You can earn money as a proofreader, but you need to know there’s no trick or magic pill to growing your proofreading business — or ANY business, for that matter.
There is plenty of hard work and dedication, though. I’ve never met anyone who said it wasn’t worth it, so if you’re one of the few who are willing to earn their own success, keep reading.
To really grow a proofreading business, you need more than just great proofreading skills. That’s why we teach our students not just how to do the work, but how to get the work, too — because being successful involves so much more than hanging a sign on the door that says “PROOFREADER.” Anyone who tells you otherwise probably isn’t growing a successful business 🙂
So what do you need to grow? I’ve narrowed it down to four “keys” — check ’em out!
Key #1 — Always Be Learning
You need to commit to being a lifelong learner. We are ALL works in progress, and despite how old you are and how much experience you have, no one knows it all. When you work with words, too, things aren’t always black and white.
Great proofreaders, for example, know that language evolves and punctuation rules can change. To have an edge, we need to be on top of those changes. Read books, invest in courses and seminars, follow blogs, visit forums — anything you can get your hands on to improve your skills and knowledge will help you grow.
BOOKS are an excellent, low-cost way to keep learning! Here are some of my favorites lately:
- The Best Punctuation Book, Period. (June Casagrande) — excellent tool for understanding the differences between sets of punctuation rules in different industries. It does not go into punctuation for court reporters; however, it sheds light on the fact that punctuation is an art, and *GASP* no one knows everything about it 🙂
- The Elephants of Style: A Trunkload of Tips on the Big Issues and Gray Areas of Contemporary American English (Bill Walsh) — I love this book for the same reason I love the one above: it acknowledges the gray areas!! There’s a reason English classes in school are now called Language Arts (and not Language Sciences).
A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation (Noah Lukeman) — I love how this book, again, likens punctuation to art: in particular, a symphony! Lukeman has a knack for helping punctuation make sense in people’s heads, and I especially recommend his book to anyone who struggles with the less common punctuation marks, such as the dash or semicolon.
Key #2 — Get Up to Speed with Marketing
Marketing is an ever-evolving beast. What works one year may not work great the next year. What works in one industry will flounder in another. That’s just life, and we’ve got to grow and change with it if we don’t want to be left behind.
Social media is the most modern tool we have for marketing… but it’s not as simple as just getting on Facebook.
For business marketing, LinkedIn is actually the best social media platform for growing your Proofreading business. If I had to pick just one social media platform to grow my business, it would be LinkedIn. Fellow super-nerd Melonie Dodaro (author of the #1 best-selling social media book The LinkedIn Code) is my go-to guru for mastering LinkedIn. In fact, when I took Melonie’s master class I learned four major mistakes I was making on my LinkedIn profile. FOUR! It physically hurts to think about how that may have stunted my business growth. But thanks to Melonie, they’re fixed, and my profile’s working like a well-oiled machine. I learned so much from the training, we introduced a brand new monster of a lesson on LinkedIn to our intensive course!
Your Marketing Mindset
It’s not just the social media stuff that makes your business grow — it’s your own outlook, too. Having a giving attitude vs. a taking attitude when it comes to your business will make a noticeable difference in your business growth. A taking attitude (which you don’t want) means your primary focus is on YOU: how to get work, how to make money, how to find more clients — all those verbs I underlined are very “you”-focused. If you make your marketing effort client-focused and adopt a giving attitude, your primary focus would be how to serve your clients, how to help them become better, and how to provide a better experience. See the difference? All client-focused verbs.
This means when you’re writing content on your LinkedIn profile and/or website, make sure your language focuses more on the benefits your potential customers/clients would experience by working with you — not on what you can do for them. The focus is always on them.
Bonus Tip: Clean Up Your Social Media Photos
You can use PicMonkey to add a little extra oomph to your images on Facebook.
Take this image:
See how I took a plain ol’ profile picture and added a little extra to make it more useful? You can do that, too, using PicMonkey.
Check out this video to learn exactly how I did it!
Key #3 — Build Your Web Presence
Cold, hard truth: IF YOU HAVE A BUSINESS, YOU NEED A WEBSITE.
Funny story: I stumbled across a freelance job board recently that actually forbids people from posting links to their websites within the board because “it’s an unfair advantage to people who don’t have websites.”
I was like, Um…
If you want to grow a business, there are no excuses for not having a real website. It’s not hard, and it’s not expensive to build a good-looking one. A website adds credibility to your business and to you as a professional. In the online world we live in, it’s really become a common courtesy to have a web presence.
Do I have to pay for it?
You can build free websites that have subdomains (like caitlintheproofreader.wordpress.com), but bear in mind: these are free for a reason. The subdomain does detract from the professional look, plus you’re left with a very visible ad for the website builder on your page: two things that, for a very reasonable cost per year, can be gone completely. In fact, a real domain costs between just $6 and $15 per year to own and hosting is between $4 and $8 per month — that’s less than the cost of a meal at McDonald’s! And in a market where it pays to stand out, I’ll take all the credibility boost I can get. I recommend Bluehost for web hosting and domains. Their 24/7 customer service rocks, and I LOVE the easy website builder.
Bonus Tip: Use Our Step-by-Step Guide
Check out our easy, step-by-step guide to building a professional website on the cheap! If that totally freaks you out, Weebly can help you create a professional-looking website — even if you have no prior technical website-building knowledge. Build a website, blog, or eCommerce site on their easy-to-use drag and drop interface without breaking a sweat.
Key #4 — Plan for Success… Literally
We’ve all heard the saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
Well, it’s true! One thing I’m really working hard on this year is to be more mindful about my goals each day. Every day, I’m making it a point to determine one reasonably achievable task to accomplish in that day.
Some examples of my “reasonably achievable tasks” are:
- Read 100 pages before two o’clock
- Write 1,000 words for a new article
- Create 3 new images for the blog
- Film new tutorial video for the course
Assigning myself just one of these tasks a day helps me avoid becoming a workaholic — there’s no reason I need to force myself to do all four of those tasks in one day. Doing too much too fast can negatively affect my mood and my work quality. If I’m in the zone and I can do all four tasks in one day, great. If I can’t, I’m not going to beat myself up.
Another thing I’m doing is using the Dailygreatness Business Planner. What I love about this particular planner is that it’s helping me get real with myself about what I want to happen with my business, and it guides me in determining the action steps I need to take to get there. Of course, it keeps me organized too. I actually almost didn’t buy it because it’s $45, BUT I have to say I’m glad I did, because I’m 100% convinced that directly because of it, I’ve more than made that in return. And of course, it’s tax deductible (yay!).
What About Accounting?
Not only did I used to use Excel to create my invoices manually, I also used to be terrible at tracking expenses (as in, it didn’t happen!). Now, I have my credit card and business checking account attached to my FreshBooks account, so that makes it a ton easier, and I create all my invoices there as well. It’s cut down on the time I used to spend tracking down clients for payments, too, because it allows clients to pay online with just a few clicks. Yes, there are fees attached to that, but the fees are tax deductible and I get paid faster — so it’s worth it 🙂
Bonus Tip: Have an Eye-Catching Logo
Don’t think a logo is important? There are many businesses that we can easily recognize by their logo alone. (Think Nike, Walmart, McDonalds, WWF, etc.) We are all exposed to thousands of brand messages per day so it is important that your brand stands out! Deluxe Business Services offers excellent logo design when you are ready to take your proofreading business to the next level.
What are you doing to grow your proofreading business? Share in the comment section below!
[Disclosure: some of the links in this post are affiliate links. I only recommend things I’ve read, used, or tried myself, so I know they work!]