Remote Work

How To Become A Freelance Proofreader

By David Krug David Krug is the CEO & President of Bankovia. He's a lifelong expat who has lived in the Philippines, Mexico, Thailand, and Colombia. When he's not reading about cryptocurrencies, he's researching the latest personal finance software. 10 minute read

A large percentage of readers don’t care if a printed or online publication has typos or grammatical problems. They don’t mind at all if there are two spaces after a period, an apostrophe where there should be none, or if homophones are switched around. 

You, on the other hand, can have your day ruined by something as simple as a misspelled word in a blog post or restaurant menu. In some cases, contacting a manager or leaving feedback may be required.

If you have an eye for typos and grammatical errors, you can leverage that talent into a rewarding and versatile profession. As a freelance proofreader, you have complete autonomy over your work schedule, client roster, and professional trajectory. 

Some proofreaders work in an office setting, but the vast majority are independent contractors. If this seems interesting to you, keep reading to find out more about the work of proofreaders and how to get started in the field.

The Work of Proofreaders

The role of a proofreader is to ensure that a text is error-free in every way before it is submitted. It is common practice for them to be the final reader of a piece of writing before it is submitted to a publisher, handed to a lecturer, or posted to a blog.

A proofreader is not the same as a copy editor, a common misconception. However, there are significant distinctions between the two. A copy editor’s reading of a piece of writing is guided by an interest in its clarity, coherence, and correctness. 

Additionally, they may double-check the accuracy of any statistics or data the author uses, or provide new material for him to incorporate. A copy editor checks to see that a piece of writing is easy to read for the target demographic and adheres to the publication’s established style guidelines.

A proofreader, in contrast, is someone who looks at the structure and grammar of a text with an eye for detail. A copy editor focuses on what the author is actually saying, whereas a proofreader looks for errors in spelling and grammar. 

A proofreader isn’t going to weigh in on the morality of a plot turn or give advice on how to improve the author’s use of passive voice. The duty of a proofreader is to examine a piece of writing meticulously for errors such as typos, inappropriate punctuation, and awkward word choice.

The proofreader ensures that all page numbers and captions are accurate in the document they are evaluating. A proofreader may fact-check or verify any numbers or facts stated in the essay, however, this is typically the responsibility of the editor or another member of the editorial staff.

When checking for problems in style and language, a proofreader may prove blind, meaning they only have access to a single copy of the text. Another method of proofreading is called proofing against a text, which involves comparing the final draft of a document to a previously altered version of the same document to check for any errant wording.

Qualifications for a Proofreader

Proofreaders and writers/editors may be working with the same texts and documents, but proofreaders typically have completely different skill sets. Nonetheless, there is some crossover between occupations.

Some persons who initially believed they had the makings of a successful writer later realize their talents are more suited to the role of a proofreader. Try your hand at copy editing; you might just discover that you have what it takes to be a stellar proofreader.

Language Abilities

One of the most important skills for a proofreader to have is fluency in the target language. They must be fluent in English and have an in-depth understanding of grammar rules and conventions. The best proofreaders can be thought of as the human equivalent of a grammar checker like Grammarly.

Understanding of style guides

All good proofreaders should be well-versed in standard formatting conventions. You may just need to be familiar with a single style guide, depending on the type of content you end up proofreading.

Knowing the conventions of several style guides is helpful if you plan to proofread a wide range of texts, such as newspaper articles, books, and academic papers.

Chicago, AP, APA, and MLA are only a few of the most popular citation formats more on those below. Internal style guides are widespread in many companies; they provide answers to frequently asked queries and define jargon used in the company’s industry.

Communication and Interpersonal Skills

To succeed as a freelance proofreader, you need to have strong verbal and interpersonal abilities. Freelancing as a proofreader requires you to find your own clients, which can call for some people skills. Having a rapport with your customers is also important if you want them to hire you again and again.

Although a proofreader’s comments and corrections to a text are less likely to be taken personally than those of an editor, it’s still important to have the interpersonal skills to deliver them without hurting the author’s feelings.

Excellent detail-orientation

A proofreader’s ability to pay close attention to detail and notice even minor errors is crucial. Reading documents requires a keen eye for details like missing periods, misspelled words, and blank lines. You can’t let your thoughts wander while proofreading or you might miss a typo.

Using a Computer

Being a proofreader does not necessitate any sort of technical expertise with computers. Track changes and comments are useful tools in Microsoft Word and Google Docs, so familiarity with those programs is a plus.

If you’re going it alone, it helps to know your way around Web design and social networking. You need a website and social media accounts to promote your business and make contact with possible customers.

Business Skills

Finding a full-time, permanent position with one organization may reduce the importance of business acumen for proofreaders. Freelancers and those who proofread as a side hustle absolutely need this.

The ability to sell oneself and one’s skills, to recognize when it makes sense to accept a client or to reject a project, and to know whom to turn to for assistance are all essential business skills.

As a freelance proofreader, for instance, you need not do your own taxes, but it is still vital to know when they are due, what deductions you may use, and when it is best to employ a professional.

Earning Potential as a Proofreader

According to the BLS, proofreaders made a median annual pay of $39,140 in 2018. As a freelance proofreader, you can choose your own hours and rate of pay, giving you greater financial independence. 

Due to family or other obligations, you may request a reduced work schedule. If you’d rather work a full-time or even more schedule, that’s an option, too.

Different Proofreading Resources

If you’re interested in proofreading as a career, you should start by studying language, grammar, and style guidelines as thoroughly as possible.

Proofreading Training

Formal education is not typically required for entry-level proofreading positions. It is preferable if your degree is in English or a related field. An advanced degree or specialized expertise in a relevant discipline can be advantageous if you wish to proofread content for a certain industry or field. 

If you want to proofread medical articles, for instance, you might find it advantageous to have some familiarity with the field. On the other hand, there are courses like Proofread Anywhere that may teach you the particular skills you need to become a professional proofreader. 

Caitlin Pyle developed the Proofread Anywhere platform, which features general proofreading and transcript proofreading courses. In order to get the most out of the basic proofreading course, students should have no prior experience with proofreading. 

Its purpose is to introduce you to proofreading and to the business of becoming a freelance proofreader. Expert proofreaders who want to specialize in court transcripts and legal documents should enroll in the transcript proofreading course.

A great number of Proofread Anywhere alums have gone on to establish themselves as independent proofreaders. They say the course prepared students for the workforce by teaching them marketable skills like proofreading and setting the tone for success.

According to Melinda Campbell, a freelance proofreader, and editor, this course was crucial in her learning how to utilize the Chicago Manual of Style, the most used style guide in the United States for book publication. 

In addition to enhancing her technical abilities, the course also helped her overcome imposter syndrome. According to freelance writer and proofreader Danielle Decker, the Proofread Anywhere course helped her focus on the professional aspects of proofreading. 

She says the course was important in her career as a freelancer by teaching her to take the initiative she needed to acquire clients and create a website.

Revision of Books

As they examine and fix text, proofreaders refer to a wide variety of style guidelines and manuals. A lot of consideration should be given to the nature of the information and the preferences of the client when deciding which guide to employ.

You may find it useful to have access to a number of different guides, especially if you don’t intend to specialize in a specific field, such as books or academic papers.

  • The Chicago Guide to Formal Writing. Proofreaders frequently refer to the Chicago Manual of Style. Possessing a hard copy of the book means you may reference specific sections as needed. Online subscriptions are also available.
  • The AP Manual of Style. Originally employed only by journalists, the AP style is now widely employed by the internet and other publishers. If you’ll be dealing with clients who favor AP style, it’s helpful to have a printed copy of the AP Stylebook on hand. The online version is also available for subscription.
  • The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers in Language Arts and Related Disciplines. You should have the Modern Language Association (MLA) Handbook available if you intend to proofread scholarly works.
  • The APA Style Guide for Journal Publication (APA). MLA is more commonly used for humanities studies, while APA is preferred for social science research papers. Proofreaders looking for employment with social science scholars would benefit from having access to the APA Publication Manual.
  • A reference book in English. Keep a dictionary close by so you may look up any unfamiliar words and double-check your spelling. An American English dictionary, a British English dictionary, and a Canadian English dictionary might all come in handy if you plan on working with English-speaking clients from different nations.

Tools for Professional Proofreaders

To be successful as a freelance proofreader, you’ll need a few tools to handle the business end of the industry so you can give more attention to the quality of your proofreading work.

Sending invoices to customers on a consistent basis and keeping tabs on payments is a breeze with the help of an invoicing and bookkeeping tool. Options range from freemiums like Wave to premium services like QuickBooks, and everything in between.

Time tracking software like Toggl can help you keep track of how much time you spend on projects so that you can accurately bill your clients.

Where to Look for Jobs as a Proofreader

Occasionally, as a freelance proofreader, you’ll need to put on your marketing hat in order to bring in new clients and work. Here are a few pointers to get your new profession started; the Proofread Anywhere course goes into more detail on how to promote yourself and your firm.

Your Own Website to Build

Having a website doesn’t simply give visitors a place to go to find out more about you; it also makes you look more professional. Your website can be used as a marketing tool to attract new clients, showcase your work, and make the argument for why they should hire you.

Network

The proofreading industry is no exception; networking is critical to success. In order to get things done, you need to network with other people. If there are no authors or publishers, there is nothing for you to edit. You can meet people both online through social media and in person via conventions and other events.

As a general rule of thumb, proofreaders should hang out where authors do their work. This could involve visiting a local university’s campus to speak with academics, as well as attending local writing conferences and blogger meet-ups.

Test out freelance websites

Individuals and businesses frequently post openings for proofreaders on job boards and freelance websites like FlexJobs, Upwork, and Fiverr.

Bear in mind that some job board ads pay higher than others, but as a beginner proofreader, it may be worth it to accept a few lower-paying proofreading tasks to start so that you may build your portfolio.

Request referrals

The greatest approach to getting new proofreading jobs is through personal recommendations. A writer or publisher who enjoys working with you may be willing to introduce you to other writers they know.

To attract new proofreading gigs, it can be helpful to compile reviews and testimonials from satisfied customers to post on your website and social media pages.

Bottom Line

If you have a passion for language and are seeking a career that you can do from home that offers some flexibility, consider proofreading. It’s likely that you’ll find proofreading to be a rewarding profession if you have a keen eye for detail, enjoy interacting with others, and find error-free content to be especially satisfying.

You should know that it could take some time before you land your first proofreading client. If you put in the time and effort to market yourself, improve your abilities, and network, you will be able to find the proofreading work you need to launch your firm.

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