Few freelancers post rates on their website. The reasons are many. What do you think?
- Clarity allows clients to judge whether they can afford your service, saving everyone time.
- Clarity attracts clients who might have otherwise assumed they couldn’t afford your services.
- Clarity also saves you time talking to people who don’t have the necessary funds.
- Rates vary between markets (e.g., a lower rate for educational v. corporate).
- An hourly rate does not reflect the time it takes. Just because the client wants to pay for an hour doesn’t mean it can be done in an hour.
- You may undercut your colleagues, or yourself (i.e., ask less than clients are prepared to pay).
Text Editing Fees
My hourly rate is $66 per hour, and I work at the standard productivity rates — including the variations that take into account familiar or unfamiliar text, manuscripts that are densely jargon-filled, and so forth.
You can get a ballpark estimate right this instant, using the widget on this site.
This rate is right on par for my level of experience and training, according to the 2012 survey by the Editors’ Association of Canada.
That hourly scale and productivity rate are what I use to come up with a project estimate. For the typical projects I take on, my task is budgeted $7,000 to $50,000. I work on lengthy projects and I do the really “get your hands dirty” kind of editing. A proofread of the same material would not cost nearly so much because that process is faster. — I check proofs, but I do not “proofread.”
Why Rates Vary
Because, we live in a capitalist economy where the idea is that people charge what the market will bear.
Market = topic + publication format + publication market + industry + city
On a personal level, I can bear a lot more when the pay is good. This might explain the inverse relationship between the [perceived^] joy of an edit and the pay; there are more people trying to work on fun materials and fewer willing to take on long, dry, complex materials. (Businesses have more money to spend, and romance novels attracts cheap labour with promises of fun.)
The RGD of Ontario publishes their rates annually.* Their 2010/2011 report says that their members earn an average of $64/hr for proofreading. (That is for individuals. Businesses charge out their proofreading services at $88/hr.) Note that they (cleverly) call this service “quality assurance.” Ah, how very much is hidden in the branding.
The RGD 2011 report says that content development earns an average of $75/hr (that’s close to my skills offering) and that copy writers are charged out at the rate of $127/hr.
The EFA posts the results of their rates survey. It looks like the US market pays a lot less than Canada does at the top end. The Canadian magazine industry also published rates. Magazines must lie on closer to the “fun” end of the scale.
Treat Clients How You Would Like to be Treated
This is the fundamental reason behind why I knuckled down and put my rate on my website: the experience of trying to book a flight.
I always end up feeling swindled when I try to book a flight, and I don’t want my clients to feel that way. That is no way to start a relationship — especially not a relationship as intimate as an editing one.
The cost of a flight changes dramatically each time I look it up. It depends on when and where I want to go, for sure, but it also depends on when I ask (day, time, and lead time) and who I ask. I just want a straight answer, and I don’t want to have to figure out their little scheme to be able to get a fair price.
Flight analogy not work for you? How about trying to book surface travel? Input the date and time you want, and get “Sorry, there are no trips at that time.” My reaction: Well why were those times an option then? Why don’t you just tell me what you’ve got and I’ll see if I can make it work!?
Those prices vary less than the cost of a flight, but they still vary. Hotels do the same thing. I bet as clients, neither a bus company nor a hotel would accept it if your rates varied by day and time. I wish they would treat us how they expect to be treated.
*If you like data crunching, you’ll like the full report “National Survey of Salaries and Billing Practices in Graphic design,” available at www.rdgontario.con/survey. You can even get the raw data there.
The EAC membership survey is available to members after logging into the website.
^Hat tip to Arlene who is absolutely right that editing “fun” works is actually hard work. It feels to me that clients think that getting to work on “fun” stuff like fiction should be its own reward, but nearly no one would try to argue that reading an annual report is “fun.”