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
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
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
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.