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ASK US WEDNESDAY: “What should I charge for book editing?”

by Rachel Smith
28 March 2018

I’m relatively new to freelancing and looking for some advice. I’ve recently edited the second book of a friend of mine. It was a big job and she wants to pay me for my time. I’m happy to do mates rates for her but she’s also recommended me to another writer and I’m not sure what to quote. Do you know of any industry standard rates I should look at or is there a site where I can find some info? D

There are a few sites with rates for book editing. In our 2015/2016 pay rates survey, the majority of editors (print/mag editors and book editors) told us they get paid between $50-75/hour. The Institute of Professional Editors (IPEd) did a similar survey with a full report here and the results are similar, with an average hourly rate of $67 (rates differ slightly from State to State).

I understand you’ve already completed the job and will probably do a deal for your friend, but going forward, some things to consider when quoting on new jobs include:

  • How large the manuscript is. While this can give you a good indication of how long it can take you, every job is different. If it’s a short, quick editing project charging a project fee might work but if you’re not sure of all the variables until you start on the manuscript, charging hourly rather than giving a fixed fee will better ensure you’re not left out of pocket.
  • What kind of state the manuscript is in. If it’s a mess, or if the client is disorganised and you anticipate a lot of back and forth during the project, you should factor extra time.
  • The client’s budget. If you cost the project and it’s more than the client has budgeted for, you can always quote for a scope that fits in with their budget (and be very specific in your quote, itemising exactly what you’ll complete within the budget).
  • How they want the changes. Do they want you to mark up a hard copy so they can take in the changes themselves, or make changes on an electronic copy using track changes (which takes longer)?

You should also include a contract if the job goes ahead, detailing the scope of the job, your hourly rate, how you’ll handle expenses (like printing or couriers, meetings etc) and your payment terms. If it’s a lengthy project, it’s probably best for your cash flow to split the job into a sizeable deposit (especially for new clients) then establish regular progress payments.

Oh and don’t forget to track your time while you’re working on the project which helps with invoicing. I like Toggl, which is free – and accountancy website Rounded also has a time tracking function that makes invoicing for time-based projects really easy (Rounded is a subscription-based service designed for freelancers; our Gold members receive a month’s free trial). I hope that helps and good luck with landing the next job!

Do you work as a freelancer editor? Any tips to add?

Rachel Smith
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Rachel Smith

As a kid, Rachel used to carry around a little suitcase of pens and paper so she could stop and write stories whenever inspiration struck. These days, she writes for a living, in between running the show at Rachel's List. Some of you may actually believe she looks like a megaphone in real life, but it's not the case. Honest.
Rachel Smith
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