Welcome to todays post where I’ll be showing you how to start a proofreading business successfully.
If you’ve popped by this post then I imagine you might be pondering the idea of launching your very own proofreading business.
What fun! As someone who took the leap into freelance proofreading quite a few years ago, let me start by explaining what proofreading actually is.
In a nutshell, proofreading means reviewing a document (be it a blog post, scientific paper, or company report) to fix any lingering spelling, grammar, formatting or consistency issues.
It’s one of the final quality checks before content gets published and distributed.
Now you might wonder – in this age of spellcheck, surely documents don’t need such meticulous human review?
Whilst tools like spellcheck do an initial pass of catching errors, they fall far short of the comprehension and nuanced judgment a seasoned editor can provide!
There are subtle mistakes that take an eagle proofreader eye to spot. And that’s why there is healthy demand for professional proofreading services across so many industries.
As for what’s involved in launching a proofreading business? Not to worry, I’ll be outlining the full process in this guide!
Broadly speaking, we’ll work through the fundamentals from positioning yourself as an expert editor in your niche, equipping yourself with the right skills and tools, handling client projects, and actually pulling in work through marketing activities.
I’ll share loads of tips from my experience and aim to present everything in bite-sized pieces so you feel energised, not overwhelmed!
So grab a soothing cuppa and let’s dive right in! There’s an exciting journey ahead…
Decide on Your Niche
Now this first step is crucial! When launching a proofreading business, one of the earliest decisions you’ll make is to either be a generalist editor…or to specialize in a particular niche.
What do I mean by that? Well as an example, I could proofread pretty much any document with decent competence.
Or, I could niche down and position myself expressly as a proofreader focusing on academic work.
Niching down takes a bit more effort upfront in honing expertise…but can allow you to command higher rates from a specific audience.
Legal proofreaders typically charge more than general proofreaders for instance.
So how might you select your niche? Here are a few pointers:
Swot Up On The Types of Documents You’d Proofread
- If going the academic route for example, that could involve proofreading theses, dissertations, journals and term papers across disciplines. Get a sense of the writing style, formatting nuances etc.
- For medical proofreading, acquaint yourself with common terminology. Learn the major medical journals you’d proofread submissions for.
- Legal proofreaders should understand the precise formatting of legal briefs, case notes, contracts.
Tap Into Your Background
- Are you an editor with writing or publishing experience already? Can you niche down by industry based on past specialisms?
- Maybe you used to work in law or healthcare settings. That firsthand exposure can give you an edge in niching down!
In a nutshell – consider your unique background then assess the types of documents you’d be rifling through day-to-day.
Finding your niche takes some deliberating, but it pays dividends strengthening your authority in a specific market.
Hope this gives you food for thought on niching down versus remaining a generalist. Now…fancy a biscuit to dunk in that tea whilst you mull over potential niches?
Gain the Necessary Skills
Okey doke, so you’ve carved out your niche and are starting to visualize the types of documents you’ll be proofreading. The next step is making sure you’re equipped with the core skills any proofreader needs in their toolkit!
I’ll run through the key competencies here:
Rock Solid Grasp of Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation
This is somewhat of a given! To spot errors efficiently you’ll need to intuitively understand language rules – from the correct use of apostrophes and semi colons…to crafting clear, concise sentences.
If you’re wobbly on grammatical conventions, some brushing up is likely in order!
Know Your Style Guides Back-to-Front
Style guides dictate how documents in different fields should be formatted and structured. As a proofreader you’ll routinely check writing is adhering to the expected style guide.
Common ones include APA style for scientific papers, MLA for humanities and Chicago for general publications.
Know which style guide aligns with your niche and get it down pat!
Master Editing Tools
Get comfortable working with the Track Changes functionality in MS Word at a minimum. This allows you to clearly mark up corrections for clients to review.
There are more advanced editing tools out there too but MS Word is a common baseline.
Develop an Eagle Eye for Errors
A good proofreader spots inconsistencies, duplicated words, missing text and more. Consistency is key! It takes practice honing that error radar, but you’ll soon be zapping mistakes at lightning pace!
Proofread Sample Documents
As you learn, test yourself by proofing samples. Download academic journals in your niche, proofread chapters of novels etc.
It’s the only way to develop speed and accuracy. Don’t be afraid to ask more experienced contacts to review your edited samples too for feedback.
Phew, quite the extensive skillset yes? But don’t feel overwhelmed! You likely have a decent grasp already if you’re attracted to proofreading.
The rest comes with reading widely in your niche, studying the style guides intently and plenty of practice. You’ve got this!
Set Your Rates
Oof, pricing services is always trickier than it looks! But a few pointers here will help you nail down competitive proofreading rates to start with.
A wise first step is researching what other freelancers charge both in your geographic area and in your niche specialty.
Rates can fluctuate considerably! General proofreading tends to fall on the more affordable end (we are not rich ladies and gents!). However niches like medical or legal editing command far higher rates.
As for fee structures, you have two main options:
Option 1: Hourly Rates
This involves charging by the hour. So if you set a rate of £30 per hour, you’d bill based on hours worked. Hourly can work well once you have consistent speed. Just time yourself on sample proofreads in your niche until your pace is fairly fixed.
Do watch out for inefficiencies though! Don’t penalise yourself for slower projects by dropping hourly rates.
Option 2: Per Page or Per Word Rates
Larger projects often charge per page or per word. So you might set a rate of £3 per 300 words, or £10 per double spaced page. This can incentivise you to work more efficiently whilst giving the client cost predictability.
Page rates vary wildly though – a technical document takes far longer proofing than a fiction book! Define per page rates very clearly for each client based on specifics.
Finally, don’t be afraid to negotiate a little! For favoured clients offering ongoing work, you may tweak rates. Just ensure you’re still compensated fairly for the time and care you devote.
Pricing will likely be an iterative process as you grow experience. But aim for parity with editors in your position and niche. Back yourself!
Now then…milk and one sugar in your next restorative cuppa? 😉
Build Your Proofreading Toolkit
We’re making speedy progress! Now that we’ve set rates, it’s time to build your proofreading toolkit. Having the right gear and templates in place will streamline your editing process considerably!
Here’s the essential stuff to have on deck:
Pull together style manuals relevant to your specialism like I touched on earlier – whether APA for academia or specialized guides for law and medicine.
Have guides for UK vs US English handy too! These become your editing bibles.
As a minimum, have MS Word and get accustomed to using Track Changes. There are fancier tools out there too, but start with the basics.
Proofreading Symbols Cheat Sheet
Print out a cheat sheet of standard proofreading symbols so you can efficiently mark up papers. Takes the guesswork out for clients!
Hard Copy Proofing
Double-sided print jobs and binders let you proof physical copies with a red pen when needed.
Arm yourself with brightly coloured highlighters, post-it flags and your mighty red proofreading pen! You’ll probably find yourself using these daily.
Readymade style sheet templates streamline projects, allowing you to define rules upfront for the client. Also have contract templates squared away so each new client has paperwork in place pronto.
Building this toolkit does require a small upfront spend, but it pays for itself quickly in time savings! Be sure to claim expenses back at tax time too.
Right, that’s the proofreading gear sorted! Let’s have a look at what’s needed in your home workspace next…fancy more tea? 😄 The cake stand just got restocked!
Get Equipment and Create Your Workspace
We need to set up a productivity powerhouse workspace! This will be your daily hub for client work.
Whilst it’s possible to proofread on-the-go, having a dedicated home office really streamlines things. Here’s the key gear I recommend:
A Speedy Laptop or Desktop Computer
Forking out for a high-spec model means you can efficiently run editing programs, have multiple windows open etc. Without lag! This was a game changer for me. See it as an investment in your business.
A Stable Internet Connection
Crucial for accessing client documents in cloud storage and submitting edited files by deadline! I have backup dongles on standby in case of any disruption.
Printer and Paper
For printing docs to proof hard copies when needed. A scanner is handy too for digitising hand-edited papers to return to clients.
I use lever arch files and binders to organise printouts by client. Essential for keeping vast projects in order!
Good to have items like notepads, highlighters, Post-its®, pens, scissors etc within reach. Saves time hunting when on an editing roll!
Ergonomic Desk and Chair
Treat yourself to an adjustable chair and spacious desk – your neck and back will thank you after long proofing stints!
These are a sanity saver if you have wee ones running around at home! Less disruption means higher quality work for clients.
Set aside time to create a pleasant, feng shui kinda space you enjoy spending hours in. It will soon feel like a beloved second home!
Just don’t forget to surface for snacks… Shall we have biscuits with that next cuppa?
Create Your Business Branding
Moving briskly along! Now that the boring back-end stuff is sorted, we get to the fun part – creating your branding and online presence!
This is what presents a polished, professional face to attract clients. A few components to whip up:
Business Name and Logo
Brainstorm names that communicate your niche specialty, instil confidence, and are catchy! Avoid anything too long or complex. And don’t forget a logo that aligns with the vibe you want to exude.
Professional Email Address
Set up a dedicated business email through your domain name – e.g. email@example.com. Far more legit than a generic Gmail account!
Your online hub showcasing exactly what you do, ideal client types, testimonials, rates etc. Keep language warm and engaging here to connect with visitors.
Don’t be shy handing these out in person! Classy cards featuring your logo, name, email/phone number and tagline make you look the business.
Take time perfecting these elements – together they convey professionalism and expertise to stand out.
Right, I’m itching to peek at name ideas with you over a steaming cuppa! Scones just came out of the oven too… 😋
Market Your Proofreading Business
Woohoo, high fives all round! Your proofreading business now has all the foundations gingerly in place. You have the skills, the gear, the branding and ideal home setup to work productively. Awesome stuff!
Now it’s just a teeny matter of, ya know….actually getting clients!
Marketing will be the ongoing engine filling your calendar with proofreading projects and revenue. No biggie. 😆
Here are impactful ways to score those inaugural clients:
Launch that website blog! Share your expertise through long-form posts around proofreading, editing, writing tips etc. This positions you as an authority. Optimise posts for SEO too.
Search Engine Optimization
Use targeted keywords, quality backlinks and concise page meta descriptions to rank highly in search engines. This way you turn up when potential clients search for specialty proofreading services!
Social Media Profiles
Create business profiles on LinkedIn, X etc tailored to your niche. Drop regular posts showcasing knowledge to establish clout.
Attending relevant writing groups, small business events etc is valuable for meeting contacts. Bring those snazzy business cards!
Join reputable editing/publishing guilds and networks like the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading. Opens doors to referrals!
Mastering self-promotion takes time and perseverance, but the payoff is huge. Stay vigilant responding to all online/email/phone enquiries promptly to clinch those critical first projects.
You’ve got this! Now…how about some homemade shortbread to nibble while we refine website ideas?
Set Up Your Business Administration
We’ve covered a lot of ground kicking off this proofreading business! Let’s round off with some final handy admin pointers before we summarise everything.
I’ll run through key business management essentials:
Register As A Sole Trader
Registering your business makes things official! There’s paperwork involved but gives you legitimacy and access to useful tools.
Accounting and Bookkeeping
Get your heads around reporting obligations and taxes right off the bat. Using accounting software helps automate invoicing, expenses etc saving mega hassle.
Protect yourself by having a solid contract all clients must sign before their first proofread. Outlines the agreement, scope, rates, terms etc.
Decide how you’ll accept payment – PayPal, bank transfer etc. Send professional invoices promptly upon completing work with clear payment terms. Automate where possible!
Phew, we made it through the business nitty gritties! I promise it gets more rewarding dealing with actual client projects. 😅
Last but not least, let’s recap…fancy a celebratory gin and tonic? 🥳
Hip hip hooray! If you’ve made it all the way here, thanks ever so much for sticking with me on this epic journey of starting a proofreading business.
I’ve shared my best insider tips covering everything from finding your niche, gaining skills, nailing rates, marketing tactics and crunchy business admin stuff. Phew!
To recap briefly:
- Choose a niche that plays to your background
- Sharpen your expertise in grammar, editing tools, error spotting
- Benchmark competitive proofreading rates
- Perfect your business branding and online presence
- Promote yourself actively through content, search visibility and networking
- Lock down contracts, accounting, payment admin
I hope this guide has armed you feeling excited, focused and confident about how to start your own proofreading business or should I say empire!
A few final extra pointers:
- Don’t obsess over perfection, back yourself putting services out there
- Offer first client discounted rates in return for testimonials
- Say yes to early opportunities to build portfolio
- Have an email auto-responder so no enquiries slip through cracks
Wishing you the best of luck and fun with your proofreading adventures ahead!
If you have any questions that I haven’t addressed drop them in the comment section and I’ll do my very best to answer them.
Heck, even if you haven’t got a question just drop a comment, I reply to every one!