Wondering What To Pay An Editor In 2015? Use This Cheat Sheet

Wondering What to Pay an Editor in 2015? Use This Cheat SheetIf you’re looking to hire an editor this year, especially for freelance work, it’s helpful to know how much money you should expect to put down. Digging around online for pay scales will return plenty of sites that give you the “rates depend on services” spiel. While it is absolutely true that pay does depend on the level of services that you need, we wanted to break through the clutter and actually provide rates you can use.

We wrote a similar post on freelance writing rates, so we thought we’d do the same for editors.

Editing tasks

For starters, let’s talk about the services you need an editor to provide. If you turn an editor loose on your content, tasks are usually broken into these three categories:

  • Proofreading. Proofreaders look for basic errors. They spot surface mistakes, like grammatical errors and misspellings, that make reading problematic. It’s as basic as it gets.
  • Copyediting. Copyediting is a cut above proofreading. An editor corrects grammatical and cosmetic mistakes, but also checks for accuracy, consistency and overall flow. Sentences are rearranged, words changed and facts checked.
  • Content editing. This is the most extensive (and typically expensive) type of editing. It covers all of the skills within copyediting and proofreading and then some. A content editor will rewrite sections and work with the author to improve the quality of the text.

Pay rates

Now that we’ve covered what an editor does, let’s talk about budgets. We dug up three resources to help you base your freelance editing rates on.

Daily Writing Tips, an online writing and editing resource site, says “substantive editing services will set you back about $50 an hour.” This is a good base to start from. So, if you need a 300-page book copyedited and the average pace is 5 pages an hour, you can expect to pay around $3,000.

The Editorial Freelancers Association also has a rate card on its website. Its rates hover around $50 an hour too, but this organization breaks down each job and assigns a specific fee. This rate card is more specific and based on your project needs. For the most part, the rate card shows average rates between $30-60 an hour.

The Writer’s Market also has an in-depth rate card published online. While most of the rates focus on freelance writing, there are also some editing rates based on business type. Below is a list we compiled from Writer’s Market.


  • Business editing: $72/hour
  • Copyediting for businesses: $61/hour
  • Newsletter editing: $63/hour
  • Copyediting of corporate periodicals: $70/hour

Book publishing

  • Content editing: $50/hour
  • Copyediting: $34/hour
  • Anthology editing: $52/hour


  • Copyediting: $58/hour

Salaries in full time world

The salaries of freelance editors are quite different than that of a full time editor for a big company. Folio, a resource for magazine publishing professionals, conducted a survey to find out just how much an editor makes. The results are extensive and are broken into several fields. Here’s a quick look at salaries based on the editorial position and publishing type.


In 2013, an editor-in-chief in the business to business field made an average of $91,300; in the consumer field an editor-in-chief made $85,600; and in an association setting an editor-in-chief made $99,700. Here’s a look at how those salaries compare to 2012 rates:

Editor-in-chief Pay Rates

Executive editor

In 2013, an executive editor in the business to business field made an average of $76,300; in the consumer field an executive editor made $75,600; and in an association setting an executive editor made $72,000. Here’s a look at how those rates stacked up against the previous year:

Executive editor pay rates

Senior editor

In 2013, a senior editor in the business to business field made an average of $67,100; in the consumer field a senior editor made $73,100; and in an association setting a senior editor made $62,500. Here’s a look at how those salaries compare to the year previous:

Senior editor pay rates

What’s your take on these wages? Is it in line with what your company expects to pay editors in 2015?

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About Lisa Furgison

Lisa Furgison is a freelance journalist and co-owner of a media company, McEwen's Media. Find her on Twitter @lfurgison.