I’ve been a freelance proofreader for over a decade, and have loved every minute of it.
In that time, I’ve had people ask me over and over “How do I become a freelance proofreader? How do I start? What if I make a mistake? What if I don’t know what to do?”
They love reading, working with words (some have even proofread before) but are scared to freelance. They don’t know if they can make it on their own.
What I have to say to anyone who feels the same way is I understand because I was in the same situation once.
I knew I could proofread, but I didn’t know if I could leave behind job security, a steady income, and a daily (if mindless) routine.
I also wasn’t sure if I could even handle being my own boss and all the responsibility that went with it.
All I knew was I couldn’t handle a corporate job anymore. I also wanted to be able to look back at my life and say that I pursued my dreams, I tried my best, and I lived freely.
So what I did was make a plan to escape the grind and to build up my confidence.
I busted my butt trying to land remote proofreading jobs, and I took them regardless of the size or pay. Just having someone say “yes” to me was a huge motivator to keep pushing forward. I felt better about my skills and my ability to take care of myself. I was also learning how to think and act like a self-employed person.
For a year I proofread as a side hustle on top of my full-time corporate job until I had an emergency fund in the bank and I felt 100% sure that I could make it out there. If things got tough, I knew how to keep pushing forward.
Because that’s all you can do when you’re a freelancer—if things slow down or you get rejected, you learn that you have to keep marketing yourself, keep looking for work.
Like any venture you take on in life, your results are dependent on the work you put in. Because it will pay off if you work hard and don’t give up.
Be creative, try new things, don’t be scared to get rejected or even to be accepted. Whatever project is thrown your way, there are resources galore that you can reference.
That’s also why I wrote my ebook The Ultimate Guide to Freelance Proofreading. I wrote it to answer questions about being a proofreader, and to give you advice, tips, guidelines, and resources to get you started. I even have a style guide and practice test.
A big hurdle a new freelancer has is landing that first gig. I’ve put together some tips to help you start off.
Getting Out Of The Newbie Circle
An obstacle that new proofreaders hit is being told you don’t have enough experience for a job, but then how can you get work if you don’t have any experience? This is one of the most frustrating parts of starting a freelance career. But hang in there, because once you land your first job things will get easier.
Here are some tips to get out of the newbie circle:
Volunteer Your Proofreading Services
I started out volunteering as a proofreader for a publishing house, and it didn’t take long for me to land my first paid gig after that. Volunteering is an excellent way to build up your experience but also to warm up your skills and prepare you for paid gigs. You learn how to communicate with clients, how to manage deadlines, and what process and system works best for you.
An added bonus is being able to ask volunteer clients for testimonials (and maybe they’ll turn into paying clients, too!).
Places you can volunteer:
- Non-profit organizations
- Clubs and associations
- Small local businesses
Apply For Entry-Level Jobs
The truth is that you’re new to proofreading and are starting from scratch. When doing your job search look at simpler proofreading jobs that require only a couple years of experience. Those skills will be easier for you to align with.
Join An Editing Agency
An editing agency matches writers with freelance proofreaders/editors, and typically serve the business and academic communities. They hire proofreaders to work on business or academic content. If you have a strong high-level background in medical/science you can find work proofreading articles and manuscripts through an academic editing agency.
A big bonus here is that when you are accepted by an agency you don’t need to market yourself to find work, they send it to you, and will also act as mediators if any disagreements arise with the author. Some agencies will even offer feedback on your work if you’re new. Some editing agencies are:
Publishing services are very popular with indie writers. After the author has completed their manuscript they join a publishing service to proofread their book, publish, and distribute for them. Some self publishing companies are:
Join Job Bid Sites
Job bid sites like Fiverr, Upwork and Damongo are popular for finding one-off freelance proofreading gigs, but I always caution people to use these sites carefully. Many opportunities are posted on these sites every day and there’s a lot of competition. Keep in mind that the time you spend applying and proposing for jobs, you could be marketing yourself directly to potential customers, with no competition. People have found success and regular clients on these sites, so using them is your choice.
Become a Freelance Proofreader
In my book I also address more freelance proofreading issues and guide you in the steps you need to take to get started. However you decide to proceed with proofreading, keep in mind your dreams of being your own boss and enjoying a life of flexibility. You’ll be able to spend more time with friends and family, carve out some “me time” when you need it, bring in extra money to live more comfortably, or even pick up and go whenever, wherever you want. Just remember to work hard and keep going ’cause it’ll be worth it.