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How Much Do Proofreaders Make?

How Much Do Proofreaders Make: Average Salary & Expectations

Look, we get it. Picking at sentences and changing commas to semicolons doesn’t sound like a lucrative profession and with spelling checker apps — such as Grammarly, Hemingway, and Ginger — rampant on the market, it can be hard to believe that people would still pay a dime for an eagle eye.

Spoiler alert: proofreading can make you good money, and AI isn’t replacing human proofreaders any time soon!

But, you might be pleasantly surprised to know that you can still easily make a living as a proofreader — a comfortable, sustainable living at that. Despite common misconceptions, proofreaders are also still in high demand in nearly every industry, from publishing to medicine.

In this article, we uncover exactly how much proofreaders make in the US, with plenty of numbers and data to back it up. We’ll also answer some common questions about proofreading, as a profession, to help you determine whether it’s the right career path for you.

Average Proofreader Salary

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According to several resources, proofreaders in the US who freelance-proofread as their sole income earn an annual salary of around $53,733 per year. The salary for proofreaders depends on experience, skill, niche, and who you work for.

If you work as a freelancer charging an hourly wage, you might charge more for each project, but if you work full-time for an agency, you’ll likely have a bigger salary due to less flexibility and more consistency. Plus, as a full-time worker, you’ll receive benefits like bonuses, health insurance, and a retirement plan.

If you are just starting out in the US, you can expect to earn an average proofreader salary of $43,047. Experienced proofreaders who work in a specialty, like medical proofreaders, earn an average of $87,184 per year, and some even earn up to $124,836. Phew, those are some big paychecks!

It’s important to note that job platforms and hiring agencies quote different numbers for proofreading jobs, and variations are based on the subject demographics used in the research.

For example, Indeed and ZipRecruiter are two of the most used job boards in the world and offer a broad range of high- and low-paying jobs. These platforms have differing average freelancer salary quotes, which may be related to the skills and other demographic requirements for the jobs they post, as well as how they gather the data.

However, across all the data, it’s clear that online proofreading jobs are worth the extra costs and pay well if you have the skills for the job and the time to invest in following this evolving industry.

If you’re just starting out and have another financial source to support you as you get started, proofreading as a freelancer might be for you.

For extra money, some proofreaders also offer copy editing services, which involve fixing clunky transitions, fact-checking content, and ensuring the tone of voice reflects the author’s identity.

Copy editing generally pays more, with an average annual salary of $51,582. Developmental editing is another option similar to proofreading, which focuses on big-picture issues like the structure, plot, ideas, and style of a written work.

Average Hourly Rates

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So, how exactly do all those numbers translate on the clock? The average hourly rate for proofreaders in the US is $11 to $35, depending on full-time or freelance, experience, niche, location, and the type of clients.

No matter where you set up your laptop or iPad, proofreading with a niche specialty typically yields a higher pay per hour than general proofreading jobs.

For example, medical and business proofreaders typically earn well over $34 an hour, and data from the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) indicates that successful proofreaders make up to $45 per hour.

Full-time proofreaders typically earn more per hour, on average, and this often comes with bonuses and additional benefits like health insurance.

Average Per-Word Rates

The average per-word rate for proofreading is $0.02 to $0.39 according to the Editorial Freelancers Association, and variations in pay depend on the proofreader’s experience, topic, and job type.

Proofreaders fresh out of the gate can expect to earn around $0.02 per word, while proofreaders with a few years of experience under their belt, regardless of if they have industry knowledge or a college degree, often earn around $0.10 to $0.15 per word. Proofreaders specializing in STEM subjects, business documents, or sales earn around $0.39 per word.

Of all industries that hire proofreaders, the publishing industry tends to pay the least per word. The Editorial Freelancers Association puts the average rate at $.02 to $.029, but don’t let the low wages discourage you. As long as you’re efficient and proofreading novels or other published works is your thing, it can still be a good source of sustainable income.

Most proofreaders are able to proofread seven to fifteen pages per hour (according to EFA), with the average page being 250 words long. Proofreading STEM subjects takes significantly longer (four to six pages per hour) than general work. Even if you’re efficient, it’s generally more lucrative to charge per word than by the hour.

Factors That Affect How Much You Can Earn As a Proofreader

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Like every job role, there are plenty of factors that can affect your overall income, and some are more influential than others:

  • College degree or industry knowledge: A degree or knowledge of the industry isn’t necessary to become a professional proofreader, but working in a lucrative field will certainly increase your profits
  • Level of experience: More experience generally pays better, and the more you know, the more likely it is that you’ll win over higher-paying clients and be accepted for more lucrative positions. Most freelance proofreaders start out with low-paying gigs on Fiverr or Upwork, then gradually earn more as they accumulate reviews and trust
  • Location: According to the BLS, where you live can affect your overall earnings. For example, if you live in New York or California, you’ll be more likely to earn more than if you live in Pennsylvania, Texas, or West Virginia. The cost of living can also vary depending on where you live, which can impact how much you take home at the end of the day
  • Specialty area: Certain specialty areas are better paid than others. Those specializing in business or STEM fields earn a better buck than fiction proofreaders, for example, and transcript proofreading is increasingly one of the best-paid specialties in the proofreading industry

*Tip: Transcript proofreaders clean up court report transcripts. The best part about the job is that you don’t need a degree to do it! You can try out transcript proofreading and see if it’s right for you with a FREE 7-day intro course.

Besides your demographics and how you work, some other factors that play a role in how much money you can make as a proofreader include how fast you can get a project done, whether or not you’re good at marketing yourself, and what types of clients you freelance for.

  • Turnaround time: The quicker and more efficient you are at proofreading, the more money you can earn per hour. Clients also typically pay better if you can meet their tight deadlines without sacrificing quality
  • Self-marketing: Confident self-marketing and business management skills are a must as a freelancer. You need to be confident enough to charge more, market your proofreading services, and challenge your inner critic and doubts

Additionally, it’s important to market to and accept clients who value quality and proactively give valuable feedback on your work. Red flags to look out for include clients that expect constant availability while demanding unlimited revisions and free samples.

Are Proofreaders in High Demand?

Let’s cut to the chase: As long as humans can write, proofreaders will always be in high demand (and according to the data from Recruiter.com, demand is increasing).

Every text out there, whether a sales pitch, news article, or comic book, needs a proofreader to ensure the message is clear for the appropriate audience and isn’t held back by obtrusive punctuation errors, spelling mistakes, or typos. We can safely bet that even the back of your cereal box has gone through rigorous proofreading!

There will always be opportunities for growth as a proofreader, especially if you specialize in a niche. Business, legal, and STEM industries will always require proofreaders given that a single grammatical mistake can ruin a business owner’s authority entirely.

The image shows two people shaking hands with the title "proofread for businesses" and an excerpt from the text

Will AI Make Proofreading Obsolete?

Look, science fiction has incessantly warned us of artificial intelligence taking over every sector, making us their slaves, and essentially wiping out all of humanity (cue doom and gloom music).

But nope, AI won’t make proofreading obsolete anytime soon. No matter how advanced AI may seem and how many clickbait — ahem, “well-researched” — articles tout its prowess, AI will never match up to a human proofreader.

AI can’t replace creative jobs because it can’t feel empathy or creativity and still has no genuine understanding of tone, nuanced formatting, and the context of the text it reads.

Sure, AI can assist with certain aspects, like catching typos or grammatical errors, but it won’t be able to effectively correct poor adjective choices when considering tone, nor can it understand specialized terms and industry knowledge like a human proofreader.

Today, AI serves as a helpful tool for proofreaders to work faster, but it isn’t something to rely on. Proofreading still requires an eagle eye and an understanding of grammar, punctuation, and sentence rules to use AI properly and effectively.

Proofreading Requirements

While a degree certainly helps you secure a proofreading job, college isn’t necessary for developing proofreading skills. A wide variety of proofreaders have successful careers without any qualifications or industry experience.

You just need to display (or work on) the following basic proofreading skills:

  • An excellent grip on the English language
  • A strong understanding of grammar, punctuation, and sentence rules
  • Firm attention to detail (able to catch even the tiniest punctuation mistakes)
  • Excellent research skills
  • An understanding of and ability to apply the various style guidelines, such as MLA, APA, and Chicago
  • Adaptability for the type of client, different tasks, audiences, and schedules
  • The ability to meet strict deadlines
  • Good communication skills
  • The ability to work independently
  • Confident usage of word processing software like Google Docs

Once you’ve mastered the skills required to proofread, there are many directions your career could take you!

Proofreading FAQs

We’re sure you have plenty of questions about what a proofreading career involves, whether or not you’re fit for the industry, and what exactly you’ll do as a proofreader. So, below, we’ve answered the most common questions people have asked about this career path!

If you have any other questions not listed here, leave us a comment. You can also connect with us on Facebook and Instagram.

How Much Does a Proofreader Make?

Freelance proofreaders make an average annual income of $53,733. Full-time proofreaders make between $47,840 and $56,191 on average, per year, which roughly translates to an hourly rate of $27.

The top percentage of proofreaders — which consists of those with experience, specialized proofreaders, or proofreading business owners — can earn over $71,436 per year, while beginner proofreaders can expect to earn $27,502 to $43,047.

Can You Make a Living Proofreading?

Yes, it’s definitely possible to make a living proofreading, even without a degree or proofreading experience — or you can just make extra money proofreading. An eagle eye, a strong grip on the English language, and a willing attitude will allow you to succeed in this career path and gain a sustainable income.

There are plenty of full-time, remote proofreading jobs available worldwide, but you can also make a living by freelancing from home if that better suits your schedule and lifestyle.

Are Proofreaders in High Demand?

Yes, proofreaders are in high demand. In fact, the freelance proofreading services market is expected to rise 5.92% annually over the next few years. As publishing will always be a part of entertainment, the demand for proofreaders stays steady with time.

There are concerns that AI will replace proofreading, however, AI is still extremely limited and lacks the ability to understand the complexities and subtle nuances of the English language.

How Do Proofreaders Get Clients?

Proofreaders get clients in various ways — The most common methods include scouting job boards, networking on LinkedIn, joining freelance sites like Upwork, and word-of-mouth marketing.

Check out our article about where to find proofreading jobs online, to learn the best places to find proofreading business and remote proofreading jobs, both for full-time and freelance proofreaders.

Do You Need Qualifications to Be a Proofreader?

No, you don’t need any qualifications to become a proofreader. A qualification can certainly help you specialize and secure high-paying clients, but this is possible even without a degree. You can learn all the skills needed to be a proofreader on your own time. There are also plenty of online courses and workshops that can help teach you the basics (like our FREE online workshop).

Why Should You Become a Proofreader?

Becoming a proofreader allows you to experience a sustainable, rewarding career while making use of your eagle eyes. It’s also incredibly fulfilling to see how your edits can make an article, blog post, or book reach its full potential and get its message heard.

You should consider proofreading if you love to work from home, enjoy researching, and don’t want a boss micromanaging your every move!

What Does Freelance Proofreading Entail?

Freelance proofreading essentially involves the same tasks as full-time proofreading. What changes is how you work and carry out your job. As a freelance proofreader, you set your own hours, work remotely, and engage with a whole range of different clients.

You also need to master a few other responsibilities that full-time proofreaders rarely need, such as self-marketing, crafting invoices, and the ability to quickly pick up a wide range of in-house style guides.

Unlike full-time proofreading, the likes of health insurance and pensions aren’t typically included for freelance jobs, and you’ll need to organize these yourself.

How Do You Become a Proofreader?

You don’t need a degree, industry knowledge, or academic background to make money proofreading. Anyone can become a proofreader, as long as they’re willing to brush up their punctuation and grammar skills, learn how to use word processing software, and master various style guides.

Of course, freelance proofreading isn’t for everyone, but if you’re interested in working from home and have a knack for details and communication, it could be right up your alley. If you’re new to the industry, check out our blog post about how to become a proofreader, which covers all you need to know and guides you through the process step-by-step.

If you want to find out what other jobs you can do to make money alongside proofreading, make sure to browse our work-at-home job ideas.

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  1. "If you have a strong eye for detail and a good command of the English language, proofreading can be a viable job or career path."

    I am perplexed with this thought every time I consider the option of becoming a proofreader. I enjoy writing and have edited articles for friends and family. Yet, I desire to increase my skill of editing. However upon watching the free workshop, I am all the more intrigued, should I take this course as a precursor to improving my editing skills? Is it possible to develop a "stronger" eye for detail and to change a "weak" command of the English language into a good command of the English language, or even to build my confidence in editing/proofreading?

    1. Absolutely, Janice!! That’s exactly what happens as you move through the course. It’s designed to improve command and confidence through practice. If you already have experience writing and editing, then proofreading is likely in your wheelhouse too.

  2. I took a proofreading course several years ago, but have been working full time at the VA since then. I am now getting ready to retire Dec 2022 and would like to pick it back up again. Suggestions?

    1. Hey, Kim! If you are already working as a VA and feel confident in your ability to provide services as a proofreader at a professional level, you could do that. But if there is something holding you back about this, whether it’s confidence, marketing, or methods and technique to performing the work, then a course like ours may be very beneficial to you. Feel free to reach out with any other questions — [email protected]!

  3. I’m very interested in more information and would very much appreciate more info. Who do I need to contact or will someone contact me?

  4. I just enrolled in the General Proofreading course and am really excited to start. Thank you, Caitlin. I’ll let you know how it goes. Wayne

  5. This article include some great tips and how-to methods to getting started.
    Thank you,

  6. Is this course beneficial for Canadians? I am very interested but am concerned about being able to find work. Given the online nature of the work, would I be able to find and work with clients in the US?

    1. Do you feel you have a good grip on the English language? Can you see the differences in American English vs. Canadian/British English? There are many resources available in the course for manuals and websites to use as guides to aid in your work.

      There are so many different types of media to proofread and millions of jobs available everywhere–not just in the US. The second half of the course teaches students how to market themselves and find work and clients online.

      The course is geared toward students in the U.S, using American English to acquire American clients, but some of our international students do extremely well! It’s entirely up to you and what you’re comfortable with.

      We have LOTS of Canadian and some UK students who are already successfully earning a living as proofreaders! You can read more about it here: Can you proofread transcripts in Canada?

  7. I have thought so many times of entering the blogging world as I love reading them. I think I finally have the courage to give it a try. Thank you so much for all of the ideas!

  8. Happy New Year 2023!!

    I am a retired educator. Over the years, since 1964, with a high school diploma and certificate, I have held many positions in the Federal and District of Columbia (DC) Governments and private industry. Most of the work was done without a degree. I attended a girls' vocational high school where I received a certificate in Office Machines and a high school diploma. I don't remember when I did not proofread. My degrees would come way later.

    I worked in Public Affairs at a national youth organization as a publications secretary from 1968 until 1973. That job entailed lots of proofreading. I worked with both the editor of the magazine and the director of public affairs.

    I actually had a proofreading job with DC Public Schools, proofreading curriculum material. Later, I was hired as a writer/editor with DC Public Schools where I operated an AB Dick 5900 phototypesetter. My work was ready for the printer when I completed it. My staff and I were responsible for the teachers' monthly newsletter and an elaborate piece called Welcome to Our Schools that included maps and listings of all schools in the system. We completed all kinds of publications for use with the staff and faculty.

    While working for the DC Parole Board, I was responsible for proofreading the Annual Report which was published. In addition I proofread many parole examiner's transcripts as well as supported the court reporters' reports to the Board.

    The last editing, proofreading and copyediting I've done was nearly 10 years ago with a local magazine, "50+ The Second Half Magazine." I transcribed material from various sources online.

    I said all of that to ask if your course is geared towards folks such as myself with as much experience as I already have. Other than successfully marketing myself, is there anything else that is offered, or do you offer a class for folks with as much experience as I?

    I still use my Chicago Manual of Style, MLA Manual and an eighth-grade grammar book as my main tools.

    1. Hi Andra, our course may be a lot of review for you. Something our course has that a lot do not are lessons on how to build your business. We do not offer separate courses for marketing at this time.

  9. I work in the correctional field producing over 1,000 reports per year for those serving State prison confinement. I read many different court initiated documents. With these court documents I research, quantify and produce a concise report detailing a span of 12 months or less of that person's life during that period of time while incarcerated. The reports are often used as evidence during legal proceedings for both the defendent and the defense. There is a lot of jargon and acronyms used that may require explanation or definition that I provide either through my personal knowledge or through research.

    Is there a niche that my skills could be used?

    1. Have you ever thought about creating your own niche in which you offer your services to the defense and defendants and those who are in a lower income bracket who need assistance and still getting fully compensated for your services? You could learn how to write a grant proposal and set it all up yourself. Check out this article from the blog about grant writing courses https://proofreadanywhere.com//proofreading-course-isnt-a-good-fit-for-me-what-else-do-you-recommend/

    2. With years of specialized practice in criminal law, I have a deep understanding of the legal system and the intricacies of criminal defense. My expertise spans a wide range of criminal cases, from minor offenses to serious felonies.

  10. I've taken a proofreading course in the past, but since then I've been working full-time at the VA. I would like to pick it back up as I am ready to retire in December 2022. Suggestions?

  11. Thank you so much for sharing your blog post. It was very interesting to read and I appreciate the effort you put into it. Your insight and knowledge are invaluable.

  12. What is the range of sizes of text to be proofread? How fast can a competent proofreader go? At $0.02/word one has to proofread a 775 word document in one hour to make the CA minimum wage of $15.50/hr.

    1. You can enlarge the font of your document to any size that works best for you. You can find out all of the standard rates for proofreading and other literary careers at this Editorial Freelancers Association link: https://www.the-efa.org/rates/

  13. Medical proofreading interests me very much. Where can I get training for it? Would this be proofreading the records that medical transcriptionists produce or something else?

    1. We don’t have a specialized course specifically for proofreading medical transcripts. If you’re interested in medical proofreading, you would need to take the General Proofreading course. You would also need to invest in purchasing The Chicago Manual of Style 17th edition as well as the most current medical dictionary. Merriam Webster’s medical dictionary is excellent.

  14. Well, a lot of people are sceptical about choosing a career in proofreading, primarily because of their salary status. I believe your blog will be helpful to all those confused people.

  15. I completed a proofreading course a few years back, but ever then, I've been employed full-time by the VA. I would want to take it up again as I prepare to retire in December 2023. Thoughts?

    1. With our course, you have unlimited access so you can come back and review the content whenever you wish. The second half of our course is all about the business side of proofreading where we teach you active marketing strategies and provide you with a long list of online job resources to find work. We will show you how to proofread and how to run your business successfully!

  16. Hi caitlin pyle your Article is awesome. I must say that this is one of the best article. I will definitely Promote this.

  17. I just finished reading the "Proofreading for Profit" pdf file. May I respectively suggest that you proofread this document? Example #1: on page 9 there are numerous errors. Example #2: At one point in the video you refer to "something you could be proud of", rather than "something of which you could be proud". You can see why I am interested in this course. (laugh)

  18. I am thrilled to have discovered this helpful website. It provides me with a great deal of interesting information about everything, notably the content of the preceding article.

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