Interested in making some easy money on the side doing something relaxing? With basic reading and writing skills, you can become a proofreader with little to no experience!
Our quick guide will get you up to speed and ready to freelance in no time.
With massive amounts of content being produced every day, marketers and businesses need to ensure their copy is published with no grammatical or spelling errors. Even a few minor mistakes slipping through the cracks can make a huge difference in the perception and authority of the copy.
A proofreader is needed for essentially any type of content you can think of — website copy, blog articles, ads, e-books, course material, press releases, essays, and more.
Understanding the difference between editing and proofreading is simple.
Think of editing as the first phase of reviewing copy. The editor will analyze elements like plot, flow, and sentence structure before sending it over to the proofreader for the last round of catching typos and mistakes. That’s where you come in.
A successful proofreader will need the following skills to do well in the industry:
1. A strong hold on proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation
While you don’t need advanced grammar skills to become a proofreader, it is important to be comfortable with at least the basics. If you have a grasp on the proper usage of “their, there, and they’re” then you’re on the right track.
2. Attention to detail
If you’re the type to overlook obvious errors on the page, proofreading may not be for you. As a freelancer, you’ll need to have a knack for spotting problems quickly and efficiently.
3. Flexibility in scheduling clients
When proofing copy, you’re generally going to be on your clients’ schedule, so meeting deadlines is a must.
To put it nicely, you won’t be the best at catching mistakes right off the bat. It will take time to perfect your craft and build confidence. Don’t allow small hiccups to slow your momentum. Apply to as many jobs as possible and ask for feedback from your clients.
According to data collected by Salary.com, full-time proofreaders in the U.S. make an average of $53,419.
Since that is just the average, more experienced professionals can command an even higher salary — not bad for a gig you can start with little to no experience! That’s not to mention the perks of being able to work from anywhere with just a laptop and wifi.
As the final step in the editorial process, your responsibilities will include identifying:
- Spelling and grammatical errors
- Missing or improper punctuation
- Odd paragraph or sentence structure
- Anything that jumps out as problematic
More than likely, you’ve heard the phrase “jack of all trades, master of none.” The secret to finding success in this industry is focusing on a niche or two where you can really shine as an expert.
Here are some examples of proofreading niches you could master:
- Thesis papers
- Fantasy fiction novels
- Court transcripts
- Resumes and cover letters
- Amazon listings
- Website copy
The options here are endless, so start researching niches and demand for proofreading services within those niches. Positioning yourself as an expert can do wonders when it comes to securing new clients. After all, wouldn’t you rather hire someone that specializes in exactly what you need?
Once you’ve researched and determined what niche(s) you’d like to target, professional development is a crucial next step. The amount of time invested into honing your skills is what separates average proofreaders from experts! Remember, if it was easy then everyone would do it.
Here are some of the competencies you’ll need to concentrate on to become a phenomenal proofreading professional:
Perhaps it’s been a while since you’ve had to write a paper, but you may be able to recall your high school or college papers needing to be formatted according to a certain style.
So, what exactly are style guides? To put it plainly, they provide a way for formatting consistency and are used for specific groups of people.
Here is a table from Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL) that explains common style guides in writing.
Even after hours of research into the nitty gritty details of your chosen niche, you’re still missing practical application.
It’s time to really start developing your skills and expertise as a proofreader. Even before landing a client, start reading non-stop and scouring the text for any errors you can identify. Copy and paste the copy into a word document and start making comments on how the copy can be improved. Mark any spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors.
Now, do this over and over again! As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect. Your progress will have a direct correlation with how much time you invest into your own training and development.
While certification isn’t necessary to find success as a freelance proofreader, it’s one extra step that will help you hone your skills and become more attractive to clients. If you’re completely new to the field, this path may be the most beneficial as it will get you up to speed faster than trying to do it all yourself.
With a multitude of courses out there, it may seem overwhelming when it comes to choosing the right program. Fortunately, there are more than enough satisfactory options out there.
One of the best proofreading courses out there is Proofread Anywhere by Caitlin Pyle.
She has a FREE course that will outline everything about proofreading – from the basics to getting clients for your own business!
Other places to take proofreading courses:
Take note of things like course reviews, curriculum, ongoing support, and price. You can’t go wrong with formal training.
This can be the most nerve racking step of the entire process. It’s time to put all your hard work and training into real world application. Now, where to start?
Sites like Upwork, Freelancer, Fiverr, Guru, and Flexjobs are all good starting places where you can apply to become a freelance proofreader. From there, you’ll be able to search for and apply to hundreds of posted jobs.
As a proofreader with no experience, expect to take on some lower paying jobs at first to build a portfolio and solid reputation. It will be much easier to charge higher rates once you’ve got some experience under your belt.
Another word of advice — stand out. What is every other freelancer saying when they send proposals? Sweeten the offer with a perk like unlimited revisions. And most importantly, NEVER copy and paste the same proposal for every job you apply to.
If jumping through the hoops of freelancing websites isn’t for you, try joining Facebook groups specifically for editing and proofreading professionals. Often fellow peers will share resources for securing jobs, or the group admins may even post openings from time to time.
More specialized platforms like Reedsy can be a better option for connecting you with the type of clients you’d like to work with — specifically authors with a wide range of experience that need their work proofed before publishing.
As you advance in your skills as a proofreader, eventually getting hired by larger companies for full-time work could be a reality. Not everyone is interested in a more traditional 9-5 proofreading job, as flexibility diminishes quite a bit.
If you aspire to get hired on to a firm, gain experience and build a Linkedin profile showcasing your work to get your name out there.
Hopefully after reading this article, you feel more confident in becoming a proofreader, even with little to no experience.
Remember these important takeaways as you start your proofreading journey:
- Niche down — become the expert in your industry
- Invest in yourself and in learning
- Practice makes perfect
- Don’t let failures hold you back
- Maximize resources
- Stick with it
If you keep these things in mind, you’ll be well on your way to a successful career or side hustle as a proofreader.
Let me know in the comments what sites or tools you used to find a proofreading job!