultural considerations when crafting setting in stories.
You can contact him here, or feel free to leave a comment below!