Learn a simple trick for finding out the going rate in your market — right down to the subject, product, and city niche. Then you can set your own fees with confidence.
In this episode, I expand on a post that first appeared on Copyediting.com.
Press play or read the transcript below. 7 min
What is the going rate in your niche? Leave your comments below, or join the discussion over on Twitter.
Follow-up post: Why the 1000-hours calculation really works.
- Service Canada Job Bank
- Media Job Search Canada
- Copyediting.com (2017 update)
- Working in Canada
- Editors Canada (EAC)
- The Association of Registered Graphic Designers of Ontario (RGD, Canada)
- Editorial Freelancers Association
- Pay Scale, for copyeditors and proofreaders, or simply editors (search any term in any country)
- Copyeditors’ Knowledge Base (links almost cover the globe)
- AMWA (American Medical Writers Association) 2014 results
Welcome to Right Angels and Polo Bears, a podcast about editing words in all sorts of contexts. I am Adrienne Montgomerie, scieditor.
On this podcast I revisit a post from the now-defunct Copyediting. I will explain a simple trick for finding out the going rate in your market. Then you can set your own fees with confidence.
Some editors pick a number out of the air; some spend excrutiating hours calculating their needs; the worst pick a rate close to what they earned on salary. — I’ll explain why that’s disastrous later.
It can feel like a shot in the dark trying to nail down the market rate in your area of expertise. Here is a quick-and-dirty calculation to get you going:
FIRST — Find a job ad for an editor in your subject and/or product area. It’s best if the job is in your city of choice too. You’ll understand why in a minute.
Got that job ad? Good.
NOW — Divide the annual salary by 1000. Just move the decimal three places to the left.
So if a job commands a salary of $50,000, a freelancer will have to charge $50 an hour to clear the same income. This covers overhead and benefits too. It works reliably for editors since we have pretty low overhead: a computer, some software, internet access and office space and we’re in business. We don’t have van-loads full of tools to buy, for instance. We don’t need a store front or secretarial support right off the bat. And, in Canada, most medical care is covered, so we don’t need to calculate that as an extra expense.
Let’s look at some real cases. I looked at the Working in Canada database. That is one which updates frequently.
The median wage for a proofreader in Toronto is $25 per hour. In Ottawa, the median is $31.72. That translates to $50–$64 per hour for a freelancer, using our shortcut.
What about the jobs on the boards today? I dug up three that gave salary info by looking at jobbank.gc.ca, monster.ca, the the now-defunct Copyediting listings, media job search Canada, and Workopolis.
The first is an ad for a copy editor to work in PR at a firm in Quebec. For $48,000 a year, they want someone with an undergrad degree and 3–5 years experience in writing and editing articles, Web Design, project management, international accounts management, and with a “large and proven network of contacts in digital, traditional and social media.” So following this model, if you edit in Quebec for the “luxury sales” market (as this business describes itself), you should charge $48/hr.
I might skip that one.
Here’s another: $50,000 is being offered for an editor in Kitchener, Ontario who has a post-grad diploma in communications or something like that, 2–5 years’ experience “distilling briefs and marketing strategies into easy to understand written pieces for public consumption”, and experience in the financial industry.
Here’s a third one: $38,000 to an editor in Toronto with 1–2 years experience, a post-secondary education, and typing speed of 50 wpm. Preference given to those with experience in a financial setting.
So what do we have there? $48, $58, and $38/hr for kind of beginner jobs. If you’ve got 20 years experience, please index your rate accordingly. Note that none of those works out to a freelance rate of $25/hr — a rate I hear offered a lot — but these three examples also require some subject knowledge and they are not working for publishers. They tend to pay less.
Don’t believe this calculation works? Do a longer and more detailed calculation for yourself. Account for:
- your training and experience
- the value to the customer
- the cost of computer and software
- Internet and phone
- ongoing training
- the income you would like left over after expenses
- the cost of vacation and sick days
- unbillable time at lunch and on breaks
- the market in which the customer operates — that means the city as well as the subject and product niches
The Editors’ Association of Canada did a salary survey of its members in 2009 and again in 2012. Average income for full-time editors was reported as $48,500 in 2009. Last year’s report showed the bulk of copy editors charging about $50/hr and proofreaders hovering around $40. One third of all editors doing substantive and developmental work are charging $60/hr or more, for project managers, nearly half are charging $60 or more per hour. Both surveys covered nearly all industries and locations. The most recent covered more freelancers than salaried employees — about 3/4 of respondents were freelancers.
Given that a typical editor has a productive limit of 30 hours’ editing each week, that means they are billing a minimum of $32 per hour. That is, if we give them two weeks of (unpaid) vacation, which is the standard minimum, but we assume they can bill the maximum number of hours each year. There’s no accounting for lulls or illness.
Remember that editors sometimes go by other titles. Erin Brenner has been writing about the various titles we find editors working under in a variety of industries.
How about “quality control”? That’s what proofreaders are called in the 2011 national salary survey by the Association of Registered Graphic Designers of Ontario. They report a national average earnings of $64 per hour for quality control. That is billed out to clients at $88 per hour if the proofreader is an employee. On average.
What is the going rate in your market?
I hope you will leave your comments on the site, or Tweet me at scieditor, that’s SCI as in science, editor.
To find links to the resources I mention in this podcast, check the show notes at: dameditors dot ca. That is DAM editors dot CA.
This has been the Right Angels and Polo Bears podcast by Dameditors and me, Adrienne Montgomerie. Thanks for listening.
The image used for this podcast is Adrienne’s adaptation of an image by Horia Varlan, used under CC by 2.0 license.