Proofreading is an essential step to any form of writing. It allows an author to avoid embarrassing mistakes and ensure their worth is of high quality.
If you have a fascination with the nuances of the English language and a desire to help others improve their writing, proofreading might be a potential career path for you.
And luckily, there are many ways to learn the skills necessary to build your career as a proofreader; helping you get jobs when you’re ready. This article is designed to help you find the method that works best for you.
Or maybe you’re already an aspiring proofreader, and you’re unsure how to get work. Either way, we got you!
Let’s get started!
What Does a Professional Proofreader Do?
Proofreaders mainly focus on the grammatical and structural aspects of writing. Their goal is to make sure there’s not a single extra space, misplaced comma, missing punctuation, etc. in the content you provide.
Typically, the things a proofreader corrects are not simple to detect. Therefore, it’s a great idea to hire a proofreader, as they can fix mistakes you might have glossed over.
For example, maybe you’ve seen mind tricks that involve sentences you most likely read wrong, as your brain is designed to rearrange words or skip repeated words so sentences make sense. A proofreader will train their brain to pick up on any mistake your mind usually misses.
Do You Need Qualifications to Be a Proofreader?
A universal requirement for all proofreader jobs: they need to be patient enough to analyze every single line of text and have a good enough eye to notice mistakes. As for digital skills, it’s good for proofreaders to know how to hyperlink and use Microsoft programs.
You can actually become a proofreader without a degree. And as with any industry, various companies will have different necessary qualifications. So, although a degree isn’t necessary, it will only open more doors for you if you do have/get one.
What’s the Difference Between a Proofreader and an Editor?
Although many people confuse the words “proofreader” and “editor,” the two words are not actually interchangeable. And there are some critical differences between the two you need to understand prior to breaking into the proofreading field.
An editor will make changes and provide tips to improve the general quality of your work, usually emphasizing your language use and the way you express yourself, such as the tone you’re using.
An editor also makes sure your writing remains consistently on point and that it’s clear and concise, rather than all over the place. They will enhance your writing to make sure it flows smoothly.
When going through your work, an editor might ask themselves if you’re using the correct word choice for your tone and the concepts you’re trying to elaborate on.
Editors also search for your voice usage, determining whether a passive or active voice is fitting. They will also tweak your paper to make sure it’s appropriate for whatever demographic you’re trying to reach.
“Filler words” used to make your work longer or thoughts that run on for too long will be tweaked or removed altogether, to keep the reader engaged and focused on the necessary information.
Proofreading is a bit less of a precise job and is therefore usually cheaper than editing. However, it is still an essential part of making your writing flawless.
Proofreading focuses more on surface-level mistakes – for example, anything related to grammar, spelling, punctuating, and any other general language mistakes.
Rather than focusing on your actual language use, proofreading will usually determine things like errors with spelling and if commas, colons, stops, question marks, apostrophes, etc. are being accurately applied. They will also make sure the correct homophones, such as “they’re,” “their,” and “there” are being used, and that there are no extra spaces.
This may seem simple compared to editing. After all, professional editors are highly accomplished workers.
However, you need to have an in-depth understanding of the conventions and mechanics of the English language to be a proofreader, as opposed to an editing job that focuses more on the tone and the flow of the paper. You also need to detect the mistakes that are easily glossed over, but can still affect the quality of the paper.
Proofreaders also spot inconsistencies in your formatting, spelling, and term usage. Proofreaders are essential, as, in order for an author to have what they say properly construed, it is vital to keep the writing clear of spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. They also must keep their language use consistent. Proofreaders often apply the finishing touches when an editor has finished.
Think about it. It’s important to have your writing come together nicely in terms of having the sentences and paragraphs smoothly fit with one another. However, even if the points you’re making are incredibly captivating, how engaged and trusting of your knowledge will the reader be if your work is filled with surface-level mistakes?
How Much Does a Freelance Proofreader Earn?
According to Salary.com, the salary of an average freelance proofreader is between $44,984 to $60,086 annually. There is definitely not a set amount, as the salary of a freelance proofreader is affected by a variety of factors such as:
- How much work they’re able to get
How to Become a Proofreader
1. Take a Proofreading Course
Taking courses for most occupations is highly recommended, if not required. Education and research can provide you with skills you lack and/or expand on the talents you already have.
There are many classes available for proofreading, both virtual and in-person, that you can participate in.
Proofread Anywhere is a platform with online courses available for novice proofreaders. And It covers more than just the fundamentals, such as how to find a job, how to set up a business, and how to gain the most money possible.
It also helps you gain and build a sense of self-confidence. This is important, as believing in yourself is a major key to success in any industry.
Before officially starting on the journey, you have the option of taking a free 7-day course with videos, printable information and case studies to determine if proofreading is the career path you want to take. There are two official course options: General Proofreading – Theory and Practice, and Transcript Proofreading – Theory and Practice.
The courses will take 1-4 months, depending on your choice.
Let’s go over General Proofreading’s format is more detail, to give you a better picture:
The fist module, Introduction to General Proofreading, shows a general look at the essentials for being a proofreader, and teaches you the difference between editing, copy editing, and proofreading.
The sections discuss why you should become a proofreader, skills you need, why proofreaders are important, a job description, and common mistakes in proofreading.
The following module is called “Getting into the Proofreading Mindset.” In this chapter, you learn about specializations/niches and terms related to proofreading.
Module 3 is Proofreading Basics, which talks about specific errors proofreaders need to identify and correct. These include issues with:
- Quotation marks
- Subject-verb agreement
- Noun-pronoun agreement
- Word misuse
- Variations in spelling between the US and Britain
This section comes with some worksheets for practice.
The next part, Proofreading Methods and Practice, is about various kinds of proofreading methods and how to use them to your advantage.
Module 5: Turning Proofreading into a Business is about building up your freelancing business. It includes all you need to know, such as:
- Starting a website
- Making a resume
- Choosing your rates, incorporating taxes
Module 6: Looking for Jobs shows you how to seek clients and/or have them come to you, using tactics such as social media and blogging.
Module 7: Once You Get the Job details how to stick to what your client wants while effectively doing your job and building up your reputation through testimonials.
Module 8 is called “Getting the Most Out of the Freelancing Life,” and lays out how to manage your time and build your confidence. It gives you a rough step-by-step look at how your average workday should play out.
The ninth module, “Ignite Plus Exam,” is only available to students in the “Ignite Plus” program, which gives you extra resources. It’s made up of an aptitude/competency test based on proofreading. It is hand grading.
Now, here’s a brief run-down for the Transcript Proofreading course. The formatting for this one is a bit more extensive, as it has various sections and each section has several individual modules.
Section 1: Theory, is about the theory of transcript proofreading, including transcript production, court reporting, and punctuation training.
The second section emphasizes the most popular transcript proofreading methods. Then, once you choose your desired method, you will work on a lot of practice, switching difficulty level over time.
Sections 3 and 4, Marking Up Transcripts, teach you about four ways to add the finishing touches to transcripts with iOS tech:
- Hard Copy
The pros and cons of each method are discussed.
The creator of the course, Caitlyn Pyle, maintains frequent contact with the students who participate in her class. And a lot of good can come from working with experts in the field of proofreading. Of course, there is also no shame in asking questions.
Now, you’re probably wondering how much something like this costs.
As mentioned earlier, the 7-day course is free. However, General Proofreading is $497. With Ignite Plus, it’s $597. Transcript Proofreading is $1174, and you pay with a 4-part payment plan.
2. Be a Freelance Proofreader Online
Being a freelance proofreader can easily be done from the comfort of your home if you use an online platform. You just need to find a good resource. Some examples are:
Upwork is a website that connects freelancers in many different industries – including proofreading – with clients offering work. You can either apply to jobs or be invited to apply by clients.
However, with the new update, you now need to pay to apply to jobs. One ‘Connect,’ which is the digital currency to apply to Upwork jobs, is 15 cents. Each proposal you submit will cost two to six Connects. If you’re invited to apply, it’s free, and once you work with a client, you can continue working with them for free.
Upwork is one of the most popular freelance sites, which is justified, as the interface is extremely straightforward and easy to use.
Also, prior to starting a job, a contract is made and the client will deposit money into the platform to guarantee payment and avoid scams. Once you finish the job and the client approves it, you will receive the money. Any discrepancies will be quickly solved by customer support.
Payment from these jobs will greatly vary, but the more experienced you are, the more jobs you will get. It is useful to build your portfolio and create a specialized page on your profile for proofreading so potential clients can see your past work.
You can be paid hourly, a one-time payment, or through “milestones”. This will depend on if you’re doing a long-term job, multiple jobs, or just one job with a client. When you get paid, Upwork keeps 20% of your earnings, and it is held for 5 days as a “security period.” Payment can be sent through PayPal or direct deposit.
Guru is another website you can use as a source of income for proofreading jobs. On the site, there are 8+ categories, including proofreading. The two ways to earn jobs are being scouted by businesses/clients or applying to jobs businesses post.
Every month, you receive 10 bids, meaning you can apply to 10 jobs. If you run out of bids, you can purchase more at the following prices:
- 20 bids for $10
- 40 bids for $20
- 60 bids for $30
- 125 bids for $50
- 250 bids for $100
If you have free leftover bids, they do not roll over – so be sure to use them within a month. However, if you purchase bids, they will never expire.
You also have the option to sign up for a paid membership. The price will be from $12 to $45 a month, depending on what level you sign up for. With a membership, you get a lot more bids every month, and Guru will take a smaller percentage of what you earn from work.
For every payment you receive, Guru will charge 9% commission. There are various ways for you to get paid besides through your credit card, including checks, wire transfers, and account funds.
For projects, Freelancer will take a 10 to 15% commission depending on the project or service.
Your payments will be awarded through PayPal. Similarly to Upwork, employers will insert their money into holding until the project is completed. Once your work is approved, you will be paid.
3. Other Ways to Get Proofreading Work
Freelancing websites are not your only option for getting freelance proofreading work. There are other resources that will gain you compensation for your skills.
Volunteer Your Services Initially
Volunteering your services before you’re at an expert level can be a great option. It can help you not only gain more experience, but also build up a portfolio. Having examples of past work and training your eyes to pick up on even the smallest of errors can really make or break your career when starting out.
Also, offering one free job might get you a paid job with the same person if they enjoyed your skills.
Build Your Own Website
Building a website is a great way to earn jobs. Advertising your site on social media and other platforms can direct clients to your site. They will then contact you with any offers they have.
This is an excellent alternative to signing up for a freelancer website, because all your earnings will be yours. (As shown above, freelancer websites nearly always take a percentage of your profits.)
Ask Website Owners Directly
Earning jobs can also be accomplished by reaching out to business owners, detailing your experience, skills, degrees, etc. You can find people to contact through various websites, like Craigslist. You can also go to local business events and find people looking for proofreading services or those who own a proofreading company and are looking for employees.
Another option is to join the chamber of commerce in your area. A chamber of commerce is essentially a network whose focus is the interest of businesses. They look for talented businesses and employees who would benefit from an community-friendly organization.
Create a Course
Once you gain experience and build your career as a proofreader, one career option is to create a course. By doing this, you can earn a living by allowing people to retain a bit of the knowledge you’ve acquired.
Of course, you will need to put in the research on how to build a course, but an online course is a great way to become a teacher to thousands of other novice proofreaders. Some people make millions of dollars every year from selling content and teaching others a particular skill.
And you can make money off a course forever, as long as people keep purchasing it.
What Skills Do You Need to Be a Proofreader?
Special skills/traits all proofreaders should have include:
- Ability to pay attention to detail
- Able to work with IT
- Good communication skills
The more talent you have in regards to these aspects, the more you’re likely to be paid. Another thing that will increase your earnings is earning a degree in a subject related to proofreading, such as English.
There are plenty of ways for you to learn and gain work as a proofreader and improve your skills. You just need to find what works for you.
And, even if you believe you already have the necessary skills to be successful, it never hurts to take an extra course or two to expand on your understanding on English conventions and other aspects of proofreading.
Luckily, this article is designed to point you in the right direction. Best of luck!