Unlike many careers, proofreading doesn’t follow the education-qualification-employment route. As much as many course providers will tell you that you need to attend a structured course, complete assignments, take examinations and gain an official proofreading qualification, this simply isn’t the case.
In short, you become a proofreader by proofreading. Potential employers or clients are going to be more interested in your track record than they are in a piece of paper from the Proofreading Academy of Greater Manchester (no matter how fine the calligraphy on the certificate).
But how do you get a track record in the first place? Easy, you offer your services for free. If you have any friends or relatives with their own business, offer to proofread the copy on their website or any promotional literature they are producing. Now, create an account on LinkedIn and request recommendations from your ‘clients’. You now have an official business presence complete with testimonials. These testimonials are the true credentials you’ll need to get your foot in the door with a potential employer or client. You don’t need to give away too much for free; just a few hours work should be enough to build up a reasonable portfolio.
And I’m just scratching the surface, here. The No-Nonsense Proofreading Course contains lots more advice on how to wow potential employers.
Welcome back to Proofreading 101.
Okay, so we know what a proofreader is and what a proofreader does but before we can address the subject of how to become a proofreader (our next post), you probably want to know whether or not it’s worthwhile becoming a proofreader, at all. In other words, you’re asking yourself one of the following questions or a variation thereon:
How much do proofreaders charge?
How much do proofreaders earn?
Is it possible to earn a living as a proofreader?
Hopefully, the piece of information below from the Society for Editors and Proofreaders will help.
Recommended minimum charges per hour for freelance proofreaders:
Proofreading £20.25 ($32.85)*
Copy-editing £21.80 ($35.37)
On-screen copy-editing £23.65 ($38.37)
Substantial editing, rewriting, development editing £27.30 ($44.29)
Project management £29.40 ($47.70)
*All US Dollar amounts are based on the exchange rate on 11th June 2011.
I think that answers your question. Obviously, you can expect to earn less for full-time, permanent positions. This is one of the reasons The No-Nonsense Proofreading Course encourages its readers to pursue the freelance route. The other reason is that, in my experience, the freelance route is one of the best paths to permanent employment. When I was an Operations Manager working in the Publishing Department of one of the UK’s largest mail order and online retailers, every proofreader I interviewed and employed started off as a freelancer.
But we’re starting to get into the area of how to become a proofreader, and that’s the subject of our next Proofreading 101 blog post.
Until next time...
Welcome to the first of my Proofreading 101 blog posts.
So, what exactly does a proofreader do? What precisely is proofreading?
In the age of spell checkers and grammar-checking software, do we still need to proofread in the traditional sense? Surely proofreading has gone the way of hot-metal typesetting, book-binding and such. It’s unnecessary, obsolete. It’s (shudder) quaint.
Well, if it was a proofreader’s job simply to identify and correct literal spelling errors and obvious grammatical gaffes, then yes, proofreading would no longer be an activity in itself and there would be no need for proofreaders as a professional group.
However, proofreaders (the really good ones) don’t just seek out spelling and grammatical inaccuracies. The proofreader’s red pen homes-in on inconsistencies, departures from common sense, inappropriate phrasing (e.g. something very informal in an otherwise business-like document), misleading statements, imprecise use of language, typographical discrepancies, incorrectly captioned images, erroneous telephone numbers, email addresses and URLs.
When I worked at Shop Direct, proofreaders checking our mail order catalogues would frequently spot products that were accompanied by the wrong price. Had such errors gone to press, the profit margin of said products would have been significantly reduced.
A really great proofreader takes ownership of a document; they ensure that when it hits the press (or is published online) it is absolutely faultless.
As for those little spelling errors. Even really exceptional proofreading software, like Whitesmoke or Ginger, struggles when words are spelled correctly but used incorrectly. For example, spell-checking software would find nothing wrong with, ‘The tedious bucket quashed the gangly camcorder,’ even though it makes no sense whatsoever.
In short, there really is no substitute for a good pair of eyes and the relentless focus of the proofreader.
Maybe one day, there will be a piece of software whose algorithm is so complex and adaptable that we will no longer need proofreaders. But until then...
Over the last year or so, I’ve made the mistake that many people blogging about their own field make. I’ve blogged in a linear fashion, assuming the same readership and forgetting that not everyone is necessarily on the same page, so to speak. I’m guilty of leaving newer subscribers to dig about in the cobwebby Archive for the information they’re seeking. The Archive is not a nice place. It’s cold, damp and smells of old umbrellas. Plus, I’m pretty sure there’s something living down there, something with red ink on its fingertips, something that incessantly mutters about split infinitives and dangling modifiers.
So, over the next few posts, I’m going to go back to basics and address some of the fundamentals of proofreading:
Why is proofreading important?
What is a proofreader?
What are proofreader’s symbols (aka proofreader’s marks) and why do we use them?
How much do proofreaders get paid?
How do I become a proofreader?
That kind of thing.
Those of you who’ve been following me for some time may want to skip over these posts, but I’d recommend that you don’t. Why? Because sometimes it’s good to remind ourselves of the fundamentals. It’s very easy to suffer mission creep in any area of work, and it’s even easier to pick up a bad habit or two. A little bit of back-to-basics might do you a world of good. It's certainly been helpful for me.
Welcome to Proofreading 101.
“I am one of those many fools who paid a huge amount of money for a useless course. This book... has opened so many doors for me. I now look on Mike as my mentor as I embark on a career. Thank you Mike.”
Emma Steel, Proofreader and International Structural Editor.
“ I thoroughly enjoyed the course and am so glad that I decided to take it... the whole experience was invaluable. My proofreading service is now well established and your course played no small part in getting it off the ground.”
Hache L. Jones, Proofreader.
“I'd just like to thank you first of all for writing such a great, straight forward eBook, and then going above and beyond what I would even expect as a customer by providing us, completely free of charge, updated versions months later!”
Rachel Gee, Trainee Proofreader.
“What can I say? Worth every penny and then some! God Bless! This a fabulous course.”
Teresa Richardson, Proofreader.
“As someone who has effectively been proofreading for thirty years, I found Mike’s No-Nonsense Proofreading Course an invaluable introduction and a very useful practical guide to many aspects of this discipline. I can wholeheartedly recommend it as the ideal starting point, and much more besides.”
Jeremy Meehan, Proofreader.
My name's Mike Sellars and I'm an experienced proofreader and the author of The No-Nonsense Proofreading Course. Click here to find out more about me.
The No-Nonsense Proofreading Course
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“As someone who has been proofreading for 30 years, I found Mike’s course an invaluable introduction and a very useful practical guide to many aspects of the discipline. I can wholeheartedly recommend it.” Jeremy Meehan, Proofreader.
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