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. The work can be demanding, as you must constantly be making sure that every “t” is crossed, every “i” is dotted, and every comma in the right place. For those who like to correct typos and grammatical errors, though, working in this field may be a perfect full-time job or side hustle.
Because proofreading can be done entirely remotely, this is a popular work-from-home job. Compared to other work-from-home jobs, there is plenty of proofreading work available, and a lot of the assignments command a solid wage. The work also requires little upfront training, although going through a short course is often helpful.
If you’ve been looking for a way to generate supplemental or primary income, proofreading may be the opportunity you’re in search of. Read on to learn more about this lucrative field and find out just how much you could expect to make.
What Does Proofreading Entail?
Proofreading can be thought of as the most basic level of revision that a text will go through. At the basic level, most work is proofread even if it’s not edited. When work is edited, proofreading is usually reserved as the final and polishing step before publication.
Comparing proofreading with editing creates a fuller picture of what exactly proofreading entails. For the purposes of this discussion, consider editing, copyediting, and proofreading. Each is a different step in the revision process:
- Editing: Editing is the first stage of revision and looks at big-picture issues. It addresses items such as structure and style within a work, sometimes requiring rewrites of paragraphs, pages, chapters, or an entire work.
- Copyediting: Copyediting is the second stage of revision and looks at work on the sentence level. It addresses clarity and flow issues, checking word choice and phrasing. Copyeditors are often also responsible for fact-checking.
- Proofreading: Proofreading is the final stage of revision and looks at each character within a work. It includes checking spelling, punctuation, typos, and grammar.
Because proofreading doesn’t substantially change a section or a sentence, it’s done only once a text is finalized. This is after editing and copyediting when work goes through all three phases. If a shorter work isn’t edited and/or copyedited, it’ll usually still be proofread.
Although it’s the most basic form of revision, proofreading shouldn’t be underrated. It’s an essential phase of revision, and embarrassing or costly mistakes can result when the phase is skipped. Consider the following examples:
- An order form lists a product for sale at $19 instead of $199
- An instruction manual’s misplaced comma changes the meaning of a sentence
- A college student’s application message has a typo in the first line
The consequences of these errors range from costly to embarrassing, but even something unprofessional like a typo can have devastating consequences. In some cases, a sentence that’s changed meaning because of an error could result in a lawsuit if someone takes action based on the incorrect phrasing.
How Do You Become a Proofreader?
Becoming a proofreader doesn’t require a college degree, and you can get started without any formal training. You will have to prove your proofreading ability, though, and completion of some basic training can help with that.
A proofreading course will cover how to proofread and give you the expertise necessary to succeed in a field. While exact curriculums can vary among different course options, you can expect to complete modules on subjects like the following:
- What falls within the scope of proofreading (compared to editing)
- Common spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes
- Common style guides and their standards (e.g., AP, MLA, Harvard, Chicago/Turabian, etc.)
- Proper formatting practices for citations and references
- Best practices for different industries (e.g., publishing, business, academic, etc.)
- How to format in Microsoft Word (or other word processing programs)
- How to find proofreading jobs and succeed in the field
Proofreading courses also include plenty of practice so that you can confidently apply what you learn once you complete the modules. A course may also provide certification, which can give prospective employers greater confidence in your abilities.
Having a course certification can be especially important when you’re competing for high-paying proofreading jobs that may be competitive.
In addition to a certification, many prospective employers will also ask you to complete a proofreading test. This is typically a relatively short test that demonstrates your abilities as a proofreader and maybe the last nail in the coffin in launching your proofreading career.
How Much Do Proofreaders Make?
Any freelance career will have variance in how much different people make, for freelancers have varying abilities, levels of experience, and other commitments. Compared to some other fields that can have wide variances in how much different freelancers make, though, proofreading is a fairly stable field. It’s one where you can make a decent wage starting out and have a promising opportunity to increase your income as you gain experience.
Bureau of Labor Statistics: Median Annual Salary of $40,630
How much can a proofreader earn? The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median annual salary for proofreaders is $40,630 and that half of all proofreaders earn between $31,660 and $54,120 per year. The lowest 10 percent of proofreaders earn an annual salary of $24,630, but that’s decent for someone who doesn’t have a college degree and is just starting out in their field. According to the government, if you gain experience and work your way up to the top of the field, the 90th percentile of earners makes $63,920 annually.
On an hourly basis, this breaks down to between $11.84 and $30.73 per hour. The middle range is $15,22 to $26.02 per hour, with the median hourly income right around $20 at $19.54 per hour.
The BLS data shows that proofreading is a field where most professionals earn a decent and honest living. While most proofreaders may not be making six- or seven-figures, most of them are earning a good salary for their efforts.
ZipRecruiter: Average $25 Per Hour With Little Variance Across Locations
ZipRecruiters’ salary data is largely similar to that of the BLS and largely corroborates the government’s range, but ZipRecruiter lends more insight into just how much the top-earning proofreaders can make based on reviews from professionals in the field.
According to ZipRecruiter, the national average salary for a freelance proofreader is $51,391, and half of all freelance proofreaders make between $26,500 and $63,500. The lowest earners make $20,000 in a year, while top earners start to phase out above $72,500. The very highest in the industry can see salaries of up to $84,999.
When calculated by the hour, the national average salary works out to $25 per hour. That equates to $500 per week and $1,000 every two weeks if working full time. Freelancers, of course, have the opportunity to work overtime hours if they want to earn even more.
Notably, ZipRecruiter lists what freelance proofreaders in the country’s 10 highest paying cities make. The hourly wages in these cities are between $27.08 and $28.74 per hour, which is a fairly tight range and not the main insight here.
Instead, the biggest insight of this top-10 list comes from the cities themselves. Major cities and smaller towns alike all rank among the highest paying cities on the list. For example, San Francisco, Washington, DC, and Los Angeles are all listed right alongside lesser-known places such as Lakes, Arkansas, and Green River, Wyoming.
What this information really shows is that proofreaders can earn a good salary no matter where they live and work. While this makes sense given that proofreading can be done entirely remotely, it’s worth noting the good pay rates coming from many different cities.
For some people, the flexibility to earn a good hourly wage no matter where you are is especially important. People whose spouses must move frequently for work purposes, for instance, will appreciate this benefit of freelance proofreading.
Indeed: Average Hourly Wage is $23.02, and Jobs Back That Up
Indeed lists similar numbers for average hourly wage and annual salary, with proofreaders averaging $23.02 per hour and $54,563 per year. It’s important to remember that these are only averages — half of all proofreaders earn more, and half earn less.
Alongside these two figures, Indeed also lists some of the highest paying companies that hire freelance proofreaders. These companies paid anywhere from $25,83 to $41.35 per hour, and all were highly rated by the people who reviewed them.
PayScale: Average $18.16 Per Hour, With Experienced Proofreaders Earning More
PayScale’s reported data shows an average hourly wage that’s slightly lower than the other sources’ information, with PayScale showing an average of $18.16 per hour. The full range that PayScale reports is anywhere from $11.82 to $30.14 per hour.
What’s most insightful from PayScale’s information is how proofreader’s wages tend to rise with experience. The average wage for someone who’s new to the industry is $15.63 per hour, but that goes up by nearly a full dollar (to $16.55) after merely one year. Proofreaders usually reach the $20.00 per hour mark shortly after they have five years of experience, and those with ten or more years can make over $21 or $22 per hour.
Common Cents Club: Most Proofreaders Earn $25 or More Per Hour
Countering PayScale’s somewhat lower hourly wage is a survey from the Common Cents Club. While the survey mainly reflects the wages of experienced proofreaders, it effectively shows what can be made a few years into the industry.
Survey respondents reported earning at least $15 per hour and up to $44 per hour. The vast majority of them made an hourly wage somewhere between $25 and $34, and only 12.5 percent were getting less than $24.
Job Opportunities Back These Figures Up
A couple of job postings shed light on how proofreaders might earn these sorts of wages and salaries from a slightly different perspective.
ProofreadingServices.com welcomes proofreaders from any country and promises pay ranging from $19 to $46 per hour. Although it’s not stated, native English speakers are probably more likely to get higher-paying jobs.
According to Reedsy, professional proofreaders can earn anywhere from $600 to $1,000 per book manuscript that they proofread. That’s about one to two books per week in order to make an average annual proofreader salary.
|Average Proofreader Annual Salaries and Hourly Wages|
|Source||Average Annual Salary||Average Hourly Wage|
|Bureau of Labor Statistics||$40,630 / yr||$19.54 / hr|
|Common Cents Club||N/a||$25.00 — $34.00|
|ProofreadingServices.com||N/a||$19.00 — $46.00|
|Reedsy||N/a||$600 – $1,000 / book|
These numbers show that you can earn a decent wage starting out as a proofreader, and your earning potential only increases with time. After just a few years, you could be bringing in a solid living or excellent side-gig pay. You won’t become instantly rich, but this is honest and good-paying work.
Freelance And Employed Proofreaders: Who Earns More?
Some of the data shown above are specific to freelance proofreaders, but other data covers all proofreaders. There generally isn’t a significant difference in the salaries of freelance proofreaders and those who work as traditional employees. There are, however, other considerations to take into account.
Proofreaders who work as traditional employees may be entitled to other benefits, such as health insurance, other insurance, or a retirement plan. In exchange for any benefits that an employer offers, most employee proofreaders accept a salary cap that they won’t earn beyond and sacrifice flexibility.
Freelance proofreaders are responsible for securing their own insurance and funding their own retirement, which is a bigger concern for full-time proofreaders than it is for people who do this work as a side gig. Freelancers have complete freedom and flexibility, though, and they have the opportunity to work extra if they want to earn more money.
Of course, employee freelancers can choose to freelance on the side if they have the time and want the added pay.
Which option is best for you will depend on your needs and situation. However, most people begin as freelancers, and many choose to remain freelancers for their entire careers because they appreciate its advantages.
How Can You Earn More as a Proofreader?
For freelance proofreaders, there are a number of strategies that can help increase your earning potential. While any of these might help in a given situation, they work best when used together over the course of a career.
Learn to Negotiate Contracts: If the above data on average salaries and wages shows anything, it’s that there is no one set wage that all freelance proofreaders earn. Proofreaders fall within a range of salaries, and some are on the upper end of that range and others on the lower end. Learning how to negotiate contracts with clients can help you find a place among the upper range of what proofreaders can make.
Work Directly With Clients: Many third-party sites connect freelance proofreaders with clients who need proofreading services, and these sites can be good places to begin your proofreading career. Always be working toward securing your own clients whom you can work directly with, however. Third-party sites take a commission out of what clients pay as proofreading rates, and you can keep that commission when you work directly with a client.
Constantly Seek New Clients: The best proofreaders are always on the search for new clients, for this allows them to command higher rates and cut clients who pay lower rates. Constantly seek out clients whom you can charge a little more than you currently make, and cut your lowest paying client when you land a new one that pays more.
It can take a little time to build up your client list, but once you’re working at capacity, this is perhaps the most effective way to increase your earning potential. The best part is, you can increase your earning potential without doing any additional proofreading work.
Network at In-Person Events: Most of the freelance proofreading jobs you find will be posted online, and you certainly should pursue these opportunities. Make sure you also give some time to attending in-person networking events, however, as these can be another source of work. You may find a regular supply of clients if you can become known within the local community as a reliable proofreader, especially if few others in the region are known for offering proofreading services.
Seek Out Larger Clients: You shouldn’t discriminate against any clients who offer you work so long as the clients are reasonable to work with and the work pays well. Focus your active efforts to land new clients on larger clients, though. Larger clients usually have bigger budgets, and this may mean they’re willing to negotiate higher rates with you.
Seek Out Long-Term Clients: Because searching for clients takes time and most clients will want you to complete a proofreading test, it behooves you to land long-term clients. You’ll do more actual proofreading work if you regularly check pieces for a client you have a relationship with. Seek out clients whom you can work with long-term, and prioritize them over clients who have just one or two pieces to check.
Specialize in a Niche: Proofreaders who specialize in a specific industry learn the jargon, style guide, and best practices of that industry. They’re able to proofread more quickly and more effectively, providing their clients with added value. Once a proofreader has a reputation as a specialist, they’re also likely to get referrals within their chosen industry.
Therefore, you should slowly work to specialize in a particular niche. You can choose any industry that you like, although the academic, legal, medical, financial, and publishing industries are often particularly profitable to focus on.
In some cases, you may even choose to pursue a sub-specialty. You might focus on proofreading dissertations if you’re an academic proofreader, for instance.
Expand Your Proofreading Services
After you’re an established proofreader, you can expand your proofreading services. How you might expand is limited only by your imagination and ability to sell your additional services. A couple of additional services to try offering, though, are beta reading and sensitivity reading. Beta readers provide authors with early feedback on their works, and sensitivity readers help writers compose LGBTQ-friendly pieces. You can likely offer relevant feedback as a beta reader or a sensitivity reader as you go through and proofread a piece.
Launch Your Proofreading Career with Proofread Anywhere
If you’re excited about proofreading and ready to launch your own career, sign up for a proofreading course from Proofread Anywhere. Designed by Caitlin, the course has helped more than 4,800 students launch proofreading careers, and many are still earning good money with this type of work. Sign up now to attend a free 76-minute workshop that’ll give you an introduction to proofreading and tell you more about the course. The secret is to learn, practice, be dedicated and reliable, and join thousands of professionals earning extra income from their exemplary proofreading skills.