Let me start off this proofreading guide with a quick disclaimer:
I am NOT a proofreader. Don't be surprised if you find grammar errors, spelling mistakes, or other typos in this very article.
With that, you may be wondering:
“Ok Dylan, if you're not a proofreader, how the deuce are you going to teach ME how to become a proofreader?”
That's a valid question. Let me explain:
To make this guide as accurate and helpful as possible, I reached out to Caitlin Pyle of Proofread Anywhere.
I asked her questions like:
- What is a proofreader?
- Are proofreaders in demand? Who hires them?
- What skills should aspiring proofreaders have?
- Who isn't a good fit for proofreading?
- Do proofreaders need a degree or other qualifications?
- How much money do proofreaders make?
- How can a complete beginner become a proofreader?
- And more.
By sharing Caitlin's insight AND everything else I learned while researching the proofreading industry, this guide will help you start your proofreading journey on the right foot.
Table of Contents
Who is Caitlin Pyle?
For those of you not familiar with Caitlin, I'll let her introduce herself:
“I started proofreading when I was studying abroad in Germany during college. I loved helping fellow students ensure that their essays and theses were as error-free as possible.
I took my general proofreading skills to the next level when I started proofreading transcripts for court reporters in 2012. I was so good at spotting errors, my nickname was ‘Eagle Eyes'. In fact, proofreading transcripts became my primary source of income for a few years.”
What is Proofread Anywhere?
Caitlin told me that, “People kept asking more questions about how I was earning money from proofreading, so I created my blog, and later course, Proofread Anywhere, to answer those questions and help other people make money proofreading too.”
So yeah. Needless to say, Caitlin definitely knows a thing or two about the proofreading industry. If you want to hear some of her best tips on how YOU can start proofreading for cash, keep on reading.
Tip: Sign up for Caitlin's FREE Proofreading Workshop to figure out whether proofreading is a good fit for you, how it works, how to attract clients, and more. Sign up here.
What is a Proofreader?
As Caitlin puts it, “a proofreader is the final set of eyes on a project before the content is published.”
That's pretty obvious, right? If you've ever had someone proofread something for you (like schoolwork or a cover letter), you most likely had already written, edited, and proofread it yourself beforehand.
But after you hand off your work to be proofread, then what happens?
What Do Proofreaders Do, Exactly?
This is where things can get a bit more complicated. For the longest time, I thought proofreaders just looked for spelling mistakes.
That's partly right, but it's not the full job description.
As Caitlin told me, “a proofreader looks for errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, AND formatting and fixes them.“
That means they'll look for things like:
- The incorrect usage of they're/their/there (these are also known as homophones)
- Misplaced or misused commas
- Improper paragraph spacing
- The the same words repeated twice (Did you catch that? Re-read this point if you didn't.)
- and a lot more
Proofreading vs. Editing: What's the Difference?
This is another area where lines can get blurred. Until recently, I thought proofreaders and editors were, well, the same.
Turns out I'm not alone either – Caitlin told me that most people aren't aware of a difference between proofreading and editing.
So what IS the difference?
Well, first off, remember what Caitlin said above: a proofreader is the final set of eyes on a project. That means they get the writing AFTER an editor has already gone through it.
That's difference #1.
The next question is, what does the editor do before handing things off to a proofreader?
Well, “Copyeditors look for errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation, just like a proofreader does,” Caitlin said, “but they may also make suggestions on word choice or how a sentence could sound better.“
That's the big difference. Put simply, an editor is like someone helping you build your house, while a proofreader is someone who goes in after and cleans things up.
Note: Another possible service one might get confused with proofreading is scoping. Scopists edit transcripts from court reporters, and then hand off their work to a proofreader to finish things off. Learn more about scoping here.
Could a Proofreader Also Be an Editor? Or Vice-Versa?
This is something I asked Caitlin because I was genuinely curious. I mean, wouldn't a proofreader be able to earn more money by offering BOTH services?
This seems like an easy service to expand into as well. Proofreaders already have most of the skills needed to do editing work.
Caitlin agreed, saying, “Of course! You can add additional services to your business as you gain experience.”
She also mentioned that “There are several different levels of editing like developmental editing, line editing, copyediting, and proofreading.”
That opens up a lot of potential for extra service offerings!
However, there's one small catch Caitlin made me aware of:
“It’s often wise for different people to complete each level of editing on the one project though, as each person will be looking at the project with fresh eyes.”
So, while your business can offer editing services AND proofreading services, you most likely won't want to offer both of those services on the same project.
Well, it sort of goes along with the psychology of why we sometimes can't catch errors in our own writing – explained here.
As Caitlin said, if you editing something AND proofread it, you won't be looking at it with fresh eyes. Because of that, your brain may trick you into missing errors.
It's a weird thing.
Basically, the more familiar you are with something, the more likely you are to see it how you WANT to see it rather than how it really is.
Deep stuff, am I right?
Let's move on:
Are Proofreaders In Demand? Is That Demand Growing?
Yes! Think about it:
Continuing from the above, we often miss our own errors. That's already a good reason why proofreaders are in demand and needed.
But, let's dive a bit deeper into why the demand is growing:
Although not every website owner hires a remote proofreader (myself included), just in 2016 there were over 100 million active websites on the internet (source).
Think about what that number looks like now. And it's growing daily.
Next, think about all the content getting published on those sites. Although not everything will require a proofreader, some of it is bound to.
Also, Caitlin had a great point: “Thanks to the boom in self-publishing, authors no longer need to wait until they have a literary agent and a publisher willing to publish their book. Anyone can publish their own book thanks to Amazon and other self-publishing platforms.”
Where people are writing and producing content, proofreaders will be wanted.
But Wait, Who Actually Hires Proofreaders?
“Content creators” is pretty vague, so let's dive into that a bit more.
Caitlin told me that a wide variety of people and businesses hire proofreaders, including:
- Book authors
- Court reporters
- Government entities
- Course creators
- and more
Most people who produce one piece of content don't just stop right there either. That's another reason why proofreading can be such a great hustle.
Think about it:
If you can find someone who produces a consistent stream of content and become their go-to proofreader, you can create a consistent stream of work for yourself.
That means just a SINGLE client could potentially provide you with a nice source of consistent income as a freelance proofreader.
Oh, and if you think grammar and spell-check tools are gobbling up all of the proofreading work from REAL proofreaders, read on:
How Human Proofreaders Differ From Spellcheck
But they definitely don't.
I use Grammarly every day and although it helps, it misses things a LOT and often suggests weird fixes as well.
As Caitlin says, “these tools often can’t pick up on context, and sometimes they even make recommendations that are incomprehensible!”
She continued, saying, “If you don’t have a good knowledge of grammar and punctuation rules, you run the risk of introducing errors into your writing by only using tools to proofread your work.”
And that’s why human proofreaders will always be needed.
If I just went with everything Grammarly suggested to me, things would get…weird.
The Skills Every Proofreader Needs to Be Successful
Proofreading definitely isn't one of those jobs or hustles you can just hop into with zero experience. There are certain skills needed to be a proofreader – or at least a good one, that is.
But there's one other thing that's perhaps even more important that Caitlin told me first, and it's more of a personality trait than a skill.
“A good proofreader will love reading,” she said.
And I'm extremely glad she said that because, hey, if you're not enjoying it, what's the point?
As she also told me, “Proofreading is NOT for everyone. And that’s okay!”
There are so many other ways to make money from home. Leave the proofreading to the people who will actually enjoy it.
Note: If you're realizing proofreading ISN'T the right hustle for you, no worries. Read my guide on How to Start Working From Home. It will help you discover a path more suited to your interests
With that out of the way, let's get into the skills that make a great proofreader:
Hard Proofreading Skills
Just because you enjoy reading doesn't mean you'll be fit to become a proofreader. It's a start, but there are other important, hard proofreading skills to be aware of too.
Note: A hard skill is a job specific ability.
The most important ones for a proofreader to have?
“You need to have an eagle eye for grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors,” Caitlin said. “This means errors tend to jump off the page at you as you’re reading.”
Some people I know have this naturally – it's almost like an instinct. It's also a skill that develops over time which is why practice is so important as a proofreader (more on that later).
Soft Proofreading Skills
Making money proofreading isn't all about your ability to actually proofread and spot errors, believe it or not.
I know that sounds weird, but hear me out:
You can be the best proofreader in the world, but if you can't market your services and provide a good experience for clients, you won't get very far.
You need the soft skills to back things up. In fact, the soft skills are just as important as the hard proofreading skills mentioned above.
Note: Soft skills are non-job-specific skills or traits.
So what soft skills are important for aspiring freelance proofreaders?
“As a proofreader, you should have excellent attention to detail,” Caitlin said. “If you don’t have good attention to detail and you tend to read very quickly and just skim what you’re reading, you might struggle with the work.”
Remember, as a proofreader you're the last set of eyes on a project – if you miss something, it's on you. It's your job to polish things up and leave not a single typo unturned.
Caitlin also recommends having “excellent communication skills, the desire to provide high-quality work to your clients, and the ability to meet deadlines.“
As you can see, running a proofreading business involves more than meets the eye! It's not quite as easy as just getting paid to read.
And with that, you may be wondering:
Can Proofreading Be a Side Hustle?
It's a good question. Some may think proofreading is too complicated or time-consuming to work out as a side hustle.
Well, allow Caitlin to ease your woes:
“Yes, you can proofread as a side gig or as a full-time job. It’s really flexible, so you can take on as much or as little work as you want to depending on your circumstances.”
Good news, right?
“However,” she continued, “you’ll need to make sure you allocate enough time to meet your deadlines.”
And that's the only catch:
A lot of proofreading work involves tight deadlines, so just make sure you don't take on more work than you can handle.
How Much Do Proofreaders Make?
This is it. The moment you've all been waiting for:
The proofreader salary reveal.
Time to find out how much you could actually make as an online proofreader.
To start, here's what Caitlin had to say:
“It’s difficult for me to say exactly how much a general proofreader can expect to earn as it all depends on how much time they have to dedicate to it, their skill level, and their speed.
To give you some idea of what’s possible, I earned around $40K a year working part-time hours.“
Pretty impressive, right?
Caitlin proves right there that proofreading can be a great side hustle. Part-time hours and around $40k in a year? Sounds good to me!
She continued, saying “You won’t become a millionaire, but you can make a decent living from it”
Just for fun, let's look at some other stats I found online:
ZipRecruiter Proofreader Salary Stats
ZipRecruiter shows the average proofreader salary at $45,852 a year or $22 an hour, with some proofreaders earning as much as $75,000 a year.
Now keep in mind, the salary stats above are based on proofreading jobs.
Let's look at some freelance stats:
ZipRecruiter shows the average freelance proofreader salary at $51,391 a year with some freelancers earning up to $90,000 a year.
Pretty good right?
Still, don't rely on these stats completely. They're based on jobs that ZipRecruiter has scanned throughout the web.
The thing is, many jobs – including proofreading jobs – are actually found within the hidden job market.
For example, many proofreaders find work by emailing bloggers or authors directly. That's a hidden job.
Same goes for jobs found through networking, referrals, friends and family, etc.
As a freelancer, there are many different ways to land clients. On top of that, if you're landing your own clients, you get to set your own rates too. And once you have some experience and skills, those rates can get higher and higher.
Point is, proofreading as a side hustle or as a full-time career can definitely make you a good living!
Do You Need a Degree to Make Money Proofreading? What Qualifications Are Required?
This is where a lot of people get caught up. It's either you think you need a degree to start proofreading for money, or you assume no one will want to hire a degree-less proofreader.
Both of those are false.
As Caitlin told me, “You do NOT need a degree to become a proofreader! And there is no official proofreading certification in the United States.”
So yeah, no official “proofreading qualifications” are required before you can start hustling and making money.
However, and this is important:
You should still seek out some sort of training if you want to get paid to proofread.
Multiple reasons. Here are a few that Caitlin emphasized:
- You may be holding on to some old rules or proofreading myths. Language changes over time, and a proofreader must be up to date with the rules.
- You may have been an A student in your high school English class, but that doesn’t mean you will be an excellent proofreader. You need to bring your skills up to date and also learn how to market your business actively.
- Reputation is everything in the proofreading industry. If you take on a client without really knowing what you’re doing and you make lots of mistakes, you might not get another chance with that client. And they won’t be recommending you to their network!
On top of this, if you're a beginner proofreader, Caitlin's General Proofreading course will help you quickly get up to speed on everything you need to know to start a freelance proofreading business.
The average student completes the course in about a month.
As someone who has taken many online courses myself, I know for a fact that the right ones are SO worth the money. They save time and increase confidence – both of which help you earn money faster.
That being said:
Training Won't Make You an Instant Success
There's a reason why I tell people not to buy online courses JUST to make money.
As mentioned above, I've bought many online courses in the past. Some I've found success with, others not so much.
The difference I've noticed?
Whenever I've purchased a course with the sole intention of making money, I've failed.
You need to be actually interested in LEARNING the material an online course teaches if you want to find success.
The Proofread Anywhere training teaches you the fundamentals of becoming a proofreader and marketing your services, but YOU are the only one who can put in the work.
If you don't have the desire and the drive to put in work consistently to build your proofreading business, you will fail.
Don't get me wrong:
I'm not trying to be a Debbie downer here. I just don't want you to waste your money on a course that will just end up gathering virtual dust. I want you to be successful.
If you're still interested, that's a good sign. Learn more about the Proofread Anywhere General Proofreading course here or read my summary below.
If you're not so sure, that's fine too. That's why Caitlin made the free Proofreading workshop. Check that out here if you haven't yet.
More Details on the General Proofreading Course
The Proofread Anywhere General Proofreading course is all about teaching you the skills needed to become a proofreader of general texts like books, blogs, websites, resumes, and more.
It's pretty jam-packed with content too:
There are 8 modules with 40+ lessons altogether, including 10 grammar and punctuation worksheets and 40 practice essays.
The course is available at two different levels as well:
- Ignite – This is the base level. It includes lifetime access to all the training content (including future updates) and access to a Facebook support group.
- Ignite Plus – This is the upgraded level and it adds tons of value. Along with what's included in Ignite, you also get the opportunity to take a hand-graded exam. If you pass, you'll get a certificate of completion, access to an exclusive marketing mastermind group, and a listing on Self-Publishing School's Preferred Outsourcer Rolodex.
So what else sets Proofread Anywhere apart from other proofreading courses?
Well, “Most courses focus on only the mechanics of proofreading,” Caitlin told me, “but we take you step by step. You get training on both how to proofread and how to market your services to find clients.“
Learn more about the course HERE.
How to Become a Proofreader Online and Start Making Money in 6 Steps
Ok, now that you have a bit of background information about proofreading, it's time to get started on the path to becoming a paid proofreader.
With the right approach and proper training, you could potentially land a proofreading job or have a profitable freelance proofreading business in as little as just a few months.
And, all you need to get started is a computer, internet, some time, and a few other materials mentioned below.
To help you on your journey, here's a complete step-by-step breakdown on how to become a proofreader, how to make money, and more:
Step 1. Learn the Art
Not to sound like a broken record, but the first step to becoming a proofreader should be pretty obvious by now:
Get proofreading training!
It's super important to learn HOW to proofread before you start trying to get paid proofreading work.
If you haven't already, be sure to sign up for the free Proofread Anywhere webinar here.
It will teach you the basics, you'll get to know Caitlin some more, and by the end, you'll know whether becoming a proofreader is the right path or not for you.
Do not take action on steps 2-5 below without taking training first.
The last thing I want is for an army of bloggers to come and get mad at me for sending untrained proofreaders into the blogosphere.
Also, the last thing YOU want to do is land a client, have no idea what you're doing, and then goof the whole thing up. One experience like that can hurt your reputation and confidence forever.
If you're ready to go through Caitlin's General Proofreading course already, learn more about it here.
Also, if you're interested in proofreading AND copy editing, I'd also recommend checking out Proofreading Academy (free trial). It's a super-comprehensive course with a guaranteed freelance work opportunity at the end. Read my Proofreading Academy review to learn more.
Step 2. Polish Your Skills
After you've finished going through the proofreading course, your training doesn't end there. In fact, it never really ends (dun…dun…DUNNN).
As Caitlin said above:
Language changes and proofreading rules change as well. You need to constantly stay on top of those things to be an exceptional proofreader.
As with any skill, it's also just important in general to get some real, hands-on practice.
Here are a few ways to do that the pressure-free:
Proofread for Fun
This is the easiest and safest way to practice your proofreading skills, and it's probably something you already do.
As you read books, online articles, magazines, menus, and other forms of writing, turn your proofreading powers on and practice really analyzing things.
Search for mistakes like your life depends on it.
Keep in mind – this practice can also help you potentially land clients. If you're reading an article from your favorite blogger and you notice some errors, kindly reach out and let them know.
Don't advertise your services right away though.
Just show them the errors you found, and try to get a friendly conversation going. If they ask what you do, then you can mention your proofreading services.
Making friends and networking can be one of the best ways to get your foot in the door and land clients.
Proofread for Friends
If you remember from the start of this guide – this is actually how Caitlin started her proofreading career: proofreading essays for fellow students!
If you know someone who deals with any type of writing (e.g. a student, restaurant owner, online business owner, a friend with a resume, etc.), offer to help them proofread their stuff.
You could do this for free, for money, or in exchange for a favor. This can give you some great experience, open up more opportunities, and your friends will appreciate your help.
Learn Different Style Guides
There are several different style guides you'll come across throughout your proofreader journey.
Style guides outline rules that help make a piece of writing consistent looking and sounding from start to finish.
For example, they explain how sources should be cited, how paragraphs should be spaced, how sentences should be spaced, types of fonts that should be used, and more.
Caitlin mentioned to me that the biggest one for working with clients in North America is the Chicago Manual of Style. “It’s a proofreader’s bible!” she said.
Be sure to learn that one first.
Here are some others you may want to familiarize yourself with, depending on the types of things you plan to proofread:
- Associated Press (AP) – Used in works of journalism like newspapers or magazines.
- American Psychological Association (APA) – Commonly used for academic documents related to the social sciences.
- Modern Language Association (MLA) – Used in most of the humanities, including literature and languages
- Council of Science Editors (CSE) – Used in natural and physical sciences.
Go here for a full list of style guides (including country specific ones).
Read Grammar Books
Along with style guides, as a proofreader, you should be familiar with a wide range of grammar rules as well. Reading up on them often will help you more easily spot errors when you're on the job.
Here are a couple of grammar books Caitlin recommends:
- Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing – This one is marketed as a book that makes learning grammar fun.
- Grammar Girl's 101 Misused Words You'll Never Confused Again – Pretty self-explanatory title.
There are tons of different proofreading tests out there for the taking. They can help you validate your skills and find areas where you need improvement.
Here are a few you can try:
- ProofreadNow – Basic quiz.
- Business Writing Blog – Basic tests.
- Chicago – Great resource for practicing your CMOS knowledge.
- Associated Press – Multiple AP style quizzes.
When you miss something or get something wrong, make note of it. Eventually, you'll have a list of things you need to practice more.
Offer Free Work
Most people don't like this advice, but I think that's because they think about it the wrong way.
Here's the thing:
Just because you're not getting paid in cash for doing work, that doesn't mean you're not getting anything back.
You're getting experience, (hopefully) a testimonial, and a new connection in your network.
For example, you could reach out to a big publisher and offer to proofread a couple of articles for them for free. After you're finished, they may or may not choose to hire you, but either way, you can ask for a testimonial.
Then, when talking to potential clients in the future, you can say that you worked for [insert big publisher here].
Just remember to stop doing free work once you have 2-3 testimonials. After that, you should be getting paid.
As Caitlin told me, “You can do one or two jobs for free at the start to get testimonials, but it’s important to understand your worth as a service provider as well. You deserve to get paid for your skills!“
Step 3. Start Looking for Paid Proofreading Work
Ok, you've taken a course and learned the ins-and-outs. You've practiced and tested your skills and knowledge. You're now more than ready to get your business started!
Time to find some real, paid proofreading jobs.
Tip! For a much more detailed guide to finding clients and jobs, check out these 50+ Online Proofreading Jobs for Beginners.
There are 3 main paths you can take to find paid proofreading gigs:
Become a Freelance Proofreader
Freelancing is one of the best ways to make money proofreading. You get to set your own rates, work as much or as little as you want, and be your own boss.
That being said, it's not always easy, especially in the beginning. You'll have to grind a bit to land your first clients.
Here are some popular freelance sites to start on:
- Reedsy.com – This is a freelance marketplace specifically for proofreaders, editors, and other editorial pros.
- Hubstaff Talent
- Reddit Slave Labour – Occasionally has proofreading jobs. They won't pay the best but might be a good start for beginners.
If those aren't working out for you, be sure to test out other ways to land freelance clients as well, like:
- Through friends and family – If you know anyone who deals with writing, offer up your services. Friends and family are always easier to sell to than strangers.
- Cold emailing/calling – It's scary but it works. Follow bloggers, podcasters, and other content creators, and try to interact with them. Maybe point out spelling mistakes (in a nice way) if you notice them. When the time is right, offer up your services.
- Facebook groups – I mention it all the time, this is how I landed my first freelance writing client. Join groups where publishers, content creators, and others who might need a proofreader hang out and stay on the lookout for opportunities. This can work on other social networks and forums as well.
Work for Proofreading Companies as an Independent Contractor
There are plenty of sites out there that offer proofreading and editing services on a large scale. If you don't like the idea of finding clients on your own, you can apply to these sites to work as one of their independent contract proofreaders.
As a contractor, you won't have to worry about marketing yourself or collecting client payments – just do your word magic! Everything else is handled for you.
Sounds awesome, right?
There are a couple downsides to doing contract work though:
- It may pay less – You won't always get to set your own rates.
- It can be less flexible – You may also be required to work a certain number of hours per week or on a certain schedule.
- The work may be inconsistent – Because some sites hire dozens of proofreaders, the work may be first come first serve. You can offset this by applying to multiple sites, or working for a company that guarantees a certain amount of work per week.
Even with the downsides above, working as a contractor can be a great way to get hands-on experience as a beginner proofreader.
Here are some sites you can try applying to:
- GetProofed – They say they require a PhD, but I'd try applying anyway if you've gone through training.
- Scribendi – Has full-time positions and freelance positions.
- ProofreadingPal – Requires a degree or university enrollment.
- Prompt – Occasionally hiring.
- Gramlee – No specific requirements other than a fast turn-around time.
- Scribe Writing – Occasionally has full-time and freelance openings.
- ProofreadingServices.com – Pass a 20-minute test to apply.
- CactusGlobal.com – Offers full-time, freelance, and contractual editing and translation work.
- Wordvice – Requires experience and enrollment in a graduate degree program.
- JobsforEditors.com – Hiring proofreaders and editors with a good work ethic and English skills.
Work From Home as a Proofreading Employee
This article revolves around teaching you how to become a freelance proofreader, but work from home jobs are worth mentioning as well. If you'd rather work for one company as an employee, this is the route to take.
Just keep in mind that work from home proofreading jobs aren't all that common. Most of them involve tasks other than just proofreading.
Some may also require certain location requirements and even in-person work (shudders).
If you want to learn more, browse some of the employment opportunities on these work from home job sites:
(Remember: some of the contactor sites above also offer part-time and full-time employment positions)
As you're searching on the boards above for proofreading jobs, you can also try searching for keywords like:
- Copy editing
Different variations can uncover missed jobs!
Step 4. Setup a Website and Socials
Some people would say to do this step before looking for paid work, but the reason I'm putting it after is to save you time.
It's more important to go out looking for paid proofreading work as soon as you can rather than spend a bunch of time making a website and social media accounts.
That being said, once you DO land a client and you're in your groove a bit, having a website and social media accounts for your proofreading business is a good idea.
Your website, for one, is the perfect place to send client referrals. It gives you a home base where you can:
- Display testimonials and past projects
- Give clients an easy way to contact you; and
- Sell yourself to future clients by talking about what you can do for them
With a website, you can also add a blog where you could write articles about proofreading and editing. This can bring in free SEO traffic.
And, as potentially clients browse your site and read your blog posts, they'll see that you know your stuff. Over time your blog can become an automated sales machine.
To learn how to setup your own site quickly and easily, check out my how to start a blog guide.
With social media accounts (like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn) you can promote your site, blog posts, and network with other proofreaders, editors, content creators, and authors.
Step 5. Niche Down
This is advice you'll hear with many different types of freelance services. And for good reason:
Niching down can help you make more money. You can become one of the go-to proofreaders in a specific industry, and charge more for your specialized services.
For example, a proofreader specialized in proofreading recipes can command higher rates and is more likely to land clients in that niche.
As you start landing paid proofreading jobs and working for different types of clients, you may automatically gravitate toward a certain niche. That's why it's recommended to train and start as a general proofreader first – which is what Caitlin teaches.
As you proofread for various clients, be aware of what you enjoy reading and where you're most knowledgeable. Over time you should be able to pinpoint a certain niche.
Example Proofreading Niches
- Bloggers – If you love working with bloggers, that's a niche. You can go even further too: mom bloggers, finance bloggers (hey that's me), survival bloggers, etc.
- Resumes and cover letters – A lot of people like to have a second set of eyes on their resume/cover letter before submitting it. If you can offer editing/improvement services here, you can do even better.
- Magazines – Different types of magazines could be sub-niches here (e.g. beauty magazines).
- Books – This niche can go further too. Fiction or non-fiction. Romance, action, mystery. Tons of sub-niches here.
- Court reports – This is what Caitlin specializes in now. She even has a separate course to teach proofreading for court reporters. This niche is unique though as it involves a lot of specialized rules. It's much more technical. That's why Caitlin recommends starting with her General Proofreading course first.
Keep in mind, just because you specialize in a certain niche doesn't mean you can't accept work in other niches too. As you master one niche, you can specialize in others too.
Step 6. Keep at It and Expand Your Services
After you've been proofreading and working with clients for a bit and things are running smoothly, you can start thinking about ways to expand your business further.
While you continue to practice proofreading and land clients, think about using any extra time you may have to learn additional skills. You can then market those extra skills to your current – and future – clients.
“But wait a sec, didn't you just say to niche down?”
Yes, but you niched down into a certain industry/client type (e.g. bloggers). That doesn't mean you have to stick to ONLY proofreading.
Once someone trusts you to do one service, it's easier to sell them another.
And, if someone needs editing but not proofreading, being able to offer that service to them opens you up to more opportunity (and more $).
So yeah, don't get out of hand and try to add a bajillion services to your offerings, but as you master one (like proofreading), try adding another (like copy editing).
Here are some other services that go great with proofreading:
- Developmental editing
- Line editing
- Copy editing
(Optional Step) Build an Agency
If you start offering more services and landing more clients and you're finding you have to actually turn down work, maybe think about starting an agency.
This can also be a way to offer additional services to clients that you can't do yourself.
So for example:
You're a proofreader. Your client needs an editor. You could find a freelance editor on your own and then contract them out to edit your client's work for less than the client is paying you.
Eventually, you could do this with proofreading too. You could build your own mini proofreading empire.
Of course, there are a lot of variables and challenges that come along with this:
- You need to find freelancers you trust to carry out your clients' work (remember: it's your reputation on the line).
- You need to know how to manage people
And that's why this step is optional. It's not for everyone.
Another option is to simply find someone who offers a certain service (like editing) and partner up with them. Example: if you refer clients to them, they give you a referral fee, and vice-versa.
This option can be a lot less stressful and it still allows you to provide extra value to your clients. It's just a bit less profitable.
Either way, this step is completely optional. You can stick to freelance proofreading if that's what works for you – no shame in that!
Proofreading Tips and Techniques
If you're getting into proofreading for money (or any service business for that matter), there's one thing that can make the whole thing a lot more nerve-wracking:
Feeling under confident in yourself.
Although confidence will come with time and experience, here are some proofreading tips and techniques to help boost you up as a beginner:
- Read backwards – This is an interesting one I read here. Reading backwards takes sentences out of context, helping your brain more easily spot errors. When we read regularly, we're more likely to focus on the flow of ideas from sentence to sentence, which can make it easy to miss small typos and other errors. So, read the last sentence, then the second last, all the way to the start of the document.
- Print it out – If you've already proofread something on your iPad or computer, print it out and give it a final read-through. Sometimes all you need is a new perspective to notice new errors.
- Block out other sentences – With your printed piece, use a blank piece of paper to isolate the sentence you're reading. This is actually a trick I learned for speed reading, but as a proofreader, you can use it to more easily focus on one sentence at a time.
- Read it aloud – I do this all the time while writing. It helps me spot errors and awkward sounding sentences.
- Learn from practice – Remember the proofreading tests I mentioned above? As I said there, make note of the things you get wrong. Then, while proofreading a client document, check over your list of commonly made mistakes to make sure you're not making them again!
If you combine the tips above with the proofreading skills you gain through training, you should have no problem being confident in your services.
Proofreaders have been around for a long time, and I don't think they're going anywhere any time soon. With more and more content being produced every day in SO many different industries, there's work out there for the taking – you've just got to find it.
If you enjoy words and reading, be sure to think about investing in proofreading training.
Although the steps above are a good start to beginning a proofreading career, Caitlin's course goes MUCH more in-depth.
She'll literally show you everything you need to start a successful proofreading business including:
- How to actually proofread
- More niche ideas
- How to create a freelance website for your business
- Where to find clients AND how to land them
- How to handle taxes
- How to get paid
- and so much more
If you want to learn more, check out the course here.
On the other hand, if you're still unsure about this whole proofreading thing, be sure to sign up for Caitlin's FREE webinar here.
And with that:
I hope this guide on how to become a proofreader has helped you figure out how to go about pursuing the idea of making money proofreading. Thanks for sticking around until the end!
Find the guide helpful? Share it!
Still not sure how to start proofreading? Want to share your own experience as a freelance proofreader? Leave a comment!