Proofreading is one of the final steps writers go through before their work can get published. Proofreaders are extremely valuable to the writing and publishing world because they comb through a writer’s work to find any and all mistakes to ensure it is polished and ready for the public to read. How to become a proofreader, though, is more than just reading a lot and having a good eye.
While many authors rely on sites such as Grammarly to help with basic editing, they still need the help of a set of human eyes to help with catching grammar mistakes and resolving readability issues before they are confident in sending their work to print.
If you love grammar, spelling, and have an intense attention to detail, then proofreading might be the perfect job for you. Plus, proofreaders are often able to dictate their own hours and work remotely, making it a perfect job for both a side gig or as a full-time freelance career.
Even if you primarily make money as a writer, having marketable proofreading skills can come in quite handy.
If you have ever questioned if you had what it takes and wondered what you would need to do to get started proofreading, read below to get started.
How to Become a Proofreader: 8 Tips to Get You Started
1. Cultivate a love of reading and learning
As a proofreader, your time will consist of one main thing: reading.
Make sure you enjoy reading and could see yourself reading for hours a day before deciding to become a proofreader. Know you are someone who can read a book or article even if you are not particularly interested in the topic or storyline.
Also prepare yourself for a different type of reading than you may be used to. Reading while proofreading is slow and meticulous. It requires going back over sections and often reading aloud to catch all the mistakes.
Plus, be ready to continue to learn and evolve as a proofreader because the way people write and publish continues to change. You will want to stay informed of the changing landscapes of online writing, ebooks, and printed books so you can speak to clients as an expert in your field.
2. Understand the proofreading role
Know what is and is not in your job description as a proofreader. Your job as a proofreader is to read the book after it has already been edited for content for typographical errors, spelling mistakes, missing punctuation, awkward phrasing, and anything else that would distract readers from the story.
It can be tempting to read a book manuscript and have opinions on the style of the book, the content, or even details like character development. But as a proofreader, offering up these opinions or possible corrections is not your job. You are not inserting yourself into the text, but instead only helping the writer better communicate their own voice.
In addition to being a grammar and spelling expert, familiarize yourself with style guides within the industries you are interested in proofreading for. These include:
Be comfortable searching these guides often if you have any questions regarding the details of proper punctuation and grammar.
3. Identify your target proofreading jobs
When you are starting to think about what type of proofreading you want to do, start with what you have already done. Where do you have the most writing and proofreading experience already? Start there and then branch out to include other types of work.
Possible categories of proofreading work include:
- Nonfiction books
- Fiction books
- Blog articles
4. Practice proofreading
Take every opportunity to practice proofreading. There are several free resources online that can help you test and hone in on your proofreading skills. Remember to take your time and go over the practice tests with the answers to learn from your mistakes.
- Purdue Writing Center has a whole catalogue of free writing and proofreading exercises.
- Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading has several free language quizzes as well as a sample proofreading document to test your skills.
5. Market yourself and get connected
In order to be hired as a proofreader, you will not only need to market yourself and be prepared to speak confidently about your skills. You will also need to engage with the community you are trying to be hired by. There are a few different areas you can focus on to attract new business.
- Social Media: First, update your social media profiles, especially Twitter and LinkedIn, to reflect your role as a proofreader. Post your own original content about proofreading, repost interesting and relevant articles, and then engage with writers and publishers on their own content to build connections and find opportunities. Click here for even more social media tips.
- Proofreading Websites: There are several sites you can go to that connect proofreaders with people wanting to hire their services. Some proofreading websites will require their proofreaders to have advanced degrees or certificates, but not all of them do. These sites are just looking for people with meticulous grammar skills and a superior attention to detail.
- Referrals: Once you start proofreading for clients, do not be afraid to ask them for referrals to other writers or publishers in their industry. If you have delivered your work on time and the client is happy with the work you have delivered, then the best way a client can say thank you is to direct you to more business.
- Repeat business: After you have finished a contract with a client, make sure to keep their information easily accessible so you can reach back out periodically to stay top-of-mind for future proofreading projects.
6. Be ready to manage your own freelance business
Most proofreading work is done by freelancers—even proofreading work for publishing houses. Because of this, if you want to start proofreading, you have to be prepared to run and manage your own proofreading freelance business.
You will need to set your own hourly or per-word rates, invoice clients for your services, pay your own income taxes from your client payments, and keep track of any other business expenses over the course of the year.
Thankfully there are several great websites available that help with the back office functions of a freelancer. One great tool to check out when you get started freelancing is Freshbooks, a tool that can help you both invoice and collect payments. Freshbooks will also send payment reminders to clients and can store your business-related receipts.
7. Continue to develop your resume
Even if you are not using your resume to apply for traditional jobs, keep track of the work you have completed to show prospective clients in a writing resume. Keep track of the types of proofreading you have done, the types of clients you have worked with, and anything else to show your experience.
Keep a folder of any notable or interesting projects you have worked on for you to show and reference to new clients. Get short client testimonials from clients you worked with to feature in your resume. Keep track of any certifications you have acquired, special training, or even webinars that have helped you grow and hone your skills.
8. Be confident
Remember that every successful proofreader started right where you are right now. They were at one time just someone that loved reading and enjoyed fixing grammar mistakes. Don’t let your fear or inexperience keep you from branching out and getting into proofreading. Instead be confident that your passion can turn into something more if you commit to putting the time and effort in.