Of the many work-from-home opportunities created by the sudden expansion of the workplace brought about by the internet, there is none more suited, surely, than proofreading.
Five Reasons Why Proofreading is the Perfect Work-From-Home Opportunity:
1. Proofreading requires no infrastructure beyond a flat surface and good lighting.
2. Proofreading requires no dedicated technological or mechanical equipment. So long as you have a computer (and, these days, who doesn't?), you're set.
3. Proofreading requires no specialist qualifications, no matter what a whole host of expensive proofreading courses will tell you to the contrary. I've said it before but it bears repeating: there are no official proofreading qualifications.
4. Proofreading doesn't require membership of a professional organisation. Of course, there is the excellent Society for Editors and Proofreaders but membership does not amount to a requirement to practice. This is proofreading, not medicine.
5. Proofreading is not a time-specific activity. Unlike, say, working from home as a virtual receptionist, which would require you to work to 'office hours', proofreading from home can be structured to fit around your personal and family life.
This doesn't mean that working from home is without its challenges, many of which are common to all work-from-home opportunities. These challenges can be overcome, however, with the right preparation and awareness.
All of the following assumes, of course, that you have bought and absorbed The No-Nonsense Proofreading Course, you've followed the eBook's every nugget of excellent advice, have practiced your craft and now have your very own proofreading business. For all of which... you're welcome.
Creating the Perfect Workplace for the Home-Based Proofreader
When working from home as a proofreader, it is important that you do so from a space that is optimised for that purpose. There a four things that are critical to this endeavour:
1. A reasonably sized work surface, ideally a desk or table with enough space to accommodate:
i. a computer
ii. a printer (with scanning capabilities)
iii. a desk tidy for pens, pencils, highlighters etc
iv. a dictionary
v. a thesaurus
vi. a style guide (e.g. Chicago Rules)
vii. a telephone
viii. 2 x A4 space to spare for marking up proofs
2. Plenty of good light; preferably daylight. If not, invest in a daylight bulb.
3. Storage for organised filing. A filing cabinet, preferably, not a couple of shoe boxes or a re-purposed sock drawer.
4. No distractions.
Proofreading is nothing if not the application of rules and order to chaos. The correct mindset is vital. A messy, cramped and cluttered work space is not conducive to said mindset.
A good pair of eyes is the proofreader's single most important asset. Squinting at eight-point type in the Stygian gloom can only be deleterious to your optical health. It's tantamount to a concert pianist taking up bare-knuckle fighting as a stress-reliever.
It's easy to think of proofreading as a 'one touch process'. You get your proof, you read it, mark up the errors; job done. If only this were the case! Once you've read a proof and passed the corrections onto a typesetter or graphic designer, they will action your amends and return to you a 'clean' proof. Now you have to check the amended proof against your original. If there were a significant number of amends, the chances are some of them will not have been actioned or may have been actioned incorrectly. And so you have to mark-up the supposedly clean proof. As you can imagine, this process can become something of a loop. It is vital that you have a clearly defined audit trail. This is even more important if a mistake makes it through to print, in which case you may need to demonstrate that it was through no fault of yours.
A working environment free from distractions is vital for the work-from-home proofreader. There are plenty of work-from-home opportunities that can be carried out whilst listening to Led Zeppelin or watching all three episodes of The Matrix back-to-back. But this is proofreading. Stuffing envelopes, it isn't. A lapse in concentration can cost you dearly. The process detailed in The No-Nonsense Proofreading Course is just that, a process. It is intentionally painstaking and methodical. When you sign-off a proof, you want to be absolutely certain that you have given it 100% of your attention.
Try to make sure your desk is situated away from any distractions but without sacrificing that all-important natural light. The best position, I've always found, is facing a wall with a window directly to the side.
If you have a noisy neighbour, try ear plugs, but make sure your telephone is visible or on vibrate in your pocket so you know if a client is trying to get through to you. Alternatively, a little low-level background music can be enough to dampen down any aural distractions whilst not becoming a distraction in itself.
Structure and the Home-Based Proofreader
As I said earlier, one of the advantages of proofreading over other work-from-home career choices is the fact that it isn't time specific. You'll doubtless have to be contactable within normal office hours but you won't necessarily have to carry out your proofreading during the hours of nine to five.
This being said, it is very easy to allow this work-when-you-want advantage to become a problem. Absolute flexibility can very quickly transmogrify into abject chaos. Like the unkempt, cluttered desk, this is not good for the proofreader's mindset.
For this reason, it is important to try to:
1. Work the same (or similar) hours each day
2. Once defined, these working hours should be used for work and work alone. No solitaire.
3. Work in your work space. Don't hop from cafe to cafe; you're not a poet (at least, not whilst you're proofreading).
4. Split the working day into proofreading and administration and stick to the ratio you decide upon. There's more on administration next.
There's More to Being a Work-From-Home Proofreader than Proofreading
The dreaded 'A' word. Administration. How many work-from-home entrepreneurs have witnessed their hard-won commercial victories suffocate and perish beneath an avalanche of paperwork? Countless, I shouldn't wonder. And it's no different for work-from-home proofreaders. After all, you didn't make the plunge into freelance proofreading in order to get tied up in invoices, work orders and tax returns.
Don't worry. Tackle these things a little at a time. That's why, in the previous section, I advised setting a portion of each working day aside for admin.
The most important administration tasks for a proofreader are:
1. Scheduling. You have to make sure you're delivering projects on time. So setting a little time aside each day to check what needs to be delivered when and what's in the pipeline is vital.
2. Invoicing. You won't get paid unless you send that invoice, and clients really don't like to receive three months' worth of invoices in one go, as it can seriously mess with their monthly targets.
3. Book keeping. Make sure you keep track of your income and expenditure. If you do this regularly, you won't find yourself desperately hunting for receipts with only one day to go before your income tax submission is required. Plus regularly updated books will keep you out of trouble should you receive that dreaded audit notice.
4. Online housekeeping. Make sure your website, social media profiles and directory entries are all up to date. This is one of the ways people will find you and vet you.
5. Networking. Contact a couple of lapsed and potential clients each day. Don't become a pain, but don't let them forget about you, either.
All this administration activity could be done at the beginning of the day, around lunchtime or as you're approaching the end of the day. It's up to you. It's probably best to identify when your optimal time for proofreading is (when you're most alert and productive) and build it around that.
Whatever you opt to do, don't let it slide.
Proofreading from Home can be a Lonely Business
In fact, any home-based business venture can be a lonely business. It sounds great to begin with. No boss, no raucous open-plan office, no office politics, no more holding your breath when you walk past that guy with the dubious personal hygiene. Fantastic.
And then the solitude kicks-in. Next stop, cabin fever.
You'll be surprised at just how quickly the euphoria of self-sufficiency can deteriorate into the panic of isolation. Not for everybody, of course; some people thrive in seclusion. Most, however, struggle with it at some stage. There are, thankfully, a number of things you can do to combat this.
1. Attend networking events. This not only gets you out of the house, it is also an excellent opportunity to find new business and forge commercial alliances. Also, there's often a buffet.
2. Join your local Chamber of Commerce. See above. Plus, it's usually a great place to receive sound business advice.
3. Work in-house. This isn't always an option but, in many cases, clients will be more than happy for you to work as part of their team for the duration of the project or contract. This is advantageous for the client because communication is more immediate and your proofreading activities can be more readily integrated into their processes and workflow.
4. Do lunch. Try to arrange to see friends and family for lunch. It might only be for 30 minutes a couple of times a week but 'touching base' like this can be more than enough to fend off the occasional bout of 'the Jack Torrances'.
5. Skype and Face Time. If you can't physically get out or distances are a mitigating factor, there's plenty of technology out there to enable you to look another human being in the eye. Make the most of what Apple and Android have to offer.
6. Create a Google+ account and find some proofreaders to connect with. The great thing about the World Wide Web is that these people don't have to be your immediate, local competition, so you can learn from them and share your experiences without jostling for contracts. Try initiating a Google Hangout every once in a while at an opportune time.
Proofreading from Home, as with all things, is a Question of Balance
Once your work-from-home enterprise begins to build momentum, you'll discover that it's very easy to allow work to take over entirely. It is vitally important to your health, happiness and the happiness of those around you to maintain a sensible work/life balance.
If you're not that strict with your work hours it is only too easy to start early, finish late and even pop into the office during any spare time you have. When you don't have the restrictions placed upon you by a 'proper job' it is a very simple thing to let your job take over completely.
Recent developments in technology, whilst beneficial in many respects, have dramatically increased the risk of tipping the work/life balance strongly in favour of work. It's only too easy to pick up that smart phone and start updating your social media accounts, answering emails, checking voicemail messages, adding content to your website. This can rapidly get out of hand, to the point when you won't even realise you're doing it. If you have a family or you're in a relationship, this can become a huge bone of contention, with partners and children feeling undervalued and taken for granted.
It's important that you nip this in the bud at the earliest opportunity. Once you've decided what your working hours are, stick to them as closely as humanly possible. Your non-working hours are now just as clearly delineated: they're the bits of the day that are not specifically set aside for work. And, just as with your working hours, your non-working hours should be adhered to with something approaching a religious conviction.
Here are 8 steps you should take in order to preserve your work/life balance.
1. Once you clock-off, the computer goes off and stays off.
2. If possible have a separate phone for work and pleasure (no work apps on the non-work phone)
3. Keep a separate email address for business and personal correspondence.
4. Plan fun activities for you and your loved ones for your leisure time.
5. Keep on top of household chores (just as with your business admin, don't let them build into an unmanageable mess). This can become another enormous bone of contention with partners.
6. Don't talk about work too much; a brief summary of your day is sufficient.
7. Don't forget to ask your partner how their day went.
8. Ask yourself on a regular basis, Am I maintaining a healthy work/life balance?
Dealing with Unwanted Intrusion as a Work-From-Home Proofreader.
Trying to convince your friends and family that you really are working even though you're at home could well be the toughest hurdle any proofreader (or indeed homeworker) will face. They wouldn't dream of dropping in to your office if you worked for a company, yet they'll happily drop in with no notice when you're at home. And once they get there, you're going to need a stick of dynamite to shift them.
Obviously, this can be a tricky one, depending on how easily slighted your friends and family are. If you're lucky, you can just tell them from the outset what your working hours are and request that they don't drop by during that time.
This didn't work for me, but maybe it'll work for you. Who knows?
What I had to do was park my car a couple of streets away and set-up my office at the back of the house, creating the impression that I was out whenever anyone came round in search of tea and chat. A little extreme, I know, but it worked. And no family rifts were created in the process!
Staying Motivated as a Work-From-Home Proofreader
The great thing about being your own boss is you don't have some passive-aggressive pencil neck on your case all the time. The disadvantage is you don't have anybody on your case anymore. It's all down to you.
Staying motivated can be a significant challenge.
Here are 5 things you can do to stay motivated.
1. Dress for work. One of the great temptations when proofreading from home is to work in your pyjamas. However, it is always better to get up and get dressed just as you would if you were going to a 'proper' office.
2. Remember why you chose to be a freelance proofreader. Remember what it was like working for ole Pencil Neck. Remember that sense of being buffeted about by the whims of others. Remember the office politics. Remind yourself how lucky you are.
3. Allow yourself mini-breaks every 30 minutes. These should be just a couple of minutes or so at a time. Stand up, walk around and have a stretch. Settle your eyes on something further away as well, to give them a break too. Remember your eyes are your most important asset.
4. Get out at least once a day. Getting a little exercise each day isn't just important to your physical heath, it's important to your general sense of wellbeing. Before or after lunch, take a stroll. It only has to be for ten or fifteen minutes. You'll be surprised just how much of a boost this can give you. Even stepping out to make sure your car's okay in the next street will help!
5. Set weekly goals. This could be a target amount to invoice, contracts gained, contacts made or even the number of words read. There is very little in life more motivating than witnessing your business grow.
Summary: Working from Home as a Proofreader
1. Make sure you create a productive working environment with plenty of space and light. Somewhere that 'feels like a workplace'.
2. Structure your day and stick to that structure going forward. Don't forget your admin.
3. Don't become isolated. Get out, meet people, network.
4. Retain a healthy work/life balance. Don't let your work bleed over into your leisure and family time.
5. Make sure everyone knows that when you're working you're working. If this doesn't work, hide.
6. Stay motivated. Dress for work, set goals and always keep in mind why you chose to work from home as a proofreader.
The No-Nonsense Proofreading Course is still only £29.99!
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What's more, if after read the eBook, you feel it has not set you on the path to becoming a professional proofreader, you have a full 30 days to request a full, no-quibble refund.
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Emma Steel, Proofreader and International Structural Editor.
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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.
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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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