How to Become a Proofreader With No Experience

Photo of author

Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Written content creation is present in almost all industries, and proofreading is the best online side hustle you should try. It looks for common mistakes in all forms of writing and can be a rewarding job.

If you want to build a career with a flexible schedule, here’s how to become a proofreader without experience. You’ll make more money at home as you work online and continuously train yourself to spot grammatical mistakes in everything. This article will help you better understand the industry’s ins and outs.

Proofreading Roles: A Job Description

Grammarist Article Graphic V2 54

A proofreader often uses a checklist and looks for spelling mistakes, grammar, punctuation errors, typographical errors, and formatting errors in writing. Whether it’s a work of fiction or an academic paper, the process is pretty much the same, no matter the proofreading experience.

Their job is to correct any mistake that the copy editor missed and point out any critical errors. They also finalize a manuscript’s layout, design, and labels before publishing or submitting.

Books and other types of writing undergo different editing stages, and proofreading is the last phase. After developmental and structural editors check for changes in the story, the copy editor looks for mechanical errors. 

Then, the proofreader will double-check the already-perfect final manuscript. They look for potential errors that the copy editor missed, including incorrect word usage. 

Proofreaders also fix any issues with the layout, style, and size. Spacing, design, and table labels are also their focus. You’ll see these often marked with proofreading symbols.

No writer should skip the proofreading process if they want their writing to be a success. Students who don’t proofread their work might get a lower grade just because of the few typos on their paper. Blog posts with plagiarism and poor formatting don’t get high rankings. 

The idea of proofreaders is also crucial for businesses to flourish. A company becomes more credible and reputable when its social media posts, business documents, and ads are error-free. It also saves a ton of money reproducing their materials just because of an error they find late. 

A full-time proofreader can work in traditional publishing offices. Others build a career online through freelancing, working for individual clients, agencies, and companies on a project basis. Freelance writers are often looking to tea up with fiction proofreaders, too. 

Take your grammar skills to the next level

Take Our Copyediting Course

What Qualifications Do I Need to Be a Proofreader? 

You do not need to be an English degree holder to be a successful proofreader. Some companies might require a bachelor’s degree in Communication, English, or Literature, but many clients don’t ask for one. 

No Need for Advanced Degrees

There are some companies that require a bachelor’s degree in the subject of the documents. For example, if you proofread legal documents, you might be required to have a law-related degree like Legal Management. 

Most self-publishing authors and businesses only want to see your resume. Perhaps you also need to present a portfolio of your previous works related to the writing topic. 

Keep in mind that many professional proofreaders in the content industry are not degree holders. Even those who offer online instruction on how to be excellent proofreaders only have work experience to offer. 

No Official Proofreading Certification

There is also no official proofreading certification in many parts of the world. The only recognized proofreading certification is Editors Canada, which was established in 1979. They offer tests in Ottawa, Vancouver, and other areas in the country.

Proofreading Skills

But there are specific skills that clients look for in a proofreader. The most vital one is excellent spelling, grammar, and punctuation skills. You can learn how to spot common writing errors through online proofreading courses.

These courses will also teach you basic grammar and syntax rules. Spelling patterns, proper punctuation use, and capitalization rules. Others have topics on specific writing style guides, like the Chicago Manual of Style.

Another essential proofreading skill you should possess is your attention to detail. You should be patient enough to spot every single error in sentences. Check the piece of writing line by line for all types of mistakes to guarantee that it’s perfect. 

A compelling proofreader has fantastic communication skills. They know how to negotiate their rates, update clients on their work, and give feedback about their writing. Communicating well with your client is also part of observing professionalism.  

Experienced proofreaders should have technical skills. Freelance proofreaders should train themselves to use different software, such as Track Changes on MS Word. They might also be asked to use content management systems and email programs. 

Learning how to become a proofreader for books also takes unique skills. For example, to proofread fiction novels, you should know how to use figurative language. You must also be knowledgeable about the elements of a story. 

How Do I Become a Proofreader with No Experience? 

Grammarist Article Graphic V2 62

Building a proofreading career without any experience is challenging but possible. Here are the exact steps to take to become a proofreader from scratch.

Get Proofreading Training

Step one to starting any career is to train oneself. Online proofreading courses will give you adequate qualifications to become a successful proofreader. But you have to pick the training program carefully. 

It helps to start with a general proofreading course like the one Proofread Anywhere offers. Doing so will help you explore different types of writing as you get used to the activity. Learn how to spot common writing errors and how to correct them.

You should also pick a course that teaches you how to start your freelance business. Some proofreading courses teach you how to build a resume, market yourself on different sites, and set your rates. 

Most online proofreading courses cost an arm and leg, but you’ll also find some programs with a free trial. Check if the free access modules are enough to give you a foundational knowledge of proofreading techniques.

Once you know how to proofread, you can take online courses for specific types of written documents. You can focus on academic proofreading, business proofreading, science proofreading, or other fields. 

Learn How to Use Editing Tools on Word

Many writers work on Microsoft Word because of its extensive editing, format, and layout features. That means you don’t need to use proofreading symbols on hard copies anymore.

You need to learn how to use the proofreading tools on this program. For instance, you should know how to enable the “Track Changes” feature to record every edit. 

The “Compare” feature is also worth learning for proofreaders. This Word functionality lets you compare two versions of a word file. The application automatically highlights the differences between the two.

You can also make comments on MS Word. This tool lets you provide feedback to the writer. Feel free to suggest ways to improve their writing. You can also ask questions in this section or highlight issues that require their attention. 

Volunteer Your Services

Many aspiring freelance proofreaders start by offering free services. Since freelancing doesn’t require any financial capital, there’s some sort of investment you need to make to be successful. For proofreaders, it’s volunteering.

Offering proofreading services for free will attract several clients. Sure, they won’t expect advanced skills from you, but it’s essential to do your best still. Consider it as a way to increase your work experience. 

You can also ask friends, family members, and colleagues if you can proofread their documents. These may include resumes, short stories, emails, and business proposals. Scanning their documents for errors will allow you to practice your skills without pressure. 

Once you offer paid services, potential clients will look at your previous works to see if you’re qualified. Make sure to show the free but high-quality services you provided. You can also let them know you can offer better services at a specific rate. 

Discover Your Niche

Now that you have all the essential skills of a proofreader, it’s time to discover your specialization. You might want to focus on general proofreading if you wish to have content creators, bloggers, and businesses as your clients.

Publisher proofreading focuses on traditional publishing jobs. It’s perfect for those who want to learn how to become a proofreader for books and other published works. Magazines, newspapers, and other print materials also fall under publisher proofreading.

Even books have specific categories. You can choose to proofread for fantasy and science fiction books only. Other proofreaders prefer scanning romance and teenage books. However, these subcategories are uncommon since proofreaders don’t make huge structural edits.

More specialized areas of proofreading can make you earn more. Proofreaders in the legal industry usually have a more comprehensive job that requires more skills. Medical, science, and technical proofreaders also have more challenging jobs. 

Find the Perfect Proofreading Job

Proofreading services feature a vast online marketplace where clients and freelancers negotiate their needs. Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced professional proofreader, there’s a website for you to up your career.

For instance, entry-level proofreading jobs are available on Upwork and Fiverr. Signing up is easy. And you’ll also find short gigs on these websites more quickly than on other platforms. But it might be challenging to get a high-paying job on Upwork if you’re still a beginner.

More intermediate and advanced proofreaders can look for a job on Flexjobs. Several online jobs are listed on this website with reasonable salaries. The only downside is the membership fee of $14.95 to join. 

You can also find jobs on ProofreadNow if you have over five years of experience as a proofreader. Make sure to pass all the tests to get an instant position.

Get More Experience

Make the most out of your first gig, the next one, and the gig after that. Do not stick to one platform when looking for the perfect proofreading job. For example, if you started on Upwork, you can expand your horizons on LinkedIn. 

Keep getting your clients’ reviews and testimonials so they will be displayed on your page. This positive or negative feedback will also help you know which areas of your job need improvement. 

Once you think you’re already a proofreading expert, you can start setting higher rates. Increase your rates for different services depending on the type of writing you proofread. It can also depend on the deadline that the client specifies. 

Make sure to put your best works in your portfolio. This portfolio will showcase your expertise, primarily if you cater to a specific niche.

Tools Every Proofreader Needs 

Computer programs can be beneficial to proofreaders with no experience. These tools will help you spot common writing errors, make suggestions to writers, and get used to the proofreading process.

  • Google Docs to collaborate with your client on a paper.
  • Microsoft Word to track changes and make comments.
  • Grammarly for advanced spelling, grammar, and style checking.
  • ProWritingAid for style-checking fictional works.
  • Hemingway app to improve your readability, sentence structure, and word choice.
  • A style guide to ensure you don’t miss any other errors.

How Much Do You Earn as a Proofreader?

According to ZipRecruiter, freelance proofreaders in the United States can earn an average of $22 per hour or $51, 391 per year. The famous Caitlyn Pyle from Proofread Anywhere made lower than the average salary while working part-time.

The Editorial Freelance Association states that proofreaders should charge between $0.02 to $0.029 per word. 

But if you work for an actual company or publishing house, you can earn more as a proofreader. Other individuals offer a mixture of proofreading and editing services to earn more. 

Are Proofreaders in Demand?

Online proofreaders are becoming more in demand now that the number of self-publishing authors is increasing. Writers no longer need publishing contracts to publish their books, so they hire freelance proofreaders at a more affordable price.

Many businesses are also trying to establish an online presence to make their company survive and thrive. They need proofreaders who ensure their blog posts, captions, and pubmats are error-free. 

Are Proofreading Courses Worth It? 

Proofreading courses are worth it, especially when you know how to pick the correct one. Many programs cost over $300 but will teach you more than the basics of proofreading. You’ll learn tips on building a resume as a proofreader and some online marketplaces for a job.

Start Your Proofreading Career Now

Proofreading might be a suitable job for you if you want to make more money at home. This occupation has been in demand recently due to the surge of independent authors and the rise of online businesses.

It’s possible to get a freelance proofreading career even if you don’t have any experience. You can meet the qualifications if you train yourself through online courses and tests, and get a certificate.