How to Quit Your Job and Become a Freelance Proofreader

How to Quit Your Job and Become a Freelance Proofreader

  • Nov 02, 2023
  • 13 min read

Would you like to become a freelance proofreader? If you long for a better work-life balance, crave flexibility, and have a passion for the written word, then a career as a freelance proofreader could be the perfect fit! 

However, as with any career change, it’s not something you should dive into unprepared – especially if you’re used to working a more traditional nine-to-five. With that in mind, in this blog post, we’ve provided some practical tips to make sure you’re well prepared to quit your job and become a freelance proofreader.

  1. Research What a Proofreader Does
  2. Make Sure You Have the Right Skills
  3. Create a Budget and Start Saving
  4. Plan the Details in Advance
  5. Start Freelancing on the Side

Read on to find out about each of these tips in more detail.

1. Research What a Proofreader Does

What Does a Proofreader Do?

A proofreader’s job is to complete the final review of a document after all the other stages of editing have been completed. A proofreader will usually:

  1. Check grammar, punctuation, and spelling
  2. Correct other usage errors (e.g., how to write numbers and dates correctly)
  3. Address formatting issues (e.g., inconsistent heading styles or fonts)
  4. Ensure a document is consistent in style, tone, and voice
  5. Apply the conventions of the relevant English dialect (e.g., British, American, or Australian English)

Tasks may vary depending on the type of document or client. For example, proofreading academic writing will also involve checking that sources are correctly cited and subject-specific or technical language is used appropriately. 

2. Make Sure You Have the Right Skills

Do You Need Qualifications to Be a Proofreader?

There are lots of different routes to becoming a proofreader, so you don’t need any particular qualifications. The most important thing is being able to show that you have a keen interest in (and understanding of) the English language as well as the skills and experience needed to do the job well. And of course, a strong desire to help your clients produce their best possible writing!

What Skills Does a Proofreader Need?

Although you don’t need qualifications to work as a proofreader, you do need certain skills. These include hard (or technical) skills and soft (general, non-technical) skills:

  1. A good grounding in English grammar, punctuation, and spelling
  2. A keen eye for detail and the ability to concentrate on the task at hand
  3. Independence (as a freelancer, it’s your responsibility to keep on top of projects and deadlines)
  4. Good communication skills to build strong client relationships
  5. Excellent time management and organizational skills
  6. Confidence with technology (e.g., word processing tools like Microsoft Word and communication tools like email and video conferencing)

If you want to specialize in a particular area, you may need experience in that field. For example, if you want to specialize in medical writing, you’ll need to be familiar with the relevant terminology and writing styles.

Take Some Time to Train

Perhaps you already have a love of reading and regularly spot typos in the book on your bedside table, and that’s a great start! But there’s a lot more to being a proofreader, and it’s important to have all the right skills.

Although there are no specific qualifications for becoming a proofreader, thorough professional training will fill the gaps in your knowledge, add to the skills you already have, and give you a framework for carrying out a wide range of specialist editorial projects.

There are some excellent books and other resources out there to help you, but have you thought about taking a proofreading course? A top-quality proofreading course will address all the areas of work and the necessary skills that we’ve already touched on in this post. 

Our Becoming a Proofreader course takes an in-depth approach to all aspects of proofreading, and its modular structure means the information you need comes to you in a logical order to make learning as easy as possible. In addition to rules governing spelling, grammar, and punctuation, we cover specialist areas such as proofreading academic papers, creative writing, business reports, and job applications. We also give you the skills you need to use a range of digital tools in your work and insight into getting your freelance proofreading career off to a flying start.

3. Create a Budget and Start Saving

How Much Can a Freelance Proofreader Earn?

Though freelancing can offer more flexibility than traditional work, that freedom comes with the caveat of an irregular paycheck. You may find yourself busy with multiple projects in one month and then have much less work the next.

You can make sure you’re prepared for financial insecurity, though, by creating a budget for when you make the switch.

Track your current expenses and compare these with what you’ll be spending as a freelancer. Consider:

  • What you’ll save on. For example, you probably won’t be paying for transport to and from work.
  • What you’ll spend more on. You may need to invest in software and equipment for your home workspace.

Factors That Can Impact Your Earnings

There are lots of factors that can impact how much you earn as a freelance proofreader:

  1. Market rates. Proofreading has become a global industry, so what you charge will depend partly on what other proofreaders charge across the world, not just locally. Don’t go too low, because price is often equated with quality; and don’t go too high, or you’ll price yourself out of the market. The major proofreading professional bodies around the world have recommended rates to guide you.
  2. Experience. Your rate will also reflect the level of your experience. As you progress and take on more specialist projects, you should be able to increase your rates.
  3. Project timings and deadlines. Some proofreaders charge extra for tight deadlines, and some contracts contain penalties for late completion, so ensure you negotiate the detailed clauses carefully.
  4. The client’s sector. Small charities and indie authors often can’t pay standard fees while major corporations can, so tailor your rates according to the type of business. Offering pro bono work with charities can be a great way to raise your profile and get good reviews.
  5. Your well-being. This is often overlooked, but don’t forget to factor in breaks. Time away from the screen helps your overall output rate.
  6. Project complexity. If you offer extra services, such as proofreading or editing for clients whose first language isn’t English, or if you offer more than one read-through of a project, you may wish to increase your rate or charge separately for additional services.
  7. Seasonal variation. Remember that freelance work is often termed “feast or famine”! Some months will be great, and others not so great. You need to have funds in hand from the good times to help pay your bills in the slimmer months. 
  8. Your own financial needs (and don’t forget the taxman’s needs!). Your personal circumstances will impact your earnings. If proofreading is a side hustle for you, it may not matter if you earn less than you expect. But if it’s your main income, you’ll need to budget carefully and build up some savings for those rainy days we all face and for your tax bill. 

4. Plan the Details in Advance

Marketing Your Services

Even the most skilled proofreaders will struggle if they haven’t prepared the tools they need to promote themselves. 

So before you make the switch to freelancing full-time, you should work on setting up the foundations of your business. This might involve:

Of course, you don’t need to complete all of these at once. Think of them as a checklist of tasks you can tick off as you approach freelancing full-time.

You should also take some time to adapt to working from home. Start setting up a dedicated workspace, whether this is a spare room, garage, or table in the corner of your living room.

Set Goals That Motivate You

It’s easy to lose motivation when transitioning to a new career. It can be all too tempting to stick with the safe option (i.e., your current job) when faced with the possible risk of switching careers. This is why it’s important to set goals to provide yourself with a sense of direction and purpose.

In the long-term, your main goal will probably be to fully transition to freelance work. Set a realistic date for this, informed by your budget and preparation progress.Another way to motivate yourself is by writing a business plan. If you define your services and target clients and set marketing goals, your path to success will become clear. Setting some SMART goals will help keep you on track and will prevent your goals from seeming out of reach. Try creating a timeline of smaller goals that you can achieve in the short-term. These might include some of the points we mentioned in previous steps, like setting up a website, securing new clients, and working out your rates.

Create a Workspace

You should also take some time to adapt to working from home. Start setting up a dedicated workspace, whether this be a spare room, garage, or table in the corner of your living room.

If you’ve previously only worked from someone else’s premises, it can seem strange to suddenly be the only one around. Here are some tips for creating a successful workspace:

  1. Be prepared to change your workspace configuration around once you get used to working from home. Experience will tell you what works best.
  2. Try not to use your sofa or your bed. Proofreading takes concentration, and that’s nearly impossible if your neck and shoulders ache from poor workstation posture.
  3. Try to sit near a window. Natural light and looking up from your screen at intervals can really help with tiredness.
  4. Try to set up your workspace away from distractions like the dog, the cookie jar, and the pile of ironing! 
  5. Some proofreaders find it useful to have two screens, with resources open on one and your project document on the other. 

5. Start Freelancing on the Side

Don’t quit your day job just yet! Taking the occasional proofreading job alongside your main job is a great way to ease yourself into it, and will help you gain confidence and experience as a freelancer.

In the early days of your new career as a proofreader, it’s often easiest to pick up small pieces of work, but ideally, you’ll want to find some long-term clients to work with too.

These are clients who will require your services on a regular basis and may even offer long-term contracts. Having dependable, regular sources of work will provide you with more job stability. It will also mean that you can spend less time hunting for new clients and more time actually proofreading (not to mention earning!).

You could also consider signing up for flexible work with an agency. Keep in mind, however, that most agencies will require you to have some prior proofreading experience (with the exception of our partner company, Proofed). 

How to Find Freelance Proofreading Jobs

There are plenty of online marketplaces out there that advertise one-off freelancing gigs. Fiverr and Upwork are some of the better known platforms, while smaller sites like AngelList and Remote will have less competition. There are also a number of companies that hire freelance proofreaders directly. 

You can even try finding proofreading jobs using social media. LinkedIn, for example, is designed specifically for professionals and is a great way to form connections with potential clients (and other freelancers). Just make sure you know how to make the most of your LinkedIn profile! Other platforms like Facebook and Instagram can also help you build your brand, establish your network, and find clients. 

Some proofreaders use several platforms, while some focus their efforts on one or two. We recommend the latter, especially if you’re short on time. You don’t want to spend all of your time posting and none of it proofreading! If you do choose to post on several platforms, there are various tools that can help you schedule your posts and save time.

Update Your Resume

Spend some time early on in the process of becoming a freelancer updating and polishing your resume.

Resumes can be either functional or chronological. Chronological resumes are ideal for people who are applying for a new role in the industry they already work in. A functional (or skills-based) resume is best for new proofreaders, as it allows you to focus on your skills more than your experience. 

If you haven’t worked in a relevant area such as publishing or teaching, it’s a good idea to decide which of your skills are transferable and emphasize them. If your natural modesty gets in the way, ask a friend! You might have worked in finance – in which case, you probably already have an eye for detail. If you’ve recently (or not so recently) had a baby, you’ll already know all about juggling several aspects of a project. Have you made presentations to other staff? Yes? Then you can emphasize your communication skills.

Once you have your basic resume, you can tailor it further to each job listing. Pick out the keywords and phrases in the job listing and try to incorporate them into your resume. This will enable the recruiter to quickly see that you possess the skills they’re looking for.

Becoming A Proofreader

We hope we’ve encouraged you to make the leap into a career in freelance proofreading. There’s a lot to think about, so here’s a list of the key points to consider:

  1. Do you like the idea of what a proofreader does? Does it sound like a good fit for you?
  2. Do you have a reasonable number of the necessary skills, or could you acquire them?
  3. Can your finances cope with a period of reduced earnings while you build up your work?
  4. Does setting up in business excite you? 
  5. Is your resume relevant? Does it shout, “I’m the person you need”?

If your answer to these questions is yes, then take a look at our Becoming A Proofreader course! We’ll help you take the first step toward your new career. Try it for free today!

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