Freelancing is becoming SUPER common — so common that 1 in 3 Americans now has a side hustle of some kind. People are looking to get out of the typical 9-to-5 grind and be their own bosses — and who can blame them?
Most of us aren’t too passionate about what we do for a living anyway. We drag ourselves to work each day to do a job we don’t like, to work for people we don’t care for, to put in countless hours for zero potential growth. And then drive back home on a commute… we don’t like.
I know I was tired of working my butt off for someone else and not reaping any of the rewards. And I’m sure we all have stories about horrible bosses, nasty coworkers, long commutes, and zero potential for growth. Instead of putting up with all that, entrepreneurs are deciding to take their lives and futures into their own hands.
That’s exactly what I did!
My freelance proofreading career began after I got fired.
Yep, fired. As in, unceremoniously shown the door at my full-time job after working my tail off there.
But getting fired ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me.
Without being fired, I never would’ve even thought of starting my own company. But I was forced to. So I took up freelance proofreading to earn income.
I did that for three years, and I did pretty well for myself: I earned more than $40k a year two years in a row. People kept asking me to teach them how I did it. While I had the knowledge to create a how-to of some kind… I had ZERO confidence. Who would listen to me? And who would actually pay money to learn from me? Because of that self-doubt, my first blog, Proofread Anywhere, almost never existed.
But my husband, Ben, encouraged me to put myself out there. So I started out with an eBook. And now, three years later, my business has grown to two online proofreading courses and several eBooks and workshops.
Teaching others about proofreading is what I LOVE to do. It’s been the most rewarding and life-changing experience of my life.
And today I’d like to share with you exactly why you should consider starting your own freelance proofreading business, just like I did. Who knows — it might lead you to places you never thought possible!
Proofreading is a growing freelance side hustle… and even a career
You might be wondering if proofreaders are even in demand right now.
The short answer: absolutely! A vast majority of the content we consume consists of words. Think about the online content you view — most of it is written, or at least has some written component to it. And we all know there’s no end to the amount of new content being added to the internet on a daily basis.
Just think of all the possibilities! Bloggers, authors, website creators, business owners, copywriters — the list is endless. Every one of those content creators needs a proofreader.
The rise of online businesses has created a major demand for fresh, quality content on a regular basis. That means businesses are churning out articles and eBooks left and right, and when you write that much copy, you definitely need a second set of eyes to make sure it’s as error-free as possible.
Error-free content equals a positive reputation; content riddled with errors equals a not-so-positive reputation. Which do you think a business wants?
One of THE largest and fastest growing niches is online courses. Entrepreneurs are taking their businesses to the next level by launching specialized courses in their fields of expertise. And guess what? Those courses need to be free of grammatical errors and spelling typos. Even *I* hire proofreaders to proofread my courses — and I’m a professional proofreader! It goes to show that everyone needs a second set of eyes.
So what exactly does a proofreader do?
A proofreader’s main job is to spot grammatical, formatting, punctuation, and spelling errors before the content is published. You are using your eagle eyes to spot errors the content creator and/or editors might have missed.
It’s very easy for writers to skip over errors they’ve made because they’ve looked at the content so many times that they see what they want to see, not necessarily what is actually there on the page (or screen). A fresh pair of eagle eyes can spot those errors easily and help polish the content so that the author’s true vision is there in the final version.
What a proofreader does NOT do is rewrite sentences, move paragraphs, or give opinions on high-level elements like the plot or main idea. Those items are considered editing and copyediting, and you definitely don’t want to do those as a proofreader.
Why? Number one, editing and copyediting demand a higher rate, so you would essentially be doing more work for less money. And second, you might not yet have developed the more advanced skills you need for copyediting. You don’t want to bite off more than you can chew with a client — that’s a fast way to get a bad reputation. And believe me, it’s a small world out there.
But once you master the art of proofreading, I highly recommend branching out into copyediting and editing. Like I always say: mo’ skills = mo’ money!
Common proofreading tools
In order to be a successful proofreader, you must use the tools clients expect you to have. Besides your natural skill of finding errors, the two basic and most common tools for general proofreaders are a style guide (like The Chicago Manual of Style) and a dictionary (I recommend Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary). If you’re working for an author or publisher, you might also need their specific guides. (Don’t worry: if it’s required, they’ll provide it to you with the project.)
You should also have a way to proofread documents quickly and easily. Some of the more common options are Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and a PDF annotation tool like Adobe or iAnnotate. Some clients might even prefer pen and paper, but that option is getting less and less popular and is usually more of a hassle than it’s worth.
You might notice I didn’t list any online grammar checkers or a generic spell check tool. That’s because while they can both be super helpful, they should not be depended on to be 100% accurate. How many times have you typed something in Word and the spell check tells you something is incorrect but you know for a fact that it’s okay? This is where relying on your skills and knowledge trumps any automated grammar tool out there. If you think running spell check in Word is sufficient, becoming a proofreader might not be the gig for you.
What it takes to be a great proofreader
All excellent (emphasis on excellent!) proofreaders have the same core qualities. No matter what corner of the world you live in or what type of content you proofread, you must have the following skills:
- A natural ability to spot errors and know how/why to fix them. This is THE most important skill to have. If you don’t have a natural passion for pointing out errors, proofreading is probably not right for you. If you’re known to your friends and family as the “Grammar Police,” then you should definitely consider proofreading as a career.
- A great attention to detail. Another must for a proofreader! This skill can make or break you. If you’re more of a “big picture” type of person, a freelance business that demands a critical eye for the smaller things might not be the best way to go.
- Enjoy reading. This might seem like a given, but it must be said. If you don’t like to read, you are not going to enjoy proofreading. The two sort of go hand in hand 😉
- Always willing to learn more. No matter how good you think you are, there is always, ALWAYS room for improvement. Even the masters need to hone their skills or learn new ones on a regular basis. Becoming stagnant or settling for okay are the worst enemies for freelancers.
- Unafraid of doing research. I guarantee that every single project you work on will present a new challenge. You’ll come across a word you’ve never heard of before, or maybe the topic of the content is something super different from what you normally work on. Google, your professional network, and the library are your friends.
- Maintain a stellar online reputation. With so much networking happening online, it’s VERY important that you present yourself in a professional manner at all times. That includes your (error-free) website, how you interact on your social media profiles, and any reviews of your work.
- A positive attitude. People want to work with kind, professional, positive people. If you are a pain in the butt to work with, you’re going to have a really hard time finding — and keeping — clients. This kind of goes along with the previous point. Word travels fast, and if you’ve been rude and unprofessional with a client, it’s likely others will hear quickly, and your chances of getting quality jobs drops drastically.
Time to test your proofreading prowess!
All right, Eagle Eyes! Let’s see how you do with some of the most common errors found while proofreading. This will give you a good idea whether or not proofreading could be the gig for you. Good luck!
1) Do you know why _____ desks are so dirty
A. their B. they’re
2) Which sentence is correct?
A. I like to eat chocolate but my friend likes to eat peanut butter.
B. I like to eat chocolate, but my friend likes to eat peanut butter.
3) We always loved visiting our _____ house.
A. grandparents’ B. grandparents
4) I like to watch at least _____ new movies every month.
A. three B. 3
5) Which sentence is correct?
A. My son is taking a three-week vacation in July.
B. My son is taking a three week-vacation in July.
- A (their: shows ownership; they’re: contraction of “they are”)
- B (use a comma to separate two independent clauses)
- A (use an apostrophe to show ownership)
- A (generally, spell out numbers zero through one hundred)
- A (hyphenate compound adjectives before the noun they modify)
How did you do? If you got four or five right, you’ve got the makings of a great proofreader! If you didn’t do so hot, don’t worry too much — that just means there’s room for improvement, right?
How YOU can get started as a freelance proofreader
If you’re looking for a low-risk way to find out more about becoming a freelance proofreader, check out my FREE 45-minute workshop. I show you how to elevate your skills, use one of the most popular proofreading tools out there, and even give you a sneak peek into how to find clients.
Then if you like what you see and hear, you can go on to sign up for my General Proofreading course and receive a special rate just for attending the workshop.
See you there!
This post contains affiliate links. To learn more about them, check out the disclosure statement.
Give Me Access!
Ready to finally stop thinking of working from home and actually make progress in your remote job search? Sign up below to gain access to the remote workers' resource library so you can say goodbye to your 9 to 5 and #HelloHomeOffice.
Latest posts by Caitlin Pyle (see all)