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

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 started my business with a table of hourly rates on this page, based on the type of editing required and a range of words that can be edited at that level in an hour. That worked for a time, and then I updated this page with a bit of a rant about how sometimes I’d rather be paid in chickens than dollars (and I honestly was paid in chickens once; it was awesome) and updated my fee schedule to version 2.0, the “Ballpark Estimate Table for Managing Expectations“. Again, that served reasonably well for a while, but once again I realized my actual model has evolved further.

More recently, I have been reminded of the ago-old Project Management Triangle: Out of the trio of Cheap, Fast, and Good, the customer can pick two. If you get all three, someone is likely losing something, somewhere, and/or someone is gaining at the expense of someone else.

I still like to work 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 (oops, I mean for that amount of money), and yours in terms of how much work will be left for you to do yourself.

And I still hold the opinion that if I could measure the cost of editing in chickens, eggs, squash, cabbages, or hours of manual labour, I totally would. As it is, fees (by the word or hourly) are listed in Canadian dollars and do not include GST/HST for clients in Canada. For more information on the types of editing and services available, see my home page. For more information on my experience and expertise, see About Me.

1. By the word

I reserve by-the-word fees for fairly light editing. These are ‘single-pass’ jobs to bring a finished document in line with a style guide and/or a ‘good polish’. A solid copy edit includes correcting spelling and grammar, adding queries if something is not clear, flagging inconsistencies (in hyphenation, numbers, dates etc.), checking citations and references, and so on. This kind of work is very similar to what you would get from an online service such as Scribendi. I cannot guarantee price matching, but I can most certainly guarantee superior quality and a personal touch that online services cannot offer. My fees include a final check after edits have been inserted, if desired.

My per-word rate will be in the range of $0.05 to $0.08 cents per word, before tax, depending on the length and state of the document and the desired turnaround time. Similar to online services, I will need to know your desired spelling/dictionary, your required style guide (or the name of the journal), and whether you will need references checked. Here is a table with some typical examples:

Type of projectPossible scope of work Typical number of wordsExpect to pay
Journal ManuscriptEditing (all types), formatting, references5,000 – 8,000$250 – $800
Scientific Grant ApplicationEditing (all levels), formatting, references, budget justification5,000 – 10,000$500 – $1,000
Letter of application, cover letterEditing (up to stylistic)250 – 500$50 – $100
Blog post/Web copyEditing, formatting500 – 1,500$50 – $100

2. By the hour

Hourly consulting fees are for more in-depth work, usually related to writing, structural and/or stylistic editing. My About Me page lists the kind of projects I have worked on. I specialize in research funding applications, scientific manuscripts, and academic reports, but I have also worked on web copy and community communications.

My base consulting rate is $75.00 per hour, before taxes. The number of hours required for a project varies widely. Here is a table with some typical examples:

Type of projectPossible scope of work Typical time requiredExpect to pay
Journal ManuscriptStructural editing, drafting content, combining input from multiple authors, managing citations and references, cleaning up figures and tables10 – 40 hours$750 – $3,000
Scientific Grant ApplicationWriting abstracts (including lay summary), editing (all levels), formatting, references, budget calculation/justification, project management15 – 30 hours$1,200 – $2,250
Academic CVAdvice on structure, layout; editing (all types), formatting, reference management4 – 6 hours$300 – $500
Blog post/Web copyWriting, editing (up to about 1,000 words)1.5 – 3 hours$100 – $250
CoachingOne-to-one meetings by phone or online; editing; feedback and/or instructionvariable$75 per hour

Thesis or academic editing for students

I am pleased to offer a 30% discount for students paying out of their own pocket. I will apply this discount to any quote I provide. Supervisor permission is required in writing for editing of a student’s thesis.

Type of projectPossible scope of work Typical number of wordsExpect to pay*
Master’s ThesisEditing (up to stylistic), formatting, references8,000 – 10,000$500 – $800
PhD ThesisEditing (up to stylistic), formatting, references 10,000 – 15,000$800 – $1,200
Letter of application, cover letterEditing (up to stylistic)250 – 500$50 – $100
*Fee ballpark estimates are before discount

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 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. Keep that Project Management Triangle, in mind, though!
  • 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.

Payment methods

If you are using grant/institutional funds, most institutions pay by cheque. I am listed as a supplier for several Canadian universities. For out-of-pocket (personal) payments, I prefer e-transfer for Canadian clients and PayPal for international ones. PayPal fees are converted from CAD to USD on the invoice date, and a 4% processing fee is applied.