INSIDE: Proofreading jobs are one of the easiest ways to earn money from home if you enjoy correcting grammatical errors. Learn all about this career opportunity and discover if it's for you!
Are you quick to pick up grammatical errors and spelling mistakes in the things you read?
Do you know where to insert commas and where to leave them out? Are you confident with APA, MLA, or CLM style guides?
If you answered a resounding yes to these questions, you might be a candidate for a great proofreading job.
If you've looked for information about working from home, you've probably run across online proofreading jobs. Many people want more information about this type of gig because they have a solid command of the language and know how to recognize punctuation errors.
If you've ever wondered if you'd be a good proofreader, keep reading to see if you have what it takes to build a proofreading career.
What Is Proofreading?
Do you remember learning about the writing process back in high school English classes? When you write something with the intent of publishing it, you move through five distinct phases. Proofreading is the final step in the editing part of the process.
- Writers have already finished the prewriting stage with brainstorming sessions and research.
- The content and structure have been developed during the writing or drafting phase.
- Then the content has been revised and any major errors in organization or flow have been corrected with the editor.
- Now the piece is ready for copy editing.
- Proofreading is the final stage.
What is Proofreading?
During the proofreading stage, it's time to polish the content and prepare it for publication. This final step includes looking for and correcting typographical mistakes, grammatical errors and style preferences.
Anyone who produces content may have a need for a proofreader. This includes bloggers, small businesses, and large companies.
Though some people and companies choose to do their own proofreading, many bring in help for this phase of the process. They want to ensure everything they publish has a second set of eyes on it to ensure it is error-free.
When working as a freelance proofreader, you may be asked to proofread anything from social media updates to emails and blog posts to books. Many proofreaders choose to focus on one main type of content. Examples include:
- Student essays
- Court transcripts
- Online articles and blog posts
- Legal transcription
- Medical transcription
- Self-published novels
- User manuals
- Restaurant menus
- Press releases
You may also choose to work with a specific type of client, providing all of their proofreading needs. Your client focus could be:
- Court reporters
- Real estate agents
- Local brick-and-mortar businesses
What is Copy Editing?
In addition to basic proofreading, you may be interested in copy editing. This type of editing is more in-depth. Copy editors often suggest larger changes to a draft or manuscript.
These recommendations go beyond grammar and punctuation, and they deal with things such as clarity, consistency, and brevity.
Copy editors might specialize in a particular type of work (such as self-published authors of any genre) or in a particular field or industry (such as technical manuals for software companies).
Copy editing typically happens before proofreading, which serves as a final check before publication.
Benefits of Working From Home as a Proofreader
Here's a brief overview of the benefits of working as a remote proofreader. Many of these will be covered in more detail further down in the post.
Freelance proofreading jobs often provide flexibility. In many cases, your assigned work can be completed at any time of the day or night, as long as you meet your client's deadlines.
That means you may be able to proofread as a side-hustle in addition to your regular 9-to-5 job. It can also be a great fit for moms who are trying to earn some income while staying home with their kids.
Unlike with many work-at-home opportunities, you don't necessarily need a desktop computer to succeed. There are people making money by proofreading on other devices, such as a laptop or tablet. Technological advances have made it incredibly easy to share files around the world.
Because you'll typically be working with text files instead of videos, you don't need the extra-fast internet connection that many other at-home jobs require.
As long as your clients don't have any specific requirements for internet speed, this remote job is a good fit for people with satellite or other non-wired DSL internet options. So freelance proofreading is a viable option if you live in a small town or out in the boonies.
In addition to not needing great internet, you also don't need a dedicated phone line. You won't need a printer, a headset, or any other special equipment. Of course, you may want some for your own workflow (such as a portable keyboard if you're using a tablet), but they aren't required.
As an added bonus, online proofreading work is plentiful. Tons of content creators are looking for people to polish their work.
How Much Do Remote Proofreading Jobs Pay?
As with many online jobs, proofreading pay rates run the gamut from very little to very lucrative. Proofreading tends to pay less than freelance writing jobs.
Glassdoor reported an average annual salary of $44,000 in January 2020. The number can be higher or lower depending on your specialty and experience.
But you typically won't have a guaranteed salary as a remote proofreader. That's because proofreading pay is usually production-based. You'll rarely be offered an hourly wage. Instead, you'll be paid by the number of pages you proof.
How Flexible Are the Hours for At-Home Proofreaders?
As mentioned above, flexibility is one of the biggest perks of proofreading. More often than not, it's a deadline-driven opportunity, as opposed to being on the clock for a specific number of hours. As long as you can meet your deadlines, it doesn't matter when you do the work.
In many cases, you won't need to punch a time clock. You just do the work when you can, and ensure it's finished and submitted by the deadline. As you gain experience, you will naturally become faster, which helps increase the amount you can earn.
However, if you're a proofreader in a traditional office setting for a company, you might have a specific schedule.
The other caveat to the flexibility of proofreading is that, depending on the type of clients you have, you might need to turn your projects around quickly. You might receive a document to proofread and have to return it the next day, for example. This isn't always the case, but it's definitely an element of the job for many proofreaders.
Being able to manage your time well is essential, even for flexible work such as proofreading. If you constantly procrastinate, you'll start missing deadlines.
What Proofreading Skills Do You Need?
In addition to being able to manage your time well, you need some specific skills to succeed as a proofreader.
Qualified proofreaders need a great vocabulary and top-notch grammar skills. Proofreading isn't just catching spelling errors. You also need to know proper comma usage, subject-verb agreement, and standard proofreading marks, for example.
Some employers require freelance proofreaders to have a college degree. Others simply want proofreading experience. If you don't have either, you can reach out to small businesses or online publications to offer your services to gain some referrals and/or testimonials.
To work for a large content producer or news-centric website, you may need more advanced skills.
Many professional organizations and content mills follow AP Stylebook guidelines. The Chicago Manual of Style is another popular style manual being used by many digital publications. If you want to proof academic papers for students, in some instances you need to use the MLA Style Manual.
What Tools Do You Need?
Proofreading is one of the great online jobs that can be done from just about anywhere and on just about any device. Work on your tablet, if you like. A few proofreading tools may make your life easier, however.
- Google Docs Many online proofreading jobs are done via Google Docs, which allows for a markup procedure and the ability to add comments to an original document. Documents can also be shared easily online.
- Dropbox is another great option for sharing documents with clients who prefer to use Microsoft Word or another word processor.
- Grammarly is a fabulous proofreading tool for spotting grammar and spelling mistakes. The free version lets you check WordPress and social media, but you need a premium account for Microsoft Office products and Google Docs. It can be a huge time-saver, however! It can even make suggestions for sentence structure and writing style. But it won't catch everything. And it'll make some recommendations that just don't work for a particular piece of content. That means you can't rely on Grammarly to do your proofreading job. It's a helpful tool, but it's not a set of human eyes.
- McGraw-Hill's Proofreading Handbook is a must-have for the aspiring proofreader as well as the professional proofreader. It has a lot of great tips and tools to make your proofreading process and business run more efficiently.
- Don't forget to pick up The Chicago Manual of Style and AP Stylebook, which we mentioned earlier.
How to Find Work as an Online Proofreader
There are several ways to search for proofreading work, and the way you pick should be determined by the type of work you want to do.
If you want to freelance, you'll need to actively market yourself. If you want to work for a company, you'll mostly be responding to positions posted on various online job boards. And sometimes, you'll find a freelance proofreading job by searching the internet.
Here are some common search terms and keywords you can use to find editing jobs and companies:
- copy editor
- line editor
- academic editor
- book editor
You'll also want to include the typical keywords that are used for at-home positions:
- home office
The bulk of your interview process will involve proving your proofreading skill by taking editing tests. You may be given a small sample and asked to proof it.
This type of work is very much performance-based. It will certainly help if you have an engaging personality, but you won't be hired if you can't perform well on an editing test.
If you go the freelance route working for individuals, you'll probably come up against fewer editing tests, so you'll need to be ready to prove yourself in other ways. The best way is with your testimonials from happy clients.
You can plan to do a couple of free or low-paid gigs in exchange for a testimonial, if you don't have any.
Who Hires Online Proofreaders?
Many sites regularly hire online proofreaders:
- American Journal Experts hires editors with expert backgrounds to proofread manuscripts of non-native English speakers.
- Babbletype is a transcription company that frequently looks for skilled proofreaders and editors. New assignments post at 6 p.m. EST. You can view what's available and choose your assignments. You then have 22 hours to complete your assignments.
- Book Editing Associates hires copy editors, proofreaders, and publishing consultants. Candidates need more than five years of editing experience.
- CACTUS Global offers specialized editing and proofreading services and likes its freelancers to have a bachelors or masters degree, a PhD, or expertise in one or more specialized subject areas in physical sciences and engineering, health care, life sciences, medicine and surgery, or social sciences. An experienced proofreader can earn $1,200 to $3,000 per month plus bonuses.
- dotdash occasionally hires freelance copy editors.
- Domainite pays ridiculously low rates, but it may be a place to test the waters to see if proofreading is really for you.
- Edit 911 is looking for proofreaders with a PhD in English.
- EditFast requires a degree from a recognized university and some experience.
- Editor Live hires editors to proof academic and business papers, with a tight turnaround time ranging from three to 72 hours. It says that on average its editors earn $750 to $1,800 every two weeks.
- Enago hires editors for academic papers. The requirements are high. You need a master's, a PhD or postdoctoral research experience in addition to academic editing experience, and you must be a member of an acclaimed editing association.
- English Trackers hires experienced academic editors.
- Gramlee has a unique application process. It charges clients two cents per word and doesn't disclose how much of that will be your cut.
- Kibin didn't have any proofreader jobs the last time we checked, but you can sign up for notifications.
- Lifetips offers salary plus full medical benefits.
- Net Transcripts is a company always on the hunt for legal and general transcribers. It also needs transcription proofreaders from time to time.
- Polished Paper contracts only with “exceptional editors” who pass their 35-question test.
- Prompt allows you to get paid for proofreading college admission essays. Pay starts at $20 per hour.
- ProofreadingPal offers editing services for all types of documents. It's looking for proofreaders currently enrolled in college with a minimum 3.5 GPA or graduates with five years of experience.
- proofreadingservices.com doesn't list any experience requirements, but you'll be required to complete a 20-minute proofreading test.
- Reedsy is a site that works with authors. This is more of a freelance marketplace. The company takes 10% of your earnings as their fee for using their service.
- Scribbr is hiring freelance editors with many native languages – English included. A Scribbr editor needs a bachelor's degree and must commit to at least 10 hours per week.
- Scribe Media is hiring freelance “scribes.” This role comes with a side of writing in addition to editing.
- Scribe Writing used to be known as Book in a Box. Proofreaders here work on a book project from start to finish, which can take up to four months. The company didn't have any openings at the time we updated this post, but you can check back.
- Scribendi asks for three years' experience and a university degree.
- WordFirm‘s ManagedEditing prefers five years' experience and a degree.
- Words R U requires a masters, PhD or equivalent experience in an academic discipline. It prefers candidates with English as a Second Language (ESL) experience. The company is currently seeking academic editors, technical/science editors, and business materials editors who are available to work on the weekends.
- Wordvice requires a graduate degree and two years of proofreading experience.
FlexJobs is an online job board that lists only researched telecommute positions. It's well worth the small investment, and you'll find leads for all types of work-at-home jobs, including proofreading.
What If You Don't Have a Degree? Is There Training for At-Home Proofreading Jobs?
You may have noticed that many of the websites listed above require a bachelor's degree or even a PhD. Don't be discouraged if you don't have a college degree or certificate.
With proofreading becoming so freelancer-heavy, you don't necessarily need an impressive resume full of proofreading work to be able to find freelance gigs. What you do need are testimonials. A track record of happy clients will go a long way toward selling yourself when you're freelancing.
The General Proofreading Theory and Practice course is a great place to start. It helps you turn your proofreading abilities into cash.
You'll learn about the skills you need to succeed, how to enter the job market as a proofreader, and how to turn your skills into a business. There's an entire module dedicated to looking for proofreading jobs. The course comes with practice worksheets, so you can put what you've learned into action.
Proofread Anywhere also offers a course called Transcript Proofreading: Theory and Practice. While the first course is great for general proofreading jobs, this one is more specialized. With it, you'll learn how to build an at-home career as a transcript proofreader.
What Is Transcript Proofreading?
Transcripts are a written version of content that was originally produced in another medium. For instance, medical transcripts are taken from doctors' audio notes. Court transcripts are a written record of attorneys' spoken arguments and the decisions of the judge.
A transcript proofreader reads the transcript and proofs it. Because of specialized language, transcription services require more in-depth training. There's also punctuation that's specific to transcripts.
Pyle's course covers all this. Additionally, there's plenty of markup practice. You'll have 3,120 pages through 50 practice transcripts. This helps prepare you for the actual job of a transcription proofreader.
At the end of the course, an instructor-graded exam ensures you've learned the material you need. There are other exams throughout the course, along with worksheets, handouts, videos, tutorials, and text.
Transcript Proofreading: Theory and Practice is broken down into four levels. You are required to score a certain amount on each level before moving on. This helps ensure that you've mastered the material and are indeed ready to find transcription jobs by the time you finish. Since you pay for each level as you move on, you don't have to invest tons of money in the course if you decide it isn't for you.
If you're looking to get started as a proofreader and you don't have an English degree, I highly recommend either of Pyle's Proofread Anywhere courses.
How to Qualify to Be a Proofreader
One important aspect of landing proofreading work, especially if you want to be hired by a company rather than freelance clients, is the editing test. Pretty much any legitimate company hiring proofreaders will have an editing test (if not several tests) that potential new hires need to pass.
To do well on an editing test, you'll need to have solid English grammar skills.
As mentioned above, you'll need to be familiar with the Chicago Manual of Style, at the very least. It's also highly recommended that you get familiar with AP Style and, if you'll be doing anything in an academic setting, you'll need to study MLA format, APA format, or both.
You don't need special training for any of these style guides (though training is available). You can learn much of it by getting a copy of each manual and finding free training online. The Purdue Online Writing Lab is a great place to get started.
Once you feel like you have a good grip on a particular style, you can add it to your resume.
If you want to try your hand at a sample test before you take one for a potential client, here are some options:
- The Ultimate Editing Test from ProEdit
- Test Yourself from the Society for Editors and Proofreaders
- Writing English has several tests available. These are all 10-question online tests.
You can take a practice test to see if you think proofreading is something you'd like to pursue further.
If you're ready to get started, here's a link to Proofread Anywhere again. These courses are a great investment to help you build your proofreading business.
Originally published in June 2016. Updated February 2020.