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10 Proofreading Tips for Freelance Proofreaders

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Freelance proofreading has become a very popular – and potentially lucrative – way to earn all or part of your income working from home. Proofreading is also a great way to earn money while traveling.

I myself have earned income as a proofreader, and I know what it takes to be good at this type of work. Caitlin Pyle, a former proofreader and the creator of the very successful Proofread Anywhere online courses, also knows exactly what it takes to succeed at proofreading. So I’ve put together some of my advice and some of Caitlin’s advice to give you 10 proofreading tips for freelance proofreaders.

10 Proofreading Tips for Freelance Proofreaders 

5 multicolored books full of proofreading tips, tied with string

1. Take Proofreading Seriously – One of the most important proofreading tips is to take this job seriously. When people pay to have their writing proofread, this means that what they’ve written is very important to them.

When you’re a freelance proofreader, you’ll be working for yourself during the hours that work best for you and the locations that suit you the best, whether that be your living room sofa or a coffee shop in Bangkok. Still, freelancing as a proofreader is a real job and must be done well.  Whether it be a college term paper or the next #1 bestseller, proofread all documents very thoroughly and carefully.  

Suggested reading: How to become a freelance proofreader 

2. Know What You’re Doing If you haven’t received formal training in proofreading, you can still wing it but it is really best to learn how to do it right. Professional training will benefit your clients as well as yourself. Proofreading expert Caitlin Pyle has created the ultra-successful General Proofreading: Theory and Practice course, where you can learn four different types of proofreading methods with thorough lessons on how to make them work best for you.

3. Details Matter, A Lot  – One of the most important proofreading tips is pay attention to the details. If you are a detail-oriented person, this will come naturally to you. If you’re not innately detail oriented, then be sure to remind yourself as you’re proofreading to consciously pay attention to the details. 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.

4. Use the Right Reference Materials – One of the ways to ensure you succeed as a freelance proofreader is by using reference materials to help you with correct punctuation, grammar, etc. Here are three great proofreading resource books recommended by Caitlin.

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.

5. Always Do a Great Job – The internet is a very big place that makes the world a lot smaller. If you do a great proofreading job, if potential clients google you they’ll see positive information. If you don’t do such a great job and word gets out, potential clients may end up not contacting you. Always do your best work, not only for the person for whom you’re proofreading but for your own reputation as well.

White computer keyboard for freelance proofreading online


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 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 ’cause 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!” She recommends:

Mpow Thor Bluetooth Headphones if you don’t have much to spend.

Bose QuietComfort noise-canceling headphones if you can afford to lay out some money.

7. The Buck Stops with You – Proofreaders are the last people to read every word of written material. You may mark parts of documents which you really need for the writer to look at again, but they’re not going to re-read the entire thing after you proofread it. The buck stops with you, so be thorough and careful.


Red pen on paper for freelance proofreading


8. Learn the Business of Proofreading – Whether you are intending to proofread in order to earn some extra income, or whether you want to make this your full-time work-at-home job, it’s important to learn how to handle the business end of things. Proofread Anywhere’s General Proofreading: Theory and Practice course teaches you how to build a website, write up a resume and set your rates. You’ll also learn how to find clients, handle your relationship with your clients and how to bill them.

9. Specialize – 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. “

10. Enjoy Proofreading! – 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.

Now that you know these 10 proofreading tips, you’ve got a great head start on people who don’t. Want to learn even more about proofreading? Listen to Proofread Anywhere’s free webinar right here.

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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