“What do you want to become when you grow up?” It’s hard to imagine an ambitious six-year-old excitedly saying “proofreader!” 

Doctor, lawyer, teacher. These are common answers. But whoever says that it has been their lifelong ambition to be a proofreader? 

Fortunately, we have good news for you. The job isn’t as dull as you think. If you’re someone who’s keen on entering the publishing industry (or just a broke student earning some cash on the side), consider proofreading as a professional skill to acquire.

What are the skills and qualifications you require to be hired by proofreading services? 

We went around to ask our folks to find out what prompted them to become a proofreader/editor and the skills they find most useful on the job. 

(“How did I, indeed?” said one of our editors, when asked how proofreading came into their life. “I was picked up straight from college like a plump chicken from a coup for my meat.” )

Here’s what we found. 

 

Where are you likely to find a proofreading position available to you? 

  • Editing and proofreading services (like PaperTrue and Scribendi)
  • Freelance opportunities 
  • Other firms that require an in-house proofreader

What are the skills required to be hired as a proofreader? 

  • In-depth knowledge of grammar and punctuation 
  • An understanding of conventions in the English language 
  • The ability to keep up with the various formatting and referencing styles (esp. for academic work)

But these are technical skills. Don’t feel overwhelmed if you don’t know them already. These are easy to learn (if you put in the effort). The most pertinent skill you need as a proofreader is not proficiency in the language, much to one’s surprise (or not), but the ability to be meticulous.

Freelance work often requires a vetted portfolio. What would a proofreader’s portfolio look like? 

The question of how to prove your skill as a proofreader is a good one (especially if you’re lacking experience). Adding it as a skill on your resume or professional platforms is a start, but the task is still to make your pitch credible. Your portfolio should answer the question, “are your editing and proofreading services reliable?”

You can do this via the tracked changes feature on MS Word. The idea is to present before and after versions of a sample document for a prospective client/employer to see how you work. Something like this: 

[insert picture]

Do I have to be a literature or language student to qualify? 

Not necessarily. It would certainly help to have a background in language and literature to qualify as a proofreader, but then again, remember that this is an incredibly practical skill to have. Let’s just say there are other ways than a classroom to familiarize yourself with writing/language conventions.

Are there proofreading and editing courses?

Yes! If you’re not confident about being able to master the skill of proofreading on your own, you can always opt to learn the tricks of the trade in a structured manner. Many e-learning websites such as Coursera, edX, and Skillshare have MOOCs that you can apply to. Publishing houses and organizations/forums about publishing (Society for Editors and Proofreaders in the UK, for example) also have modules on proofreading and editing.

That said, keep in mind that training is just the first step. What you need now is practice.

Practice? What does that mean?

Here are some things you could consider doing:

  • Learn how to read precisely and meticulously. 
  • Read up on referencing and formatting styles.
  • Brush up on grammar, punctuation, and language conventions (UK/US differences in English, for instance)
  • Use your newfound skill to spot errors in books, essays, newspaper clippings, etc.
  • Help your friends with their homework or writing assignments/material. 
  • Apply to freelance platforms like Upwork or Fiverr 
  • Network with other editors, writers, proofreaders to understand how goes it

What is a proofreading service’s standard hiring process?

Most editing and proofreading services ask you to take a test that evaluates two things

  1. Your language skills: grammar, punctuation, formatting…the works.
  2. Your ability to work within a deadline.

It sounds easy, but if you’ve followed all the previous steps, you know this is one of those things that’s easier said than done.

 

Luckily, it’s not impossible. The hallmark of a good proofreader is to work patiently under pressure. “Cool, calm, composed” is the key!

We’ll leave you to navigate this world on a positive note. And bid you good luck on your newfound endeavour.