I'm a big believer in learning to edit your own work because let's face it, life would be so much easier if you could. However, that doesn't mean there isn't a time and place to hire a freelance editor to go over your manuscript. Before I get into that though I'll reveal how I learned to edit my own work and improved it to the point where my agent thought I had used a freelance editor. And even more important, we'll compare the cost of both.
Upon the recommendation of a published friend I attended the Hawaii Writers Retreat (formerly the Maui Writers Retreat) in 2008. Before I arrived my instructor sent us some requested reading. It was The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman. You probably recall me gushing about how this book altered my writing forever, for the better. At the retreat I studied under bestselling thriller author William Bernhardt. I learned and improved so much that I went back to the retreat in 2009. At the retreat in 2009 I met my wonderful critique group the Scribe Sisters. In 2010 my critique group and I attended one of William Bernhardt's workshops. Sadly the retreat wasn't held this year and I'm not sure if they'll be holding it again but you can attend Mr. Bernhardt's workshops, which I highly recommend.
Each of these steps improved my writing exponentially and was well worth the money. The Hawaii Retreat cost me $900 and I went twice so that's $1800. Mr. Bernhardt's workshop cost $500. That brings my cost up to $2300. Add books on the craft of writing and we'll just round up to $2350. True, there was the cost of the flight to Hawaii and Oklahoma, plus the hotel and food. All three workshops combined with all that come in just over $5,000. I didn't take that hit all at once though, remember it was over the course of a few years. Don't count out this method yet though. You don't have to go to Hawaii for a great writers retreat or workshop. Chances are there is one in your own state or close by.
A freelance editor, or copy editing services if you prefer to call them that, will run you anywhere from $500 for a precursory look, to several thousand dollars. In the end you may be paying close to what I did for all that training or even more. If you can look at what the freelance editor has done to your manuscript and learn how to edit that way, then the money may be worth it. However, if you've never seen an editor critiqued manuscript I've got to tell you, they kind of look like they're written in Greek. If you choose to go that route here are a few reputable freelance editors I've come across:
Writer's Digest Editorial Services
Lisa Rector Freelance Editor