Proofreading as a lucrative business
Fact: I am a proofreader, and have been for 30 years. Sixteen years ago I was asked by my local council if I would run a night school class on proofreading. To cut a long story short, I did this for a year, and during that year had many, many students ask me if I had thought of writing a correspondence course on the subject. I hadn’t, but the germ of the idea was sown.
Being a successful proofreader gave me the edge over many of the ‘business opportunities’ out there. I could actually write from my personal experience in the proofreading field - no flannel, no hype, no extravagant claims of ’untold wealth’ - just a solid, no-holds-barred distance learning course in proofreading.
First things first - Personal Skills and Qualifications
Can you proofread? Well, proofreading is something most people can master. Age, sex, or lack of academic qualifications do not in any way hinder success.
Above all, proofreaders must have (a) a reasonable standard of education, coupled with (b) a fair level of literacy and general knowledge. If you are patient, that’s a bonus, as you may find yourself researching some obscure detail. Finally, you obviously need good eyesight (you will be doing a lot of reading!), and the ability to concentrate - you may be checking text which is of no personal interest to you whatsoever - and of course accuracy: both are pretty important!
Being a self-employed proofreader, you will obviously be working from home. What I do not advocate is sitting on a comfy settee, with papers to the left and to the right of you. Therein lies the road to chaos! Nevertheless, you will need somewhere quiet and comfortable to work uninterrupted. A kitchen table is perfectly adequate. If you are fortunate enough to have a study, or a spare room, a table and chair in there is quite sufficient. And from experience, I would suggest that you do your proofreading in chunks of about 20 minutes to half an hour, then have a break. Most people find that concentration wavers after half an hour, no matter how quiet and comfortable the place is where you work. Nip to the kitchen and make a coffee; spend ten minutes trimming the hedge; hang the washing out! It doesn’t matter what you do - just get away from your desk every half hour or so. You will find that your concentration levels very quickly return to their normal levels after a short break.
What ‘tools’ will you need to do the job?
That’s the beauty of freelance proofreading - you hardly need anything to start your business: two or three coloured pens, pencils and a dictionary. However, you will also need a very important item - invoices! If you have a computer, you can easily create invoices for yourself, as and when you need them. An example of a computer-generated invoice is detailed in the Course. If you do not have a computer, then try a friend. Failing all else, you may have to get some from a printer - but that’s the last resort, from a financial point of view. And if you are having real problems, I’ll even make up an invoice layout for you!
As far as I am aware, there are no ‘formal’ qualifications to be obtained by examination in proofreading. By formal, I mean qualifications such as GCE, GCSE, A levels, degrees etc.
However, courses can sometimes be found at night school establishments, although I know from personal experience that these are quite rare. If that is the route you wish to go down, phone your adult education number of your local council and they will tell you if there are any courses in the area. If you manage to find one, it would be good if you could let me know, as I’m attempting to create a list of Councils who do courses. I’ll be honest, though, and say that I haven’t found one yet!
This is by far the most common way of learning to proofread, and is sometimes called ‘distance learning’. With the Course that I provide, it means that you can do each part of the Course at your own pace, with no pressure on you to complete any part in a set time. You may feel you want to ’crack on’ and complete it without any breaks, but each person has there own particular set of circumstances. You may want to go on holiday for a week or fortnight; you may unfortunately fall ill for a short period - anything can happen! Whatever the circumstances, you won’t be pressured into completing a Part in a given time. The choice is entirely yours.
Proofreading as a Profession
Proofreading is a profession considered by many people, from writers and would-be writers, to the general public who either know very little or absolutely nothing about proofreading, but who wish to start earning money from home doing this very rewarding work. It can be undertaken by a vast spectrum of individuals.
If, for example, you enjoy reading, this can be the ideal way to combine business with pleasure. Certainly the job is interesting and, yes, sometimes a little demanding, but with the right approach to a planned regime (explained in my Course) it can be said that working from home, at your own pace, reduces a great deal of the stress and tension found in many jobs. And the potential rewards can be excellent.
As you’ve probably gathered, as well as doing proofreading as my main career, I have been running a distance learning course (correspondence course) for the last fifteen years. Over this period of time, I have trained countless people to become successful proofreaders. If you are interested, have a look at my website where you will almost certainly find the answers to any questions you may have. Or you can email me at and I’d be pleased to answer any queries.
Also, I have recently written An Introductory Guide to Proofreading, which you may want to read before enrolling on the Course. This can be ordered via the website if you wish.