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Last updated on May 24, 2024

How to Choose Your Proofreading Rates: A Freelancer’s Guide

This post was written based on the last 24 months of data from Reedsy Marketplace and with insights from professional proofreader Leonora Bulbeck.

The average proofreading rate on Reedsy over the last 24 months is $0.0158 per word, or $15.80 per 1,000 words. For a 70,000-word manuscript, the average project quote is $1,108. However, proofreading rates can vary greatly depending on a range of factors, such as the genre you’re specializing in and the experience you bring to the table.

So, if you’re hoping to become a proofreader or update your rates (or if you’re an author searching for reliable information on the costs of hiring a proofreader), we’ve drawn data from all quotes given by experienced proofreaders on Reedsy Marketplace in the last 24 months to present you with reliable industry averages. And, though these averages can be a good starting point, we’ve thrown in some tips on how you can adapt your freelance proofreading rates according to your circumstances.

Average freelance proofreading rates

How much should you charge for proofreading? Below, you’ll find the average proofreading rates charged by Reedsy’s professionals for different genres of writing:

Genre

Proofreading rate
per word

Proofreading rates
per 1,000 words

Average rate 70k words

Biographies, Memoir

$0.0166

$16.60

$1,162

Romance

$0.0139

$13.90

$972

Crime, Mystery

$0.0149

$14.90

$1,041

Thriller, Suspense

$0.0147

$14.70

$1,031

Sci-Fi

$0.0147

$14.70

$1,026

Fantasy

$0.0152

$15.20

$1,066

Young Adult

$0.0153

$15.30

$1,069

Historical Fiction

$0.0149

$14.90

$1,045

Literary Fiction

$0.0161

$16.10

$1,130

Action, Adventure

$0.0153

$15.30

$1,071

General non-fiction

$0.0186

$18.60

$1,302

Religion, Spirituality

$0.0198

$19.80

$1,383

Children's*

$0.0160

$16.00

$1,120

*Note that the rates for children’s books do not include picture books, which tend to have a higher per-word rate than chapter books and Middle Grade.

We’ve also created a rates calculator for anyone (whether proofreader or potential client) who wants to find out the expected cost of proofreading a book, depending on the genre and length of the manuscript.

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Proofreading rates per 1,000 words

As shown in the table above, freelance proofreading rates can range from $13.90 per 1,000 words for a romance novel to $19.80 per 1,000 words for manuscripts in the religion and spirituality genre, with an average of $15.80 per 1,000 words across all genres.

How much do proofreaders make?

Most proofreaders work on a freelance basis rather than as employees, so in terms of wages, let’s look at what the hourly rate is for a proofreader. Here are some 2024 data points to check out:  

Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA)

$35–65 per hour*

Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP)

£29.85** (~$37.20) per hour

*Depending on genre

**Suggested minimum rate

Statistics from the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics show that in 2023, the mean hourly wage of employed proofreaders was around $24.57. Those who proofread in the legal, medical, and public relations fields tend to earn more than those working in publishing, though data for this group includes proofreaders in the newspaper and advertising field as well. According to ZipRecruiter, the average wage of a freelance proofreader in the U.S. is roughly $57k per annum, while in the UK, annual earnings typically range from £25–35k ($31-$39k), according to Glassdoor.

Freelance proofreaders who offer copy editing and copywriting services alongside proofreading naturally set higher rates. In combining these services and maintaining constant business, you could earn as much as you would with full-time employment. 

Do you think you have what it takes to be a proofreader? Take this test to find out: 

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Now, so far we’ve covered both per-word rates and hourly rates — but what should you go by as a freelancer? Let’s see what the smartest way to go about setting your proofreading rates is.

How to set your proofreading rates 

Using the averages in the tables above as baseline rates, here are five steps to determining what you want to charge your proofreading projects:

1. Set your per-word base rate 

Even though we propose that freelancers base their rates per word (more on this in a bit), it’s probably not the most helpful way to present your quotes to authors or clients, so knowing how much you charge per 1,000 words can help. With that information at hand, together with the total word count of the manuscript, you can quickly crunch the numbers and find out how to quote for the full project. 

While people like to use hourly rates to make it easy to compare between different professions,  it’s not the most efficient approach for proofreaders, especially those working with long-form content. 

As a newcomer to the trade, it’s difficult to gauge how long a project will take and pick a rate that appropriately reflects your work’s quality. Clients understand this — they are less likely to sign a contract with a proofreader offering an hourly quote to avoid the risk of paying for services that aren’t as efficient as they’d like. 

So when is an hourly rate a good idea? When you’re working on a manuscript that’s in terrible shape, or one that requires more specialized proofreading (think scientific papers or historical pieces) — in other words, a manuscript that would require more of your time and care. In such a case, an hourly rate could account for that. 

However, even if you charge for proofreading services by the word, you can still account for these nuances — and here's how.

2. Determine the amount of work with a sample proofread 

Not all manuscripts are created equal, which is why it's important to get an accurate overview of any project that you plan to take on. Before you send out a freelance quote for the project, ask for an extract from the manuscript, and do a sample proofread. This helps you to estimate how much work needs to be done, and it also gives the client an idea of your abilities. 

Proofreader Leonora Bulbeck bases her rates on the samples clients include in their briefs on Reedsy:

“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 look at how many amendments I have done (this is easy using Track Changes). I divide this 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.”

In other words, the more mistakes there are, the more correcting you will have to do — and the higher the rate you should charge.

3. Consider the deadline 

Deadlines become important only when your client has left things to the last minute. If you’re asked to do your job extra quickly, you can raise your rates. 

As a rule of thumb: projects of 10,000 words should be done within five days. Anything faster than that (if it’s doable given your current workload) should come with extra compensation in addition to your baseline rate, since you’ll be working in your personal time. 

You should also let clients know when they have unrealistic expectations. As an experienced freelance proofreader, you’ll be staggering multiple proofreading jobs at any given time, so projects with longer word counts are unlikely to be turned over in a few days. Adjusting a client’s expectation in a professional manner can help make the negotiation go more smoothly — and can safeguard your own mental health, protecting you from burnout.

4. Account for your experience 

As with all kinds of services, the more experienced you are, the more expensive your service can be. A proofreader with more experience is more familiar with standard formatting and language presentation rules (from punctuation to capitalization). You may offer both U.S. and U.K. English proofreading, be used to conventions in the genre, and be less likely to miss out on small details — all of which call for better compensation. 

We at Reedsy encourage professionals to review and update baseline rates at least on a yearly basis in order to recognize this professional growth. 

5. Be prepared to let some clients go

Oftentimes, the hardest about setting your rates actually comes after you send out a freelance proposal and quote, when the client responds to it by saying that the rate is too high. Some clients set unrealistic expectations when it comes to proofreading costs, while others may hope to minimize costs. In the face of this opposition, even when the client is polite, it’s not easy to stand by your rates. Freelancers — experienced ones included — tend to hold on to the thought that any client is better than none, even if it means you undersell yourself a little.

But you deserve to be paid fairly for the expertise and service that you offer. So come into negotiations ready to make your case for your quote. Remember that you are the expert: you have the knowledge to help clients and, with the research done, you understand industry averages better than anyone. Politely explain the factors you’ve accounted for when coming up with your rate, and most clients will understand. 

These five steps help you set fair proofreading rates for both yourself and your client. Remember that every project is different and that you are gaining experience all the time — your earnings should reflect that!


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