Prices for academic editing vary widely. Anyone can offer their services as an editor or proofreader. In an unregulated environment, you can find novices offering £10–£15 per hour, while the most accomplished academic editors charge around £50–£60 per hour. Social sciences and humanities editing tends to be cheaper than medical or technical academic editing (follow the money!). In Germany, rates for professional academic editing hover between €30–€50 euros per hour, while in Croatia they hover around the €20–€30 mark.
Academic editing (compared with other fields) is characterized by low prices and low quality. This is a reflection of the large number of low-paid academic workers who require editorial services, and the low status often attached to editing and translation. Some consider working with language a job anyone can do as “we all use language every day”, and an academic journal may just seek out a native speaker with subject knowledge rather than an editorially trained professional.
For copyediting and proofreading – both jobs that require a lot of technical and linguistic know-how – an academic editor should be a trained editor, but they need not be a good or accomplished academic writer. For heavier editorial work (e.g. non-native editing, style editing and also rewriting), having good academic writing skills honed over several years will almost certainly improve the quality of the finished product.
Per hour, per word or per project?
Many editors – including myself – typically charge per word or per project. This is always based on an estimate of how long it will take us. I have found the quality of English to be similar across academic projects. Yes, there is the odd paper that reads like a dream, and the odd “stinker”, but most of the time, I edit around 800–1100 words or 3–5 pages per hour for non-“native” texts. This makes it easy to give a standard rate per 1000 words. For larger projects, many editors will offer a small discount as the volume of work means that less (unbillable) time is spent on looking for new projects.
How much do I charge?
My standard rates are based on earning roughly £30 per hour, which I see as an acceptable rate for a professionally trained editor with UK living costs and approximately three years’ full-time experience. This is at the lower end of what professional editors charge for copyediting (see the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading’s suggested minimum rates list). You can find my 2021 rates here.
In comparison, a junior lecturer’s hourly rate would work out at around £20 per hour – but this rate includes holidays, a favourable pension and other benefits associated with employment. Business owners also have to factor in paying for costs (training, office, software etc.) themselves and the extra hours of business administration (filling in tax returns, invoicing, marketing etc.), and ensuring they have a full-enough schedule. Despite the smaller hourly rate, a junior lecturer can expect to earn slightly more per year than an editor charging £30 per hour.
When (not) to hire an editor
If you just want somebody to ensure your chapter or thesis is written to the level of a native speaker, then there are many others willing to do this for a significantly lower rate. You could also look to see if any researchers in your cohort with subject knowledge can help you out. However, it is worth spending money on professional editing if you are publishing a key paper or book for your career, and you want to ensure it meets the best standards expected in publishing. If this is your goal but you are a low-income academic worker (earning less than €15,000 per year gross), I also have a small number of “solidarity slots” available at a discounted rate – feel free to ask me about them.
Who do I work with?
Almost all the people I work with link to my specialist knowledge. This makes sense as there are hundreds of trained editors available, but only a few with a knowledge of mistakes that Serbian/Croatian and German speakers make when writing, and even fewer who also translate from those languages. My specialist areas are social anthropology, psychotherapy (transactional analysis), history and political sciences, and almost all of my work deals with academic books, journal articles and policy reports. I have many years’ experience writing and publishing social anthropology texts and so I know the conventions of the discipline and audience expectations. I avoid dissertations and other assessed student work, but occasionally take on a PhD thesis if the topic particularly interests me!
What do I offer in the price that other editors don’t?
I always include a second read through in the price (what I call a proof-check). This is because editing non-native texts usually involves making big interventions and so a second read for readability and to catch any remaining typos significantly improves the quality. In mainstream publishing, a copyedit is usually followed by a proofread, but this is often skipped in academic publishing, or the authors are asked to do the proofreading. Having a second check through definitely makes a difference.