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Subject Matter Experts (SME's) rarely go for less than $20 US/hour or $40K US prorated/annum, but they are professionals in that particular field.
Below this level expertise tend to drop off quickly and starts to lean more towards "I can learn as I go" expertise.
Professional copy-writers might be more afforable but tend to rely more on linguistic skills to capture the essence of what you propose rather than technical prowess.
That usually takes more than knowledge of the topic. I've edited for engineers who knew their topic much better than I did, but their ability at wordsmithing was pretty rugged.
So, it's not so much knowledge of the topic that matters (although you need some) but rather it's skill with communication. A good editor may even find an approach to your topic that works much better than your original angle.
The other consideration is return. At face value the more budget you can afford the better a given return.
joined:Oct 27, 2001
Sure, the topic can influence the rate - but more thqan that it's the experience and skill of the editor.
Other factors may include:
1) Whether you're hiring the editor as an employee, as a long-term contract worker, or as a freelancer. (You might be able to get an employee for $20 an hour plus benefits, but a freelancer would have to charge a much higher hourly fee to cover his or her own business expenses, taxes, insurance, etc.).
2) How many hours of help you need. (A small job may require a higher hourly rate than a big job, simply because of the editor's time overhead in getting to know you, learning about the job, billing for the completed work, and so on.)
3) Where you're located. (If you demand "face time" from an editor and want to hire locally, the rate will be influenced by local market conditions and cost of living.)
If I were doing casual editing work, I'd be asking at least AUS$60/hour (US$35) - and more if it was something boring. But if you don't need someone with technical qualifications, you should be able to find starving English graduate students easily enough!
Just my 0.02 worth...