Proofreading Rates | A Guide for Freelance Editors

One of the hardest parts of freelancing is figuring out the right rates to charge your clients, and this is no different for proofreaders and editors. This article provides useful data and guidance on the process of formulating your rates.

Rates for proofreading vary widely depending on a variety of factors (e.g., experience, difficulty), but rough median rates are indicated in the table below for proofreaders who work independently and those who work with established platforms.

Style of work Median rate per hour
Working with a platform $20–$28
Independent freelancer $36–$40

Bear in mind that as an independent freelancer, you carry out additional work that you don’t bill for: finding clients and admin tasks like invoicing. If you instead work with a platform like Scribbr, you might earn a lower nominal rate (since the company takes a cut), but the additional unpaid work is eliminated.

Freelancing with a platform vs. independently

Many freelancers like to do everything themselves. But being a freelancer doesn’t have to mean working 100% independently. Many proofreading and editing platforms work with freelancers to provide their services.

Both approaches are valid, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Working with a platform

Proofreading platforms offer freelancers a way to connect with clients directly without handling all the outreach. Working with companies like this gives you stability in the way you approach your work, the editing standards you follow, and how you’re paid.

Working with a platform like this, you may earn a lower hourly rate on average than a fully independent freelancer, since the company takes a cut. But it’s important to recall the hours you don’t bill for when you work independently:

  • Finding clients
  • Communicating with clients, answering questions
  • Invoicing and other administrative tasks

These are the things a platform will usually handle for you, allowing you to focus on what you do best. Factoring these “invisible” hours into the comparison, the discrepancy between independent freelancer rates and those you earn working with a platform is smaller.

Working independently

Working independently, you can usually set a higher rate than you’d get working with a platform. But you will have to find clients and handle communication with them yourself, as well as handling your own admin. These are effectively unpaid hours.

Before fixing your rates, you’ll also have to decide how to formulate them in the first place. Rates are usually given per word, per page, or per hour.

Advantages Disadvantages
Per word
  • Precisely reflects the amount of work involved
  • Earnings naturally improve with speed
  • Not as easy for clients to parse (easier if you quote per 1,000 words)
Per page
  • Easy for clients to parse
  • Earnings naturally improve with speed
  • Documents need to be formatted consistently (12 pt. Times New Roman, double-spaced, one-inch margins)
  • Even then, word count per page still varies
Per hour
  • Easy to parse for clients (and for you!)
  • Earnings do not improve with speed—you need to up your rate as you gain experience
  • Clients don’t know in advance how many hours you’ll work

Once you’ve decided how to formulate your rate, you may still want to vary it based on factors that influence the difficulty of the assignment. Some common factors include:

  • Length of the deadline
  • Type and quality of the text
  • Expectations of the client

Length of the deadline

Even if you end up spending the same amount of time on the text either way, a shorter deadline puts more pressure on you to get to work straight away. So it’s common for proofreaders and editors to charge higher rates for shorter deadlines.

One approach is to offer a set of fixed deadlines the client can choose between (e.g., one day, three days, seven days). Another is to ask the client when they need the text back by and adjust your rate based on that. The former is more straightforward and consistent.

Of course, you can stick to a single fixed deadline if you don’t want to worry about this, but the lack of flexibility may put off potential clients.

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Text type and quality

The content of the text itself will also influence the difficulty of your work. In an academic editing context, the following factors might be relevant to consider:

  • Academic level (bachelor’s, master’s, PhD): Writing standards tend to be higher for higher levels (although the initial quality of the text may also be higher, owing to the client’s greater writing experience).
  • Type of document: Depending on the purpose of the document, you may have to approach it differently. A submission to an academic journal, for example, usually has to follow more stringent style requirements than a paper for a university course.
  • Subject matter: If you’re editing papers on a wide range of subjects, it’s worth determining whether a given text is likely to pose unique difficulties (e.g., dealing with statistics or specialist jargon). You can charge different rates for different fields.

    The quality of the text is worth weighing in too, since a messy text will take more work than a relatively polished one. If you can ask for a sample of the text before quoting the client, you can assess this directly and adjust your rate accordingly.

    Client expectations

    Another factor is what exactly the client expects from your work. Managing the client’s expectations is essential; a client who’s looking for substantive editing and assistance with structure won’t be happy if they only receive a spell check.

    For this purpose, you can offer a variety of editing services that the client can choose from, or you can discuss the client’s needs specifically before taking on the assignment and adjust the rate as necessary.

    Of course, this kind of discussion can be time-consuming in itself. It’s also a valid approach to simply offer a single, inflexible service. Just be up front about what you do and don’t offer, and let the client decide whether you’re the right choice for them.

    Proofreading for Scribbr

    One way to retain that freedom while reducing the uncertainty is to work with a proofreading organization like Scribbr. You stay freelance and can take on as much or as little work as you like. Scribbr handles all the tricky aspects of freelance proofreading for you:

    • Finding clients
    • Getting their documents to you and then back to them
    • Invoicing
    • Assisting you with any tax questions
    • Providing customer support in case any issues arise
    • Training you to edit efficiently

    Scribbr determines per-word rates for you according to the deadline and the additional services requested (Clarity Check and/or Structure Check). If that sounds good to you, click the button below to find out more!

    Becoming a Scribbr editor

    Frequently asked questions about proofreading rates

    How are proofreading rates calculated?

    Proofreading rates can be calculated in several different ways. You can set your rate:

    • Per word
    • Per page
    • Per hour

    A per-word rate is generally the most precise, since it closely reflects the amount of work you’ll have to do. But it can be confusing for clients to parse at a glance; one solution is to quote per 1,000 words so the numbers involved are clearer.

    What qualifications do you need to become a proofreader?

    There are many different routes to becoming a professional proofreader or editor. The necessary qualifications depend on the field – to be an academic or scientific proofreader, for example, you will need at least a university degree in a relevant subject.

    For most proofreading jobs, experience and demonstrated skills are more important than specific qualifications. Often your skills will be tested as part of the application process.

    To learn practical proofreading skills, you can choose to take a course with a professional organization such as the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. Alternatively, you can apply to companies that offer specialized on-the-job training programmes, such as the Scribbr Academy.

    How much will I earn as a Scribbr editor?

    On average, you can expect to earn approximately $20 to $30 per hour as a Scribbr editor.

    The earnings are calculated based on fixed per-word rates that we have set for different kinds of assignments. We will communicate these rates to you as soon as you are in your Scribbr Academy.

    The per-word rate for each order is determined by:

    In our Scribbr Academy, we train you to edit as efficiently as possible—which will help you to increase the speed at which you work. For example, we include a Scribbr Word macro that you can use to easily utilize standardized in-text comments.

    How can I become a Scribbr editor?

    You must apply through our website and complete all the steps in the Scribbr editor application process.

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    Jack Caulfield

    Jack is a Brit based in Amsterdam, with an MA in comparative literature. He writes for Scribbr and reads a lot of books in his spare time.