How To Become a Freelance Proofreader (10 Tips)

By: Rafal Reyzer
Updated: Oct 4th, 2023

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Ever pictured yourself as a freelance proofreader?

It’s a golden ticket to the work-from-home club. Imagine globetrotting while securing clients from diverse sectors, and earning a full-time wage on part-time hours. Tempting, right? With a staggering 1.5 billion websites online, many are willing to pay for your eagle eyes. Add to that the multitude of magazines, news platforms, and authors craving pristine content. Ready to jump in? I’ve thrived in the freelance proofreading and editing realm for years. Join me as I unveil the roadmap to kickstarting your journey—even if you’re starting from scratch. Perfect it, and a $30+ hourly rate awaits for work that’s more meticulous than mentally draining. The key? Sharp attention to detail.

10 Steps To Becoming A Freelance Proofreader:

1. What exactly is the job of a freelance proofreader?

The main job of a proofreader is to make sure that any content that comes your way is 100% error-free. You get a Word or Google Docs document; you fix it, and you send it back. Your job starts after the content has already gone through an editorial revision. So you don’t deal with sentences and vocabulary (this is the job of an editor – more on that below). Your task as a proofreader is to make sure there aren’t any typographical, spelling, grammatical, syntax, punctuation, and formatting errors. Have you spotted that botched spelling? The alarm bells should have gone off in your brain!

Common errors you would fix as a proofreader:

  • missing commas
  • misspelled words
  • extra spaces between words
  • inaccurate facts (dates, names, pages, values)
  • double-checking links in online documents
  • checking for consistency in terms of terminology and word usage
  • changing “their” to “they’re” (dealing with other such errors)
  • Make sure that photos and illustrations are correctly captioned and conform to set specifications
  • fixing basic grammar errors
  • Make sure that page numbers are in the right order
  • being in touch with writers and editors to determine the composition of the text
  • including hyphens between compound adjectives
  • dealing with undercapitalized words (that should be capitalized)
  • missing symbols in words (Café vs. Cafe)
  • Make sure the chapter headings match the contents table
  • text formatting

As a freelance proofreader, much of your job will be to keep your clients happy.

This includes keeping the deadlines, communicating swiftly, suggesting improvements in the editorial process, and being available to take on new tasks. Your contact is likely to be an editor of the company you’re working with. That’s it for starters. Now let’s quickly shed some light on the difference between a proofreader and an editor.

2. Proofreader vs. Editor

This is an important distinction to understand, so let’s clear up any confusion right now. The job of an editor is to help structure the content, make it easy to understand, and develop a cohesive style within a document. The job of a proofreader comes right after the editing phase. It’s the last phase that the document goes through before being sent out for publishing. As you can see, as a proofreader, you’re the last line of defense against sloppy writing. Make sure that all the i’s are dotted, and all the t’s are crossed. Now that you get what the job of a proofreader entails, let’s look at some advantages and disadvantages of signing up for the gig.

3. The pros and cons of being a freelance proofreader


  • Working as an independent contractor (you pick who you work with, and on which projects).
  • Having time flexibility (you don’t need to ask anyone if you want to take a luxurious bath in the middle of the day).
  • Being able to charge per project (instead of working on an hourly wage). Yes, you still exchange time for money, but being paid per job usually means you can earn more.
  • You can work from any place around the world as long as you have a laptop and an Internet connection.
  • Low startup costs and tiny cost of operation. There is no storefront needed, but you’ll still be able to deduct the expenses for your home office from your income tax.
  • You can work with a variety of clients in different industries (more on that later).


  • Your job can become quite monotonous after some time.
  • You will put a lot of strain on your eyes while looking for errors (that’s why it’s crucial to take regular breaks).
  • Your clients are likely to hunt you down even while you’re on holiday. If you’re not willing to complete this new gig that just came in, someone else will).
  • Sometimes the deadlines can be tight, and you might need to complete your assignments within less than 24 hours.
  • There’s a lot of competition in the proofreading business, so you need to hone your marketing skills as well.

With that being said, being a proofreader is a great opportunity no matter where you live. You might be based in the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, or any other place around the world where they speak English. I hope I convinced you to at least try it. Now let’s look at the fun part – the money!

4. How much can you earn as a freelance proofreader

There’s a lot of data on the subject, so there’s no mystery here. As a freelance proofreader, you can make between $25 and $45 per hour.

There are a couple of crucial factors that will affect your earning potential:

  • The time you’re willing to put in.
  • Your level of productivity.
  • The number and quality of clients you are working with.
  • Your level of experience in the field (and any degrees and certificates you may have).
  • The niche you specialize in.
  • Having a constant flow of proofreading jobs, or doing one-off gigs. Always aim for a steady stream of tasks to maximize your income.

As a novice, you might start earning between $15-$25 per hour. However, positioning yourself correctly in your first year can let you earn a full-time income. With a few years of experience, you can command $26-$35 per hour, while seasoned professionals can fetch up to $45 hourly. You could also charge per word, boosting earnings for efficient proofreaders. A common rate is $0.02 per word, translating to $20 for a 1000-word document. With efficient proofreading tools, handling multiple documents can push earnings above $40 hourly. ZipRecruiter mentions the average U.S. freelance proofreader salary is $51,417 yearly, stretching from $23,000 to $90,000 for top earners. PayScale echoes this, stating a median U.S. salary of around $49,352. Hourly, this averages at about $25. In the UK, the National Union of Journalists suggests a minimum of £21 per hour. Figures from Australia and New Zealand are comparable.

5. The types of documents and jobs you can get as a proofreader:

  • blog articles
  • essays
  • interviews
  • novels
  • academic papers
  • e-books
  • textbooks
  • children’s books
  • webpages
  • newspapers
  • magazines
  • transcripts
  • podcasts transcriptions
  • resumes
  • press releases
  • marketing materials
  • advertisements
  • legal documents
  • medical documents
  • business presentation slides
  • email newsletters

Since most of the publishing world has moved online, your go-to forms of content are most likely to be web pages, blog posts, and e-books. But it depends on which area you want to specialize in. For instance, if you proofread legal documents, medical research articles, or scientific and academic papers, you’re likely to earn more.

6. The main job requirements and crucial proofreading skills

If you scan through dozens of job postings online, you will start seeing patterns.

When it comes to proofreader job requirements, these are the ones that pop up most frequently:

  • A bachelor’s degree in journalism, mass communications, public relations, creative writing, or the English language.
  • Writing and editing skills. This means you have to write a lot and read a lot. The constant proximity to the written word is always an asset. Most companies require around two years of experience working with language.
  • High attention to detail. This is an essential quality you need to develop. You need to be eagle-eyed on your quest to spot even the tiniest mistakes.
  • Computer skills (Microsoft Word, Google Docs, simple project management tools, grammar editor tools, printers, web publishing savvy).
  • The basic knowledge of proofreading marks and symbols.

You should also possess the following qualities:

  • Being able to deal with multiple projects at the same time.
  • Familiarity with the most popular style manuals (e.g., AP Stylebook, Chicago Manual of Style).
  • Being interested in the publishing industry.
  • Being a fast and responsive communicator.
  • The ability to work under pressure.
  • Being a fast reader. The faster you read, the more you can earn per hour.

Do you need a degree to get started? No, you don’t. It’s always great if you have one, but it’s not mandatory (unless specifically pointed out in the job description). If you know how to use the right tools and have experience in the field, your potential clients won’t ask for any certificates or degrees.

7. How to find your first clients as a freelance proofreader

If you’re a complete newbie, you already have an advantage – beginner’s luck. But to break into the field, you’ll also need persistence and determination.

To boost your chances of signing up paying clients, you will need a few things:

  • You can start by doing a couple of gigs for free (for your friends, relatives, or website owners you know). This will allow you to build a portfolio you can show to your prospective clients. This is super crucial because no one wants to hire a complete newbie.
  • You can try to land an editorial job at a smaller publication or website. By doing this, you will get your feet wet and gain the essential confidence that will come in handy when you approach new clients.
  • You also need to have a decent resume and cover letter. For obvious reasons, be 100% sure that it’s pristine in terms of grammar, vocabulary, and spelling errors. Here’s a link to a sample resume of a freelance proofreader, and here’s a link to an example cover letter.

Do you have these essential resources in place? All right now, let’s get you your first paying client.

The exact process you can use to find clients as a freelance proofreader:

  • A) Go to one of the popular freelance job boards and employment platforms like Indeed, Glassdoor, FlexJobs, UpWork,, and LinkedIn. There are many more – just Google it!
  • B) Apply the right filters in your job search (“part-time,” “freelance,” “remote,” “flexible,” + “proofreader”). This will show you only the opportunities you will be interested in.
  • C) Click through to the specific job offers to find out more about the conditions and requirements.
  • D) Apply to the jobs of your choice through the contact form or email attached to the job offer.

Like most things business, this is a numbers game, so set a quota of applications you will send and stick to it.

Also, make sure that you put the opportunities into an Excel or Google Docs spreadsheet (along with the date, name, comments, and contact info). This will enable you to keep track of your marketing efforts. Stay persistent, do it enough times, always use a personalized approach, and I guarantee you’ll find your first client within a week. An alternative way to get new clients: Instead of getting freelance gigs through job boards, you might try cold-pitching potential clients. Create an Excel database of blogs, websites, and publications in your niche and reach out to them, asking if they need a proofreader. You would be surprised by the number of great contacts you can make with this process.

8. Best places to get training to become a freelance proofreader

The best place to start is to take a couple of online proofreading tests. They will enable you to hone your skills and see where you need to improve. These tests will also give you a downloadable score, and you can take them multiple times. If you can achieve high scores, this is an excellent selling point when negotiating with prospective clients.

Here are the most popular online proofreading tests you should try:

  • UK English Proofreading Skills Test (Oxford Guide to Style) by Upwork
  • Proofreading Challenge by Thomson Reuters
  • Proofreading Chicago Style Test by ExpertRating
  • Proofreading Test by SFEP

You may also want to check local colleges for courses in English, English, journalism, and literature. These courses might be invaluable, and they’ll help you progress far faster.

Best free online tutorials for freelance proofreaders:

You should also read the following books on proofreading:

  • McGraw-Hill’s Proofreading Handbook
  • Copyediting and proofreading for Dummies
  • The Pocket Book of Proofreading: A guide to freelance proofreading & copyediting
  • The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation: An Easy-to-Use Guide with Clear Rules, Real-World Examples, and Reproducible Quizzes

You can get these books by signing up for a free trial with Kindle Unlimited. You can absorb the knowledge they contain within two or three weekends. This will give you much higher levels of self-confidence to do your job.

9. The resources and skills you’ll need for proofreading:

  • To get started with proofreading, you need a decent computer and a fast internet connection.
  • An ergonomic workstation would also be nice since you’ll be spending a lot of time clicking and typing on your keyboard.
  • That’s why, if you want to avoid excessive strain on your back, neck, and wrists, invest in a decent office chair, or table, as well as a vertical mouse that will let you work faster.
  • You can also invest in a USB microphone and a webcam so that you can communicate with your potential clients efficiently.
  • Finally, you may get a printer with fax, because some ancient clients may ask you to proofread text on paper and then send it back to them. But that’s rare these days.

Other than that, just bring your brains and self-discipline, and you’re ready to go.

Extra resources you might find helpful:

Skills you’ll need to develop to be a competent proofreader:

If you love books, literature, and beautiful font that makes you swoon, you’re already halfway there. But besides this innate passion for language, you also need close attention to detail. You need to be like a falcon, continually scanning the environment in search of prey. In your case, the victim consists of typos, extra spaces, uncapitalized words, missing punctuation marks, etc. Most word processors already come with a spellchecker. That’s why the copy you receive will already be 95% correct. But it’s this remaining 5% that you’re after. I developed such a sixth sense that now I can find a small typo in almost every book I read. Your job is to do the same – be relentless in pursuit of incorrect formatting, and missing commas. Finally, learn how to read faster. This will help you a lot in the long term. You also need to use the right tools.

10. Tools and software that will make proofreading faster and easier (so you can earn more)

Microsoft Word

MS Word is the tool of choice for the vast majority of proofreaders. “Track Changes” and “Insert Comments” features are especially valuable here because they allow you to communicate with clients. Some organizations will even set up an Office 365 environment for you. This will enable you to use OneDrive, a cloud storage service where you can proofread content so that the document is updated in real time. No need for tedious back-and-forth through email.

Google Docs

Google Docs is a perfect collaborative tool usually used by smaller organizations. It also has user-friendly “track changes,” “comments,” and “revision history” functions. You can share the same document among a group of collaborators and save changes in real-time. You can also create shared folders on Google Drive, which further improves collaboration.

Grammarly Pro

This is a must-have if you’re serious about becoming a freelance proofreader. Grammarly will flag 90% of grammar and punctuation mistakes in any lengthy document. This is useful for getting rid of the basic mistakes, so then you can start a more detailed analysis of the text. You can get a free Grammarly version, but the premium version which I use is $11.66 per month with an annual subscription. If you’re interested in this tool, you can read my full review of it here.

Hemingway Editor

This is a fantastic tool I use every day to publish my content. It automatically highlights sentences that are too long and eliminates needless words.

Dictionary / Thesaurus

An excellent dictionary is the proofreader’s best friend. If you’re old-school, you can use a manual one, but I recommend using a free, blazing-fast online alternative. My tool of choice is the “OneLook” dictionary, which I have in the toolbar of my browser. It will give you instant definitions, etymology, and thesaurus. It truly is an English language nerd’s favorite.

Skype or Slack

Some clients will want to get in touch with you in real time. They may ask about the latest project you’re working on, or hunt you down if you miss a deadline. That’s where online chat tools come in. The most popular one is Skype, that’s also great for video calls. The second one is Slack, which is used if you’re a part of a larger organization (for example, an editorial or proofreading team).

Are you ready to become a freelance proofreader?

Starting a new endeavor in any field is always scary, but also exciting. I hope that by reading this article, you’ve gained enough valuable information so that you’re ready to take the first step. Remember, you can always start on a part-time basis and see if proofreading is a viable career choice for you. Most remote work superstars start by working only a few hours per week while already earning a few hundred dollars per month. Then, once you get your feet wet and master the job, you can take on new clients and strive towards a full-time income. Next up, you may want to explore a guide on how to become a freelance editor.

Rafal Reyzer

Rafal Reyzer

Hey there, welcome to my blog! I'm a full-time entrepreneur building two companies, a digital marketer, and a content creator with 10+ years of experience. I started to provide you with great tools and strategies you can use to become a proficient digital marketer and achieve freedom through online creativity. My site is a one-stop shop for digital marketers, and content enthusiasts who want to be independent, earn more money, and create beautiful things. Explore my journey here, and don't miss out on my AI Marketing Mastery online course.