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!
And you don’t even need any special qualifications, advanced degree, 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 may have been missed by earlier edits.
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 Glassdoor, full-time proofreaders earn about $42,000/year on average, with the top end of earners making upwards of $65,000. Proofreaders working in an in-demand specialty area can make even more (but more about this later).
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 in 2021.
Do you need any qualifications to become a proofreader?
*Spoiler Alert* — you do not need an English degree 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)
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 than the spoken English language; 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 within 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?
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!
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.
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, or 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 each, Grandma” and “let’s eat Grandma.”
- Hyphenation and capitalization – when do you capitalize “president?” And is it “long-term” or “long term?
- Verb tenses – did you saw why this is wrong?
- Sentence structure – most specifically, the ability to recognize run-on or fragmented sentences, as well as comma splices.
- Commonly misspelled words – think they’re/their/there, bear/bare, affect/effect.
- Formatting – this means paragraph and margin spacing, as well as 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 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.
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.
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 get over the initial hurdles, which 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.
5. Find the perfect proofreading jobs
Today, determining how to become a proofreader is all about finding clients or a job online. The fact is, 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.
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.
If you are looking 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 it costs only $14.95 per month to join.
Contena is the place for those looking to make their investment in a community. A membership, which starts at $42 per month, gets you not only access to their many freelance and full-time job opportunities but, most importantly, to their Contena Academy, filled with resources for proofreaders, editors, and freelance writers.
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 a professional proofreader. To join, proofreaders must undergo a series of difficult tests to prove 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, 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 is an amazing free tool that 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 what 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 there. 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 in no time, you’ll get your first proofreading job.
Pro 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, even training, and courses.
Now is the time!
Creation of written content 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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