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How to Become a Proofreader: A Beginner’s Guide to Getting Hired

So, who did we create this article on how to become a proofreader for?

We created it for eagle-eyed observers of typos. For those who easily pick up on different fonts. And, of course, for those who would immediately itch to fix the sentence: “their planning to meet at there favorite café over their.”

If this sounds like you, then proofreading might just be a hidden talent waiting to be unleashed.

But how exactly can you get started? Do you need a specific qualification? How much do proofreaders make, and can you make this a rewarding career? 🤔

📚 In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of becoming a professional proofreader, from understanding the basic skills, to choosing the specific services you can offer, and everything else in between. We’ll guide you through getting started with and mastering proofreading. Let’s begin.

But first, what is proofreading?

A piece of handwritten text in black ink, with mistakes that are corrected using red ink to show what proofreading is.

Before we dive into the details of how to become a proofreader, we first need to be on the same page about what proofreading is and what proofreaders do.

Proofreading is the process of meticulously reviewing a written document for errors and inconsistencies in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and formatting, with the aim of correcting these mistakes and ensuring that the text is accurate, coherent, and polished.

It involves careful examination of a document to detect typos, grammatical blunders, and other flaws, while also addressing issues such as clarity, style, and overall readability. The goal of proofreading is to enhance the quality of the written material, eliminating any distractions or hindrances that may arise from errors, and presenting a final version that is error-free and professional.

What is a proofreader?

In a nutshell, a proofreader is someone who ensures that written content is polished to perfection and that the final copy is error free. They correct grammar, punctuation, spelling, and formatting mistakes, to name a few.

As a proofreader, your primary responsibility is combing through text to find any language mistakes that might have slipped through the initial writing and editing process.

But it’s not just about catching errors. A skilled proofreader may also pay attention to the overall flow of written content, ensuring that it reads smoothly and that the content makes sense for the intended audience.

The proofreading process

So, you’re curious about how to become a proofreader and want to know what working as a proofreader entails.

We’re sure that every proofreader has their own process. However, the following steps should give you a good grasp of what day-to-day proofreading may look like.

The initial read-through

The first step is usually the initial reading. It allows you to get an overall idea of the content, understand the tone, and pick up on any obvious errors and inconsistencies.

Line-by-line editing

Next comes the line-by-line editing. This is where your attention to detail comes in handy. For this step, you’ll go through the text sentence by sentence. While doing so, you’ll keep an eye out for spelling and grammar mistakes, punctuation errors, and formatting issues. At this stage, you can also use some online tools to help you.

While paying attention to each sentence, it’s important to also remember to double-check names, numbers, and any specific references.

Final review

The last step is the final review. It involves taking a step back and evaluating the overall flow of the text.

While doing so, you may ask yourself questions like:

Are there smooth transitions between paragraphs? Is there a logical progression of ideas? Is there consistency in style and tone?

As you can see, attention to detail is a key part of becoming a successful proofreader. But it’s not always easy to catch errors. That’s why implementing certain techniques and strategies can help.

👉 Here are some strategies that can make your proofreading process more efficient:

  • Read the text out loud. This helps you catch missing words, awkward phrasing, or sentences that just don’t sound right.
  • Keep a style guide nearby (we’ll discuss this in detail a little later).
  • Allow the content to “breathe” before going in for the final review. This might mean taking some time away from the content before your last review to ensure that you read it with “fresh eyes.”

What qualifications do you need?

Proofreaders often have a bachelor’s degree in English, Communications, or Journalism. And in some industries, companies require you to have either experience or a degree in that field.

For example, if a company needs someone to proofread medical documents, then having a background in the medical field helps.

With that being said, there are still many proofreading opportunities that don’t require any specific qualification. For most employers, their main focus is your portfolio and if you can get the job done. Some may ask you to perform a proofreading test to assess how good you are at picking up text errors.

How much do proofreaders make?

Earning potential is a topic we can’t leave out while discussing how to become a proofreader. So, how much do proofreaders actually make?

There is no set amount that all proofreaders make. The actual pay varies, depending on factors such as your experience, the industry, and the specific project you’re working on.

However, there are some guidelines you can use to help you determine the amount you may earn. For example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that proofreaders make a mean hourly wage of $23.45. And the advertising, public relations, and related industry have the highest hourly mean wage at $33.87, followed by the education industry, with an hourly mean wage of $31.12 [1].

A series of currency bills, half of them Euros and the other half dollars, to accompany the subheading "how much do proofreaders make?".

How to become a proofreader

So, you understand what a proofreader does and how much the earning potential is. Now, you just want to know how to get started.

If you’re ready to kickstart your journey, here are the seven steps you’ll need.

Step 1: Educate yourself

Earlier, we highlighted that you don’t necessarily need a specific degree for proofreading. However, it’s important to remember that if you’re trying to build a successful career, you’re going to need to do a little investing.

For proofreading, the investing can come in the form of a proofreading course.

👉 There are many online resources and courses that provide training:

These courses will cover grammar rules, punctuation guidelines, and other essential proofreading techniques you’ll need to know to do this job successfully.

This can be especially helpful if you don’t have an English, Communications, or Journalism degree.

Step 2: Learn the style guides

Did you know that there are four commonly used style guides? AP, APA, Chicago Manual, and MLA style.

These style guides set the grammar, punctuation, formatting, spelling, and everything else that comes with written text for different industries and projects.

So, if you want to be a successful proofreader, you need to familiarize yourself with them.

It’s important to note that depending on the industry you choose to specialize in (we’ll discuss this in more detail in the next point), you probably won’t use all these guides in your work as a proofreader.

However, it’s great to have a good grasp of the rules and conventions of each style guide and reading about them can help.

👉 Some popular books on this subject are:

Step 3: Choose your niche

The third point in our guide on how to become a proofreader is all about choosing your niche.

Will you specialize in academic content? Marketing? Website copy?

There are so many services you can offer your clients.

As a beginner, you may feel that you can and should proofread for as many different types of clients as possible. You might think that choosing a specific niche (aka area of focus) might limit you and your income, but that’s not entirely true.

You see, when you choose a niche, you get to become an expert in it, and experts can get paid higher rates. For example, if a client wants their law documents to be proofread, they’re more likely to go for someone who has experience proofreading in the industry, as opposed to a person who proofreads medical content, academic content, articles, and more.

You can choose your niche based on the type of content you enjoy reading, your educational background, and your work experience.

Step 4: Build a portfolio

Young lady working on laptop, how to become a proofreader.

Your portfolio helps to showcase your skills, experience, and expertise. It demonstrates your attention to detail and can give potential clients the reassurance they need that you’ll deliver high-quality work for them.

But how exactly do you create a portfolio for proofreading?

If you’ve got a few freelance proofreading jobs under your belt, you can add links or Google documents of the original content with your corrections.

👉 If you’re a complete beginner, then you can:

  • Write your own problematic samples and proofread them.
  • Ask close family and friends to write content you can correct.
  • Hire freelance writers to write short pieces of content that you can proofread.

Avoid picking and proofreading random content from the internet, as you might run into piracy issues.

Step 5: Use online tools to help you

Earlier we talked about the proofreading process and some techniques you can use to ensure that you produce good work.

But as you learn how to become a proofreader, you’ll realize that there are many online tools and software that can help you through the process.

This is not to say that the tool will do all the work. However, you can use them to enhance your efficiency and accuracy.

👉 Here are a few popular options:

  • PerfectIt: PerfectIt is specifically designed to help with consistency and style. This tool can help you ensure that the writing adheres to style guides. It also checks for consistency in numbering, capitalization, and hyphenation.
  • Grammarly: Grammarly is a popular tool that checks grammar, spelling, punctuation, and style. It also can detect contextual errors and provides suggestions to help improve overall writing quality.
  • ProWritingAid: ProWritingAid is a writing and editing tool that checks grammar and style. It also offers suggestions to help improve sentence structure, word choice, and overall readability.
  • Hemingway Editor: Similar to the above tools, Hemingway Editor helps to improve readability and conciseness. It highlights complex sentences, passive voice, and excessive adverbs. It also provides a readability score and offers alternative suggestions for complex phrases.

Step 6: Find proofreading jobs

Our guide on how to become a proofreader would be incomplete without discussing the job market.

There are different ways that you can find proofreading jobs:

You can use freelance marketplaces

Freelancing platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, and Freelancer can connect you with clients looking for proofreading services.

You can search writing job boards

There are job boards dedicated to proofreading positions, but these tend to be not-so-friendly to entry-level applicants or they ask for membership dues to access job listings. On the other hand, while writing job boards obviously primarily cater to writers, they do also post proofreader opportunities from time to time. Examples include our job board here on BloggingPro, and Best Writing.

Proofreader job opening on the Best Writing job board.

You can reach out to potential clients

Once you have a portfolio, you can use it to reach out to publishing houses, marketing agencies, academic institutions, and other industries that often work with proofreaders.

You can market your services and attract clients

For this route, you can start your own blog or website and build a name for yourself as a professional proofreader. If startup costs are a concern, you can even start a blog for free.

Step 7: Continue improving your skills

By now, you should be clear on how to become a proofreader. But, once you have your foot in the door, it’s important to continue improving your skills.

This means staying updated with language trends, industry standards, and new proofreading techniques.

You can do this by attending webinars, reading books on editing and proofreading, and even joining online communities of people in your space. This can help you continue learning and expanding your knowledge and network.

How to become a proofreader: The path is clear 🐝

Becoming a successful proofreader requires a combination of different skills, knowledge, and experience. If you’re passionate about language, have a good eye for detail, and thrive on correcting text errors, this might be the right choice for you.

By following the steps outlined above, and continuously honing your skills, you can transform your passion for language into a fulfilling career.

However, it’s vital to remember that learning how to become a proofreader is not the end of the road. Once you do become one, the learning doesn’t stop. To keep your skills sharp, you must stay updated with industry trends, style guides, embrace helpful new tools and techniques, and never stop improving.

Now that you’re done reading, it’s time to put this information to use. Also, feel free to check out some of our other guides to learn more about producing quality content:


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Mike Merrion
February 19, 2024 3:09 pm

Very helpful. I’m trying to start a proof reading/editor business as a side hustle.

Ivica Delic
February 22, 2024 1:00 pm
Reply to  Mike Merrion

Thanks Mike and good luck with your side business!