5 Tips to Boost Your Writing Income As a Proofreader

Carol Tice

Stefanie Flaxman - Revision Fairy Logo showing characterized stephanie flaxman as a fairy holding a pencilBy Stefanie Flaxman

Have you ever thought about adding proofreading services to your repertoire?

One of the smartest things that you can do for your freelance business is diversify. If you’re a writer who has a knack for catching errors, put it to use.

Yes, Little Miss Aspiring Carrie Bradshaw, I know this sounds depressing. Your writer-life fantasy probably includes contemplation in a cozy office that smells of rich mahogany, followed by a ritualistic sipping of five-dollar lattes as captivating words waltz from your fingertips onto your keyboard.

By now you should know that a freelance writing career is no fairy tale. Marketing and expanding your services are always part of the mix.

Here are five tips to help you increase your income by offering proofreading services.

1. Impress your current clients.

Chances are that you don’t write all of the copy that an existing client produces. Browse Web content that you didn’t write, and make suggestions for improvement—you even may spot a glaring error.

Does the client need some writing just proofread? You can do that! After you’ve demonstrated your meticulous editing ability, the client may assign you more writing gigs.

2. Charge per word.

Metro PCS advertises that the total price of a wireless telephone plan includes all taxes and fees. Their slogan is “Not $40-ish. 40.” I dig the “no surprises for the customer” attitude.

Figure out an appropriate per-word charge depending on how fast you work. A client can quickly determine her fee with this model.

I offer three levels of proofreading services ranging from $0.01 to $0.02 per word. Since I specialize in fast turnaround for small business documents, I also charge an additional fee for turnaround time. Clients calculate cost with the formula, “total fee = (proofreading service fee + turnaround time fee) x word count.”

3. Use PayPal.

People trust PayPal, and the established payment transaction company helps you address a prospect’s fear of giving you her hard-earned money in exchange for services. Let a potential client know that you understand this apprehension by making a refund (if warranted) simple.

4. Meet deadlines.

I recently edited a 160,000-word novel and returned it by my deadline. An email reply from my client read, “Thank you very much for being the first person to get the book back to me by the time you said you would.”

I would never miss a deadline, but tardiness is common and oftentimes tolerated. Stand out by demonstrating punctuality.

Also, when a client wants a piece of writing edited, it is essentially perfect from her perspective (no matter how many mistakes you do find). Don’t make her wait for the final product.

5. Love it. Live it.

Find clients with complementary personality types and writing styles to create a powerful team.

I love working with writers. The best editors passionately enhance and perfect raw copy with an intuitive sensibility. The collaboration makes the writer’s intentions shine.

Although the writer is the “star,” consider “behind the scenes” work to contribute to the writing process, utilize your proofreading skills, and boost your freelance income.

Stefanie Flaxman corrects business, marketing, and educational documents in 24 hours. She’s a professional proofreader and the founder of Revision Fairy® Small Business Proofreading Services.

25 Comments

  1. JELindholm

    I’ve been considering adding a proofreading service to my blog to try to generate some income from my writing. This article gave me the push I needed… Thanks!

  2. Melissa Paulik

    Very interesting. I have a fairly full plate of writing projects, but every now and then, I have a client who needs my help with editing content they decide to write themselves. Sometimes it’s typos, but often it’s helping them sort out their thoughts, keeping sentences readable and using proper punctuation.

    The thing that keeps me from offering proofreading services is that I feel like I can’t make a mistake. I use all the proofreading tricks with my own documents:
    – read them with fresh eyes
    – print them out
    – read them backwards
    – read them aloud
    – give them to my spouse to read

    Errors still slip through from time to time. How do you deal with it when you, as a proofreader, end up missing something that the client notices later?

    BTW, I’ve reread this comment 3X, and I’m sure it contains errors!

    Melissa

    • Stefanie

      Melissa,

      That’s such a relevant question! Thanks for asking!

      Since proofreading is essentially about making a document perfect, the fear of not catching an error is definitely something I’ve dealt with. Many perfectionists (like myself) become proofreaders because they like that responsibility, but you can also end up putting a lot of pressure on yourself.

      A simple solution is to consistently deliver excellent results to your clients. Your positive relationship with a specific client then becomes more important than a small mistake that you may happen to make on an off-day. There are mistakes and there are MISTAKES. Even if the worse happens, you act accordingly depending on the client’s needs.

      It’s just like any other job. Humans are human, and mistakes happen. You can’t let that fear keep you from working.

      Your question also reminded me of one of Carol’s fairly recent posts about Fear. I’d check it out if you haven’t already.

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