Reducing your editing costs

Once you’ve decided to use an editor to help improve your documents, your next thought might be “how much will it cost?”.  


Editing rates

Editing rates vary by type of editing, whether you pay by the hour or word, the experience level of the editor, where the editor is located and the turnaround time.


In the US, the average rates, according to the Editorial Freelancers Association, are:

·       Copy editing – $41-45/hour

·       Developmental editing – $51-60/hour


In the UK, the minimum rates, according to Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading, are:

·       Copy editing – £30/hour (around $40)

·       Developmental editing – £36/hour (around $49)


How many pages an editor can complete in an hour will depend on the quality of the content and the type of service. However, the pages per hour rate for non-fiction documents is likely to be between two and six. This is based on the standard manuscript page of 250 words.


Getting cost-efficient editing

Once you know more about usual editing rates, you can compare them to your or your organisation’s budget. When you do this, you might find your budget doesn’t cover your current editing needs.


So how can you reduce your editing costs and get cost-efficient editing?


There are a few factors and steps you can consider. I’ve described these below.


Prepare your document well – the more you do yourself, the fewer hours the editor will need to spend. So, make sure you’ve checked the basics (use spellcheck!) and asked a colleague or friend to review to find any issues that can be easily fixed. Remove any weird formatting or internal comments that might slow down the editor.


Don’t leave it to the last minute – most editors charge more for quick turnaround times as they might have to delay other requests or work over the weekend. Give the editor enough time so you don’t incur these extra charges.


Prioritise what needs editing – consider whether any appendices, annexes and references can be skipped so your editing budget is focused on the main parts of the document.


Give helpful background and requirement info – don’t overload your editor with reading (as they will charge you for that time!) but do make sure you give them enough information so they can edit well the first time. For example, find and send any document requirements, such as the ‘Instructions for authors’ for journals or the content details in a Request For Proposals (RFP).


Use a helpful document type – Microsoft Word is usually the quickest software for editors, meaning they can complete more pages per hour. Asking for editing in Google Docs, PDFs or any other file type is going to be less cost effective.


Choose the right editor for you – different editors have different rates. These rates are often based on their subject matter specialisms, experience and location.


For example, editors with specific scientific specialisms will usually charge more than a non-specialised editor. You will need to consider your current content quality to decide whether you need someone who fully understands the science and its vocabulary. If the writing quality means the editor is likely to have to guess your meaning, you should opt for the specialist. On the other hand, if your writing is ok and just needs polishing, a non-specialist could be more cost effective.


New editors usually have lower rates than those with more experience. You might decide that the trade off between cost and experience is right for your document, e.g. the content is already in ok shape or the competition for publication or funding is low.



Editors based in countries with a higher cost of living, such as those in Europe, will usually have higher rates. I offer lower rates at the moment as I’m located somewhere with a lower cost of living. When possible, I also offer lower rates for writers in LMICs (Low and Middle Income Countries) as I want to better match the budgets available in those countries.