Are you quick to pick up grammatical errors and misspellings 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 proofreader in the making.
If you’ve looked for information about working from home, you’ve probably run across proofreading jobs before. Many people want more information about this type of gig because they have a solid command of the language and know where punctuation is supposed to go. If you’ve ever wondered if you’d make a great proofreader, keep reading to see if you have what it takes.
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 writing process.
Writers have already finished the prewriting stage with brainstorm 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. Now, it’s ready for editing and 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 errors in grammar, style, and spelling.
Everyone that produces content may have a need for a proofreader. This includes bloggers, small business, and large brands. Though some choose to do their own proofreading, many people 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 proofreader, you may be asked to proofread anything from social media updates to emails and blog posts to books. Many proofreaders choose to specialize their services and focus on one main type of content. That could be:
- Student essays
- Court transcripts
- Online articles and blog posts
- Legal 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
In addition to basic proofreading, there is also 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 deal with things like clarity, consistency, and brevity.
Copy editors might specialize in a particular type of work (like self-published authors of any genre), or in a particular field or industry (like technical manuals for software companies). Typically copy editing happens before proofreading. Then the revised document will need to be proofread for a final check before publication.
Benefits of Working from Home as a Proofreader
There are many benefits to working from home as a proofreader. Here’s a brief overview of several. Many of these will be covered in more detail further down in the post.
At home 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. This means you may be able to proofread as a side-hustle on top of your regular 9-5 job. It can also be a great fit for moms who are trying to earn some extra income while staying home with their kids.
Unlike 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. Proofreading can often be done remotely, from a laptop or tablet. Technological advances have made it incredibly easy to share files back and forth around the world.
But, since you will typically be working with text files and not 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, proofreading is a good fit for people with satellite or other non-wired DSL internet options. This means proofreading is a viable option when 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. There are tons of content creators out there who are looking for people to polish their work for them.
How Much Do Proofreading Jobs from Home Pay?
As with many online jobs, proofreading pay rates run the gamut from very little to very lucrative. It does tend to pay less than freelance writing jobs. Glassdoor was reporting an average annual salary of $44,000 in January 2020. Numbers can go a little over or under that average depending on your specialty and experience.
But, you won’t typically have a guaranteed salary as a remote proofreader. That’s because proofreading is usually production-based pay. This means you will rarely be offered an hourly wage. Instead, you will be paid by the page proofed.
How Flexible Are the Hours for At-Home Proofreaders?
As mentioned above, flexibility is one of the biggest perks about proofreading — more often than not, it’s deadline-driven opportunity as opposed to being on the clock for a specific number of hours. Proofreading jobs are generally structured to be incredibly flexible. As long as you can meet your deadlines, it doesn’t matter when you do the work.
In many cases, you won’t even need to punch the 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, your flexibility might be a little different if you’re a proofreader in a traditional setting for a company. Then you might find that you have a specific schedule.
The other “caveat” to the flexibility of proofreading is that, depending on what type of clients you have, you might need to be able 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 like proofreading. You can’t constantly procrastinate, or you’ll discover that you start missing deadlines.
What Skills Do I Need?
In addition to being able to manage your time well, there are some specific skills you need to succeed as a proofreader.
You must possess a great vocabulary and have top-notch grammar skills. Proofreading isn’t just catching spelling errors. You will also need to know things like proper comma usage, subject-verb agreement, and standard proofreading marks.
Some sites may require a degree. Others may simply want proofreading experience. If you don’t have either, you can reach out to small businesses or online publications offering your services to gain some referrals and/or testimonials.
To work for a large brand, content producer or news-centric site, you may need additional, more advanced skills. Many professional organizations and content mills follow AP Stylebook guidelines. The Chicago Manual of Style is another popular style being used by many digital publications. If you want to proof academic papers for students, in some instances you may need the MLA Style Manual.
What Tools Do I 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 would like. There are a few tools that may make your life easier, however.
- Google Docs – many online proofreading jobs are done via Google Docs which allows for a markup procedure and adding 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 Word or another document form.
- Grammarly is a fabulous online tool for spotting grammar and spelling mistakes. The free version will allow you to check WordPress and social media, but you will 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. It’ll also make some recommendations that just don’t work for this particular piece of content. That means you can’t rely on Grammarly to do your 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 any aspiring or professional proofreader. It has a lot of great tips and tools to make your process and business run more efficiently.
- Don’t forget to pick up The Chicago Manual of Style and AP Stylebook we discussed earlier.
How to Find Work as an Online Proofreader
There are a few 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 be actively marketing yourself. If you want to work for a company, you’ll mostly be responding to positions posted on various job boards. You can also discover companies that work with remote proofreaders by searching on the internet.
There are a few different search terms and keywords you can use to find proofreading jobs. Here are some of the common ones:
- 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 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 able to 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 to prove yourself 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?
There are several sites that are regularly hiring online proofreaders:
- American Journal Experts hires editors with expert backgrounds to proofread manuscripts of non-native English speakers.
- Babbletype is a transcription company and is frequently looking for skilled proofreaders and editors. New assignments post at 6PM EST. You can view what's available and choose your assignments. You then have 22 hours to get your assignments completed.
- Book Editing Associates currently has a call out for copy editors, proofreaders and publishing consultants. You will need 5+ years editing experience.
- CACTUS Global offers specialized editing and proofreading services and likes their freelancers to have a PhD/Masters/Bachelors degree or expertise in one or more specialized subject areas in physical sciences and engineering, healthcare, life sciences, medicine and surgery, or social sciences. You can earn $1200 to $3000 per month plus bonuses.
- dotdash occasionally hires freelance copy editors.
- Domainite pays ridiculously low rates but it may be somewhere to test the waters and see if proofreading is really for you.
- Edit 911 is looking for those with an English PhD.
- Edit Fast requires a degree from a recognized university and some past experience. They pay 40% of the contract price.
- Editor Live hires editors to proof academic and business papers, with a tight turnaround ranging from 3-72 hours. They say that on average their editors earn $750-$1800 every two weeks.
- Enago is hiring editors for academic papers. The requirements are high. You will need a Master’s/PhD/postdoctoral research experience in addition to academic editing experience and be a member of an acclaimed editing association.
- English Trackers hires experienced academic editors.
- Gramlee has a really unique application process. They charge clients $.02 per word. They don’t disclose how much of that will be your cut.
- Kibin doesn’t have any proofreader job openings right now, but you can sign up for notifications.
- Lifetips offer salary plus full medical benefits.
- Net Transcripts is a company always on the hunt for legal and general transcribers. They also have a need for transcript proofreaders from time to time.
- Polished Paper contracts only “exceptional editors.” You will need to pass their 35-question test.
- Prompt will allow you to get paid to proofread college admission essays. Pay starts at $20 per hour.
- ProofreadingPal offers editing services for a little of everything. They are looking for proofreaders currently enrolled in college with a minimum 3.5 GPA or graduates with 5 years of experience.
- proofreadingservices.com doesn’t list any experience requirements, but you will be required to complete a 20-minute proofreading test.
- Reedsy is another site that works with authors. This one is more of a freelance marketplace. They take 10% of your earnings as their fee for using their service.
- Scribbr is hiring for freelance editors with many native languages – English included. You will need a bachelor's degree and the ability to 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 will be working on a book project from start to finish which can take up to four months. They don't have any openings at the time of updating this post, but you can check back.
- Scribendi asks for 3 years’ experience and a university degree.
- WordFirm’s ManagedEditing prefers five years’ experience and a degree.
- Words R U requires a PhD, Master’s or equivalent experience in academic principle. They prefer candidates with ESL experience. They are 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 will find leads for all types of work-at-home jobs including proofreading.
What If I Don't Have a Degree? Is There Training for At-Home Proofreading Jobs?
You may have noticed many of the above websites require a bachelor's degree, PhD, university degree, etc. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have a 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 will need are testimonials. A track record of happy clients will go a long way toward selling yourself when you’re freelancing.
Caitlin Pyle from Proofread Anywhere has two very popular courses that can help you get started on creating your own successful proofreading business from scratch.
Her 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 market as a proofreader, and how to turn your skills into a business. There’s an entire module dedicated to looking for jobs. The course comes with practice worksheets so you can put what you’ve learned to work.
Caitlin also offers Transcript Proofreading: Theory and Practice. Where her other course is great for general proofreading jobs, this one is niched down. In it, you’ll learn how to build an at-home career as a transcript proofreader.
What Is a Transcript Proofreader?
Transcripts are a written version of content that was originally produced in another medium. For instance, medical transcripts are taken from doctor’s audio notes. Court transcripts are a written record of the spoken arguments and decisions of the judge.
So, a transcript proofreader is someone who reads the transcript, and proofs it. With the specialized language, it requires some more in-depth training. Additionally, there is punctuation that’s specific to transcripts.
Thankfully, Caitlin’s course covers this all. Additionally, there’s plenty of mark up practice. You’ll have 3,120 pages throughout 50 different practice transcripts. This helps prepare you for the actual job of proofing transcripts.
At the end of the course, there’s an instructor graded exam that ensures you have learned the material you need. There are other exams throughout, along with worksheets, handouts, videos, tutorials, and text.
Transcript Proofreading: Theory and Practice is broken down into four different levels. You are required to score a certain amount on each one before moving on. This helps ensure that you’ve mastered the material and are indeed ready to find clients by the time you finish.
Since you pay for each level as you move on, you don’t have to invest tons of money into a course that you decide 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 Caitlin 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 will 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 anything, you’re doing might be 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 always available). Much of it, you can learn 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 are 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.