Become a Proofreader- Guide for Beginners

Become a Proofreader: Guide for Beginners

If friends and co-workers ask for your help to check their writing, they may look at you as an excellent proofreader. You’re probably doing the job of a professional proofreader if you read manuscripts and blog content over and over to make sure there’s nothing wrong with them before actual publication. A professional proofreader is a profession you can pursue if you like reading interesting topics and learning new crafts in one job.

What is a Proofreader?

In the writing process, every content goes through the stages of editing and proofreading to ensure coherent and error-free copies intended for wider public viewership. While editing involves removing huge chunks of unnecessary texts and ensuring that the copy is properly written according to the intended purpose, proofreading converts a final draft into a writing piece ready for either print or online publication. A proofreader is tasked to handle the final stage of the writing process, though its job function is often interchangeable with editors’ responsibilities. This position often searches for minor spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors while ensuring full compliance with the content to the client’s writing standards.

What Does an Online Proofreader Do?

As mentioned above, proofreading is the last stage of the editorial process before any final draft becomes ready for actual publication. The main responsibility of a proofreader is to look for errors inside the content, such as:

· Typographical errors

· Illogical paragraph, word and page breaks

· Non-compliance or inconsistency in writing standards

· Spelling errors

· Missing or incorrect use of punctuation

· Wrong citations or referencing

An initial draft begins with a development edit focusing on the overall article flow, plot development, and required theme. Afterwards, the manuscript will be passed onto a copy editor to work on the sentence structures, spelling mistakes, and unnecessary text content. Lastly, the proofreader will take the manuscript from the editor to polish it and remove any errors that may have been overlooked in the earlier stages.

Do you Need Qualifications to Become a Proofreader?

If you decide to pursue online proofreading, you don’t need a lot of qualifications to get hired; however, it would be better to develop expertise or a particular niche to become more effective and in-demand. You don’t need a college diploma or any proofreader certification to become a professional proofreader in many cases. Possessing a diploma in journalism or technical writing can significantly help, but it is not mandatory.

You must love to read manuscripts, blog posts, and literature writing if you’re serious about making money as a professional proofreader or at least an editor. Proofreading often involves the continuous reading of different materials because you need to catch all spelling, punctuation, and grammar mistakes before publication.

As a proofreader, you’re expected to be good at finding spelling and punctuation errors. You’re also expected to emphasize certain details, including required writing guidelines and appropriate use of vernaculars and relevant search terms to satisfy the project’s requirements. What’s more important here is the ability to conduct research words or topics that you’re not familiar with instead of returning the manuscript to the client and insisting that you don’t know anything about your reading content. When you conduct research, you’re able to explore other interesting topics about a particular industry.

Skills Proofreaders Need

Qualifications like proofreader certification or Bachelor’s degree diploma aren’t necessary when searching for a proofreading job. However, it’s important to possess the following skills to make yourself stand out from the competition:

· Exceptional reading and comprehension skills

· Highly interested in reading a wide range of topics and industries

· Excellent command of the English language

· Great time management skills

· Good research ability

· Keen to details

How Much Money Does a Proofreader Make?

On average, professional proofreaders can earn around $25 per hour or somewhere between $51,000 and $55,000 per year maximum, according to ZipRecruiter. Experienced proofreaders can receive higher rates, with top professionals earning between $30 to $35 per hour. Some professional proofreaders are offered a fixed rate to proofread an entire book manuscript.

However, as of February 2021, the average annual salary of proofreaders is $53,037, according to Freelance proofreaders with no prior experience can receive a starting rate of $12 to $15 per hour. The amount of money you can earn will greatly depend on your expertise, education level, and proofreading skills.

Is Proofreading a Good Career?

If you’re searching for a competitive work-at-home job, you can try online proofreading, especially if you’re a stay-at-home parent. Similar to other popular freelancing jobs, working as a proofreader may allow you to enjoy the following benefits:

· Work freedom

· Flexible time management (personal and professional life)

· Flexible income (depending on the number of projects you can handle per month)

· Direct negotiation with prospective clients

· Wider career options and advancements

· Opportunity to develop a particular niche or field of expertise

· Opportunity to learn new things or improve current skills

A proofreading job is an interesting career if you love exploring different topics and stories, regardless of genre or industry. You can earn more if you take on more projects or run an independent contracting agency where you can manage your group of freelance proofreaders. The amount of money you can make will depend on the number of projects you can complete within a specific period of time, as well as the number of good-paying clients you can sustain for many years.

5 Steps on How to Become a Proofreader

The topics discussed above should have given you enough ideas on how to work as a professional freelancer. To help you get started with this exciting career, follow these five steps on becoming a professional proofreader:

1. Developing your proofreading expertise

A proofreader can’t handle all forms of content because every proofreader has a specific skill set that needs to be developed. The key to penetrating this type of industry is to find the niche you want to read. You can choose your expertise from the following niches:

· Website or service pages

· Literature writing

· Legal documents

· Court reports

· Academic papers and research development

· Media advisory and news

· Blog posts

· Business reports

· Transcripts

· Instructional manual

Proofreaders with specialized niches can establish expertise and brand reputation as solid editorial experts. Each manuscript requires a proofreader possessing the relevant skills and strength to make the proofreading process more accurate. If you proofread a novel, for instance, you may need sharp attention conforming to the mechanics of artistic language. But if you work on history books, you will need additional research and other materials to verify the information.

Building up your proofreading expertise will result in more engagement with prospective clients who may need your editorial prowess. Besides more opportunities to learn, your market value may also increase, resulting in higher earnings and a better hiring rate.

2. Practicing the proofreading skills

Like any other editing job, proofreading requires constant practice, tireless dedication, and consistent work output to remain competitive. Of course, you must know the grammatical rules you need to focus on each time you proofread a manuscript. They are as follows:

· Complete adherence to writing standards or style guides (referring to Chicago, APA, AP, MLA, and Turabian Style)

· Continuous proofreading practice

· Taking free online proofreading skills test

Whatever type of manuscript you read, consider practicing your proofreading skills by searching for formatting inconsistencies, typographical mistakes, and other apparent document errors. Aspiring to become a perfectionist will give you a clear edge over your market competitors. You may commit to reading an entire book within a week to help hone your proofreading skills faster. As an alternative, you may also consider reading online articles and blog posts and look for potential errors.

3. Acquiring a proofreader certificate

Although getting a proofreader certification isn’t a must for aspiring proofreaders, having one can help win clients and secure work contracts. If you consider yourself a neophyte to this field, attending proofreading courses can provide experience in performing manuscript proofreading. In case you decide to pursue it, be sure to conduct prior research to find accredited organizations that offer formal training and proper support. However, as mentioned earlier, not all clients require a training certificate to prove their expertise and capability.

4. Keeping your career portfolio updated

Aside from signing up with multiple platforms for freelancers, you should also keep developing your resume as often as possible. Diversifying your marketing strategy allows you to find your target customers while simultaneously promoting your services to other freelance proofreaders’ networks. You can do this by creating your website or promoting yourself through various social media channels and online communities. Before you know it, you’ll soon get fresh contracts and meet new clients who can offer you higher rates and better work benefits.

5. Searching for vacant proofreading jobs

When everything is ready, from career profile creation to proofreading practices, you can now look for vacant positions on various work platforms. However, beginners must be patient in dealing with low-paying proofreading gigs and a competitive job market outside of their preferred niche to gain enough experience and move on to high-paying projects. If you manage to get through that challenging phase, you’ll emerge victorious with the proven experience you need to secure long-term clients in the future.

Proofreading is a serious profession that you can consider if you’re truly interested in reading various writing forms. However, you must be prepared for the imminent challenges of finding prospective clients, given the level of competition that exists today.

Dale Basilla

Owner at Be Visible Media
Dale Basilla is a content writer for various niches, SEO (Off-page & On-Page), and lives in a location where there are lots of beaches in the Philippines. He loves to watch anime, TV series (mystery and solving crimes), and movies. In his spare time, he plays chess, plays the guitar, and spend time with his ever busy girlfriend.

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