I regularly get emails from people who had no idea what proofreading was until stumbling onto this site. A lot of you already secretly proofread everything you read, but you can’t believe it’s a real profession. Make money finding errors and fixing them? Whaaat!!! (That’s from a student of mine.)
I was the same way. I used to be everyone’s FREE go-to proofreader until a professor told me I could make a living from proofreading and editing. I was dumbfounded that I could actually make money from my “nerdy hobby.”
In this post, I’ve answered five frequently asked questions about proofreading professionally. Proofreading is an in-demand skill, and I hope my answers shed light on what it takes to start working as a proofreader. And if you want to learn even more, you can sign up for my free training masterclass below!
Question 1: Do I need a degree or previous experience to start proofreading?
No, you don’t need an English degree to start working as a proofreader. However, you do need to be trained in specific mechanical and technical skills, editorial tools and processes, and industry best practices. You want to have the skills and confidence training provides so you can take on any kind of project.
If you want to specialize in a niche like computer science, for example, then having a degree or extensive experience in the field would be beneficial.
If you want to proofread academic content and sign on with an academic editing agency, then you’ll need to have a bachelor’s degree or higher to be approved.
Breaking into proofreading is much easier if you have some experience. It could be volunteer or paid experience. You also need to have some proofreading experience on your resume, otherwise it’ll be difficult for you to find work. People want to know that you understand content, have experience working with clients, and know what you’re doing technically.
Question 2: What kind of clients can I work with?
It’s really up to you what kind of clients you want to work with. Proofreading can be applied to any industry. In my Editorial Business Bundle program, many of my students open themselves to working with all kinds of content, while others choose a niche or two.
You can work for publishing houses, self-published authors, magazines, journals, websites, small businesses, communication/marketing agencies, printers, government divisions, bloggers, academics, ad agencies, artists, and entrepreneurs. Even content creators on Instagram and YouTube. The list goes on. Basically anyone who creates any kind of content!
Question 3: Can I actually earn a living as a proofreader or is this just a “side hustle”?
You sure can! I’ve been making a living as a proofreader for over 15 years! And I’ve been freelancing for over 10 years. I even supported my family on my proofreading income when my husband went back to school. And I have many proofreader friends who support themselves and their families, as well.
If you want to proofread as a side hustle that’s great, too. Proofreading is generally a low-stress activity that’s really flexible.
If you want to learn how you can start freelancing, I’m holding a FREE masterclass on proofreading, copyediting, and marketing.
Question 4: How do I find work?
It’s a lot easier now to find proofreading work because of all the content being created. There are many freelancing and work sites that post proofreading jobs. When I first started, I had only a handful of places to find work. Now you can join sites that let you post your services as a proofreader for free!
Being a freelance proofreader is the same as being an entrepreneur because you have to hustle, market yourself, do research into potential clients, etc. Just like any new venture, it can be slow going at first, but with hard work and perseverance, your work will pay off.
Also look at your own life and see what niche you can focus on in addition to general proofreading. Reaching out to your network and choosing a niche can give you quicker results.
For example, if you’re a nurse you can do medical proofreading (your niche) on top of proofreading other non-medical material. You’re probably already familiar with medical publications and related sites, so it wouldn’t require a lot of research for you to find potential clients.
One of my niches is proofreading romance books because I have a strong background in that genre, and I have extensive experience working with fiction.
Question 5: I don’t know all the grammar rules, can I still be a pro proofreader?
Yes, you definitely can! It’s impossible to know all the rules of the English language, so don’t pressure yourself. I know people who’ve been proofreading for over 20 years who still look up rules. Part of being a proofreader is knowing how to research.
You must know how to fix the most common errors, and how to use industry-standard editorial tools and processes. You also need to have a good command of English because you should notice when something doesn’t read properly. For example, you should know if a word needs to be plural, or if there’s incorrect subject and verb agreement.
I’ve given you some insight into proofreading as a profession, and I hope it’s something you can see yourself doing. It’s been a very enjoyable and rewarding career for me, and if you have an eye for detail, a love of words, and the commitment to grow those things into more, it could be the same for you.