Proofreading jobs online are a flexible way to supplement your income. Some people are so good at what they do, they can even turn proofreading into a full-time career.
But if you’ve never actually worked as a proofreader before, it can be difficult to know how and where to get started. And you probably have a lot of questions like, “Do I need a degree or formal training?”
To help you decide whether or not proofreading is right for you (and if you have what it takes to be successful!) read on. This proofreading jobs online guide is meant to help complete beginners jump start their proofreading career the right way.
What exactly is proofreading?
Many people confuse the terms proofreading and editing. I always like to think of editing as more “big picture” stuff. When editing, you look to make sure content has good flow, conveys the right meaning, and generally reads well. Editing is usually a much more involved process than proofreading.
Proofreading is more narrowly focused than editing. When proofreading you want to go over a piece of content with a fine-tooth comb. The main purpose of proofreading is to make sure there are no spelling, grammatical or typographical errors.
When proofreading, you probably won’t make suggestions to change the overall flow or structure of content — your main goal is making sure it is error-free.
Wait. Isn’t that what spell-checker is for?
Too many people rely on spell-checkers and grammar-checkers built into word processing programs like Word. And while these are definitely helpful to give a final once over, they should not be relied on. Why? They’re far from perfect.
Check out the screenshot of some sentences I typed up in Word:
Can you spot the errors? Microsoft Word couldn’t. That’s why you shouldn’t trust it entirely to proofread for you. And that’s also why people turn to proofreaders to give their writing a thorough and final review to avoid embarrassing mistakes like the ones above.
Do I need an English degree to apply for proofreading jobs online?
The short answer? No. Just because you have a degree in English doesn’t necessarily mean you’d make an amazing proofreader just as not having an English degree doesn’t automatically make you a terrible proofreader. What you do need to have is the willingness to learn.
If you don’t have experience as a proofreader, there will definitely be a learning curve. You’ll need to develop your skills and eventually market yourself as a proofreader in order to grow your career. To do this well, you’ll have to constantly be learning, evolving, and growing.
I think I’ve got what it takes. What else should I have?
Generally speaking, proofreaders are detail-oriented people. If you routinely spot errors when reading blog posts, articles, pamphlets, magazines, ads or just about any copy — you’re definitely a detail-oriented person! To be successful as a proofreader, you should also have a strong command of English including grammar, spelling, and syntax.
Depending on the job, you may have to know proofreaders’ marks. These traditional signs and symbols are used when proofreading a document to indicate what kinds of changes should be made. Other clients may ask that you track changes in Word so they can see the edits you suggest.
Narrow the playing field
After you’ve read up on what it takes to be a proofreader and brushed up on your skills, you’re probably ready to start applying to all the proofreading jobs online you can find. And while it may sound like a good strategy to go after anything and everything, the truth is, it can actually backfire.
As a freelance writer, I always recommend that new writers find their niche. Why? It’s much easier to find work when you’re targeting a certain “tribe.” This theory holds true for freelance proofreaders too.
While I primarily make a living as a freelance writer, I take on quite a few proofreading gigs for select clients. What’s my niche? Case briefs, memorandums, and other legal documents like demand letters and lease agreements. Because I focus my work on a select group of clients, I can more easily market my services to them because I know exactly who my clients are — lawyers, law offices, and corporate legal departments.
Aside from making it easier to find proofreading jobs online, picking a niche allows you to easily position yourself as an expert. And once you reach expert status, you can charge much more for your services than if you generalized as a proofreader. I can’t stress enough how picking a niche can help you stay focused and catapult you to proofreading success early on.
Which niche should I choose?
I’ve got a good friend who has a marketing background. She does a lot of proofreading for ecommerce sites. Mostly she checks to make sure that product descriptions and user guides are error-free before they go live on the client’s website. After all, a turtleneck sweater and a turtle neck sweater are two very different things 🙂
If a niche isn’t jumping out at you right away, here’s some ideas for inspiration:
- White papers
- Academic papers
- Marketing materials
- Press releases
This of course is just a small sample of potential niches. To start, pick a subject you’re comfortable with. You might find that you eventually fall into a certain niche that you didn’t intend to target in the first place! Remember, you can always expand into different niches later. But when first starting out, try to stick with one and grow from there.
Where can I find proofreading jobs online?
If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably ready to learn where exactly all the proofreading jobs online are. The truth is, they’re everywhere. Seriously. Just about every website and blog can benefit from the eyes of a proofreader. I can attest to this as a freelance writer myself.
Our minds have a funny way of tricking us into thinking that what we’ve just written reads as we intend it to be read. When you’re so close to something you’ve written, you tend to overlook mistakes that are glaringly obvious to a fresh set of eyes.
That’s why when I write an e-book,white paper or other large piece of content for a client, I always hire a proofreader to give a final look. I factor in the cost of hiring a proofreader into my fees as a writer. The cost is well worth the result — an error-free final product that looks perfectly polished to the client.
Upwork is now the largest freelance marketplace. If you’re wanting to try your hand at freelance proofreading, this is a great platform to start. How does Upwork work?
- Clients post their proofreading gigs
- Freelancers, like you, submit proposals
- The client reads through proposals and selects the freelancer(s) they’d like to work with
It’s free to submit proposals, but Upwork does take a 10% cut of any payments you receive — so keep this in mind! The best way to find proofreading jobs online on Upwork is to completely fill out your profile and submit proposals that stand out.
Some best practices to keep in mind when submitting proposals include:
- Tell the client what you can do for them first and foremost
- Talk about your skills and expertise second
- Close with a call to action (contact me, hire me, etc.)
If you want to target proofreading jobs on Upwork, it’s also a good idea to take the U.S. English Proofreading Skills Test (Chicago). Upwork provides this for free, and you can display your results directly on your profile. Taking the test and placing your score on your profile gives you more credibility as a professional proofreader.
Often, clients on Upwork will ask you what tests you’ve taken on the site that relate well to the job. Taking this test will make you stand out as the skilled proofreader they need.
Before you take the test, you’ll see that it tells you the test’s contents in the box to the right. This particular test is based on The Chicago Manual of Style. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with this guide before taking the test. This popular guide is really quite comprehensive and covers everything from formatting book titles to handling punctuation in a bulleted list. You can reference it while taking the test, but you’ll also want to feel relatively comfortable with it prior to starting.
If you don’t do so well, don’t panic! You can “hide” the test results from your public profile. And, after studying up, can retake it again after 30 days.
From time to time, I come across proofreading jobs posted on niche job boards like ProBlogger. It’s a good idea to check ProBlogger at least a couple of times a week. Often, jobs are filled quickly because of the number of applicants each listing receives!
You can also browse Indeed for proofreading jobs online.