Are you looking for a job you can do from home? A service high in demand with a shortage of professionals is proofreaders.
Brand new proofreaders can make $15-$25/hour and experienced proofreaders earn between $30-$50/hour.
There’s a lot of room and growth for this remote job and you don’t need any previous experience.
In this post I’m interviewing Ariel, a full-time remote proofreader who makes a great living from home.
How did you get started proofreading?
First of all, thanks for having me here! I’m really excited to talk to you and your readers about proofreading.
I started proofreading professionally about seven or eight years ago, and I say “professionally” because proofreading is something I’ve been doing for years without making any money. I was editing my husband’s college essays, helping friends revise their writing, and noticing small errors in things I read on a daily basis.
Proofreading became a source of income when Michelle, your sister, asked me to start proofreading her blog posts. She had been blogging for a few years and realized that paying someone to proofread her work was far more efficient than doing it herself. Honestly, that’s where many business owners are at with proofreading and why there’s such a need—they start doing it themselves, but it’s a time suck. It’s also challenging to edit your own work.
Back to how I got started, my husband and I were living paycheck to paycheck with three kids. But after starting to work for Michelle, I was quickly making a few hundred dollars extra each month, and that influx of cash relieved a lot of financial stress. I worked 30 minutes to an hour here and there, mostly after my kids went to bed. It’s also worth mentioning that I was back in school and working a couple of part-time jobs during this period. Proofreading was (and still is!) flexible enough to fit into even the most chaotic schedules.
Eventually, I started looking for new clients to increase my income, which worked. I remember the first few $1,000+ months. That was huge!
As I said, I was back in school, and as graduation approached, I decided to focus on proofreading instead of finding a traditional 9-to-5 job. I knew the flexibility of proofreading would allow me to be there with my family. The income potential was obvious to me too, especially as I began adapting my services to fit the needs of my clients. I realized if I wanted to build a sustainable income, I needed to focus on meeting their needs.
About six months after graduation, I quit my part-time jobs and was making $4,000+ a month proofreading, copy editing, and freelance writing. It took a lot of work and really understanding the industry and the needs of my clients. I am incredibly proud of myself—scaling my side hustle into a full-time income was hard work, and it transformed my life.
Several years have passed, and I’ve worked with some really wonderful people. It led to a full-time position with a great company (I guess I do have a traditional 9-to-5 job now, ha!) and the creation of Proofreading Launchpad.
What is a workday like as a proofreader?
There’s no typical day for a proofreader, and that’s one of the reasons people like it. Proofreading is inherently flexible work; it only requires a computer and an internet connection.
For you, it might be proofreading for an hour before you go to work, doing it while your kids are napping, or after you get off work.
However, new proofreaders (or anyone who’s interested) need to realize that this side hustle requires more than simply correcting errors. You have to devote time to running your business: finding clients, marketing, handling taxes, etc. It’s not billable work, but it’s necessary.
Proofreading is a freelance service, and all freelancers need to spend time managing their businesses. I once read a study that the average freelancer spends about two hours a week on business management.
How much money can a proofreader earn?
A brand-new proofreader can make $15-$25/hour depending on the niche and where you find your first clients. Experienced proofreaders can make in the range of $30-$50/hour.
There are some very high-paying niches, like medical and legal proofreading. You can also get into resume, cover letter, and CV proofreading. I’ve seen some freelancers charge $200+ per review!
One thing I teach in Proofreading Launchpad is how to quickly increase your rates by offering additional services, like a fast turnaround time or light copy editing services. You can nearly double your rates with these add-ons.
How many jobs are available for proofreaders?
According to the Small Business Administration, there are over 32.5 million small businesses in the U.S. That’s your target market when you start proofreading, and I know that not all of those business owners have a proofreader.
Additionally, proofreaders work for individuals, non-profits, academics, and professionals. This is work that isn’t contracted out by a business.
It’s impossible to quantify the amount of work available!
Who makes a good fit for proofreading?
Proofreaders are detail-oriented, motivated, ready to learn, and have good time management skills. They also have a strong grasp on punctuation, spelling, and grammar rules. You don’t need to know exactly which rule is being broken, but you do need to know how to spot and correct the errors.
If you’re already seeing errors and correcting them in your head, that’s a good sign!
The hardest part, I think, for new proofreaders is being motivated enough to start your own business. You have to be comfortable hearing “no” as you pitch clients—it happens to the best of us! But you need to stay motivated as you keep hustling to find clients.
I was one of those people who always feared rejection, but I’ve accepted that as part of the job. Now I look at rejection as an invitation to try harder and improve my approach.
How can someone get started proofreading?
The first thing is to consider whether or not this is a good fit for you, as discussed in the last question. Then, start refreshing your proofreading skills. We all learned how to proofread back in middle school and high school, but you might not remember everything.
Actually, the first things I teach in Proofreading Launchpad are those technical proofreading skills. I want you to feel fully confident in your ability to spot and correct errors.
Whenever you spot errors in your daily life, think about how you would correct them. That’s what proofreaders are paid to do!
Once you feel confident in your abilities, you have to start finding clients. There are tons of client acquisition strategies, and I encourage new proofreaders to focus on one or two in the beginning and master them.
It may sound reductive, but it’s essentially those two things in the beginning: refreshing your proofreading skills and learning how to find clients. Sure, you have to manage your business, but that’s something you can learn over time. There’s no need to get bogged down with starting an LLC or starting a website in the very beginning.
The approach I took when creating Proofreading Launchpad is to focus on things in order of importance:
- Proofreading skills
- Learning how to find clients
- Managing your business
Is it hard to find clients for proofreading?
Finding proofreading clients is no more difficult than any other freelance service. It combines knowing where to look and how to market yourself.
There are dozens of different proofreading niches, and some client acquisition strategies work better for specific niches. You can find clients on job boards, by cold pitching, through networking, etc.
One of the first ways I teach Proofreading Launchpad students to find clients is by looking at their network. Take a second to think about the people you know—coworkers, old high school friends, neighbors, etc. Who in your network could benefit from hiring a proofreader?
Maybe it’s an old classmate who’s self-publishing ebooks. Or what about a friend’s husband who’s launching a website?
The benefit of going this route for your first client is that you’ve already built trust with these people.
Another path I like is what I call the “I found an error on our website” strategy.
The idea is that whenever you are on a website with punctuation, spelling, or grammatical error, you screenshot it and send it to the website owner, along with a note that says something like:
I was visiting your website to [insert your reason], and I noticed some errors. I’ve attached a screenshot to point them out, and here’s how the corrected copy should read:
[Add the corrected copy.]
If you’re interested in having someone proofread more of your site and correct any other mistakes, I’m a freelance proofreader and would be happy to discuss how I can help you.
What’s great about this approach is that you show the business owner the value of having a proofreader while also positioning yourself as an obvious candidate.
What kind of skills does someone need to become a proofreader?
Having excellent knowledge of spelling, grammar, and punctuation is a must. I want to reiterate that you’ve learned those skills already! Middle school and high school English classes taught you those skills, but you have to dust them off and know how to apply them.
Proofreaders must also understand style guides, which are rules for formatting copy. AP and Chicago are the two main ones, but your client may follow a far more niche guide based on their industry or company.
You also need to have some basic digital skills because the vast majority of your work happens online.
We discussed the most common traits of proofreaders earlier (detail-oriented, ready to learn, and motivated), and those definitely apply here too. However, the ones I mentioned in this section are very learnable skills.
Can you work from home as a proofreader?
Definitely! This is one of my favorite things about this side hustle, and it’s why I think it’s a great fit for so many people—you can do it from the comfort of your home. But you can also work while you travel. About 90% of the time, you need an internet connection, but you can work offline.
If someone wants to get started as a proofreader, what should they do?
You probably know my answer—check out my course, Proofreading Launchpad! 🙂
I designed this course to teach you all the essential proofreading skills, including all the technical grammar, punctuation, and spelling skills I mentioned. But it also takes a comprehensive approach in teaching you how to work as a proofreader, find clients, and grow a sustainable business.
You learn everything from how to spot and correct issues with subject-verb agreement to handling taxes.
One of the most inspiring parts of teaching this course has been getting to know the students and watching them land clients. We’ve had some really collaborative coworking sessions, and being part of their success is incredibly rewarding.
You can 100% start proofreading without a course. That’s how I got started, but if you want the fastest route to a paying client, we can take you from “I don’t know what I’m doing” to “I landed a client” in less than a month. I’m not just saying that—those are proven results.
Ariel Gardner Bio
Ariel Gardner has been proofreading, copy editing, writing professionally since 2015, and she’s currently the Content Manager for Millennial Money Man. Her work has been featured in Forbes, CNBC, and with New York Times best-selling authors. She has a degree from Washington University in St. Louis, and when she’s not working, Ariel enjoys knitting, thrifting, and traveling with her family.
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