So you love to read and you have a knack for spotting errors in text. You're so good friends and family ask you to proofread for them, and you're happy to help.
Have you thought about making money from that? Well, you can, and those eagle eyes of yours are part of a valuable skill set called proofreading.
Proofreading is an in-demand skill that is required by businesses, writers, content creators, and entrepreneurs.
You can make money by fixing errors in content like books, emails, blog posts, articles, reports—basically anything that contains words. I’ve built a very rewarding and fulfilling career as a proofreader, and in this post, I’ll share some tips to help you get started.
What Is Proofreading?
Proofreading is the last step of the publishing and content creation process. It's the final chance to find and correct any errors before hitting publish. It's also considered the easiest form of editing because it traditionally is known as a “surface check.” That is, you aren't required to dive deep and rearrange or rewrite content.
A proofreader will:
- Correct errors in spelling, punctuation, and formatting
- Flag obvious mistakes in commonly known facts
- Spot inconsistencies
Clean, flawless content is important because it can strongly impact business. If a writer publishes a messy, poor quality book, it can negatively influence sales and reviews. If an entrepreneur has a website full of mistakes, it’ll make them look unprofessional. Proofreading will help to drive quality up and to maintain a brand’s image.
Proofreading Is A Low-Stress Way To Make Money
Freelance proofreading doesn't require any equipment aside from your laptop or desktop computer, and it's flexible enough that you can do it on your lunch break, and in the evenings or on weekends—even while the kids are at soccer.
I can't tell you how many projects I've completed by working in short spurts of spare time between school pickups, extracurricular activities, and a full-time job. You can also proofread full time, or as a side hustle to make extra money.
You Don’t Need A Degree To Start
Trust me—you don't! I know because I work for some of the biggest book publishers in the world, and I don’t have an English degree. You also don’t need to have accreditation, a special certificate, or membership in an association to start making money as a proofreader.
That’s because the proofreading industry isn't regulated. However, you do need to be aware of the market, know what’s expected, and be trained in mechanical proofreading skills so you can fix common errors.
I have a free course called Proofreading 101 that covers all of those issues, and will help you decide if it’s a good fit for you.
I also want to point out that you don't have to be a grammar expert or know all the rules of the English language. That's impossible! Some of my friends have been proofreading for over 30 years and they still look things up.
Of course, you need some level of training and know-how. You can do this through books, online courses, and workshops. But you don't need to go back to school and get your degree.
Skills You Need To Start Freelance Proofreading
You must have an eye for detail.
This is important because you have to be able to catch little things like extra spaces and incorrect word use that most people would miss.
An excellent command of English.
You should recognize bad grammar, and can correct basic spelling and punctuation errors without much effort. For example, can you spot the error in the following sentence?
Yesterday he ran onto the street and yells at the cars.
If you noticed that it contains both past tense and present tense, then you’re correct. The sentence should read: Yesterday he ran onto the street and yelled at the cars.
A love of reading.
This is a no-brainer since proofreading involves a ton of reading. You should be able to sit quietly for an extended period of time, being engaged with and focused on words on a screen or paper.
You need to care about quality.
Anyone can take a project and run it through Spell Check or Grammarly and claim they've “proofread” it. But if you don't care, then you won't be able to preserve a client's style or maintain a brand's message.
The ability to market yourself.
Fixing content is only a small part of the process. You've got to hustle! No one will know who you are or what you do if you don’t get out there. There are many ways to market your proofreading services; it just requires patience and commitment to land your first client.
Some Tips For Launching Your Proofreading Hustle
Starting a freelance hustle can seem daunting, but I've learned that if you set yourself up for success by building a strong foundation, then things will be much easier for you. Here are some tips for you to follow:
1. Create a freelance business plan.
Writing down your business plan will help you stay committed and give you direction. Setting your goals will also provide motivation. Here are some questions to answer when writing your business plan:
- Do you have a niche you want to focus on or will you proofread any kind of content?
- What kind of clients do you want to work for? Self-published writers? Entrepreneurs?
- What kind of marketing will you do?
- How much will you charge? And how: by hour, project, or word?
- How much money do you want to bring in a month?
2. Create an online presence.
You have to get your name out there, and having your own website is like your virtual business card. You don't need anything fancy.
In fact, a simple, professional-looking site is preferred. You can create one using platforms like Squarespace, WordPress, or Wix.
You can also create profiles on online freelance job platforms like Upwork or Freelancer. These sites allow you to create profiles and apply to jobs for free, but they do take a percentage of your earnings.
3. Use social media.
To build on your online presence you also need to be seen, and you can do that with social media. It's free marketing!
Create profiles for your business on platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Let people know who you are and what you do in your bio, and connect with people in an authentic, non-spammy way by sharing useful tips and posts.
4. Reach out to potential clients.
Have an idea of who you want to work for by doing some online research. Look at potential clients within your target market, and write down their contact information.
Also write down any “dream” businesses or clients you'd like to work with. Keep track of them in a spreadsheet, including their contact information. When you're ready to reach out and pitch them via email, remember to personalize it.
5. Be persistent.
Remember that you need persistence in your job search. Be patient and don't give up. If you don’t have any professional experience proofreading, then you can consider taking on volunteer jobs in order to build your experience and resume.
In exchange, you can ask for testimonials. Proofreading can be very fulfilling, so get creative in your job search.
One valuable aspect of proofreading that I want to stress is that it’s a lifelong skill. You’ll be able to apply it to many areas of your life.
It’s also a transferable skill that can be applied to any industry. Whether it’s medical, government, publishing, or the trades, they all require the same proofreading skills.
So what do you think? Are you ready to start making extra money from your love of words?