Prices for academic editing vary widely. Simply put, 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–€35 mark.
Low prices and low quality characterize academic editing (compared with other fields). This is a reflection of the large number of low-paid academic workers who require editorial services. It is also due to the low status often attached to editing and translation. The same applies to translation where a person fluent in two languages may be hired for a job, despite their having no or little translation experience. As for editing, an academic journal may just seek out a person with subject knowledge whose first language is English instead of an editorially trained professional. Budget constraints play a role as well.
Copyediting and proofreading are both jobs that require a lot of technical and linguistic know-how. This means that an academic editor should be a trained editor, but they need not be a good or accomplished academic writer. For heavier editorial work, having excellent academic writing skills perfected over several years is important. These fields include editing for multilingual authors, line-editing, developmental editing, and rewriting. For these jobs, a former academic researcher is best.
Cost 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 occasional problematic “guess the meaning” text, but most of the time, I edit around 800–1100 words or 3–5 pages per hour for texts written by multlingual authors. This makes it easy to give a standard rate per 1000 words. Giving a project rate helps the client too, as they receive a fixed rate for a project. For larger projects, many editors will offer a small discount, e.g. ten per cent. Why? Because the volume of work means that less (unbillable) time is spent on looking for new projects.
How much do I charge?
My standard rates for copyediting and line-editing are based on earning roughly £28–£35 per hour. This is an acceptable rate for a professionally trained editor running a business with UK living costs and approximately three years’ full-time experience. This is mid-range for what professional editors charge for copyediting (see the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading’s suggested minimum rates list). My rates for developmental editing are slightly higher (£35 per hour) as this is a more demanding skill.
In comparison, a junior lecturer’s hourly rate would work out at around £20 per hour. Yet 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. Besides these costs, they have extra hours of business administration (filling in tax returns, invoicing, marketing etc.), and ensuring they have a full-enough schedule. Despite the differential, charging £30 per hour would put an editor in the £30–£40K income bracket – similar to the junior lecturer’s salary.
When (not) to hire an editor
If you just want somebody to ensure your chapter or thesis is written to the level that a speaker of English as a first language might produce, 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.
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. 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. This means that I know the conventions of the discipline and audience expectations. I avoid dissertations and other assessed student work, but occasionally take on a 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 texts for multilingual authors usually involves making big interventions. Consequently, a second read through to catch any remaining typos will significantly improve the quality. In mainstream publishing, proofreading usually follows copyediting. Yet academic publishers sometimes skip this step, or ask the authors to do the proofreading themselves. Having a second check through definitely makes a difference.