Kateproof offers an affordable and efficient proofreading service

Because you're worth it! Charging what you're worth

Posted on 12th August 2014

The issue of rates and what a proofreader or editor should charge and what a client is willing to pay is always an interesting debate, as it is in most fields. The CIEP has suggested minimum hourly rates but for most clients, I like to convert that to a set fee so that everyone knows what the final bill will cost - after all, no two files are ever the same so sometimes it can take an hour to proofread 1,000 words and other times it can take 10 minutes.

One thing I have always been keen to stress though is that people, in whatever walk of life, should charge what they're worth. That does of course open the can of worms that is worth and self-confidence, which I won't really go into here, but I recently had an interesting chat with a student that might be of interest to those looking at this issue.

A student called me a few days ago asking if I'd proofread a thesis but unfortunately I wasn't available to do the work. The student asked about rates and I said that I would always need to see a sample before finalising the quote but for student work (where remit is slightly different from other proofreading work) ordinarily I charge between £7 and £10 per 1,000 words, not including urgent/last-minute work (and I have a minimum fee so short work will cost more).

Two days later the student called to ask my advice: they had contacted a few proofreaders, many of whom weren't available, but two had quoted. The issue was that one person (person A) had quoted less than half what the other had quoted (person B)   the student preferred the 'sound' of the lower-priced option, person A, but was concerned that the low quote meant they wouldn't be any good. The student questioned whether person A perhaps didn't have much experience proofreading academic texts, or perhaps wasn't suitably qualified, and they generally felt like it would be a big leap of faith to go with this person. Though I didn't want to 'take sides', I suggested to the student that person A had a confidence issue rather than an ability issue, but even so, I wouldn't want an unconfident plumber fixing my toilet for half the price of a confident plumber...

I don't know if the student went with person A in the end, but I do know they tried a few more people for quotes. If person A doesn't get the work, it would be a bitter pill to swallow knowing they 'lost' the work due to quoting lower than the client expected.

When quoting, it may be worth putting yourself in the customer's shoes: what does your price say about you and your service? Sometimes you can find a bargain but other times you get what you pay for...

While writing this blog, I emailed Louise Harnby and it turned out she was writing one that complements it. If you're interested in someone else's perspective of rates and working out what to charge, check out her blog about whether newbies should charge a 'lower' fee than people who have been in the industry for longer.

Edited in March 2020 after the Society for Editors and Proofreaders became the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading.

Written by Kate Haigh.