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Thanks to the ever-growing number of websites and content pieces published online lately, almost any eagle-eyed person with outstanding language knowledge, decent writing and computer skills and willingness to learn can earn a steady high income as an online proofreader.

There are numerous advantages to this type of freelance work. For start, you can choose your clients while working flexible hours from the comfort of your cozy home or any other location you choose.

But the question is:

How do you become an online proofreader?

To find out what you need to start enjoying all the benefits of such a lucrative career, read on.

A need for proofreaders will exist as long as people are writing anything and that’s very likely forever, so it’s never too late for you to begin your journey.

This step-by-step guide will teach you the key steps that every home-based freelancer needs to know about becoming an online proofreader.

Ready? Let’s dive in.

Step 1: Make sure online proofreading is a perfect career choice for you

Prior to taking any action on the road to online proofreading success, it’s crucial that you’re absolutely confident this path is a perfect career choice for you.

But how can you say that you’re by no means certain you’re making the right move?

Find out everything you need to know about becoming a freelance proofreader and make an informative decision you won’t regret but be proud of.

Before you even consider taking this road, you need to learn:

  • what a proofreader’s job involves,
  • how proofreaders differ from other types of editing experts
  • how much money they typically earn
  • whether you have what it takes to become an online proofreader.

Here we go with the basics.

What does a proofreading job entail?

A proofreader is a type of editor who ensures that content is free of errors, be them:

  • grammatical
  • syntax
  • punctuation
  • spelling
  • typographical
  • formatting or
  • other similar ones.

A proofreader’s job is to revise every word, sentence and paragraph and to fine-tune every single line of text.

By that, we mean noticing missing or extra commas, inconsistencies in the use of terminology, the ‘your’ where ‘you’re’ should stand, the lack of space or the use of double spaces after punctuation marks, misaligned margins and the like.

Download our free, handy, Cheat Sheet of Proofreading Marks and Symbols.

Proofreaders can work on various types of content such as:

  • website content
  • blog posts
  • marketing and sales materials
  • academic papers
  • student essays
  • product manuals
  • guides
  • books and/or eBooks
  • press releases
  • magazines
  • white papers
  • resumes
  • reports
  • brochures

Not only do proofreaders check and polish words but they also refine:

  • tables
  • graphs
  • charts
  • captions below illustrations and images
  • cross-references
  • appendices
  • footnotes
  • page numbers and breaks and
  • the overall page layout.

However, the line between the responsibilities of proofreaders and other types of editors is blurry, which is the reason why many people aren’t aware of the differences at all.

If you’re going to proofread for a living, then you should know exactly what your scope of duties includes.

That’s why we’ve decided to point them out, so keep reading.

What is the difference between an editor and a proofreader?

Bear in mind that there’s NO rewriting involved in a proofreader’s work and that proofreaders should NOT solely rely on any grammar and spell-checking tools.

The article Editor or Proofreader: Who Does What? on GrammarPhile blog clearly explains the differences as do the following SfEP’s quotes and their video below:

‘The proofreader reads the copy for consistency in usage and layout, for accuracy in the text and references and for typesetting errors. The proofreader, however, is only acting as a quality check, making sure that the copy-editor or typesetter has not missed something. He or she is not responsible for overall consistency and accuracy.’

‘A copy-editor makes sure that an author’s raw text, or copy, is correct in terms of spelling and grammar and is easy to read so that readers can grasp his or her ideas. A copy-editor also tries to prevent embarrassing errors of fact, alert the publisher to any possible legal problems and ensure that the typesetter can do a good job.’

If you’d like more in-depth insights, don’t hesitate to check out Your Most Common Questions on Proofreading Answered where we compared both experts’ duties and answered many other relevant FAQs.

Besides fully understanding what your responsibilities as a proofreader are, it’s critical that you’re totally honest with yourself when figuring out whether this career path is the right choice for you.

So, let’s see:

Is online proofreading the right job for you?

You’re about to find out.

Do you have what it takes to become an online proofreader?

Proofreading is an ideal job for you if you are not fidgety but thorough and responsible because you’re typically the last person who approves a piece of content before it gets published.

marks and symbols
Download your free cheatsheet of proofreading marks and symbols

In other words, there is NO room for any blunders or oversights in this profession.

First of all, you need to be skilled in checking other people’s writing and preferably specialized in one or more fields such as academic, legal, technical, medical, or any other area of your interest and expertise.

Specialization in a particular subject area makes you more employable and highly sought-after professional as opposed to just focusing on general proofreading.

But, skills and proper training are not enough to prove proofreading is the right match for you.

Nevertheless, being the most literate, trained and eagle-eyed person on the planet without a proper ‘proofreader mindset’ doesn’t mean much as it cannot guarantee your career success and satisfaction.

Here are the essential traits that will prove you have a personal aptitude for proofreading:

  • Your mind is rather inquiring and analytical.
  • You pay meticulous attention to details.
  • You’re systematic, calm and patient.
  • You’re self-disciplined and organized with excellent time management skills.
  • Your attention span is pretty high so that you can focus on a task at hand for a long time without easily getting distracted.
  • You cope with stress well and don’t get bored quickly.
  • You are reliable and multitasking is not really your cup of tea.
  • You enjoy working hard on your own even on topics you don’t find interesting.

This is something you cannot learn but you get born with such characteristics.

Although online proofreading is a financially and emotionally rewarding career to particular personalities, it is obviously NOT for everyone even if they have a sound grasp of the language.

If you’re not 100% positive it’s suitable for you, perhaps this quiz could help you figure out whether you should become a proofreader. Click it here.

So, what do you say – Do you want to become a proofreader? Take our free downloadable quiz and see if it suits your personality.

Is working from home for you at all?

Give sincere answers to the quizzes above, listen to your inner voice and you’ll know it.

Think twice and look before you leap.

Furthermore, if you have proper knowledge and personality traits but want your future freelance career decision to be also based on money matters, we’ve got you covered.

How much money does a proofreader make?

Office-based proofreaders usually earn around $50,000 per year. But, determining the average amount of money home-based online proofreaders make is a bit tricky.

Reasons?

Online proofreaders mainly get paid by the job, that is to say, the whole project they do. They also establish their rates based on an hour, word or page.

Another factor that comes into play when determining how much online proofreaders get paid is that their rates are negotiable. It’s because the rates depend on:

  • a proofreader’s expertise and experience,
  • the required turnaround time,
  • the work difficulty,
  • deadlines,
  • the scope of work, and
  • other relevant determinants, which are specific to each project they take.

However, many people are actually interested in another fact:

‘Can you really make money proofreading?’

The answer is: YES.

The following research findings will hopefully help you to get the idea of

How much does a freelance proofreader earn?

Data sourceAnnual salary range estimates for online proofreaders
Salary.com$44,516 to $57,927
Ziprecruiter$17,000 to $105,000
Glassdoor$24,000 to $59,000
MarketingProfs 2018 Salary Guide$41,500 to $72,750

If you’d like to know how much online proofreaders get paid per word, page or hour, head over to the relevant FAQ in our guide Your Most Common Questions about Proofreading Jobs Answered.

Now that you have all the relevant information you need for making the big decision, in case you’re sure you’d be happy and satisfied as an online proofreader, you’re ready to move on to the next step.

Step 2: Develop your proofreading skills and gain experience

Willingness to study goes without saying if you want to improve your freelance career opportunities.

So, be prepared to learn, earn certifications and gather the necessary resume-boosting experience if you want to make a good living as an online proofreader.

And we’re about to show you how.

You can get proofreader training from a number of credible online courses which enable you to hone core proofreading skills at your own pace and in your free time whenever you feel like learning.

To see the list of some recommended online courses, valuable resources, tests and tools, thoroughly read the subsection ‘How Can I Improve My Proofreading Skills’ in another comprehensive guide we’ve created for you.

Some proofreading agencies may also offer you on-the-job training so that you can learn by doing with the help of other colleagues who are already seasoned experts.

Aren’t experienced proofreaders the best people to advise you on how to develop your proofreading skills?

Many of them have their own blogs where they share experiences, pros and cons of their career.

So, you could follow those or even find and contact experts from your local publishing company, on social network groups or other freelance proofreaders online to ask for advice.

Many of them will probably be glad to help you and provide guidelines because they were in your shoes some time ago and can understand you.

And now, we’ll provide you with the highlights to answer one of the most important questions on this topic.

What education is needed to be a proofreader?

Many proofreaders hold a degree in English, literature or journalism.

But how come that many other freelancers claim to have successful proofreading careers without a university degree?

Confused now?

Do you need qualifications to be a proofreader? The truth!

NO, formal qualifications are not absolutely necessary to become an online proofreader.

However, it’s true that some employers require a particular university degree and/or specialization and that proofreaders with formal qualifications may demand higher rates and can also land better jobs more easily.

Still, don’t let that discourage you from your ultimate goal.

It’s also true that many employers will not ask for your official qualifications but rely on your experience and require that you pass their proofreading tests before you get hired. Testing should not be a problem for you if you’ve acquired the necessary knowledge.

(Note: Make sure you follow the previous link to find out all the skills and other necessary job requirements in detail.)

Solid knowledge of the English language and basic computer skills are enough to get started.

You may test yourself now to see how good you’d be. Go ahead.

Of course, you should keep brushing up on your skills along the way to gain expertise and confidence.

Also, there’s no need to spend a fortune on taking expensive courses to gain formal qualifications.

You can also find some free online exercises to perfect your skills and test yourself occasionally to see how well and how fast you’re improving. Sources like these may come in handy:

Got it all?

Don’t forget to have fun while learning.

Once you’re certain that proofreading is what you want to do in your life and that you have special skills to offer, it’s the right moment to start building a profitable online career as an online proofreader.

If you’ve come all this way, congratulations! You’re closer to your goal – becoming an online proofreader.

Let’s get to some more specific to-dos now.

Step 3: Choose your niche and determine your rates

The next logical step on your online career path is to decide which services you’ll offer and how much you’ll charge for them.

So, what interests you most in the ocean of various never-ending tasks online proofreaders do? What are you most competent in?

You need to specify your niche.

Would you like to focus on proofreading websites or blog content?

Novels, magazines or newspapers maybe?

Academic papers or essays to help students get higher grades?

Application letters and other documents job seekers and students need when applying for work, college or scholarships?

Legal or medical transcripts?

Sales copies, brochures, leaflets or other advertising materials?

You see?

There are plenty of niches you can choose. What do you feel most comfortable with?

Figure it out so that you can tailor your future career path according to the choice you make now.

Also, think about whether you’d like part-time or full-time employment. Do you prefer short contracts or would you like to pursue long-term work opportunities?

Take all these elements into consideration when defining your proofreading services and establishing rates.

(Note: Follow the link to learn how to determine your rates and what to consider.)

Decide whether you’ll charge per-word, per-page, per-hour, per-project fees or choose any other option of pricing your proofreading work. Explore the market first and then determine the rates based on your skill set, experience and other relevant factors.

Be careful not to underestimate or overestimate yourself.

When this part of work is over, you’re ready for the next phase.

Excited? Let’s continue.

Step 4: Create your online presence to promote yourself

You’ve gained the knowledge and some experience, right?

It’s time to shine and attract clients at this moment.

In other words, it’s wise to create your online presence and advertise your services so that you appear on the radar of your prospective clients.

Here are a couple of effective ways you can achieve that.

Find out where your target audience is and create social media profiles on those networks to build a good rapport with all those people.

For instance, set up a Facebook business page or create a profile on LinkedIn for start.

Another way to promote yourself is to build your own website on which you’ll showcase your expertise, i.e. resume, certificates, services you offer, your previous representative work samples and the like so that you can build trust with your potential clients more easily.

You can check the source explaining how to plan and create your website and learn from some good examples of professional proofreading websites, as well.

Or you could hire a professional to make it for you, which would be a better option if you’re setting up your own proofreading business, which will be our topic a bit later.

Remember:

The strong, positive relationship you build with your audience through good communication is what makes your brand unique and favorite.

Step 5: Find proofreading job opportunities online

Woohoo, you’re in now!

Once you’ve gone through all the previous steps, it’s only left for you to wait for that perfect job.

Or is it?

Well, it’s not that simple.

On NO account would we recommend that you just sit there and wait for work to fall into your lap because it’s very unlikely to happen if you don’t act in the right direction.

And remain persistent. Always.

That’s one of the keys to success in addition to marketing your business and growing and updating your skill set regularly.

So, let’s see how you can help yourself and where you can look for home-based proofreading job opportunities.

You could effectively network with people by using your personal contacts, contacting your local publishers, visiting online forums or a wide variety of online directories which offer freelance proofreading work.

But you should be extra careful with online job boards as there are many scams. That’s why we’ve compiled a full list of trustworthy online job boards to keep you away from scams.

You can also rely on our comprehensive list of authority websites offering legitimate proofreading jobs online.

Equipped with these handy tips, you are now able to proofread effectively. Grab your free cheat sheet now!

Besides building your website we’ve mentioned above, you could advertise your proofreading services effectively by creating and sharing your business cards i.e ecards or other promo graphics with Canva and similar affordable tools.

Partnering with other freelancers such as typesetters, translators or designers to cross-promote your services is also a smart move.

Joining relevant professional organizations such as the Society for Editors and Proofreaders or the Editorial Freelancers Association can help you not only to find new job opportunities but to enhance your professional credibility.

Louise Harnby provides a thorough list of professional societies and associations for editors and proofreaders worldwide and Katharine O’Moore-Klopf has a long list of similar job directories.

So, consider joining professional online groups and offline proofreading societies within your specialization field and benefit from them.

There’s always something more you can do, so why wouldn’t you take it a step further?

Start your own proofreading business

Another option to employ yourself is creating your own freelance company.

Now you may wonder:

‘How on earth do I start my own proofreading business now?’

It already seems complicated enough without having to bother with loads of admin stuff, taxes, permissions and other necessary paperwork.

No one says you must do it. And no one says it’s going to be super easy.

Still, if you would like to launch your proofreading business, don’t hesitate to check the link provided and find out:

  • the critical steps to take,
  • plenty of helpful tips from those who have already done that,
  • valuable professional guides, templates and other resources,
  • all the blessings and drawbacks, and
  • everything else you need to know about running your own business successfully.

Also, refer to The Pocket Book of Proofreading to start your freelance proofreading business on the right foot even if you lack experience.

Done? Fabulous!

So, what do you think? Are you ready for the adventure?

Can you start making money as a proofreader from home?

There you have it!

A detailed five-step plan on how to become an online proofreader and finally embark on your new promising and lucrative career:

  1. Familiarise yourself with what it takes to pursue a career in online proofreading so that you can reach an informed decision and make sure it’s the right choice for you before you proceed.
  2. Get ready to learn a lot, perfect your skills, earn certifications if necessary and gather enough practical experience.
  3. Avoid being a ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’. Instead, specify the field of your interest and competence so that you can tailor the services you offer and determine your real worth, which will help you to establish your rates in the chosen niche.
  4. Advertise your services online wisely so that your target audience i.e. prospective clients can find you without much hassle.
  5. Actively seek proofreading job opportunities online. Don’t wait for them to find you as it’s probably not going to happen.

Now that we’ve explained to you what online proofreading entails and how to get started, do you feel you can confidently pursue a professional proofreading career by taking the steps laid out within this guide?

Go for it if you feel it’s your passion.

Master your skills, build up your portfolio and get out there on the market.

Ready?

Just do it because YOU CAN!

Cast away all your fears and take your first real steps on the road to becoming a professional proofreader.

We’re looking forward to your success.

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Katrina
Author

I'm Katrina McKinnon, creator of eCommerce University, founder of McKinnon Group and Small Revolution. I'm using my 20 years' experience in building and operating online businesses to create engaging educational materials that helps others become successful online workers. Find me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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