According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, copy editors make a mean annual wage of $59,340 a year. Basically, you may make $28.53 an hour as a copy editor, but the range is wide and fat (like many of the editors who feast on late night Chinese food). The salary differs depending on the size and prestige of a company. Smaller publications may give inexperienced copy editors a chance and, in return, the salary is lower than the average.
Your wage may also depend on where you live. Copy editors in New York make roughly $74,690 a year. Editors living in Texas make an annual mean wage of $50,150 a year. Basically, those living in an area with a high cost of living will make more. Well if that isn't the darnedest coincidence.
Freelancers generally make less than an editor on staff. The word "free" in "freelance" couldn't be more deceiving. A lot of freelancers work longer hours for zero benefits. But you get to notice the slight color change of the paint on your aging home office walls. Typically, their rate starts at $25.00 an hour. Also, some freelancers charge by project. For example, a client needs a book edited. The copy editor determines it will take about an hour to edit eight pages. The book is 250 pages long; therefore, it will take around 31 hours to edit. (We divide 8 into 250.) If the freelance copy editor charges $25 dollars an hour, the entire project will cost the client around $800 dollars. But how do you figure out how much to charge as a freelance copy editor?
The more experience you have the more you can charge. Wise editors (who often physically resemble Ian McKellen), will say it is best to place a high bid for a project then lower your hourly rate if the proposal wasn't accepted. When you first start working as a copy editor, you may find that your rate is as low as $15 an hour. That's okay. Learn from the experience, but don't continue to charge a low rate the rest of your life. How do people know what you are worth in order to agree on your desired hourly rate?
It is vital for freelancers to market themselves by keeping an updated website. Ask everyone who has ever hired you for a recommendation. Clients like to see that you work well with writers, finish projects on time, and produce good work. And that you know how to really pimp out a blog on Wordpress.