How To Become A Proofreader In 5 Simple Steps (No Experience)

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Do you want to make money from home? Do you have a passion for reading and writing? If so, becoming a proofreader could be the perfect choice for you! I will show you how to become a proofreader in 5 simple steps. The best part? You don’t need any experience or degree to start.

If I started this blog by speaking of the positive affects it will have, would that be to much too bare?

If the last sentence jumped off the page to you – yes, I misused affects, to, too, and bare – then I’ve got some good news – writers will pay you to find and correct grammar mistakes just like these!

It’s true, among typing jobs, proofreading is one of the best ways you can make money from the comfort of home.

And you don’t even need special qualifications, advanced degrees, or experience to become a freelance proofreader.

All you need are a few key insights, secrets, and tools.

Which is exactly why I’m here!

Below, you will find out everything you need to know about how to become a proofreader online by following five simple steps.

So let’s get started!

What does a proofreader do?

First, many confuse proofreading and copyediting, but these are two entirely different things.

Copy editors work with authors throughout the writing process, providing spelling and grammar edits, of course, but also overseeing rewrites and large-scale restructuring of the work.

Proofreaders, on the other hand, are the last step of the writing process; they give a piece a final once-over before it’s published, looking for any mistakes which earlier edits may have missed.

If you think about it, it’s kind of exciting to stand as the last line of defense between a writer and possible disaster.

How much money does a proofreader make?

According to Ziprecruiter, full-time proofreaders earn $52,110 on average, with top earners working in an in-demand specialty area making above $105,000 per year.

If you are not looking for a full-time job, don’t worry! As a part-time job, proofreading is one of the best ways to make extra money.

Proofreader salary graphic

Do you need any qualifications to become a proofreader?

*Spoiler Alert*you do not need an English or bachelor’s degree to become a successful proofreader. In fact, many online proofreaders in the industry have never set foot in a university.

Further, as Caitlyn Pyle from Proofread Anywhere put it:

There is currently no official proofreading certification in the United States.”

That means you won’t become a certified proofreader in the same way as you would become, for example, a chartered accountant.

So no matter your background, you can get started today!

How to become a proofreader in 5 simple steps (even if you have NO experience)

Proofreader checking a document on a laptop

1. Make sure you have the right skills

Though many specific skills can contribute to success as a proofreader, two stand out above the rest.

  • Great command of written English

Written English is different from spoken English; just because someone speaks, it does not mean they can write it. Proofreaders must have a command of spelling, grammar, and punctuation, as well as the rules and best practices surrounding formatting and style.

  • Strong attention to detail

Proofreaders must have an eagle eye, as it’s called in the industry. This means the ability to go page by page, paragraph by paragraph, and sentence by sentence to spot the grammatical errors that no one else can see, as an eagle spots its prey from high in the air.

In addition, great proofreaders will need to:

  • Manage time well – proofreading jobs can come fast and furious, at odd times of the day or night, and with quick turnarounds. It is vital to be able to set and follow a schedule, work independently, and meet deadlines.
  • Have great communication skills – the most valuable proofreaders will be able to clearly explain to a writer how and why something is wrong with their work. Being able to convey mistakes in an impartial way to writers, for whom writing is often a personal endeavor, is crucial to success.

2. Figure out your niche

I know what you’re thinking – ok, I’ve got all these important skills … so who needs a proofreader?

General proofreading

Think about it:

  • Students want their work proofread before they hand it in.
  • Writers want to make sure their work is perfect before they submit it for publishing.
  • Content creators want proofreaders to help them build their brand.
  • Businesses need proofreaders for marketing material, press releases, and company reports.

The opportunities are endless!

Publisher proofreading

Even with the rise of online content, traditional publishing houses still need proofreaders for books and other published works. Do you like reading long-form material? A job with a publishing house might be for you.

Pro Tip: You don’t have to start with brand-name publishing houses. Try smaller names or local publishers.

Specialized Proofreading

But wait, didn’t you say something earlier about specialty areas where you could make more money?

Yes, I’m so glad you’re paying attention!

In short, you can expect to earn more if you are proofreading in specialized areas such as legal, medical, science, or technical industries.

This means proofreading the detailed transcripts and legal documents created by court reporters during legal proceedings or proofreading medical reports full of literally life-altering terminology, academic papers, and so on. If you already have expertise in one of these categories, don’t be afraid to look for specialized work where you can earn higher rates.

3. Learn the rules

For proofreaders, the rules are their tools.

Inside the toolbox of every great proofreader should be an understanding of:

  • Correct spelling and grammar – obviously, right?
  • Understanding punctuation errors – as in commas, colons, and semi-colons. You should be able to instantly recognize the difference between “let’s eat, Grandma and “let’s eat Grandma.”
  • Hyphenation and capitalization – when do you capitalize “president”? And is it “long-term or “long term”?
  • Verb tensesdid you saw why this is wrong?
  • Sentence structure – most specifically, the ability to recognize run-on or fragmented sentences and comma splices.
  • Commonly misspelled words – think they’re/their/there, bear/bare, affect/effect.
  • Formatting – this means paragraph and margin spacing and how headers, page numbers, and bullet points are presented. Here, you should become familiar with the various style guidelines for formatting – Chicago, AP, APA, MLA, and so on.

Ok, it sounds like a lot, but don’t worry! You do not need to memorize every single rule.

More important than knowing the rules by heart is that proofreaders can recognize mistakes, even if they are not immediately sure how they are mistakes. Like a doctor recognizing symptoms and then looking up the disease, once a proofreader finds the errors, the specifics of the solutions can be looked up.

4. Practice and train

No matter your level of skill with written English, the fact is, the language is constantly changing over time, and even the best of us pick up bad or outdated habits.

There’s no way around it – you must train to be a proofreader.

How?

First, practice! Try reading as many books and articles as you can get your hands on, but read as a proofreader and keep an eye out for errors.

Then, test your skills – there are many free tests out there that will gauge your ability to recognize key errors as a proofreader.

Try the tests here, here, and here to start!

Most importantly, if you are looking to take proofreading seriously, you should consider taking an online proofreading course to enhance your skills and build your toolbox.

If you are just starting out, a course can help you overcome the initial hurdles that trip up so many. But at any stage of the process, courses will boost your confidence and the confidence customers have in you. Even if there is no such thing as a certified proofreader, the certification of a course on your resume will help you get customers and make more money!

And if you are thinking about a course, I can comfortably say that Proofread Anywhere is the best place to train to be a proofreader.

Caitlin gives you everything you need to succeed – practice essays, information on how to market yourself, even a graded exam, and a certificate of completion at the end. The best part? It’s entirely remote and self-paced; you can do it as quickly or as slowly as you like, around life’s many other commitments.

You can start by checking out Caitlin’s 76-minute workshop. It’s completely FREE!

5. Find the perfect proofreading jobs

Today, determining how to become a proofreader is all about finding clients or a job online. There is a booming online marketplace for proofreading services, and whether you have no experience, are an expert, or something in between, there is a place for you to succeed.

Beginner

For those just starting out and looking to gain valuable proofreading experience, check out freelance marketplaces like Fiverr and Upwork.

These are free to join, and in a few minutes, anyone can be advertising their services to a global customer base. The only downside is more entry-level jobs mean a more entry-level salary; this is not the place to go for high-paying jobs.

Intermediate

If you want to take your proofreading business to the next level, consider investing in a platform with a monthly fee.

FlexJobs is an excellent place for those looking to freelance on a flexible basis. They have numerous remote and part-time positions listed, and you can try it for 14 days for just $2.95.

Advanced

Once you are a more experienced proofreader, you can apply to high-level platforms.

ProofreadNOW is a platform for those with at least five years of experience as professional proofreaders. To join, proofreaders must undergo a series of difficult tests to prove their capability.

Edit 911 hires the cream of the crop of proofreaders and editors – those with PhDs, published scholars and professors, master book and copy editors. It is the place to be for the most experienced in the industry.

For a more comprehensive list of the best job boards and tips for finding proofreader jobs, check out Best Online Proofreading Jobs in 2021.

The tools to become a successful proofreader

Here are the top tools every good proofreader should have handy:

  • Google Docs: Gmail is pretty much a standard these days. And using Google Docs will allow you to share documents with clients and leave comments easily.
  • Microsoft Word: Another classic tool that needs to be in your arsenal,  Microsoft Word is the perfect place for you to edit your work and look at the tiny details.
  • Grammarly: For basic grammar and sentence structure editing, Grammarly is perfect for getting you started.
  • Hemingway App: This amazing free tool helps you improve sentence structure, word choice, and overall readability. 
  • McGraw Hill’s Proofreading Guidebook: This handbook offers a step-by-step overview of the proofreading process and is available for an affordable price.
  • A style guide: It’s important to consider which style guide to follow when you edit, and having a set on hand will help ensure there are no errors. Here is a list of the different styles to get you started.

Things you need to consider when you become a proofreader

So now you know how to become a proofreader. All that’s left is for you to decide how you will dive into the industry.

Become an in-house proofreader

Publishing houses hire full-time proofreaders for books, magazines, and other published works, while businesses that create copious content often have a proofreader on staff. What this option lacks in flexibility, it makes up for with security.

Set out on your own as a freelancer

Here, you are in control of which clients you accept, when you work, and how much you make. You will be in charge of your own proofreading business.

To start, work with one of the platforms mentioned in the previous section. Many earn a good living doing this alone.

The next step is building your own website and creating a community of customers. Make sure to expand your network by contacting student organizations and local businesses, as well as advertising on social media. Check out Facebook groups that specialize in freelancer work, connect with people, and you’ll get your first proofreading job in no time.

Tip: While establishing your own business as a freelancer means you must keep track of your own finances, it also means you can deduct expenses on your taxes such as software, rent for a home office, and even training and courses.

Now is the time!

Written content creation is at an all-time high, and nearly everybody needs a second set of eyes on their work.

Are you ready to turn your mastery of the written word into a job you love, one where you can decide when and where you work and how much you earn?

You can get started by checking out Caitlin’s 76-minute workshop. It’s completely FREE, and you’ll learn if proofreading is a good fit for you, how you can use proofreading as a tool to reach freedom and financial security, and how to find your first client!

If you have any questions, add a comment below or email me. I respond every single time!

And if you spot any grammar/spelling mistakes, feel free to practice your proofreading skills and leave a note in the comments. I promise I won’t take it personally.

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38 Comments

  1. Can proofreading become a reality using an iPad or is it wiser to use a desktop computer or a laptop?
    Great article packed with a ton of useful information. Thanks!

    1. Hi Cindy,
      It might be possible but it will slow you down quite a bit. I think having a desktop or laptop would be much more efficient!
      Thanks for your kind words 🙂

  2. Josephine Baker says:

    Hi Sara
    I am a single, homeschooling mum and I am considering training in proofreading as a way to have a flexible, work from home way to earn an income. Do you think it would be realistic for someone in my position, or would it be impossible? I understand that there would be many variables – my routine and set up, how much work I’d take on…but in your experience is this a job that could work for me?
    Many thanks in advance
    Josephine

    1. Hi Josephine,
      It actually sounds perfect for you! That’s exactly what proofreading is: it’s flexible and you can work as little or as much as you want. And most jobs are freelance position that don’t require a set time for you to work. So yes!

  3. Kyle Bringoz says:

    I’m ready to work

    1. Sara @ Gathering Dreams says:

      Great to hear that, Kyle!

  4. Shouldn’t your first example in the correct use of commas read, “Let’s eat, Grandma,” not “Let’s each, Grandma”?

  5. Hi. So was this done on purpose for us to find? 😉 “let’s each, Grandma” and “let’s eat Grandma.” I think “each” is supposed to be “eat”, isn’t it?

    1. Sara @ Gathering Dreams says:

      Yes, it is!

  6. Thank you for this article. It was very helpful as I begin my proofreading journey. I have a friend who is an Author, and she has allowed me to proofread her most recent work. Thank you again… this was great info!

    1. Sara @ Gathering Dreams says:

      It’s my pleasure. Thank you.

  7. Hi Sara,
    Under the following section, I think the quotes should be inside the question mark on president (“president”?). Also, missing the ending quote on the 2nd long term.

    Hyphenation and capitalization – when do you capitalize “president?” And is it “long-term” or “long term?

  8. In the section “SET OUT ON YOUR OWN AS A FREELANCER”, the first line reads “Here, you are in control of what clients …”

    I suggest changing “what clients” to “which clients.” The term “what” implies an open (infinite) set of potential clients. Whereas “which” implies a more restricted range of choices.

  9. Christina says:

    Your example of comma usage has an error. You stated, “let’s each, grandma”. I believe you meat to write eat.

    1. Christina says:

      Ugh. Then my comment has an error. The word “meat” was supposed to be meant.

    2. Rex Banner says:

      I think it was meant to be spelled “each” on purpose. Spelled correctly but wrong word. Twitter and Youtube is full of this kind of terrible writing. Nice pick up though.

  10. Where is Caitlyn’s free workshop ?

  11. Akinrefon David says:

    I am an English teacher.I have done a couple of jobs in this area but I have not really considered money there .
    Your article was awesome and I would love to follow up and learn more.
    My strength is my eagle eye and grammatical prowess
    Thank you

    1. That’s great, David! If you have an eagle eye and with your background, I am sure you can start a proofreading career in no time!

  12. I see someone else has mentioned this, but I will, too. Under Point 3 above, the example sentence reads:

    Understanding punctuation errors – as in commas, colons, and semi-colons. You should be able to instantly recognize the difference between “let’s each, Grandma” and “let’s eat Grandma.”

    Should that read “let’s eat, Grandma” vs “let’s eat Grandma”?

  13. Melissa White says:

    I found that your sentence about Grandma (“let’s each, Grandma”) has a misspelled word. It should be “eat” not “each” unless you meant to put “each”! 🙂

  14. Jennifer OMeara says:

    I worked with the Federal Government for 30 years, most of them in the secretarial field, which required daily proofreading on many types of documents. In addition, I proofread a book by author Bob Ford. I’m interested now in working freelance as a proofreader.

  15. William Chan says:

    Some people shouldn’t just come and ask you to refer them a job in proofreading, without you knowing about their credentials and capabilities!

  16. frankieraj says:

    Hi Sara. I am interested in proofreading and editing articles, assignments, manuscripts and books.I am looking for a job. Can anybody give me jobs as stated above.Thank you

  17. LeonNa Gilbert says:

    Do you have any information on transcriber jobs? The jobs I’ve seen online look questionable to say the least. Is there someone like Caitlin Pyle who has a “free” workshop/video webinar about transcribing? And, which job would be more lucrative, proofreading or transcribing?

  18. Good evening sara I need information about
    1). How do you get all these information (like where do you gather)?
    2). Where do you get the photos that are you used in this article?
    3). How do you design all this

    Hope you reply me .
    I am Rakesh from India I just started blogging .

    1. Hey Rakesh,
      Here are your answers:
      1) I do extensive research and also speak to people that work as proofreaders.
      2) I get photos from stock agencies like Deposit Photos and Adobe Stock
      3) I use Adobe Illustrator for my design projects!

      I hope this helps!