By Phon Baillie
Do you want to make some extra money on the side? Would you like to do it as easily as possible, without any capital investment or lots of training? Do you have a natural talent with language?
If so, then you’re a great candidate for proofreading. Proofreading is a skill that doesn’t require an English degree and can be done remotely. It also makes a great side hustle that you can balance with your full-time job or other hustles.
What Is Proofreading?
Proofreading is the last step of the publishing process, and it’s the final chance to correct any surface mistakes in content. It’s considered the easiest form of editing because it isn’t as technical as copyediting, and doesn’t involve reorganizing or rewriting sentences.
A proofreader’s job is to:
Correct errors in spelling, punctuation, and grammar
Fix obvious errors such as incorrect trademark use or commonly known facts
A Proofreader’s Responsibility
Even though proofreading doesn’t involve developing themes or concepts, it is important to maintain the writer’s voice and message. Never alter anyone’s style, even if they use “hella,” “gonna” or “kinda.” Your job is to make sure everything is consistent and the writer’s personality is preserved.
Skills You Need
Many people think you need an English degree to work as a proofreader, or a special certificate or certification, but the truth is you don’t. Here are the skills you need to start freelance proofreading:
-A natural talent with language – You need to have an excellent command of the English language. This means you can recognize obvious grammatical errors, and know the basics of spelling and punctuation. For example, you can recognize when a writer has used both past tense and present tense in the same sentence.
-An eye for detail – You need to be able to spot inconsistencies, like if the writer has capitalized a word in a previous paragraph but doesn’t in another. Or you notice when a word is missing from a sentence, which is a common mistake. For example, spot the missing word in this sentence: He walked into the room and sat the chair. (It should be: sat on the chair.)
-A love of reading – This sounds obvious, but you must love to read, as proofreading is basically reading and rereading. Even when you don’t find the project you’re working on interesting or the writer’s style isn’t compelling, you have to be able to stay engaged and focused.
What You Need To Start
Part of why proofreading makes such a great side hustle is because there’s very little start-up cost involved. To get started all you need are:
An internet connection
Access to online or print resources
A lot of resources are available online or found in your local library. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary is the industry standard in North America and is available for free online. The Chicago Manual of Style (THE bible of all style guides) also offers a free 30-day trial.
Types Of Content You Can Work On
Blog posts & website content
Books & ebooks
Reports & white papers
Academic papers & essays
Marketing & sales material
Manuals & guides
Brochures & flyers
Choose A Niche
You can work as a general proofreader or you can choose to focus on a specific niche or niches. Many proofreaders will do general proofreading while also targeting a niche that they have above average knowledge in. You can also make more money this way. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to discover a niche:
- Can I proofread content in the field I currently work in?
- What am I passionate about and know a lot of?
- What did I study in school that I am still knowledgeable in?
- Do I have any hobbies?
Where To Find Work
Networking is probably the quickest way to find work. Let friends, family, and coworkers know that you’re available for proofreading opportunities. Use caution when mentioning it to coworkers and associates, though, as you don’t want to step on toes or break any company policies.
If you have a degree or higher-level education you can apply to proofreading/editing services companies. Their job is to match writers with proofreaders and editors. If you’re interested in working on academic material you can look at sites like:
For general proofreading work:
Freelance Writing Jobs (they post proofreading/editing jobs)
You can join job bid sites like Upwork or Fiverr to market yourself on a large scale, but keep in mind that there’s a lot of competition and often jobs are paid far less than the industry standard. However, many people have found success on these sites, so there’s no harm in trying it out and seeing how it works for you.
Get on social media and build your proofreading hustle through Twitter and LinkedIn. I’m always hesitant when people ask me if they should start Facebook groups because Facebook isn’t a search engine, and many people won’t search Facebook specifically to hire proofreaders. They’re more likely to search LinkedIn or Google.
Proofreading Is A Lifelong Skill
I like to say that proofreading is a long game. Landing a client or project won’t happen overnight, but if you’re patient and persistent it will pay off. In my ebook, The Ultimate Guide to Freelance Proofreading: A Step-By-Step Guide To Working For Yourself, I take you through everything you need to know to get started.
What I love about proofreading is that it’s a lifelong skill. You’ll never forget how to do it, and it’s a skill that you can do from anywhere, anytime. It’s generally a low-stress job, and it’s something you can do to fit your lifestyle. There will always be content that needs to corrected and polished.
Phon Baillie is a freelance proofreader, editor, and writer with over 14 years of experience. She teaches people how to become freelance proofreaders through her site Art of Proofreading, where you can sign up for a free course. Fun fact: Phon has proofread over 1000 romance novels (and has learned a thing or two about love).