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How to become a freelance proofreader

Clients may need work turned around at very short notice, so you’ll need to be able to work under pressure

If you have an eye for detail, love to read and are an experienced writer or editor, a proofreading business could be for you.

What the work involves

Proofreaders check for accuracy across a huge range of printed materials in a wide variety of industries – and are always in demand. Minimum hourly rates start at around £24 an hour, though you may also be paid by the job, or on contract for a particular project. You’ll work in print and digital media to check:

  • for grammar and spelling mistakes
  • text fits the house style,
  • nothing is missing
  • text and pictures are in the right place
  • page numbers are correct
  • contents match chapter titles and
  • indexes
  • words and layout makes sense

Deadlines can often be tight. Clients may need work turned around at very short notice, so you’ll need to be able to work under pressure. But being able to do the work when no one else can is going to give you a real head start when you first launch your business.


Qualifications aren’t essential to work as a proofreader. You will however need an excellent standard of grammar and spelling, as well as experience of working with language. This might be a degree in a relevant subject, such as English, or a background in a related field, such as publishing. Industry standard proofreading courses are provided by The Society for Editors and Proofreaders, but at a beginner level, these aren’t much of a guarantee of getting work. They do however work well in terms of continued professional development once you have your business up and running. Specialist knowledge is also a huge selling point as a proofreader, so expertise in a particular subject area, for instance, law or science, will put you way ahead of the game.

Starting out

A huge benefit of a proofreading business is that start up costs are low. You can work from home so your main cost will be the price of a decent computer, if you don’t already own one. Getting the work can however be an uphill struggle - experience is key. Volunteering for charities is a really good way to gain work for your portfolio and make contacts. To even get this you’ll need an appropriately designed website where evidence of your work can be accessed - but it isn’t difficult to create one of these for yourself for free on the likes of Wordpress.

Keeping going

Once you have a bit of work under your belt, you will need to contact companies direct to offer them your services. Target industries where you already have an area of expertise – for instance, if you have a science background, contact drugs marketing companies. In the first instance, make contact to an appropriate editor, and follow up with a phone call if you hear anything back. Local chambers of commerce networking events can also be brilliant ways to make contacts. It can take a long time to build a steady client base, but once you have a good relationship with one or two different companies, chances are you can start to enjoy a reasonably regular stream of work. Read more like this

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