Job as a freelance proofreader

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Mandy Jones is a freelance proofreader who works from her home. She checks written material for errors and inconsistencies, ranging from novels and business documents to in-flight entertainment guides for airline companies.

What does the work involve?

I read documents very carefully, looking for things like spelling mistakes, grammatical and factual errors. I could find problems with the layout of a document – for example, too much space between blocks of text – or inconsistencies in page numbers or headings. I highlight the errors by marking the text. I could work on paper documents, or mark corrections on-screen – it depends what the client requires.

I also do copy-editing which involves rearranging words to improve the clarity and style of a document. Most publishers and other clients have a 'house style' – a list of rules on punctuation, standard spellings and the layout of the document. I ensure the document I'm copy-editing fits the house style. I could also write and research additional material for a publication.

How do you find your clients?

Most of the work I do comes through recommendations from satisfied clients and from a web-based directory for freelance proofreaders. I have a page in the directory summarising my skills and experience. Potential clients can contact me to discuss work. My clients include publishing companies, other businesses and individuals.

Do you have a regular work routine?

My workload varies from day to day and week to week, depending on how much work I have to do and the deadlines required by my clients. I try to start and finish at the same time each day, but if I have to meet a client deadline, I could work in the evening and at weekends.

I prefer to work on one project at a time, as I like to give each job my full attention. However, sometimes when I'm busy with one job, another client sends me a piece of work which they need urgently. It means I have to juggle my workload and prioritise tasks.

What qualities make a good proofreader?

Attention to detail and the ability to concentrate for long periods of time are essential. you need to be meticulous and set yourself high standards. If you fail to spot errors the client won't give you more work. You must be interested in English language and have a thorough understanding of grammar and punctuation. Reliability and the ability to meet deadlines are also important.

Good computer skills are an advantage, as some clients prefer you to proofread on-screen; you could work on documents produced with a wide range of software packages.

What do you like most about your work?

The job provides the ideal opportunity to work from home, as I have a chronic illness which prevents me from holding down an office job involving travel to and from work. proofreading has been a great opportunity for me to have a career. It is very satisfying when clients are pleased with my work. I also have the change to read a wide range of interesting articles and books.

Is there anything you dislike?

Because I am self-employed, my income varies quite a lot, depending on how much work I have done each month, and I don't get paid when I take time off. Sometimes, I can feel isolated, as I don't have any work colleagues, though I do talk to people on the telephone and via e-mail.

What work ambitions do you have?

I would like to work with some of the bigger publishers. It is hard to break into this sort of work, as these companies only employ proofreaders with a good track record and years of experience. I'm going to try to get as much proofreading and copy-editing experience as possible so I can start to approach these companies.

Mandy's route to her job as a freelance proofreader

  • A levels.
  • BA degree in English Language with Literature.

Mandy's proofreader tips

  • It can take a while to find clients so you may need another part-time job to support you until you become established.
  • Voluntary proofreading for charities, colleges and local businesses will give you a track record to show potential clients.

Proofreader related jobs

  • Copy editor
  • Origination printer
  • Publishing editor

Salary of a freelance proofreader

  • Recommended hourly rates range from £15 to £20.
  • Some highly specialised work can pay up to £35 an hour.
  • Most proofreaders are self-employed but some agencies and publishing houses still employ full-time proofreaders.
  • Starting salaries would be around £16,000 to £18,000.

Job as a freelance proofreader

  • Some proofreaders have worked in publishing or journalism.
  • Many proofreaders have a degree – either in English or in a subject that becomes their specialist field for proofreading – but this isn't essential.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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