Start Your Own Freelance Proofreading Service
If you want a hassle-free business of your own, setting up a proofreading service has a
lot going for it. No special tools, equipment or premises are needed. You can work any
time that suits you, perhaps fitting it in around family commitments. You can start
part-time and go full-time later if you wish. And while you won't make a fortune, you can
certainly make a decent living.
What Do Proofreaders Do?
Proofreaders perform a final check on the text of books and other written materials
(e.g. magazines, newspapers, web pages) before they are sent to be printed. They mark up
any errors they find using a standard set of proofreading marks. These corrections are
then incorporated before the book goes to print.
Proofreaders may be asked to work in one of two ways. They may be sent the author's
original typescript with the copy editor's corrections marked on it, along with a copy of
the proofs. In this case they are required to check that the typesetter has carried out
all the editor's instructions and not inserted any errors of his own. This is known as
reading against copy. Alternatively, the proofreader may simply be sent a set of proofs
and be asked to read through them checking for any errors (e.g. spelling, punctuation or
factual mistakes). This is known as performing a straight (or blind) reading.
What Skills Will I Need?
To start with, you will need a good grasp of spelling and punctuation, and at least a
basic knowledge of English grammar (though you can take courses in these areas if
required). You will need to be thorough and conscientious, and have a good eye for detail.
A typical page proof may have no more than one or two mistakes in it, but as a proofreader
you will be expected to find them.
The other key requirement is a knowledge of the standard proofreading marks and how to
apply them. The standard marks can be found in guides such as The Chicago Manual of Style
(US) and The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook (UK), both of which can be easily obtained
from libraries or the Amazon internet bookstore. You can also take courses such as the
Professional Proofreading & Editing Course from Maple Academy, which will teach you the
standard marks and give you practice in applying them.
Finally, you should obtain a good modern dictionary to check spellings and usage. This
should be the full-length version (at least 150,000 words). Pocket and concise
dictionaries just won't do!
Do I Need to Take a Course?
It's not essential, but if you haven't previously worked in publishing it is probably
best to do some training before marketing your service to paying clients, if only to build
your confidence and hone your skills. As mentioned above, Maple Academy runs a
comprehensive introductory course covering both proofreading and copy editing, with
correspondence tuition from professional proofreaders and editors.