We’re emerging into a post-pandemic world of remote working, passive incomes, and side hustles. Many of us have had a taste of working from home and realized that we want it to continue.
If you’re looking at online careers you might be exploring the pros and cons of being an online proofreader. Read on for the complete guide to being an online proofreader.
What Is a Proofreader?
First things first – what is a professional proofreader? Before the days of Grammarly and spellcheck, humans were the last line of defense when it came to content quality control. Any written copy, from newspapers and ads to printed novels, had to be read for errors.
To this day, a proofreader still has the responsibility of catching any errors in a piece of writing before it goes public.
Editing vs Proofreading
These quality control positions are often lumped together, but technically editing and proofreading are quite different jobs. Here are the key distinctions.
Editing usually takes place before proofreading and is the task of improving the quality of a piece of writing. A professional editor will make suggestions to change the structure, tone, and flow of the writing. This can be anything from rearranging paragraphs to checking syntax (grammatical sentence structure).
Editing can result in significant changes to a piece of writing, and there may be several rounds of editing before the proofreading stage.
Proofreading, on the other hand, looks at the detail of a document. It includes not only spelling and punctuation, but formatting and content layout.
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What Mistakes Does a Proofreader Find?
Proofreaders look for several types of errors in written text. Here’s the breakdown:
This goes beyond simply mistyping the letters of a word. A proofreader needs to pick up homophones (words that sound the same but are spelled differently or have different meanings).
Repeated or Missing Words
Our brains have a special ability for filling in the gaps when reading. If a word is missing from a sentence, our brain has the ability to auto-complete the phrase, so we don’t even notice.
Similarly, if words are repeated consecutively, we may only be aware of it being written once. A proofreader catches these errors.
Grammar and Syntax
Even though it may have already been copyedited a couple of times, a proofreader still picks up grammar and syntax errors in writing.
Proofreaders have to have a strong understanding of punctuation to make sure it’s used correctly throughout the document.
In the digital era, we’ve become fond of capitalizing many more words than we used to. A professional proofreader will know which words are traditionally capitalized. However, they will also be adept at adapting to any style guide which has specific capitalization requirements.
As well as all of the above, proofreaders have to fact-check! If a website has a glaring factual inaccuracy which hasn’t been spotted before going live, it can seriously damage their reputation. Proofreaders will scrutinize claims and sources to make sure it’s all legit.
Finally, proofreaders will check for several types of consistency throughout a document. This can include using the same tense throughout a document, or simply how a numbered list is formatted.
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Why Are Proofreaders Still Needed Today?
Technological advances have produced many valuable tools and resources which help with some of the tasks of a proofreader. However, none are foolproof.
Communication and language are so complex that technology isn’t able to capture all of the nuances and inconsistencies of the written word. In addition, writers have a lot of difficulties finding the errors in their own work. They become over-familiar with the content and can’t see the forest for the trees, so to speak.
The only way to ensure that a piece of writing is (pretty much) error-free is for a professional to proofread it.
Qualities of a Great Online Proofreader
Did you notice that we said ‘pretty much’ error-free? That’s because even the top professional proofreaders only expect to catch 90% of errors. And that’s after a document has already been professionally edited.
So, what qualities will you need to be a professional online proofreader?
Attention to Detail
This is usually something you either have or you don’t. However, you can train your brain to become more skilled at picking up certain types of errors.
To be a successful online proofreader you’ll need to be able to spot a mistake a mile off. If you’re naturally eagle-eyed, you’ve got the advantage.
Pro-Level Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar
One of the main values a proofreader adds to a writing project is an expert-level understanding of spelling, punctuation, and grammar. If this is something you haven’t brushed up on since school, it’s recommended that you arm yourself with these skills.
One of the top benefits of being an online proofreader is also one of the requirements. When it comes to clients, there’s no option but to be flexible (and patient!).
Proofreading is one of the final tasks in a writing project. So, if the deadline is drawing near you won’t be given much time to complete your work. Being flexible with your schedule will go a long way with your clients and professional reputation.
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Benefits of Becoming a Proofreader
If you read the above and thought ‘hey, that’s me!’, you’ll surely be curious to discover the benefits of becoming a proofreader.
Be Your Own Boss
This means that there’s no manager or office hierarchy to report to. You decide when you work, where you work, and who you work for.
For many people, this freedom alone is a good enough reason to consider a career as an online proofreader. What else?
As a freelancer, you’ll have some very different clients. You’ll find that no two projects and no two days are the same! This variety keeps the job fresh and interesting.
If you’re considering online proofreading to fit alongside responsibilities like parenting or studying, you’re in luck. Proofreading offers a lot of flexibility. You can pick up clients and jobs as and when you need to.
Despite the rise of the error-checking tech mentioned before, there’s still high demand for proofreaders. Online proofreaders in particular are sought after for all manner of digital publications. Once you’re established as an online proofreader you should have no shortage of work.
So, What’s the Catch?
So far it sounds great, right? We promised to show you the pros and cons of becoming an online proofreader. So, what’s the catch?
Repetition, Repetition, Repetition
To put it bluntly, proofreading can be repetitive. Analyzing text can be fatiguing for the brain and for the eyes. If you’re proofreading for hours at a time, you’ll want to make sure you have an ergonomic desk setup, so that you’re not hunched over your desk.
With any freelance position, clients can be a challenge. Managing their expectations and deadlines may be tricky, depending on the client. On the plus side, as your reputation grows you can be a little more discerning about who you choose to work with.
A New Language
Did we forget to mention it? Traditionally, professional proofreaders speak a different language…
There are no specific qualifications needed to become a proofreader. However, there is a set of proofreading symbols it would be a good idea to learn.
Before the digital era, proofreaders worked with paper copies. They would mark the copies with symbols to indicate where changes needed to be made to the content.
These symbols, typically made in red pen, would be made next to the error and in the margin of the page.
Nowadays, most online proofreaders work by using digital functions like track changes. However, you never know when you might come across an old-school client who wants to test your expertise, so it’s good to familiarize yourself with the basics.
How Much You Can Earn as an Online Proofreader?
The short answer is, of course, it depends. However, statistics indicate that the average salary for a US proofreader is $53,511 a year. This averages at around $25 per hour.
When you’re starting out as a freelancer, you may find that you have to work your way up, in order to build an online profile and professional reputation. While you’re doing this, it can be tempting to take some low-pay or even unpaid work.
Avoid this if possible. It’s important that you charge what you feel your time is worth so that the work has value to you. This is also important to set expectations if clients become long-term. If they expected a heavy discount once, they’ll expect it again and again…
How to Become a Proofreader
The digital age has been the moment for freelancers to step into their own. The number of Digital nomads is increasing year on year, and there are platforms and services springing up to enable this.
Upwork is a great starting point for any freelancer. You can create a profile and start applying for work within minutes. This platform works by clients posting their requirements and freelancers ‘bidding’ for the work.
There’s a subsection specially dedicated to online proofreading. You can start to get a feel for the type of work offered, the turnaround time expected, and the money you can make.
Another classic freelance platform is Fiverr. This works in the opposite way to Upwork – you create a ‘gig’ offering your services, and then potential clients can contact you or place an order.
With both of these platforms, reputation and reviews are everything. You’ll need to build a strong profile over time by ensuring your clients are delighted, and politely asking them to leave reviews.
If you like to do things differently, you might like to market yourself independently. If this is your approach you’ll need to create a website with SEO-optimized content.
SEO makes sure your website is crawled for the best proofreading-related keywords. This means that people searching for things like ‘best online proofreader’ are much more likely to arrive at your homepage.
Next, you can position yourself as a proofreading expert with an online blog relating to your new profession. You can also build a social media presence to develop a following.
With a little savvy digital marketing, you’ll have clients knocking at the door in no time!
Prepare for Success
Once your online proofreading jobs start rolling in, you’ll need to be prepared to get to work. If you have a home office, make sure it’s set up for maximum efficiency.
You’ll need a proper desk (not the dining table) and a comfortable, supportive chair. Unfortunately, the sofa is not conducive to concentration and motivation! You’ll also need to make sure your workspace is quiet enough for you to focus.
Finally, if you’re going to be spending hours at your desk, try to make sure you’ve got natural light and fresh air. Both of these are found to be related to productivity and wellbeing.
The Proof Is in the Pudding
Is being an online proofreader right for you? Armed with all of this guidance, the only thing left is to try it out! Follow these steps and you’ll be prepared for a successful career as an online proofreader.
For more guides, tips, and general life-hacks, check out our other blog posts.