Proofreading Jobs: How to Become a Professional Proofreader

On this page:

proofreading job applications

  1. Who is hiring? Where to find a job
  2. What can you earn?
    Typical rates of pay
  3. How to charge premium rates
  4. The competitive environment
  5. How to gain an edge
    and beat others to a job
  6. Training and courses
  7. Essential further reading

Cambridge Proofreading LLC are accepting applications from qualified individuals. See their careers page for more information.

What you need to know

1. The professional proofreading industry is very competitive, perhaps saturated even, with more people looking for work than jobs actually available.

2. It still can be a very rewarding career but an understanding of business and marketing is key to your success.

3. The rates of pay can provide for a comfortable lifestyle though it isn’t generally considered a particularly lucrative career path.

4. You must distinguish yourself from the crowd. Experience, skills and qualifications can help achieve this.

5. Landing a full time job can be difficult. Consider freelance options.

The truth about proofreading and copyediting careers

A foreword from an industry veteran

A career in professional proofreading and/or copyediting has much appeal about it. The convenience of working from home and the fulfillment of being self-employed are big attractions for many people. The pay, as we shall see later, is also relatively comfortable for most.

It is, however, very important to acknowledge the professionalism and expertise required to be successful in this industry. It is widely accepted that there are more people looking for jobs in the industry than there are, in fact, jobs available.

Liz Broomfield of Libro Editing in her excellent article, ‘Proofreading as a career – some pointers’ aptly states: “It’s a common misconception that if someone is well-read and good at spelling, that’s going to transfer into something out of which they can make a career.  There is a bit more to it than that.”

With this in mind, before attempting to enter this industry it is important to fully consider whether or not you have the skills and dedication to be successful in it.

How to gain a competitive edge and beat others to a proofreading job

A knowledge of business and marketing is key

As most people in this industry are self-employed, an understanding of business and marketing is very beneficial. Typically you will have to do your own marketing, networking, client relations and even accounting. As such, consider if you have skills in these areas or are willing to develop them. Louise Harnby’s Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers ebook is a useful resource for such matters.

Distinguish yourself with experience and training

There are a range of courses, both online and in-person that you can undertake to improve your attractiveness to employers and clients.

Many, however, are not worth the paper they are printed on.

Two course providers that are certainly worth considering are the Society for Editors & Proofreaders (SfEP) in the UK and the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) in the United States. These are the leading industry bodies in the UK and US respectively.

The SfEP provide a number of courses ranging from introductory workshops for novice beginners to advanced skills development for experienced proofreaders. Find out more about their courses HERE.

The SFA has a range of proofreading and copyediting courses. Their 2014 catalog is available HERE.

These courses are not cheap.

However, they will provide you with a structured learning platform for you to develop your skills. Secondly, and arguably as importantly, they will help make your CV/résumé stand out.


Learn the tools of the trade

There are a number of software tools used widely in the proofreading and copyediting industry. If you are not already familiar with the tools listed below, spend some time investigating them. They are very simple and will take only a few hours, if not minutes, to get to grips with.

Track Changes feature in MS Word

This is the standard process for delivering digital proofreading and editing. You absolutely have to know how to use this feature and how to use it well. For more details, see How to Edit with Track Changes.

PerfectIt by Intelligent Editing

PerfectIt finds grammar errors and typos that MS Word will not. It is also very useful for ensuring consistency in a document, with easy rule-writing for capitalization, hyphenation, spacing etc. Highly recommended.

Macros for Writers and Editors

Over 400 useful Macros for MS Word that can speed up the proofreading and editing process.

ReferenceChecker by Good Citations

Particularly useful for those in the academic proofreading industry, ReferenceChecker is an MS Word Macro that makes checking references a much more efficient process.


Rates of pay

The Society for Proofreaders and Editors in the UK publishes a suggested minimum rates of pay for editors each year. According to this, the minimum you should aim to charge is £21.40 per hour.

In the US, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimate the median annual salary of a proofreader to be $32,780.

Realistically, however, the rate you will be able to charge will depend on a combination of three key factors:

  1. Your experience and qualifications.
  2. Your ability to distinguish yourself and build demand for your services.
  3. The amount of work currently available in your niche/area.

Remember, building a strong reputation will help greatly towards charging premium rates.

If you go through an agency you may expect to receive slightly less pay. This is because they are taking responsibility for your marketing and expect a share of the profits.


How to earn more: The key to charging premium rates

Find a niche and dominate it

Without question, finding and targeting a niche or specialism is the key to being able to charge premium rates for your proofreading services.

Consider your skills and experience – what areas/topics/industries could you specialise in?

For example, someone with a degree or experience in an engineering subject would do better to focus on building a client base of engineering students and businesses than to target the broad spectrum of academic subjects.

Brand yourself as a specialist in an area where you have suitable experience and/or qualifications and build your reputation in that area. Not only will you be able to beat competition to jobs, you will also be able to charge premium rates for your higher levels of expertise.

Get a proofreading job now

Freelance versus employed

There are pros and cons to both of these options. Realistically though, landing a full-time job as a proofreader or copy-editor will for most people prove more difficult than securing regular freelance work.

To secure freelance work you can approach proofreading agencies and ask to be put on their books. Scroll down for more details.

You may consider registering profiles on the likes of PeoplePerHour, and other freelancing marketplace. You may find, however, that competition for jobs is fierce. If you have a niche/specialism (e.g. medical editing or fiction editing) though, you may find these places to be a very good source of work.

Many proofreaders find work by posting free ads on the local sections of Gumtree (UK) or Craigslist (USA).

Who is hiring: Copyediting and Proofreading Job Vacancies

Cambridge Proofreading LLC are accepting applications from qualified individuals. See their careers page for more information.

See our full list of agencies that are currently recruiting proofreaders and editors, including details and contact information HERE.



Closing comment and essential reading list

There are many positives on offer from a career in proofreading. However, it would be naïve to consider this an easy industry to get into. If you wish to pursue a career here, you must be willing to commit time and money to building your skills in a range of competencies beyond just technical English writing. Best of luck!

Essential Reading:


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