Let’s get this out of the way — proofreading jobs aren’t for everyone. But, if you’re a good candidate, proofreading is a great work from anywhere side hustle.
I say proofreading jobs aren’t for everyone because I know it’s not something I could do. I have an editor to go over my posts now, and my wife did it before that.
Here are a few questions to see if proofreading might be the right side hustle for you:
- Do you cringe when friends in your Facebook feed can’t tell the difference between they’re, their, and there?
- Do you edit your emails over and over again?
- Do you know the subtle differences between APA, MLA, and Chicago Style?
- Can you use a semicolon properly?
If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, then keep reading to find out what proofreaders do, how much they make, how to find proofreading jobs, how to get started, and more.
What do proofreaders do?
Here’s how I think I about it — proofreaders do a quality check on written content. They take nearly finished work and check for spelling, grammatical, and punctuation errors. Proofreaders make the content look professional, polished, and ready to publish.
By the time a proofreader gets the content, the article or book or paper is entirely written. Proofreaders aren’t changing the tone, style, or organization of a piece of writing; they are just fixing those little errors that slip past some writers.
Proofreaders are sometimes confused with copy editors. Copy editors make more substantial changes, like restructuring written content or rewriting entire sentences. The work proofreaders do is just as important, and it happens after a copy editor has made changes.
Proofreaders do the kind of stuff we all learned back in our high school English classes. Do you remember trading papers with someone and marking it all up in red ink? That’s what a proofreader does.
But today, those marks are all made on a computer or tablet. You work directly on the document you’re editing. It could be in Word, Google Docs, etc.
As a professional proofreader, you’re working on:
- Blog posts
- Online articles
- Social media posts
- Self-published ebooks
- Legal documents
- Academic articles
- Email marketing campaigns
- White papers
There are even more options available than what’s on that list. If it’s written content that needs to look professional, then it can benefit from a proofreader.
Interested in freelance writing? Learn how to start a freelance writing side hustle at How to Become a Freelance Writer: The Ultimate Guide for 2020.
How to work as a proofreader
Proofreading is an excellent work from home side hustle. Well, it’s a side hustle you can work virtually anywhere as long as you have an internet connection.
Most proofreaders work as freelancers who work for a variety of clients on different types of proofreading jobs. Others will specialize in a niche like proofreading transcripts. You might have several long-term clients that you work with over and over again or move from client to client as you complete jobs.
What you get as a proofreader is flexibility. It’s the ability to work wherever you are and whenever you have the work. This makes proofreading one of the best side hustles for digital nomads, stay-at-home parents, or just people who want to learn how to make money on the side of their day job.
Proofreading jobs are so flexible that you don’t even need a laptop to work. Remember, proofreaders aren’t rewriting content; they are correcting punctuation errors and grammar — that means it isn’t awkward to work from a tablet.
M$M tip: For a full list of my favorite side hustles, read 21 Best 2020 Side Hustles That Are Actually Worth Your Time.
What skills do proofreaders need?
Because many of the proofreading jobs out there are for freelancers, one of the essential skills you’ll need is good time management. I personally still struggle with time management. I love working, but there are times when I would rather do something else.
When you work for yourself, you are driving your workflow. You have to make time to work and find the best way to organize your day so it all happens on time.
And “on time” is 100% true for proofreaders. Your clients will expect you to meet deadlines, and doing so is one way to retain long-term clients that know they can count on you.
Besides being able to work under deadlines and managing your own time well, there are some obvious skills I haven’t mentioned yet — proofreading specific skills.
You’ll need to know how to spell well, have an extensive vocabulary, know how to punctuate simple and complex sentences, and are familiar with grammar rules. It’s very detailed oriented work, and the quicker you can spot minute errors, the better you’ll be.
Some clients require knowledge of specific style guides, like APA, MLA, or Chicago Style. There are regular updates to those styles, and a good proofreader will be aware of changes and can implement them as they’re rolled out.
Many proofreading jobs don’t require formal training or a degree in English or journalism. Those things might help, but they’re not necessary for all proofreading jobs. Some jobs will ask you to take a proficiency test before working, and many proofreading jobs require that you have experience in the industry and want references.
Are there any special proofreading tools?
More than anything, proofreaders rely on their skills and knowledge to work. However, there are some tools you should be familiar with:
- Google Docs. Docs is a cloud-based word processing platform that makes it easy for you to share files with your clients. You can pick different sharing settings and can show clients your edits in real-time.
- Dropbox/OneDrive/Box. These are the most popular cloud storing services. These services make it easy to share files between you and your clients. They’re all very similar, and they are all free up to a certain amount of stored data.
- Grammarly. This tool is used by many writers to catch spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. Its recommendations can save you a ton of time, but you can’t rely on Grammarly to catch everything. Proofreading is really best done by a human.
How much are proofreaders paid?
Proofreaders can earn between $10-$45/hour, but here’s a breakdown of what some of the top job hunting sites report:
- PayScale says proofreaders average $17.77/hour.
- Indeed reports an average of $18.66/hour.
- ZipRecruiter says the national average freelance proofreading annual salary is $51,211/year, with 25% of proofreaders earning $26,500 to $32,999/year.
This is a wide range, because what you earn as a proofreader depends so much on your experience and job. An experienced proofreader with lots of references will earn more than someone who’s just starting. And, proofreading jobs don’t always pay per hour — you might be paid by the number of pages or words you edit.
M$M tip: For high-paying side hustle ideas, check out Best Side Hustles to Make an Extra $1,000-$2,000 Per Month.
What kind of proofreading jobs are out there?
As I said, there are lots of options for proofreading jobs, and here are some of the best places to find work online.
This site provides English language editing and other manuscript preparation services to researchers, scientists, and scholars. To work as a proofreader for AJE, you’ll need to be an expert in a particular field.
Babbletype provides market research transcription and translation services for companies. They hire professional proofreaders and editors to ensure the consistency and accuracy of their transcription services.
This company provides English writing services for scholarly and medical publishing. They have freelance and full-time work from home positions. Cactus does require editors to have expertise in the fields of study they are editing, from engineering, healthcare, life sciences, medicine, or surgery.
Domainite is a content mill that finds freelancers to churn out quick and inexpensive content to companies. The pay isn’t awesome, but it’s an option for building your experience.
Edit 911 offers premium editing services for books, dissertations, and other documents. They say, “No other editing service has higher standards,” and that might be true because they require their editors to have a Ph.D.
Proofreaders for Editor Live earn an average of $750 to $1,800 every two weeks and work in four-hour “collection” shifts. The requirements to work for Editor Live are passing a two-part exam and either be enrolled in an accredited university with a GPA of at least 3.6 or have a bachelor’s degree with 5+ years of professional experience.
This is a freelance services marketplace where you can post your proofreading services for clients to find you. Freelancers have profiles where they can list experience, type of proofreading jobs they have worked on in the past, list turnaround time, etc. There are no requirements to start listing your services on Fiverr, and clients publically rate you on your services.
The way this platform works is that companies and individuals list jobs and their budget, then freelancers bid on the work. You need to set up a freelance proofreader profile before bidding on work.
Polished Paper connects editors and proofreaders for academic, manuscript, professional, and personal writing. There is a 35 question test to pass before getting hired.
This site has over 10,000 clients using quality proofreaders and editors on a variety of projects. They hire editors with experience as teachers, professors, newspaper and magazine copy editors, and other relevant job fields.
Scribbr is for students who want someone to polish their essays, dissertation, or thesis. They hire editors that are available for at least ten hours of work each week, have proofreading experience, and hold at least a bachelor’s degree.
Formerly known as Book in a Box, Scribe Writing offers book writing services. Proofreaders work on book projects that generally take around four months.
Scribendi provides proofreading and copy-editing services for authors, academics, companies, students, and individuals. You will need at least a bachelor’s degree and have three years of experience.
How to start working without proofreading experience?
Many of the companies on that list require at least a bachelor’s degree and proofreading experience, but there are still lots of good-paying proofreading jobs… read, not content mills… for new proofreaders.
One of the best ways to get started is to learn as much as you possibly can about proofreading, from what it is to how you do it successfully. Caitlin Pyle of Proofread Anywhere has a comprehensive course that trains new proofreaders.
If you're interested in making money through this growing field, Caitlin's Proofread Anywhere Workshop teaches you about the skills you need, how to monetize and market your skills, and how to enter the field.
The final word on proofreading jobs
One of the best things about side hustling as a proofreader is flexibility. You can work on the side of your day job, after your kids go to bed, or while you’re traveling. It’s also a great way to increase your income so you can destroy your debt, have money for investing, and more.
But, proofreading isn’t for everyone. As I said, you need to be very detail-oriented and motivated to complete projects by deadlines and to keep your clients coming back for more stellar work.