Calling Grammar Lovers: How to Become a Proofreader

Did you know there are 1.6 billion websites online? Did you know 2.2 million books get published each year? This is just a snippet of the content created.

Each time content is created, it needs some work to get it ready for publishing. That’s where editors and proofreaders come in.

If the idea of reading content daily appeals to you, you might have the makings of a proofreader. Add to that a love of grammar, spelling, and syntax, and you’re all set.

If this description sounds like you, it’s time to learn how to become a proofreader.

Proofreader Job Description

a proofreader is responsible for the final touches on a piece of content. This doesn’t involve rewriting or making notes on content development.

The proofreader’s job is to go through the final draft and check for grammar, spelling, and syntax issues. You’re looking for formatting errors and typos that are missed during the editing process.

Your job is to mark the mistakes and help create a polished piece. This includes

  • Noun-verb compatibility
  • Punctuation mistakes
  • Spelling mistakes
  • Spacing issues

You want to catch the things that everyone else misses.

How to Become a Proofreader

Many people think proofreaders aren’t necessary. They rely on spell checkers to catch their mistakes. This doesn’t always work though.

Consider this sentence: “The principle called me into his office.”

Did you catch the mistake? Spell-checker didn’t. Because the word principle is technically correct, a spell checker program won’t mark it. A proofreader will catch this and tell you to change it to principal.

If you like the idea of checking the spell checker, your first step is to brush up on your skills.

Skills Required for a Proofreader

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You don’t need a college degree to get started as a proofreader. You do need to brush up on your grammar skills though. You can find tools to help you along the way.

Style and Grammar Books

Find some good style books to help you learn or remember the rules. There are different style books for different types of content, so take a look at more than one.

These style books will also list the proofreading marks you need to do your job.

Develop an Eye for Detail

As a proofreader, you’re the last chance to catch those grammar and spelling mistakes. You need to have a good eye for detail to succeed.

Practice your skills so you learn to catch even the trickiest mistakes. You can scan newspapers and magazines, or online content to help. You can also take practice proofreading tests to help you learn those skills.

Communication Skills

You will also need good communication skills as a proofreader. You’ll need to keep in touch with your clients. You may also need to explain corrections.

This includes listening skills. You don’t want to change the voice of your client with your corrections. If they have a love for a formatting style that doesn’t fit your training, you need to respect that.

Time-Management Skills

As a proofreader, you’re required to work within deadlines. You need to stay honest with yourself. This is not a good job for someone that doesn’t know how to manage themselves.

You can use project management apps to help you stay on schedule. Whatever it takes, make sure you’re able to do the work in the time required.

Familiarity with Writing Programs

You will also need a little technical knowledge. Besides familiarity with Microsoft Word, you’ll want to learn other writing programs such as Google Docs or Blog programs.

This includes learning how to track changes within these programs. Take time to learn the programs that are relevant to your area of expertise.

You Need to Love Reading

The job of a proofreader involves lots of reading. If you don’t enjoy this aspect, there’s no point in taking on this career option.

You need to love reading different types of content. You can specialize, but you should still make sure you develop an interest in multiple topics or niches.

Find Your Niche

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If you think you have the skills required to become a proofreader, you need to determine your area of expertise. You want to find a niche to work within so you can develop your expertise to get more clients.

Your niche can include the industry you work with or the type of content you work with. Start by thinking of the subjects you have some background knowledge in.

If you have experience with legal or medical writing, you can specialize in these industries. Pick an industry where you have some knowledge of common terms and the style required.

You can also specialize in specific types of content. These types of content include

  • Books and e-books
  • Academic writing
  • Resumes
  • Marketing content
  • Web copy
  • Transcripts

Pick the options you’ll be able to keep up with. For instance, if you’re a slower reader, you don’t want to take on too many book projects.

Find Proofreading Jobs

Once you make decisions about what type of services you’ll offer, you need to figure out where to find proofreading jobs. You can go through a proofreading company or look at job boards to find work, but these options often require a Bachelor’s degree to qualify.

These options work well for people who don’t know how to market their services yet. You give up some control when you go this way.

Another way to get started is to post your services on an online marketplace like Upwork. You can create an account and browse available jobs.

This option allows you to bid on jobs that fit your services. These online job markets also allow clients to request your services if they believe you meet their needs.

As you grow your skills and get client reviews, you can take the next step and market your skills.

Market Your Proofreading Services

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If you’re ready to step out on your own, you need a website to direct clients to. This is the place where you can showcase your work and show your expertise.

You also need social media accounts to market your services. Twitter and Facebook are great options for this.

On Twitter, get involved in the writing community (#writingcommunity) to network and find clients. Share blog posts and other content on all social media sites that show your expertise.

If you’re really brave, you can also reach out to businesses. Show them an example of how your services can polish up their content. Try developing a relationship with them before going straight for the sell though.

You can also run ads on social media and search engines. This option costs more but can work great to create awareness.

Keep Practicing

As you create awareness and develop your skills, you’ll be able to reach new clients. The process takes time and practice.

If you want to strengthen your proofreading and marketing skills, there are courses available. Look for courses that offer a certificate that can add to your legitimacy if you decide to use this option. Some of these courses will offer specialization training, such as court transcript proofreading.

Even if you don’t want to spend the money on courses, you can find resources to practice your skills. Look for proofreading how-tos and games to keep up with those skills.

You can also find resources to help you work on your marketing skills. If you’re going the freelance route, you’ll need to learn how to market yourself.

Find Your Freelance Niche

Does the proofreading job description sound like the perfect option for you? Make sure you take the steps needed to make a success out of it.

If you’re not sure, or you think you need more ideas, check out your freelance job options.


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