So, yes, I am a writer, and I understand that as writers – especially incipient ones – we generally have very limited financial resources. However, this is absolutely not a reason to expect qualified professionals to work for ridiculously low amounts of money. Publishing independently comes at a cost – the costs traditional publishers usually front are the responsibility of the author; they are not dispensable.
Real examples I've recently seen:
- A 275,000-word manuscript seeking proofreading, with a budget of $150. If a proofreader read about 10 manuscript pages (250 words / manuscript page) per hour, that would mean s/he would earn $1.36 per hour, or about 14 cents a page. (On writer.ly)
- A 90,000-word manuscript, seeking developmental editing, with a budget of $500. Developmental editing takes more time than proofreading, so let's say the editor goes through 5 manuscript pages per hour: $6.94 per hour, or about $1.39 per page. (On Bibliocrunch.com)
Now, please remember that these are highly educated, skilled professionals. They could literally make more money sitting at a desk as a receptionist answering a phone call once every 3 hours – in which case they'd also not have to pay self-employment taxes, or for insurance, etc. – than by taking jobs at such rates. Would you work under those conditions??
I understand that part of the benefit of these sites for writers is receiving multiple estimates and having the ability to select an editor / proofreader according to our budget and personal preference. However, the benefit to qualified professionals on these sites is to find promising clients who are willing to pay them a fair wage for their work. And the fact is, if we as writers continue to lowball our potential editors by setting unreasonably low budgets for our projects, qualified professionals will no longer offer their services on such sites, or possibly at all. They may choose an alternative job or might, hopefully, find a better way to find clients who will pay a reasonable amount, but ultimately, they will not offer their services to the independent authors who need them. Meanwhile, writers will pay amounts within their budgets but for a terrible quality of work, which may as well therefore not happen.
I don't know about you, but I'd prefer to spend my money on worthwhile, dependable services that are truly worth the extra cost, rather than throwing it away on an unqualified provider whose services will not augment, or worse lessen, the value of my work (since I'd believe it to be improved and in reality it will still be riddled with developmental problems and grammatical errors). If you can't afford a quality editor / proofreader, consider trading for services, or negotiating a payment plan or alternative compensation.
If you are unfamiliar with industry standards, there are online resources, such as this list (as a guideline).
If you are seeking a professional editor / proofreader, consider contacting Anya Kagan – meticulous and dependable, with very reasonable rates and a quality of work that's certainly worth the cost.
Have a favorite editor / proofreader? Feel free to suggest them in the comments!