Though there are plenty of milestones involved in establishing yourself as a freelance proofreader, none of them will feel as challenging, nor as rewarding, as landing your first client.
This is the moment when you will feel like a “real” proofreader and small business owner (though, in reality, you’ve been these things from the moment you established your enterprise).
There’s no set timeline for when this thrilling moment will occur. For some people, it takes weeks of hard work, while others strike it lucky with the first job they apply for. Indeed, some people are so fortunate that the work comes to them first, and the decision to swap their office gig for the life of a freelance proofreader is more of an aftereffect.
With this in mind, it’s important that you don’t compare your journey with anyone else’s. If you’re struggling to find clients, this is not necessarily a sign that you should give up. Instead, follow the strategies below to boost your chances of landing your first paying client faster.
1. Use your social network
Your favorite social networks are there for more than just sharing funny gifs and getting into political debates with people you haven’t seen in person since high school.
As a freelancer, your social network is the ideal starting point for spreading the word about your business and finding new clients. Humans appear to be hardwired to help each other, and you will see this play out when you share your business profile and your need for clients with friends.
Create a business page and/or professional website (more on this in strategy 5) to make your skills and experience clear, share this with friends, and let them know you’re looking for work.
Avoid making your work-related posts spammy. Instead, be real, open, and optimistic about your dreams of being your own boss. This will make your posts relatable, prompting more shares and likes, which equates to more opportunities for the right person to see what you’re offering and inquire about your services.
2. Harness the power of generosity
If you’ve been applying for tons of projects but always seem to lose out to more experienced freelance proofreaders, it may be time to consider boosting your own experience levels through the power of generosity.
Though you can offer anyone you’d love to win as a client a free trial of your proofreading services, it’s also worth considering charities and non-profit organizations. In addition to the soul-nourishing act of giving back to your community and doing some good in the world, charitable work is looked upon favorably by potential clients because it shows them more than just the fact that you have the skills and experience they need. It speaks to your character, suggesting that you’ll be a reliable, honest, and trustworthy person to connect with.
In addition to these powerful benefits, you’ll also be able to get positive reviews of your work from every organization you volunteer for. In the digital world, businesses can be boosted or broken purely by the power of negative and positive reviews. These testimonials are so powerful you can get paid for writing them, and many a defamation case has been launched over negative reviews.
Let’s put the review dramas aside and end this section on a positive note! By volunteering your time as a proofreader, you’ll also get the chance to develop your skills, and quite often learn new ones to add to your repertoire.
3. Take the brave approach
If you don’t have the capacity to offer your services for free, or if you’ve already done a good amount of volunteering, then you can pitch your business to people you’d like to work for. However, to be successful in this, you’ll need to do more than just email them asking for work.
Start by researching businesses that may need the services of a proofreader. You can search locally, nationally, and globally, targeting enterprises of all sizes. What you’re looking for are areas in which your skills could help their business grow.
This could be a local business that has a lot of typos on their product pages, it could be a foreign company that’s trying to break into your local market but their content is awkward to read, or it could be a fashion micro-influencer who could blow up to mega influencer status with more engaging prose. The possibilities are endless – it’s up to you to hunt them down and then prove to prospective clients that you can help them grow their business and achieve their goals.
The key here is to focus on what you can give, not what you want to get. Of course, you do need to mention what you’re looking for in exchange for your work. However, you don’t want to make yourself the main focus. Instead, capture their attention by painting a picture of how much closer to achieving their goals they’ll be if they start working with you.
4. Make friends in all the right places
Networking is a non-negotiable skill for freelancers. Not only does it keep you connected and prevent you from feeling isolated, but it also opens up incredible opportunities for you.
Take a break from hunting for potential clients to hit up LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google in search of freelancers who work in complementary fields. Let them know that you’d like to connect in the spirit of helping out your fellow freelancers with work opportunities when they arise among your client-base.
It’s also worth joining relevant groups on social media, introducing yourself, letting people know what you do, and being an active member who makes positive contributions.
5. Master the art of profile creation
When you’re just starting out as a freelancer, a fancy website may not be in your budget. However, you can use a platform like Wix or Squarespace to create a simple, low-budget, professional website that introduces you to potential clients, details your skills and experience, displays all your testimonials, features your portfolio, and links to any projects you’ve worked on.
In addition to this, it’s worth setting up your proofreading business profile on the following platforms:
Having well-rounded profiles on these platforms will greatly expand your reach, thus improving your chances of landing your first paying client quickly.
6. Boost your status with qualifications
If you’ve tried all of the above strategies and you’re still having trouble landing that first paying client, it may be that you need to up your game a bit in order to compete.
Though you don’t need any specific qualifications to become a freelance proofreader, they definitely help you stand out from the crowd. You may already have a degree in the arts, journalism, or communication; however, completing a proofreading certification will add that extra bit of clout, showing that you’re serious about this line of work, and that you have what it takes to do the job well.
There are plenty of certified courses available for proofreaders and copyeditors to boost their skills, knowledge, and reputation. It’s important that you do your research and find a reputable one that works for your budget, time constraints, and other needs.
It’s also worth taking a moment to weigh up the temporal and financial costs involved in the course you’re interested in and then comparing that to how much time you’d spend doing volunteer work. Though qualifications look good, and you will learn a lot (and in some cases gain new skillsets), you will also learn plenty by volunteering your time as a proofreader for non-profit organizations.
With the latter option, you’ll have the chance to gain valuable testimonials for your website and/or freelancer profiles. Not to mention the fact that giving back to the community makes you look fantastic to potential clients (not that this should be your main motivator! It’s more of a happy side-effect).
Still, if you’re looking to expand your proofreading repertoire by adding things like line editing and developmental editing (thus opening up a whole new range of clients in publishing), then a qualification upgrade will give you exactly what you need.
Where to next?
For more advice on setting yourself up for success in this industry, check out our complete guide to launching a freelance proofreading business.
If you have any questions about the strategies detailed above, please feel free to hit us up in the comments section below. We’re always happy to help our fellow freelancers.