Tips about how to land your next freelance proofreading job
What is freelance proofreading?
A proofreader is someone who examines a manuscript for errors in spelling, grammar, and sentence structure after an editor has gone over the work for tone and style. The proofreader corrects basic errors so the work can be typeset, and he or she may review it again after it has been typeset to confirm that it is error-free.
Freelance proofreading is a form of proofreading in which you work independently, taking in work from a wide variety of clients. You are not employed by a specific publisher or company but are self-employed and offer your services to several businesses on a temporary basis.
Many proofreaders choose to do freelance proofreading because they enjoy its flexibility. You can set your own work hours; you may like to work at night, for example, while others may prefer to work early in the day. Without having to report to an office or an employer, you can work on freelance proofreading while minding children or running another business. You can accept proofreading jobs directly from authors or take contract work from publishing houses or printers. Freelance proofreaders can negotiate prices directly with their clients. Freelance proofreading also allows you to decide how much or how little work you want to do and to decide which clients you want to work with. There is no formal contract of employment involved in freelance proofreading; therefore, there is no obligation on the part of an employer to provide work or on the part of the freelance proofreader to accept work.
Freelance proofreading obviously lacks the security of formal employment, including health benefits, company pensions, and paid holidays; however, many freelancers are willing to accept these disadvantages in exchange for the opportunity to work from home and avoid a daily commute. Plus, freelance proofreading is a skill that is always in demand!
To be successful at freelance proofreading, you should:
- be appropriately trained for the clients you are targeting,
- be able to network effectively,
- be disciplined,
- work well independently, and be happy doing so,
- have strong relationship-building skills,
- be able to effectively balance your work and personal lives,
- market your business, and
- continually update your skill set.
How can I find opportunities in freelance proofreading?
Several methods are suggested for finding work in the freelance proofreading industry:
- Use personal contacts. If you have already had an in-house proofreading job, tell everyone—at your old company and elsewhere—that you are going freelance, giving them all your contact details and a good idea of what you can offer.
- Network. Search for networking opportunities by attending local groups, forums, professional meetings, and annual conferences. You might also wish to join your local chamber of commerce or other business forums. Join LinkedIn. Set up a Facebook business page. Contact publishers.
- Use directories. Various online directories list people offering freelance editing. Be cautious when using these, however; their success rates are erratic, and they might be ploys by spammers to elicit e-mail addresses.
- Advertise. Making up business cards and creating your own web site are effective ways to promote yourself. Advertising in the Yellow Pages is free, although this might make you the target of marketing campaigns. You can send leaflets to local businesses or get together with freelance workers in related fields, such as designers, typesetters, or translators, and offer one-stop shopping. Professional proofreading societies are sometimes willing to advertise your skills and availability to members or other associations.
- Obtain an industry-recognized qualification in proofreading. There are numerous proofreading courses offered. Make sure you choose the right one for you.
- Join relevant professional organizations. This is an avenue for networking that will also help you grow your skillset, learn about new opportunities, and increase your professional credibility. Consider joining the Editorial Freelancers Association, the Society for Editors and Proofreaders, or a professional group within your field of specialization.
What freelance proofreading opportunities are available?
There are literally thousands of publishers all over the world. There are also thousands of specialized journals that are published monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly. All these publishers require copy editors and proofreaders. Publishers make use of freelance proofreading for at least two reasons: (1) the flow of work through a publishing house can be erratic, so it makes sense to employ labor only when needed; and (2) some books and journals, especially if highly technical, require the experience of a specialist in a particular subject. Such expert knowledge is not always available in-house, so a freelance specialist is contracted.
In addition to publishing companies, there are a number of other possible places to advertise your freelance proofreading skills, such as businesses, students, bloggers, web site developers, and school or organizational newsletters. Use your imagination; the possibilities are endless!
Still, it is not always easy to find freelance proofreading work. Even though a great deal of work is to be had, there are many people chasing it. The good news is that publishers always need new freelance proofreaders for a variety of reasons: retirement, illness, maternity leaves, holiday relief, or even a sudden excess of work. As with any other job, you just have to be able to convince a prospective client that you are the most qualified person for the job.
One of life’s greatest privileges is to work at what you love. With a little training and dedication, you too could be working at your dream job from home, perhaps wearing your fuzzy bunny slippers. Best of luck with your quest!