How to charge and how much to charge are often the most common questions I see asked on blog posts and forums by proofreaders new to the freelance business. The answer is far from straightforward and will depend on a number of things.
At Proofreading Asia, 60% of our clients are students. Charging by the word works best for us, and for them, as they like to know beforehand how much our service will cost, and we prefer payment to be made upfront before committing to a job. By simply checking the word count in a document, we can send a quote within minutes. The benefit of this is complete transparency and the client usually gets more than they pay for—one of the reasons we get repeat business.
But what if you work with companies? Charging by the word is not as practical when checking business material. For example, you could charge by the word, they send 100 words of advertising copy, and after you’ve checked the wording and replied to any questions, you are practically working for nothing. That’s why I would strongly recommend charging by the hour when working on business and advertising material. This enables you to get a fair price for your services by factoring in tight deadlines, revisions, etc. It helps if you also have a written agreement in place and a rough estimate per job.
Finally, how much should you charge? Well, that depends on you. Some people want to get as much work as possible and offer a cheap rate—this tactic might work for students but companies are likely to be sceptical and assume that because the price is low the standard of work might be low too. The best and busiest proofreaders I know are some of the most expensive and rightly so—definitely something to bear in mind.
If you are working with students and charging per word, my advice is to calculate how many words you can check, in say, an hour and divide that by how much you would want for an hour of your time. This practice has served me and my colleagues well as we feel our clients get good value, and we are not too disheartened if a client chooses not to use us, as we feel the quote is fair. A similar principle applies when charging by the hour and working with companies.
Being consistent and fair with how much you charge will allow you to increase your business in the long term.