As with any business venture, it’s essential to know what you’re getting yourself into when you set yourself up as a freelance proofreader. In addition to working with style guides, correcting grammatical errors, and ensuring consistency throughout the written works you review, there are many unique challenges faced by freelance proofreaders.
Of course, there are some wonderful perks that come along with the territory too – otherwise, no-one would be doing it. To give you an idea of what to expect from your life as a freelance proofreader, we’ve created this comprehensive list of pros and cons experienced by most people in the industry.
The pros of being a proofreader
Let’s get started on a positive note with all the benefits you can look forward to as the owner of a proofreading business.
1. You will have barely any startup costs
You likely have most of the tools you need to get started as a freelance proofreader already. Most people in the industry work with Microsoft Word or Google Docs and sign up for online subscriptions to the style guides their clients use.
There’s no need to sign up for all of them at once – just get what you need as you need it. Your first client may be in a specialized field, and if they like your work, they may refer you to their colleagues. Through word-of-mouth referrals, you might find yourself only working in this specialized area, making subscriptions to other style guides an unnecessary expense.
2. You’re free to work from wherever you desire
Whether you’re happy working from home in your pajamas or have hopes of one day traveling the world, proofreading can deliver the freedom you’re dreaming of.
By cutting out the daily commute, you’ll be saving money and time – both of which can be channeled into more productive pursuits than sitting in traffic. On top of all this, you’ll be able to deduct certain living expenses since you’re working from a home office (for more on this, check out our complete guide to starting a proofreading business).
3. You don’t need formal training
You don’t need to have a certificate, degree, or diploma proclaiming that you’re a qualified proofreader. However, you do need to have the skills for the job you’ll be doing. Not only do you need the skills, but you also need prospective clients to have faith in them. Having a background in journalism, teaching, or even writing and editing content for your own blog will help you in attracting quality clients.
4. You get to learn while you work
This is truly the best aspect of working as a freelance proofreader. Though it’s wonderful being able to work and travel, nothing beats the endless learning opportunities you’re given as a freelance proofreader.
From science and philosophy journals to CVs, cover letters, and business proposals, proofreading gives you a unique window into the world around you, and every day fills your mind with new knowledge.
If you would like to learn more about how to be a successful Proofreader, our friends over at General Proofreader have created a great course which will give you a great head start above your competition. Check it out Here.
The cons of being a proofreader
Though you may have been told you had a way with words all throughout your academic career, it takes more than just talent to build a successful career as a freelance proofreader.
Have a read through the following drawbacks to the proofreading industry to see whether you’re prepared to take on the challenges.
1. You might need to up-skill to be competitive
Though you don’t need any formal qualifications to be a proofreader, they do help a lot, especially when you’re first starting out. Many business owners have turned to automatic proofreading tools like Grammarly, meaning fledgling proofreaders need to find a way to stand out, not just from the crowd of other humans, but from AI competitors as well.
Though we proofreaders all know that you can’t beat the human touch when it comes to perfecting text, this can be a hard thing to sell if you don’t have any qualifications backing you up. Having a degree or even just a few short-course certifications to your name can help you stand out when you don’t have much experience to speak of.
Though we’ve listed this in the cons section, you can flip it into a pro if you go into your up-skilling with an attitude of excitement at getting to learn new things and develop your craft. From each course you do, you’ll emerge with new skills and a more honed ability to work efficiently and switch from assignment to assignment with ease.
2. A quality client base will take time to build
In the age of the internet and instant gratification, many people fail to see the value of perfectly crafted prose. They’d rather just slap up content as quickly as possible and get on with the rest of their day.
Even when they discover that the search engine algorithms favor error-free content and their sloppy blog posts have been harming their SEO, many people sadly undervalue their proofreaders.
Working within this climate, it will likely take a while for you to build up a network of clients who pay well and offer regular work. You may need to start your freelance proofreading journey with a few lower paying jobs while you develop a portfolio and prove your worth.
Another option would be to include multiple services in your business model. For example, many people work as freelance writers and proofreaders. Depending on your skills, you could also consider adding social media, graphic design, or video content creation services.
If you’re patient and have a love for the work you’re doing and the freedom it affords you, then this challenge will be surmountable. However, if you’re lacking in either of those qualities, this could prove to be a significant stumbling block.
3. Deadlines can cause dramas
As a freelance proofreader, this scenario will happen to you more than once – you wake up, calm and happy, knowing you have a relaxing day ahead of you. Everything goes smoothly until you check your emails over your morning coffee and discover urgent work requests from three different clients.
Though it’s important to set reasonable expectations with your clients around deadlines and work requests, you also have to be flexible enough to help them out when something gets delayed further up the line, thus sucking time from your part of the process.
Maybe a writer got sick and submitted work late, or the sales team took longer than expected to settle on an angle for their latest ad campaign. Whatever the issue is, if you can pick up the slack with your turnaround times, you will develop solid relationships with your clients, allowing you to secure your future in the industry.
The most important part of the equation is communication. If you can’t make a deadline, let your client know as soon as possible. And if you do make a tight deadline, don’t complain about it, but do find a humorous or casual way to let them know that you put other things on hold to help them out.
4. The work can be unpredictable
Even with a solid client base, you will often find that you’re so swamped some weeks that it’s a struggle to keep up, and then other weeks there’s just no work coming in. Though you can establish clear and structured working relationships with your clients, you can’t fully control when their needs will arise and when their work will flow in.
Once again this can be seen as a pro if you’re able to work hard while the jobs are there and then enjoy the break when things get slow. Of course, this state of calm acceptance sounds grand in theory, but it’s hard to hold onto when you’ve got five deadlines looming, or worse, an empty work calendar.
Still, serenity in the face of uncertainty can be mastered over time, and as you develop this skill, you will find it positively influences other aspects of your life as well.
Freelance proofreading: final thoughts
Though your path to success as a freelance proofreader probably won’t be easy, the rewards are certainly worth it for those determined to build a career they can carry out from home.
If you’ve read through all the pros and cons and you’re excited to get started, check out our complete guide to establishing a profitable freelance proofreading business.
As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to share them below – we’re here to help and will get back to you as soon as possible.