Understandably I hear this from people enquiring how much I estimate the cost of a proofread will be from me. Unfortunately, some equate freelance with part-time or casual work undertaken, by someone who magically earns their main income elsewhere and can therefore be generous with their time and charge a minimal amount for it. Sadly, that is not the case as for many freelances, myself included; freelance proofreading / editing is our only or main source of income, unless they have a partner with a really good job.
Many freelances work from home and therefore do not have the burden of financing the costs of buying office accommodation, although a small number rent – often shared spaces. They often do not have staff salaries and other costs such as holiday, maternity and sick pay, and staff pension contributions to find. However, if the freelance wants a holiday, well that is not paid for. If they are too ill to work then tough, no one is going to cover that. If you want a pension you are going to have to fund it yourself.
On top of these costs that will arise, whether or not a freelance is in work, there are the usual overheads that most businesses have to bear: heat and light (office equipment can gobble up a surprising amount of electricity); funding the wear and tear on that office equipment that will someday need replacing when it wears out or becomes obsolete; computer software that can sometimes cost more than the computer itself and will one day need upgrading; computer maintenance and back-up costs; insurance; advertising and website hosting fees; stationery and postage; training; reference books; professional fees such as for an accountant; and so on.
The freelance will have to factor in all the above business costs when fixing the rates that they charge for proofreading and editing, which have to be met before they can even cover personal expenses such as mortgage and house insurance, household utilities, and food bills. I have left out the car – well I do not run one as I cannot afford to on my freelance income (I do work from home and regularly shop on line for groceries and clothes). Nor do I have the luxury of taking foreign or domestic holidays – travel is expensive and I do not get paid when I am not working. Do you detect the hint of self-pity? None intended as I enjoy my work and the freedom the lifestyle gives me. All I ask is a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, like any other freelance.
Stephen York is a freelance proofreader with over 25 years' experience in book and journal publishing offering proofreading services to publishers, businesses, organizations, educational institutions, academics, students, and authors. He regularly proofreads in digital format a wide variety of media in an extensive range of specialist subject areas, including business, finance, economics, education, marketing, and real estate.