What the heck does an editor charge?

I have applied for a permanent employee position with a large publisher. The publish books and reference manuals in the tax and human resources field. The funding did not go through, but they do have several freelance editing projects, one of which they are offering to me. This project is a detailed discussion about lifetime gifting.

The company received a submission from the author, and returned it to the author with a request for substantial revisions both for accuracy and to fit with the publication’s writing guidelines. The author was apparently too busy to make the changes. Now the company wants me to edit/rewrite the project. My contact said that they would probably want the finished project within the next three months. In addition to checking the project for legal accuracy with the 2000 tax laws, I also need to incorporate the changes from Dubya’s tax act. Since this will be in a reference manual, I expect it will have a great deal of footnotes or endnotes.

I think I have good writing skills (despite what you see on the boards) and I certainly have the background in tax. I have been working in estate planning for 7 years now.

What I don’t know anything about is publishing/editing, especially freelance work.

How much should I charge? What do other editor types make?

How long should it take? The package with the manuscript and the company’s proposed revisions is about 1 inch thick, typed, double-spaced. They know I can’t devote my full time to it, since I still have a day job.

Any pointers for a first timer? I would really appreciate any tips you could give me.

For straight proofreading - correcting grammar and punctuation only, no rewriting for style - I charge $25 an hour. If I’m expected to rewrite for style, I charge $35-$40 an hour. If I’m writing from scratch with research supplied by someone else, it’s $50 an hour, and if I have to do the research, it’s ten million billion dollars an hour. (Funny, no one ever chooses that last option.)

I think my prices may actually be on the low side.

Also, with straight proofreading I usually guarantee a minimum of 25 pages per hour proofread unless it’s on a very technical subject where I’ll have to go slower because of specialized terminology.


It’s a very technical subject, helping rich folks give their stuff away during their lives to avoid estate taxes. I am certain I will at least have to research the 2001 tax act. Possibly more. I’m not sure.

Part of the trouble is, I don’t know how long it will take me. I don’t want to offer a number, and have my contact cupping the phone to hide her gales of laughter.

JC, publishing maven here…

I talked it over with some editorial pals here and around DC. Basic editorial work is about $25/hour. Technical stuff or work that’s going to require more re-writing can end up being upwards of $35 or $40/hour.

If you’re actually going to be contributing new information to the project you might want to ask for co-authorship credit. That’ll look good on you and might put you in line for a share of royalties.