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10 Important Proofreading Tips for Freelance Proofreaders

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Proofreading online has become a very popular – and lucrative – way to earn income freelancing.

I myself have worked as a freelance proofreader, so I know what it takes to be good at it. Caitlin Pyle, former proofreader and creator of the very successful Proofread Anywhere online courses, also knows exactly what it takes to be a great proofreader. So here I’m sharing some of my proofreading tips along with some of Caitlin’s proofreading tips to help you become a successful freelance proofreader.

Pinterest image for freelance proofreading tips on how to make money proofreading online

Proofreading tip #1
Realize proofreading online is very important

One of the most important proofreading tips I can give you is this: proofreading is very important work.

As a freelance proofreader, the buck stops with you. You’re the last person who’s going to be reading the documents you’re given before they’re published, submitted or sent wherever they need to go.

You have a responsibility to proofread every sentence, every word, every last bit of punctuation the very best you can. Whether it be a college term paper, a blog post or the next #1 bestseller, proofread every document you’re assigned as if it’s the most important document in the world.

Proofreading tip #2
Know what you’re doing

If you haven’t received formal proofreading training, it is possible to wing it. However, it’s really best to take the time and make the effort to learn how to do proofreading correctly.

When you have good proofreading training under your belt, you can rest assured that you’re proofreading the right way. Professional proofreading training also lets you dive right into your freelance proofreading career with confidence rather than struggling to figure things out along the way. This free workshop will help you understand more about the benefits of a good proofreading course.

Proofreading tip #3
It’s all in the details

Proofreading is a very detail-oriented freelance career. If you’re a detail-oriented person, it will come naturally to you. If you’re not innately someone who notices details, then be sure to remind yourself as you’re proofreading to consciously pay attention to every single detail of your proofreading material.

Also, try to pay a little more attention to details in other things you read in your daily life. This can help you to naturally become a more detail-oriented person, which will in turn help you in your proofreading work.

Proofreading tip #4
Use the right reference materials

One of the ways to ensure you succeed as a freelance proofreader online is by using reference materials to help you with correct punctuation, grammar, etc. There are three great proofreading resource books which Caitlin recommends.

McGraw-Hill’s Proofreading Handbook –  This book helps ensure that your documents are letter perfect.

The Pocketbook of Proofreading – A powerful guide to earning a living as a freelance proofreader. 26 chapters plus appendices, glossary, index, and practical exercises.

The Best Punctuation Book, Period – This complete reference guide covers the basic rules of punctuation plus the finer points not addressed anywhere else.

Proofreading tip #5
Always do your best

The internet is a very big place that makes the world a lot smaller. Word about the quality of your proofreading work will get out. This is especially true if there is a way for people to leave online reviews about you.

When you do a great proofreading job, potential clients will see positive reviews if they google you. If you don’t do such a good job, potential clients may end up never contacting you. Always do your best work, not only for the person for whom you’re proofreading but for your own freelance reputation as well.


5 multicolored books full of proofreading tips, tied with stringProofreading tip #6
Use the best tech

Proofreading doesn’t require much in the way of equipment, but you do need an iPad, tablet or a computer as well as an app or software program to read your documents. Optionally, you might want noise-cancelling headphones to block out sound and help you concentrate.

When she was proofreading, Caitlin used and now highly recommends three products:

  • iPad Mini “I don’t recommend an iPad just because it’s an iPad,” Caitlin says. “I recommend it because Branchfire makes an amazing app called iAnnotate.”
  • iAnnotate App – iAnnotate helps a lot with proofreading. With iAnnotate you can:
      • open PDF files directly from an e-mail into the app
      • create your own toolbox with things you use most often to annotate
      • personalize “stamps” so you don’t have to type out “add comma” or “delete comma” over and over again
      • e-mail the job directly from the app and highlight words to check the dictionary for their spelling
  • Noise-canceling headphones – Caitlin points out that “it’s a lot easier to proofread online when the noises and sounds of your life aren’t always interrupting!” Indeed, quality headphones are very important. These two noise-canceling headphones get excellent reviews:

Proofreading tip #7
Give proofreading online your full attention

Proofreading online is not something you can do while you’re half watching TV, listening to a radio talk show or distracted in any way.

You need to give your complete and full attention to every single document you proofread. You’ll be marking the parts of these documents that you want the writer to look at again, but no one’s going to re-read the entire thing after you’re finished with it. So give everything you proofread your undivided attention.


Red pen on paper for freelance proofreading

Proofreading tip #8
Treat freelance proofreading as a business

Whether you are intending to proofread full time or as a side gig, it’s important to treat proofreading as a business. This is because it is a business. It’s your freelance business.

Freelance proofreading involves a lot more than just reading and marking up documents. You’ll have to create invoices, collect payment, keep records of what you’re earning, and you’ll need to find proofreading clients too. Proofreading is a freelance business, and you’ll need to think of it that way.

Proofreading tip #9
Choose a proofreading niche

Most freelancers have a niche. Caitlin says: “It’s always ideal to specialize in a particular niche, no matter what industry you’re in. That way, you become a subject matter expert in a particular area and can offer your clients exceptional service in that niche. General proofreading can generate a great income, and it can generate even more if you narrow your focus down from there.”

Proofreading tip #10
Enjoy proofreading online

While proofreading is serious business, it also can be really interesting and even entertaining.

Working for yourself enables you to work when and where you want. When you’re doing the type of work you want when you want to do it, you’ll be able to enjoy your life so much more. So one of the most important proofreading tips is to learn the proofreading skills you need, hone those skills so you’ll know you’re doing the best possible job, and you’ll be able to relax and enjoy your freelance proofreading career.

Conclusion to 10 Important Proofreading Tips for Freelance Proofreaders

When people pay you money to proofread documents for them, it is so important to do your very best job. If you feel your proofreading skills aren’t quite as good as they could be, or if you haven’t learned how to proofread yet, you really should consider taking a proofreading course. This will help you be the best freelance proofreader you can be.

There’s a free workshop which will give you some basic proofreading skills. You can sign up for it here. Get off to the right start by taking proofreading training, and you’ll be on your way to a successful freelance proofreading career.


(This updated post was originally published on March 11, 2019.)

Sabina Lohr is a lifelong freelancer turned entrepreneur who created World of Freelancers to help others discover how to work for themselves online and live the freelance lifestyle. She’s always really enjoyed the freedom that freelancing brings, including several years on and off of working online while traveling and living abroad.

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