Q And A
How can I become a proofreader: ask the expert
I was just wondering if anyone knows how I can become a proofreader? I have been looking into it, and all the websites say you don't need qualifications. But when you apply for a job, they always ask you which level of distinction you have etc. I am not that well educated, but I am literate and I have good attention to detail. This would be something I would like to do part time, as I have a young son and would like to expand my family. I would also like to continue earning money to help with the bills etc. Any advice would be very much appreciated.
Answer by Linda Whittern
I'd suggest you check first whether there are reasonably good local opportunities for working as an employee or freelance proofreader and whether you’d be happy with the income you could earn.
In my own area, for example, there’s a very big mail order company, they need proofreaders to check their product directories, customer mailshots and so on and they pay most staff (including proofreaders) comparatively well. Prospects might not be so good in other areas.
What the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (the professional body for proofreaders) says is that making a living from proofreading isn’t easy, even for established proofreaders. Around 20% its members would like to work more hours than they do (that may not be a problem for you as you want to work part-time). The Society suggests a minimum hourly rate of around £20, but says it can be difficult even for experienced proofreaders to get anywhere close to that amount of money.
The Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) run 33 local groups in the UK and I’d suggest you attend meetings of your most local groups (you can attend the first 3 meetings of a group without signing up for membership) to network with more experienced proofreaders, find out about local opportunities and check local pay rates. Visit www.sfep.org.uk or ‘phone 020 8785 5617 to find the local groups closest to your home.
These local groups also organise short training schemes and advertise members’ skills to the local business community. Ideally, you want an experienced and comparatively successful proofreader from such a group to take you under her wing and help you through your first steps as a novice to the sector.
Employers are usually more interested in new proofreaders’ relevant experience (eg using specialised legal or medical terms) and strong IT skills than qualifications. Many proofreaders have worked in publishing, journalism or other related areas; such experience gives them useful contacts and a credibility advantage.
Linda Whittern is Director of Careers Partnership (UK), a careers consultancy for women and men at all stages of their careers.