Freelance Writing Jobs
How to Hire a Copy Editor

They say that behind every great writer is a great editor. Writers have the big ideas, the overarching flow of a piece of content, and the expertise in the subject to create definitive, thought-leading content with accuracy and finesse.

Editors are the ones that make that content really shine.

Imagine, if you will, a brand-new car rolling off the assembly line. What is the impression you get? A sleek, high-quality machine, precision-engineered, nicely painted, and free from defects. Imagine now a car with a bit of imprecision; the body panels don't quite fit together right, the paint job is sloppy with overspray and an unpolished finish, and one of the tires isn't quite inflated all the way. It's still new, still drivable, but it's not the sleek, polished machine you expected.

Solution That's the difference an editor makes. In a very real sense, an editor is like Quality Control for your content. They take the meat and the bones from your content, and they polish it into a sleek finished product.

What Does a Copy Editor Do?

Before you can hire a copy editor, you first need to know what it is that they do.

Copy editors are one of several kinds of editors, all of which have different roles in the content creation process. Sometimes you'll need all of them, and sometimes just one. Copyediting is the most "ground-level" of the editing processes and has the least to do with overarching flow, logic, narrative progression, or fact-checking.

Solution A copyeditor is essentially a human-driven spellcheck, grammar check, and sanity check.

They read through a piece of writing and look for issues and errors to correct. They don't worry about the order of the points made throughout the piece. They don't care about whether or not the claims you make are factual. All they care about is that your writing is polished and adheres to any brand style guides you may have.

A Copy Editor Working

Things a copyeditor might do include:

  • Identify typos and spelling errors that need to be fixed.
  • Identify homophones and misused words (too/to/two, there/they're/their, etc.)
  • Make sure common turns of phrase are actually correct (it's "for all intents and purposes," not "for all intensive purposes.")
  • Find incomplete thoughts or duplicated sentences to remove.
  • Point out cases where a passage is monotonous or formulaic, or even meaningless (though this may get into substantive editing and could be beyond the copy editing role.)
  • Ensure consistency in tone, point of view, and perspective (such as making sure you always use "I" and not "we" when referring to yourself and your brand, or vice versa.)
  • Validating that the content adheres to any brand style guides or general styles (like the AP style guide) that you may want to stick to.

Copy editing generally does not concern itself with the logical flow of ideas, the general outline of a piece, the validity of conclusions, the use of actual verifiable facts, and other more high-level decision-making.

Solution Note: some people in the writing world use a different definition for copyediting, more in line with what I would call line editing. In my case here, I'm thinking of copyediting as the most ground-level, technical editing available. Mentally replace whichever definition is applicable to you. That said, this process is also viable for any kind of editor; you just need to tailor your tests to the skills you need.

Why Not Use Tools?

All of this sounds like something you could do using automated tools. Word processors like MSWord have built-in spelling and even grammar checks that can do most of this work already. The rest can be done by default, just by a skilled writer. So why hire an editor?

There are three good reasons.

First, automated tools are not perfect. MSWord's grammar check isn't always right and won't catch everything. More advanced tools like Grammarly can point out non-errors as errors, introduce monotony or pull away from your personal style, violate brand guidelines, and can even just be wrong. More modern AI-powered copy editing tools can often be wrong or offer wrong suggestions.

MSWord Spelling and Grammar Check

Second, using those tools still requires a human who knows what they're looking for to evaluate their suggestions. If something like Grammarly recommends a change, is it a good change or not? Would it change the meaning of the sentence or violate brand guidelines? Without human decision-making, you won't know.

Third, there are many cases where a "wrong" use of language is correct, whether it's a colloquialism, a play on words, a joke, or an example of an error. Using an automated tool misses that nuance and can ruin the intent of your writing by fixing intentional mistakes.

And let's be honest here; a skilled copy editor is probably using those tools themselves. They just have experience with customizing them to suit the needs of their clients and know when to accept changes and when not to.

Automatic tools won't replace a skilled copy editor, and a good copy editor uses those tools and knows how to use them properly, so it just isn't worth it to try to use the tools on your own or in place of an editor.

How Much Does Copy Editing Cost?

Copy editing is both more and less expensive than you might imagine.

On the one hand, it's more expensive because people are used to the bare minimum and don't actually want to pay much for "a glorified spellcheck." If you're not used to paying for editing at all, you might be surprised at the rates.

On the other hand, it's less expensive because, at the end of the day, copy editing is relatively simple, and the truly high-priced editing is for substantive editing and content management.

How much can you expect to pay a copy editor? It depends on the skill level and requirements of your job, but generally, your rates will be somewhere between $5 and $25 per 1,000 words of content. A blog post like the one you're reading now, which is about 2,000 words, would then take something between $10 and $50 for copy editing.

This is just a general baseline, of course. Talented, effective copy editors might charge even more. Newbies might charge less.

Copy Editor Editing Content

In terms of how a copy editor is paid, there are three options: per word, per hour, and per project.

Per word rates are the rarest. While per-word pay rates are the most common for freelance writers, editing can vary a lot; a 500-word piece full of errors takes more time and energy to edit than a relatively polished 5,000-word piece, so a per-word pricing can be difficult to adequately balance for the effort involved.

Per hour rates are the most common. Editors learn through experience about how long it takes them to work through a piece of content doing comprehensive error checking and can evaluate the rates they would need to make a good wage doing it. If a project takes longer than they anticipated, that's fine because they can invoice for the added time.

Per project is rare but not unheard of. It's mostly used when a freelance editor has an ongoing relationship with a company and knows roughly the amount of work they'll need to do for a given piece, so the rates average out over time to be acceptable.

Where to Find Copy Editors

As with hiring any freelancer for blogging, you have two categories of options.

The first is "going to them" and involves finding copy editors to hire.

Freelance Copy Editors

Options here include:

  • Visiting a freelancer hub like,, or On sites like these, freelancers maintain profiles, and you can find one that suits your needs. You pitch your project to them, they decide if they want to accept, and you work out a deal from there.
  • Visiting freelancer personal websites. Many of the best editors maintain their own personal brand websites where you can reach out and hire them. Availability can be tricky, though, and your ideal editor might not have the time to work on your project.
  • Checking social media. Editors are often posting their availability, particularly on sites like LinkedIn and Twitter. You can approach them and discuss the details of your project in a more informal setting there.
  • Hiring an agency or service provider. Companies like Scribbr, Editor World, Scribendi, and Editage offer editing services for hire, usually on an a la carte basis. This is often the fastest option and sometimes the cheapest, but since editors are hidden behind the agency, you don't always get to build up a relationship and familiarity with your style and brand guidelines.

The second category is "letting them come to you" and involves posting your opportunity publicly. Options for this include:

  • Posting a job opportunity on your website. Unlike ghostwriting, which you may want to hide from your audience, hiring an editor can be a sign of prestige; you care about your content and are willing to pay to make it better. Editors can find your opportunity and apply.
  • Posting a job on a job board focused on creative professionals like mine. Post a job, and talented editors will find you.
  • Posting on a general job board. Sites like FlexJobs, Indeed, and even LinkedIn can be viable places to find editors, though you will likely have to weed out people who just want to run the content through MSWord and call it a day.

Whichever option you choose, you'll want to find an editor or a handful of editors to trial.

How to Test a Copy Editor

With writing, a test should be as much like a real project as possible. With editing, you can use preexisting content and introduce errors for the editor to catch. From there, you can judge them on things like whether or not they caught all of them, if they have viable suggestions, and even if they have recommendations you didn't think of in the first place.

My recommendation is to take a piece of content you've already polished. Run it through Grammarly to see what kinds of changes it recommends. Do the same with other editing programs, like Ginger, WhiteSmoke, or Wordtune. You don't want to fix these issues; rather, you want to introduce more.

A trick you can do is format a passage such that you know the way a tool would recommend it be changed, especially if you don't like the change it recommends. For example, Grammarly loves to reformat certain passages in a two-sentence format with "Suppose that X. In that case, Y" formatting. It stands out as vaguely unnatural (at least in my style), so I know that if an editor suggests it, they're probably using Grammarly to make those suggestions.

Testing a Copy Editor

As with any freelancer test, I also highly recommend paying for your test project. You'll never get the best efforts from someone when you're asking for free labor.

Once you find an editor who is effective and also good to work with, you can hire them on. A contract is also generally a good idea to help lock them in, guarantee pay rates, and provide a fallback for both sides in case there's a breach of contract.

In Need of Professional Editing Services?

My site may be named "Freelance Writing Jobs," but there's more to writing than just writing. Editing is an integral part of making high-quality, polished, effective content for the web. That means, beyond just writing, I encourage both editors and the people who need editing to browse my job board. Clients in need of editing can post a job, and any editor looking for work can browse the board to find opportunities.

The Freelance Writing Job Board

If you have any questions about any particular kind of editing, feel free to let me know in the comments or via message. I love to help out people in the industry, and I can't do what I do without you all engaging with the content I create. I look forward to hearing from you! And if you're on the hunt for any further information related to freelance writing or anything similar, I also highly recommend checking out our collection of articles!