Difference #1: I don't do lightning-fast

One of the arrows in my quiver is proofreading. For me, that skill has been second nature for quite some time now; it was not something I had to learn how to do when I launched my freelance writing career.

Yes, I needed to learn the finer points of the art and to learn how to work to a style guide, but, for me, proofreading has come quite naturally.

I am a fast and effective proofreader.

But you will not find me promising the world when it comes to turnaround. I am not lightning-fast.

There are plenty of operators for whom 24-hour service (or less) is one of their selling points. For an added premium, you will get your document proofread and sent back (‘100% error-free’) to an express schedule.

Choose two (image by iStock)


'Time, Cost, Quality. Choose two’, goes the project management maxim.

No proofreading service provider will offer a discounted, lower-quality service. Some may offer a higher-quality service for a premium, but that’s not the same thing.

High-quality proofreading is a non-negotiable parameter. Therefore, your choice as a customer is between time and cost.

If you want your document back quickly, you can expect to pay more for it.

If you’re not in a hurry, you’ll pay the standard price.

Something to think about

If you engage a large online proofreading company to work on your document, consider their rates, most likely given as an amount per thousand words.

If you have proofread a friend or colleague’s document, you will have some idea of how much work and time is involved. If you were doing it as a favour, there was probably an understanding that you would give it your best shot and fit it in with your other work, and there would have been no guarantee of professional perfection.

Think about how much time it might take a person to proofread your document.

How much have you paid the proofreading company?

Divide that amount by the number of hours it would have taken you if you had had to do the proofreading yourself. Make an allowance for the fact that a professional would likely be able to do the job quicker.

But don’t stop there. That’s not what the proofreader’s being paid.

Proofreading companies farm out their work to freelance contractors.

What is the company’s cut of the fee?


Step 1: How much does the company want you to pay? (A = $)

Step 2: How long would it take to proofread the document? (B = hours)

Step 3: Rate per hour you are paying the company: (C = A/B = $/hr)

Step 4: How much is the company paying the proofreader? (D = ?% of C)


Doing a calculation like this will give you an indication of how much (or how little) per hour a proofreading contractor is effectively being paid.

A couple more questions

Put yourself in the proofreader’s shoes.

If you were paid this effective hourly rate but could improve the equation by working faster – don’t forget: they’re paying you per thousand words – would that give you an incentive to work faster?

Time = money (image by iStock)


If you could do the job twice as fast, your effective hourly rate would double.

Would you be more concerned with your effective hourly rate or the company’s pledge of quality to their customers?

My gut feel is that the average proofreading contractor wants to do a good job in the time given them, but that their working speed will always be set at ‘as fast as possible’.

The amount a proofreader will be paid by the company has already been determined. And their working speed has only one setting.

What does that leave?

The only variable remaining is the proofreader’s quality of work.

I don’t do ‘lightning-fast’

One of the 7 Word Engineer Differences that I base my academic proofreading services on is that I don’t boast about how fast my service is. I don’t offer 12-, 24-, or even 48-hour turnarounds.

I may be able to return a document within those timeframes, but I’m not going to guarantee such a quick response.

In fact, I’m looking for clients who’ve taken time and care in the preparation of their documents and who want a proofreader who will also take the appropriate time and care.

With Rollin Kennedy | Word Engineer, quality truly is non-negotiable, the cost is not cheap (although nor is it exorbitant, either) and I do not make any claims of express speed.


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