Do you love reading? Are you able to spot errors on the fly? Are you a detail-oriented person? If so, learning how to become a proofreader could be a great start to a freelance side hustle or become a full-time gig.

Proofreading is an incredibly flexible way to make extra money, and the barrier to entry is surprisingly low. You also might not realize that you’ve learned most of the core skills when you were in school. Seriously, you began learning proofreading skills as early as elementary school and developed those skills through high school.

That sounds pretty easy, but how do you become a proofreader who actually makes money proofreading?

I started proofreading nearly 10 years ago, and it grew from a side hustle to part-time freelance work to a career I love. And I’m excited to share my experience and expertise as I explain how to become a proofreader in 2024. I’ve broken the process down into five simple steps. You’ll also  learn more about what proofreaders do and the requirements — let’s go!

What is Proofreading? 

Before I explain how to become a proofreader, let’s make sure you understand exactly what the job entails. Proofreading is the process of reading through a document and correcting errors. It’s one of the final steps writers go through before publication, and proofreaders are responsible for spotting and correcting grammatical, punctuation, spelling, and formatting errors.

This is an extremely important part of the writing process because it adds a level of professionalism that’s missed when your content is riddled with errors. 

Proofreaders must thoroughly read through every single word of the document they’re editing, and they often have to do that two or three times to get it right.

It’s a very detail-oriented job that’s super flexible for anyone who enjoys reading, is focused on perfection, and has a knack for spotting errors.

Proofreading vs. Copy Editing vs. Line Editing

I mentioned that proofreading is one step in the editing process, one of the final steps. And if you want to learn how to become a proofreader, you need to understand where it falls in the process and the differences between each step. It’s also important to know that not every piece of content requires each of the following steps.

  • Step 1 – Developmental or Structural Editing: Also known as substantive editing, this is a far more in-depth step that’s mainly for books or longer works. This involves the editor restructuring, reorganizing, and even suggesting new ideas.
  • Step 2 – Line Editing: The goal of line editing is to improve sentence structure and flow, remove redundancies, and eliminate unnecessary words. Line editors find repeated phrases, missing words, or words that should be changed for clarity, tone, and pacing.
  • Step 3 – Copy editing: The job of a copy editor is to make the types of sentence level changes a line editor makes while also correcting punctuation, spelling, and grammatical errors. The term copy editing is often used to refer to any work that doesn’t include developmental editing.
  • Step 4 – Proofreading: This is the last line of defense before an error is published! Proofreaders catch and correct misspelled words, punctuation and grammatical errors, typos, and formatting issues.

Because proofreaders are needed to work on all different types of content (more so than developmental and line editors), there’s far more work available for them.

Qualifications For Proofreading

Proofreaders must have a strong command of English, which is critical. However, one of the things I love so much about proofreading is that you really learned all of the core skills in school. Think about it: Starting in kindergarten, you learned about parts of speech and where to place a period. And by the time you finished high school, your education covered all of the essential proofreading skills.

You might need some help refreshing your knowledge, but it’s all in there!

With that being said, let’s get into what the requirements are for proofreading:

Educational Requirements For Proofreading

You do not need a college degree to become a proofreader, and there are many successful proofreaders who do not have a degree. However, many proofreaders will hold bachelor’s degrees in a field like English, Creative Writing, or Journalism. While not critical for learning how to become a proofreader, a degree may give you an edge.

Truly, though, being able to demonstrate your abilities is far more impressive than a degree.

Required Proofreading Skills

We’ve already talked about proofreading skills in terms of having a solid understanding of the English language, but let’s look at all of the required skills to become a proofreader:

  • Strong grasp of the English language
  • Ability to apply style guides to the work you’re editing — AP, MLA, Chicago, or an in-house style guide
  • Proficiency using computer software, like Google Docs or Word
  • Understanding of computer shortcuts (this helps you proofread as efficiently as possible!)
  • Good time management skills
  • Solid research skills
  • Strong communication skills
  • Excellent ability to focus on details

Even if you aren’t born with these skills, there are great online resources and courses you can take to develop the necessary skills.

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How to Become a Proofreader in 2024 (Step-By-Step Guide)

Now that you understand exactly what it takes to become a proofreader, it’s time to walk you through the steps. There are definitely different paths to becoming a proofreading professional, but this is the path I recommend. 

1. Gain The Proper Proofreading Skills

Earlier, I explained the required proofreading skills, but let’s run through them again. As a proofreader, you must be able to understand and apply rules regarding:

  • Punctuation
  • Spelling
  • Sentence structure
  • Grammar
  • Syntax
  • Style guides 

Even if you know those rules, there’s a good chance you aren’t applying them on the level that professional proofreaders do. I remember when I started proofreading and paying extra close attention to how I used commas and colons, even when I wasn’t proofreading. And when I was reading, I did the same thing — focus on how professional writers, who use a team of editors, write their content.

The point is that beginning to think about how sentences are structured and where punctuation goes will refresh the proofreading rules you learned in school.

You also need soft skills that you’ve probably learned through other parts of your day-to-day life, such as time management, communication, and focus.

Take a Proofreading Course

I am a little biased, but our Proofreading Launchpad course guides you through everything you need to learn how to become a proofreader. The course is thoughtfully designed to reteach you the most important proofreading skills, prepare you for proofreading jobs in the real world, walk you through the process of setting up your freelance business, help you land your first clients, and explain how to grow your business.

Proofreading Launchpad is designed for anyone who’s interested in becoming a freelance proofreader, and it includes quizzes, practice essays, video-based content, proofreading resources, and a ton of bonus content.

Our self-paced course guides as you go from “I’m interested in proofreading” to “I’ve made my first $1,000 proofreading!”

You can get a taste of what the course is like (and meet me!) in our free, 4-Figure Side Hustle training

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2. Have the Right Tools And Software

One of the great things about proofreading is that there are minimal technical requirements, and there is a very good chance that you already have what you need to get started. 

Here’s the most common tools and software used by professional proofreaders:

  • Google Docs: My clients and I primarily use Google Docs because it’s free, cloud-based, and has excellent sharing capabilities.
  • Microsoft Word: Some clients prefer to work in Word, and it’s currently subscription-based and upgrades automatically. I don’t recommend going out and buying a subscription until you have a client who prefers Word.
  • Grammarly: Proofreaders have a love-hate relationship with Grammarly. You cannot rely on it, but it can help you quickly spot errors before doing a final once over.
  • Style guides: Before you run out and purchase style guides, ask your clients about their preferred style. Most style rules are available online, but you can also purchase online access to the most popular guides, such as AP, MLA, Chicago, and more.

3. Decide On Your Services

Once you have the skills and software you need to start working, it’s time to figure out the business end of things. But let me add a caveat: Do not let this step hold you back from taking your first client.

I’m the type of person who made business decisions as I began taking clients because I knew that those decisions would otherwise be a roadblock. Consider what works best for you, your working style, and personality type.

Potential Proofreading Services And Niches

You’ve got a lot of different options, and here are some of the most profitable or in-demand proofreading services:

  • Manuscript proofreading: I’ve always thought this would be the most fun proofreading service because you’re paid to read books. The easiest way to start is with ebooks, where there isn’t a high demand for years of experience.
  • Legal proofreading: This is an ideal service if you have a background in law, and many clients will expect that of you. It’s also one of the highest paying niches.
  • Medical proofreading: Again, another proofreading service that’s best for someone with industry experience or knowledge. 
  • Blog proofreading: This is my niche, and I’ve love it because there’s a lot of growth potential if you’re willing to adapt to the needs of your clients. Blog proofreaders must understand how SEO affects online content.
  • Business proofreading: This is a catch-all way to describe editing formal business documents for internal and external use, such as white pages, emails, manuals, etc.
  • Resumes, CVs, and cover letters: There are proofreading businesses that focus on this niche alone, so you know there is a definite interest, and you can offer additional review services that help in the hiring process.
  • Academic proofreading: Like legal and academic proofreading, you will need to have a solid understanding of the field you’re proofreading for. You will need a strong grasp of style guides and citations as well.

4. Find Your First Freelance Proofreading Client

Landing your first proofreading client, while exciting, can produce a tremendous amount of anxiety if you’ve never done freelance work before. And my approach to finding your first client helps reduce some of that stress. However, it’s a bit of a hot take, but let me explain.

My preferred approach with your first client is to offer your services for free to someone in your network. The free part might be controversial because you should be paid for your labor, but this allows you to flex your muscles and build your portfolio without discussing pay. It also gives you the confidence to land a paying client next.

The first proofreading job I ever took was free. I proofread fundraising materials for my kids’ preschool, and even though the preschool director and I discussed it as free work, she was so happy that she eventually paid me for the work. It was a huge time saver for her (one of the top reasons business owners hire proofreaders in the first place). This first job, whether paid or unpaid, told me that I was fully capable of going out there and landing a paying client.

Free isn’t the only approach, though, and I do encourage you to pursue the following options for your first and future clients.

Freelance Platforms

There are dozens of websites designed to connect freelancers with potential clients. Most take a percentage of your earnings, and it’s not enough to simply create a profile and hope clients reach out. You need to take an active approach and apply to openings and connect with potential clients.

Here are some of the most popular freelance platforms for proofreaders:

  • Upwork: There are free and paid Upwork accounts, and you will need to create a stand-out profile that gets clients excited to work with you. 
  • Fiverr: I have less experience with Fiverr, but many proofreaders love it because you can create packaged services that help clients understand what your rates include.
  • FlexJobs: This is a popular site for flexible, remote, and work-from-home jobs. There’s a fee to use FlexJobs, but they provide search results curated for your experience and interests.

Look Within Your Close Network

There’s a very good chance that you know someone who could benefit from having a proofreader on their team. It could be a friend who owns a small business, a relative who runs a law firm, or an old classmate who’s job hunting.

You can start by making a list of people who might be interested in hiring you, and then reach out to them. Tell them what you’re doing and how you could help them publish error-free content!

5. Keeping Building Your Proofreading Business

Now that we’re at the final step, you’ve essentially learned how to become a proofreader. This step is about building a sustainable business. 

  • Continue looking for work: Most proofreaders have a couple of client acquisition strategies that work best for them. You can continue using freelance platforms and leveraging your network, but you can also apply for proofreading jobs online and cold pitch clients. Test a few methods out to find out your preferred strategies.
  • Find a good work-life balance: One of the main benefits of proofreading is that you can work remotely from home, and while that’s great, it can be difficult to have a healthy separation between work and what’s happening at home. Be sure to “turn off” each day and manage your time.
  • Adapt to your client’s needs: This one is huge because it leads to happy clients and a growing business. Adaptability means you’re learning new skills, offering new services, and continuing to meet clients on their level.
  • Pay your taxes: Freelance proofreaders are considered independent contractors, and you’re required to file your taxes as such.

    You can learn more in How to Handle Taxes for Your Side Hustle.

The Final Word on How To Become a Proofreader in 2024

It might sound dramatic, but learning how to become a proofreader changed my life. I started while I was back in college, finishing my degree and working two part-time jobs. I also had three young kids, so things were a bit hectic!

Still, proofreading was a flexible way to make extra money, and it grew into a freelance business that brought in an extra $5,000+ each month.

The financial benefits and flexible schedule are huge draws, and it’s why I’ve been so excited to share my experience and knowledge. If you’re interested in learning more, I’d love for you to check out our free 4-Figure Side Hustle training, Just click on that link to learn more.


How much do proofreaders make?

Brand new proofreaders can make $15 to $25 per hour on average, and those with more experience bring in upwards of $40 to $50 per hour.

Do I need qualifications to become a proofreader?

No, you don’t need a degree or certification to work as a proofreader. Some proofreaders do have degrees, but it’s not a requirement at all. The main requirement is that you have a strong grasp of the English language, style guides, and can focus on small details.