The Cost of Editing

Given the job you are doing we’ll find the money to pay what you bill.

~ Email from a Very Happy Client

There are good reasons to wonder about the cost of editing. It all comes down to the intersection between time and money. How long will a job take, and what is that time worth to me, the Editor, and to you, the Client?

I used to have a table of hourly rates on this page, based on the type of editing required and a range of pages that can be edited at that level in an hour. While this technical and systematic approach to giving estimates totally appealed to the left side of my brain, I found it doesn’t actually work in real life as well as I hoped, for two main reasons:

1. Clients already know how much they have available to spend.

If you are looking at this page, it’s likely because you have a need and you want to know if the amount you have available to pay me is enough to cover that need. You likely know your limit or cap, but you may not be sure whether this cap you have in mind is realistic.

2. It never, ever takes the time I think it will.

Some editors charge by the hour, some by the page, some by the word. Regardless of which scale I choose, it never works out the way I think it will, and I spend far too much of my time trying to figure that out when I could actually just be doing the work. My satisfaction comes from client satisfaction. If I have done well for you and can pay a few bills as a result, I am happy. The cost of editing is equal to the time and effort required to bring about that result

I love the romanticized idea of a bartering system: you give me this and I give you that. I even did an impromptu editing job for a friend once and she paid me in chickens – literally! It was awesome. But money is a reality of our existence, and the exchange of funds is the only option in most cases.

Fee Schedule 2.0

Thus, I have made a tactical decision to work more closely with prospective clients and base my estimate on a combination of your budget and the scope of work required. I might look at your project and give you an estimate based on what I’d like to do with it, but then you get to tell me what you can actually afford. And then we can both adjust our expectations: mine in terms of what I can reasonably accomplish for that number of chickens, and yours in terms of how much work will be left for you to do yourself.

Here, then, is my new-and-improved Ballpark Estimate Table for Managing Expectations. If I could measure the cost of editing in chickens, eggs, squash, cabbages, or hours of manual labour, I totally would. As it is, amounts here are in Canadian dollars and do not include GST. For more information on the types of editing and services available, see my home page.

Type of ProjectPossible Scope of Work Typical Number of WordsExpect to pay
Scientific AbstractEditing (up to stylistic)250 – 500$50 – $100
Journal ManuscriptEditing (all types), formatting, references5,000 – 8,000$500 – $800
Master’s Thesis
Editing (up to stylistic), formatting, references8,000 – 10,000$500 – $800
PhD Thesis
Editing (up to stylistic), formatting, references 10,000 – 15,000$800 – $1,200
Scientific Grant ApplicationWriting, editing (all levels), formatting, references, budget justification, project management5,000 – 10,000$1,200 – $2,000 and up
Academic CVEditing (all types), formatting, reference management20 – 50 pages$200 – $400
Letter of application, cover letterEditing (up to stylistic)250 – 500$50 – $100
Blog post/Web copyWriting, editing, SEO, formatting500 – 1,500$100 – $250
CoachingOne-to-one meetings in person or online; editing; feedback and/or instructionn/a$60 per hour

Things to keep in mind

  • Know your deadlines. Seriously. Don’t tell me I have until next Friday and then tell me oops, the department wants it the day after tomorrow.
  • Be prepared to pay a premium for rush work. A rush job is defined by a 24- to 48-hour turnaround, and is negotiable for projects up to 10 hours in length.
  • Be honest about your budget restraints. You will be surprised what I can accomplish for how little, depending on how much I believe in what you are doing. If you are reeling from a quote, make me a counter-offer and we’ll agree on an amount and scope that makes us both happy.
  • Be legit. Answer my questions about where you live and what you are writing for. I should be able to Google your name and find you. I reserve the right to ask for a deposit and to refuse payment by cheque (unless your funds are coming from a University). Scammers can find my template response here.

The Proof is in the Pudding

Still not convinced? Have a look at my Endorsements page to hear what clients and colleagues have had to say about what I can do. And finally…

If you send me a short sample of your writing, I will mark it up and send it back, and you can decide whether my time is worth the cost to you. So,send me your writing sample and let’s talk!