How to Choose Your Proofreading Rates: A Freelancer’s Guide
Many freelance proofreaders struggle to come up with clear pricing structures, especially when they just start down their career path. On one hand, you want to charge enough so that you can pay the bills and remain competitive in a crowded market. On the other hand, you also want to ensure that you’re not making clients pay more than they should.
In this post, we will show you what we believe to be average freelance proofreading rates in the publishing industry. This data is based on more than 2,000 quotes from editors and proofreaders on the Reedsy Marketplace — most of whom have over five years’ experience in traditional publishing. This means that their rates might be higher than a freelancer who, for example, mostly proofreads term papers for college sophomores.
Recommended freelance proofreading rates
Many proofreaders turn to the world’s most notable associations for reference, especially when they start with their work. Here are a few data points worth checking out:
|Association||Rate per hour|
Some proofreaders recommend adding around 30 percent to the hourly rates mentioned above because a freelancer is effectively running a business, which in itself creates costs for the professional (marketing, administration, et cetera).
Statistics from the US Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics show us that in 2018, the mean hourly wage of employed proofreaders was around $20. Proofreaders in business support services, newspaper, and publishing earn a little bit over $18 compared to their colleagues in advertising and public relations earning over $23; legal services is the top paying industry with over $28 per hour.
Here at Reedsy, we did our own research and looked into the proofreading rates our professionals charge. But first, let’s look at how they go about coming up with their pricing models in the first place.
Proofreading rates: hourly, per word, or per page?
Ah, choice paralysis! As a freelance proofreader, you want to be able to quickly establish expectations with your prospective clients by offering up your “rate” near the start of any conversation. But what’s the best way to express this rate?
In this section, we’ll outline your three main options along with their advantages and disadvantages.
Proofreading rates per hour
Novice proofreaders will sometimes start their career by offering their services per hour. In an industry such as editing, hourly rates are not necessarily the best choice for newbies. For one, you are not yet able to assess a manuscript accurately and charge the correct hourly rate. What often happens is that proofreaders misjudge the time they need for a project, which results in ultimately over-invoicing the client or not getting paid enough for their work. To avoid this situation, look at the rates charged by experienced editors and keep in mind that they might work faster due to their experience.
If you have under-quoted your client, you will have to make a tough decision: Do I let them know that my quote was wrong, which might paint an unprofessional picture of myself, or do I take it on the chin and learn from my mistakes?
The only projects that commonly warrant an hourly rate are short manuscripts, projects that are not very complex, or ones that are already complete. Even inexperienced proofreaders should be able to assess the time needed to complete these projects without a problem.
Proofreading rates per page
Charging clients by the page brings with it quite a few challenges. The simplest way, however, to charge for proofreading per page is to first ask for the manuscript’s full word count and divide it by the number of words that you can proofread per hour. Easy enough, right?
The editor should always be clear what they expect one page to look like, for example:
- 12 point Times New Roman font;
- Double spaced with one-inch margins; and
- Around 300 words per page.
Again, novices often struggle with calculating their per-page proofreading rates as they might not have enough experience to know how fast they can work without making a blunder. The Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) suggests that most professional proofreaders should be able to work through about ten pages per hour with 300 words per page. This amounts to 3,000 words per hour (not factoring in breaks).
Proofreading rates per word
Among proofreaders, the most popular charging method is per word. The benefit for proofreaders and their clients is that it’s the most accurate and up-front pricing model. While most professionals base their prices by single words, it's commonplace to quote per 1,000 words as it's less confusing for clients.
Bear in mind that average proofreading rates per word will vary depending on the type of project you’re dealing with. We suggest looking at our pricing calculator and finding the per-word proofreading rate of the genre you most commonly work in. Bear in mind that our pricing calculator uses data points based on the rates proofreaders charge in our Marketplace.
The following are the average quotes given by experienced proofreaders for a 60,000-word book:
- Young Adult: $570
- Historical Fiction: $660
- Memoir: $720
- Non-fiction: $750
As you can see, the numbers indicate that average rates will fluctuate between genres. Though that is not the only factor at play here.
Factors that will affect your base rate
As a rule of thumb, proofreading rates for science, medical, and technical materials are higher than anything else in the mainstream publishing sector. If you have a background in one of these fields, chances are that your expertise will lead to higher rates.
On the other end of the spectrum are the social sciences and projects that fall into the trade publishing category. There’s a lot more competition to be found here, which means you can expect to offer slightly lower rates.
However, working as a freelancer directly with indie authors ultimately means that you can set your price.
Apart from a project's category or genre, what other reason would you have to deviate from your base rate?
How “good” is the source material?
Not all manuscripts are created equal, which is why it is very important to get an accurate overview of the project you are about so start on. Sometimes, a client will send you a sample that ends up being much better than the rest of the manuscript. If you are not sure you can create a quote for the sample you received, ask for a bigger sample.
It's crucial that a proofreader is able to accurately judge the time and effort needed to be able to deliver a project on time. Proofreader Leonora Bulbeck bases her rates on a sample proofread her clients send in their Reedsy brief:
“I set each sample file to the same font and font size (Times New Roman, 12pt), double spaced. If possible, I do three pages, and then I take a look at how many amendments I have done (this is easy using Track Changes in Word or Pages). I divide this number by three to get the average number of edits per page. This average is then my key number for setting my rate for that particular client.”
Even the best proofreader might make a small mistake when judging the sample. If you do notice along the way that you need to put more effort into the proofreading than you originally thought, it is always a good idea to talk to let the client know. At that point, you can come to an agreement if the original proofreading rates have to be updated to reflect the newly made assessment.
How quickly do they want it?
Choosing the appropriate turnaround time for a proofreading project is one of the biggest hurdles of a young professional. The more jobs you take on, the easier it will get to come up with the correct time frame.
As a rule of thumb: Projects with around 10,000 words should be done within five days.
But what about urgent work that gains priority above everything else? Simply put, urgent work can be tackled first, but not without a premium. You should make it clear that, on top of your standard proofreading rates, there is an added fee for projects with a short turnaround time.
The same goes for projects that have to be delivered on weekends or that involve weekend work. Add a fee on top of your usual proofreading rates to make up for the time you cannot take off to relax.
Does the project line up with your USPs?
As a proofreader, you have to create the image of a professional who knows exactly what they can do and what to charge for their services. The way a proofreader advertises themselves will change along their career path as they get more experience, certificates, and clients.
In the beginning, it might be a good idea to point out your editing internships and degrees, if you want to work in a specific category. Once you have your first clients, start adding their testimonials to your profile and include them in your offers.
The more aligned your unique selling points (USPs) are with the job you want to take, the more likely it is that the client will accept your proofreading rates. Bear in mind that you should not include the following into your list of USPs:
- Your newness to the field;
- Minimal experience;
- Lack of confidence; or
- Being prepared to work for lower rates.
As a professional, you have to believe in your proofreading rates, no matter if you are being asked to read through a 500-word blog post or tackle a 120,000-word memoir.
How much you should charge for proofreading
There is no definitive answer to proofreading rates as it depends on many different factors. Testing your pricing structure is key. Use our data points from this article and do your own research.
Every result will lead to an opportunity to learn something from it and tweak your pricing. Lastly, give this article a read as it goes into detail about how to set your freelance editing rates.
If you have questions regarding your proofreading rates, send an email to our Reedsy team at email@example.com.