If you never misplace an apostrophe, know the difference between “who” and “whom,” and have an opinion on the Oxford comma, proofreading may well be the field for you. The guide below will take you step-by-step through everything you’ll need to do to launch a profitable proofreading business.
1. Ensure your proofreading skills are up-to-date
You don’t need a tertiary education to become a proofreader. However, it is essential that you have a strong grasp of the English language and its grammar, spelling, and punctuation rules.
If it’s been a while since you studied or worked in a related field, you may wish to consider taking a course on Udemy or at a local college.
2. Know your style guides
Different industries adhere to different style guides for their publications. So, if you end up proofreading articles for a psychologist’s website, you may need to operate from a different guide to the one you use for a philosophy journal. For this reason, it’s important that you confirm with new clients which guide they prefer.
Some commonly used style guides include:
- The AMA Manual of Style
- APA Style
- The Business Style Handbook
- The Cambridge Guide to English Usage
- The Chicago Manual of Style
3. Create a business plan
If you’re looking at the words “business plan” with dread, don’t worry! Since you’re only starting a simple service business as a sole trader, you can cover it all in just a couple of pages. A more complex plan will be needed if you decide to expand down the track, but by then you’ll be far more experienced, so it won’t be overwhelming.
For now, here’s a simple structure for you to follow. If you do some research and answer all the questions thoroughly, you’ll have a basic business plan in order.
- What services are you offering?
- How will you structure your business (e.g. sole trader or LLC)?
- What will you name your business? Just using your name is fine, but if you plan on expanding in the future, you may wish to come up with a professional business name.
- What niche (or niches) will you target?
- What’s your unique selling point? How are you addressing people’s needs and why would they choose you over the competition?
- How will your business operate (online only, home-based, virtual office)?
- How do you see this business developing in 1, 5, and 10 years?
- What are your plans for growing the business (adding other services, hiring freelancers)?
- What fees will you charge and how will you charge them (e.g. hourly rate, per page rate, per word)?
- What are the best strategies for marketing a proofreading business?
- Will you offer deals or discounts for new customers?
- What marketing materials will you need?
- Will you establish a referral system to attract new clients?
Objectives and obstacles
These will be unique to you, but here are some examples to get you started:
- By what date would you like to be earning x amount of money?
- How many clients would you like to aim for in your first 6 months?
- By what date would you like to have your website complete?
- What obstacles may get in your way?
- How can you address these challenges?
Actions to take
Here, you need to list every task that will get you closer to your objectives along with a date for completion. Once again, these will be unique to you, but they may include:
- Finish proofreading course by *date*
- Have social media pages active by *date*
- Launch business website by *date*
- Create a referral program by *date*
4. Put your plan in action
How this part of the process plays out will depend entirely on your business plan. However, it will involve:
- Registering for tax (a process that differs depending on the region you’re registering in)
- Setting up your business bank accounts (for record-keeping purposes, it’s better to keep your business and personal accounts separate)
- Getting set up with accounting software and/or an accountant
5. Launch your business online
Social media pages and freelancing platforms are an easy place to launch your online presence. Create a Facebook business page and a LinkedIn page for your proofreading services. Then consider registering for sites like UpWork, Fiverr, and Guru to expand your reach.
Do you need your own website when you’re starting a proofreading business? The truth is, there’s no right or wrong answer here. Many professional proofreaders get as much work as they can handle through social media and freelancing platforms. However, if you have the time and inclination, creating a website gives your business a professional feel. Once you’ve been up and running for a while, you may wish to treat yourself to a website upgrade from a professional developer.
6. Start marketing and seeking out clients
Once you’ve set all these pages up, don’t just leave them alone to do their thing – that’s not how social media works. You need to dedicate some time each day to building your presence, sharing content, and networking.
One of the best ways to do this is by giving value to people. This could come in the form of sharing a grammar joke every morning, offering to help someone who could become a valuable part of your network, or offering your services for free to a reputable charity. Though it may seem counter-intuitive to focus on giving when you don’t yet have a profitable business, it is a powerful way to build your reputation, get experience, and win new clients.
In addition to this, you’ll want to refer to your business plan and take daily action on the marketing strategies you chose to go with.
Once you have a full roster of clients and a steady flow of work, you can either cool it on the marketing or consider engaging the services of freelancers to whom you can funnel work in exchange for a small commission.
If you have any questions or perhaps some extra tips for budding proofreaders, please feel free to comment below. Otherwise, we wish you all the best in your new business venture.