Editing versus proofreading

Just the other day a client asked me to render editing services, and when we were negotiating the rates per word they wanted me to charge the same rates I do for proofreading. “But aren’t they the same?” No, they are not and everybody should be aware of that, especially us freelancers.

Proofreading is primarily concerned  with correcting errors, especially those that can materially impact the meaning or value of a final printed product. As a result, it should be performed last in the series of tasks associated with publishing in order to ensure that no last minute errors are omitted or overlooked in the proofreading process. One major difference in proofreading vs. editing is that editing is typically concerned with contextual and factual changes, while proofreading solely focuses on grammar, style, punctuation and spelling. A talented proofreader may return a document to the editor with questions about the content; for instance, an improbable numerical figure may be questioned. However, the proofreader does not make these changes without confirmation from the author or client.

Now that we know the difference it is important to make that clear to your client and also charge the appropriate rates for each service. After doing some research, I found something interesting. Proofreading services are charged mostly per hour whereas editing is charged per word. In some cases that proofreading is charged per word, some freelancers charge 25% of their translation rates. With editing they charge 50% of their translation rates.

What if…

The text has poor quality

It is very important to let the client aware of the quality of the translation you are proofreading or editing, and you do not need to finish the whole work to do that. Whether you are proofreading or editing a text, if it is clear that the quality of the translation is very poor, or if there are plenty mistakes and inconsistencies, the best thing to do is stop what you are doing and inform the client that you may need to retranslate it or do more amendments than expected. This is a very important action, especially because you may need to negotiate new rates and deadline.

The client wanted editing instead of proofreading and vice-versa

To avoid this type of situation it is extremely important to state that you offer both services at different rates. That will show the client proofreading and editing are two different things. Time is money, and your time is very precious. Clarifying everything before starting the job will save you a lot of headaches and you will get paid for the service you rendered.

Knowing the difference between editing and proofreading is essential to your professional development, and the bright side of all this is that you will be able to offer more variety of services to your client.


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