Best Proofreading Jobs (Work From Home, No Experience Required)

Do you enjoy reading and have an eye for detail? Do incorrect theirs, they’res, and theres really get under your skin? What about misplaced commas, like that one there – or was it they’re?

If that mess of a paragraph spoke to you, you’re in luck. Proofreading is a booming job opportunity online right now, and getting started is quick and easy.

What is a Proofreader?

Like your high school English teacher, a proofreader sits and carefully reads documents looking for errors. You probably won’t have the pleasure of using an authoritative red Sharpie. Most proofreading is done entirely online now.

The errors you’re looking for depend on the type of document. Certainly, nobody likes the odd typo or spelling mistake to slip through. Likewise, you’ll need to make sure that the punctuation and grammar are sound.

You might also be tasked with formatting the document. This might mean making sure all the paragraphs are uniformly spaced, that punctuation is used consistently, and that everything is set well on the page.

Some proofreaders may also be asked to review the document and ensure it meets the standards laid out by a style guide. Most articles and websites use the AP (Associated Press) style guide. But if you’re editing academic papers, you may be asked to use the MLA (Modern Language Association) or the APA (American Psychological Association) guides.

The number one thing you should know about working as a proofreader is that it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Some documents that cross your desk will need a lot of help. Some of them will be barely readable, and it’s your job to make them readable without changing the meaning.

In some instances, you might be the last step in the process before a document gets published. That means that you’re really doing the job of several people that a publisher would hire – you’re not only proofreading, but you’re also editing.

Proofreading takes time. It’s well and good to say you can read a novel in a few days, but to proofread it and do a good job will take you substantially longer. Many people are lazy readers who skim through boring bits and use context clues. Proofreaders can’t let themselves do that because they’ll invariably miss many errors.

Working as a Freelance Proofreader

Like many creative jobs online, working as a proofreader is a freeing job that allows you to set your hours and rates and pick which clients you want to work with. But you must earn all of this freedom – this isn’t just a job, you’re starting a business.

As a business, you’ll be in charge of all of your expenses, including taxes. You’ll have to go out and find your clients and make the sale – all before you have money coming in.

It’s a lot of work setting up any business, but proofreading is pretty easy compared to some. You don’t need a lot of experience or credentials to get started – just an eye for detail and the time to dedicate to get the business up and running.

Who are Your Clients?

Identifying who you want to work with is task number one. There are tons of writers and creators churning out written content right now, and most of them need your help.

The potential client list for a good proofreader is limitless. Anyone who wants their work and content to be error-free is a candidate. Proofreading is very hard for most people to do well, and every writer will tell you that it is hardest to do to their own work. Professional writers are willing to pay for your services because they value them.

Taking any job that comes your way probably isn’t the best policy. If you have a professional connection to a particular subject matter or have contacts inside one particular industry, these might make great leaping off points to pick your niche.

Here are a few types of materials that you might be interested in specializing in. Don’t feel limited by this list. These are just typical materials you may one day be asked to proofread.

  • Books and manuscripts being pitched to publishers or being author-published
  • Articles for print magazines
  • Articles for web publication
  • Resumes and job applications
  • Student papers and projects
  • Academic research papers and grant applications
  • Online courses and training programs
  • Website copy

How Much Do Proofreaders Earn?

Because it’s usually a freelance profession it’s hard to pinpoint what your earning potential is. It has much to do with your personal marketing and also your industry. The type of document you proofread matters too.

According to Salary.com, the median pay for a proofreader in the United States is $53,608. Most people are earning between $47,000 and $61,000 a year.

But your salary may be significantly less or more than these numbers. This is because these numbers are primarily based on employee compensation and not freelance business owners. As you start proofreading, you will have fewer clients and lower earnings. As you build your professional network, however, your earnings can increase rapidly.

How Can You Make More Money as a Proofreader

Knowing how to price your work is one of the trickiest things when you’re first starting. Most proofreaders charge per hour since this is tied to how complex the document is. If you price your proofreading services based on the number of words or the length of the project, you may find that there’s too much variability between the easy jobs and the challenging jobs.

Here are a few more tips to ensure you’re keeping your pay system fair and at your highest potential.

Work in a Niche

The key to having higher prices than your competitors is to specialize in a niche. As discussed earlier, perhaps this is the industry you work in. Or perhaps it’s the type of document you proofread – or both.

Whatever niche you decide upon, master it and become the go-to person in that area. Then, you can set the price as you see fit.

Extra Services

Many proofreaders bundle services to get more profit. It also ensures that they aren’t giving anything away for free. Perhaps you want to help your clients format their documents to send for printing or to a publisher. Or, if you work in academic circles, you may want to charge more for style guide proofreading.

Deadline Dynamic Pricing

When you buy a plane ticket, the price is set based on whether or not you purchased it on short notice. For example, a ticket for a flight that leaves tomorrow might be ten times the price of the same flight that departs two months from now.

The airline knows that if you’re in a rush, the ticket is more valuable to you. Proofreaders need to think in the same way.

You will often have clients who are working on a tight deadline. But depending on your existing work schedule, is it fair that they book your services and then demand rush service? Not without paying a premium. Most proofreaders at least double their rates for rush service.

Other Tips for Working as an Online Proofreader

Here are a few other things you’ll need to watch out for when working as a proofreader online.

Beware of Scams and Abusive Clients

Some clients try to game the system. It’s not uncommon for a client to come back requesting more edits. Once you’ve agreed and are looking at the document, you discover that they’re done a complete rewrite and added all sorts of new material.

Avoid this by addressing your re-edit policy upfront in your terms of service.

Don’t Let Clients Dictate Price

Your pricing is entirely up to you as a freelancer. Don’t accept clients who dictate the price unless there are other factors at play. For example, you might be working with a client at an introductory rate for the time being. Just make sure that they know this and that all parties agree on the final amount and terms of service.

Use All The Tools

There are many tools to help the proofreader. One of the most powerful is Grammarly, a digital proofreading tool. It does not replace a human proofreader. Its AI makes many mistakes, and many of the software’s suggestions are incorrect or awkwardly phrased.

Still, just like a spell checker in your word processing software, Grammarly plays an integral part in your workflow. It’s a second set of eyes that can significantly improve your accuracy.

You’ll also want to become a master at using style guides. You’ll want to know which one to use when and be at least familiar with the major players. It’s a good idea to have current editions of the guides on hand since online tools are often out of date. Furthermore, you’ll want to have them to look up seldom-used details when questions arise.

Best Site for Proofreading Jobs

These sites hire proofreaders to work as independent contractors. The process is more like applying for a job, and in most cases, you will be assigned work, or you can select it from an available pool of jobs. This is a great way to get started as a proofreader, but they don’t pay as much as finding freelance gigs.

Freelancer Job Boards and Services for Proofreaders

Finally, some sites allow you to post your services or bid for individual jobs. These sites may not require you to complete an interview or official application, but you will need to have references and a solid portfolio of work to be successful. You’ll spend a lot of time bidding for jobs and applying to potential clients if you go this route, but your earning potential is probably greater.

Final Thoughts

Proofreading isn’t a job that anyone can do. But if you have a knack for it, an eye for details, and above-average grammar skills, it’s an easy online business to get up and running. Plus, you can work remotely from anywhere in the world.