Technical writing services by Espirian

Who can make my writing better?

Is your content well written? Who could you hire to help make it better? How much does proofreading cost? Where can you find someone with the right skills? Plenty of questions. Let’s take a look.

Is your content well written? A common scenario

You’re fed up of your competitors banging on about what they do. Your product or service is better than theirs and it’s about time you got that message out there.

Your team have created some content and are ready to publish it. But is it well written? You care about how your company represents itself, so you want to approve the message before it goes out. The words seem OK. But English was never your strong suit at school, and you’re unsure about how to end up with text that’s free of errors.

You’re sensible enough to know that Word’s spellcheck alone isn’t enough. That little voice in your head reminds you that it would be good to get someone else more qualified to check the text.

Someone who knows what they’re doing should be checking my text.

That little voice in your head

You could ask Barry in marketing to read through it, but he’s always busy. And besides, you really do need this one to be done properly. Your potential customers are going to see the content, so it’s important that everything’s right. Make the wrong impression and you’ll put people off.

No way.

You decide to call in some help.

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Who can I hire to check my documents?

A personal recommendation is going to trump everything, but say that you’re in front of Google and want to find someone online who can help. What do you type in? Search engines are getting better at understanding what you mean, but it can still be tough to find the right person or business unless you know what to search for.

You know you need a trained pro who can provide something beyond what you get from an automated spellcheck. They’ll check the flow of the content, sharpen the message and correct any inconsistencies and errors.

I recommend you search for a copy-editor or a proofreader.

People immersed in the editorial world will tell you that copy-editing is more substantial than proofreading, which is why copy-editors tend to charge more than proofreaders. To me, it doesn’t really matter what we call the service. What does matter is that you and the person you hire are clear about what’s going to happen when they get stuck in to reviewing your content.

Any responsible editorial pro will confirm their understanding of what you want before they agree to take on a ‘proofreading’ job.

Copy-editors and proofreaders improve your writing.

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How much does proofreading cost?

Most freelance proofreaders will charge at least £20 per hour. (Hardly surprising – try to find a freelance anything for much less than that.)

Editorial professionals with a lot of experience and/or a specialism will charge a lot more.

Each year, the Society for Editors and Proofreaders publishes suggested minimum rates for editing and proofreading. Only the latest rates are shown on the website, but I’ve been keeping track of the rates for previous years. Here’s the data:

Year Proofreading Editing
2018 £24.30 £28.30
2017 £23.35 £27.15
2016 £22.75 £26.50
2015 £22.50 £26.20
2014 £22.00 £25.70
2013 £21.40 £25.00
2012 £20.75 £24.25
2011 £20.25 £21.80
2010 £19.25 £20.75
2009 £19.25 £20.75
2008 £19.25 £20.75
2007 £18.50 £20.00
2006 £17.50 £19.00
2005 £17.00 £18.50
2004 £16.50 £18.00
2003 £16.00 £17.50
2002 £15.50 £16.50
2001 £15.00 £16.00

Remember that these are suggested minimum rates.

Personally, I charge around £50 per hour for my editing and proofreading services. If you’re looking for cheap, I’m not your man. (If you’re looking for good, I might be.)

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Where can I find a proofreader?

There are lots of online directories of proofreaders. The best one is the Directory of Editorial Services on the SfEP website. Why? Because everyone listed in there has to be registered as a Professional or Advanced Professional Member of the Society. While other directories simply require entrants to pay a fee, the SfEP directory is based on editorial competence.

More than 600 editorial professionals are listed in the SfEP directory, so you should have no problems finding someone to help you there.

Most SfEP pros will charge at least the suggested minimum rates set out above. That’s not to say you can’t get these services a lot cheaper on job bid sites, but be mindful of the quality of the output. You tend to get what you pay for. And remember the old saying: ‘If you think hiring a professional is expensive, try hiring an amateur.’

Full disclosure

I’m biased because I’m a director of the SfEP. Still, find me a more complete editorial directory and I’ll be impressed.

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Employed proofreaders versus freelance proofreaders

Unless you’re producing a lot of content, employing an in-house editorial person probably won’t make financial sense. It’s likely to be much cheaper to hire a freelance proofreader as and when you need one.

The best solution might be to set up a retainer agreement for proofreading services, so that you know you can count on one person for, say, 5 hours of their time each month. That will give you consistency of service and will save you the hassle of hunting someone down when timescales are tight.

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Let’s wrap up

Do you think your business content could benefit from proofreading? Why not hire a pro editor to help your words work better? Have you hired a proofreader before? What was the experience like? What editorial service would really help your business most? Leave a comment below and let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

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