30-40 per week
Proofreaders check written text after it has been edited and before it is printed or published. They also provide a final quality check to make sure that nothing has been missed. If you are good at spelling and grammar, and can concentrate for long periods, this job could be ideal for you.
In this job you will need to be accurate and pay close attention to detail. You will need good IT skills and be able to motivate yourself to meet deadlines.
There are no set entry requirements for becoming a proofreader. It may be useful to have a degree in a subject like English. Relevant experience is also highly valued.
As a proofreader, you would carefully check publication 'proofs' - documents which show how the final pages of a written text will be laid out. You’ll do this using either a printed 'hard' copy or by using a computer to view electronic or online versions.
Your main tasks would include making sure that:
- there are no errors such as letters in the wrong order
- the text and diagrams are positioned correctly
- page numbers are in the right order
- the document follows the agreed 'housestyle'
- chapter titles match the list of contents
- there are no confusing words, column or page breaks
- illustrations have the right captions and relate to the text
- the layout is logical and attractive
You would mark any changes that needed to be made using British Standards Institution symbols, which are internationally recognised. When working on a computer, you may use specialist software to mark up the document. You may also produce a separate list of any questions you have for the editor or writer.
Before making any changes that could result in extra cost or a delay to publication, you would discuss them with your client.
Working hours and conditions
As a freelance proofreader, you would usually work from home and arrange your own hours, based on the amount of work you have.
Working in-house for an employer, you would usually work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. To meet publishing deadlines you may be expected to work extra hours.
As a freelance proofreader you would normally be paid on an hourly rate which is agreed between you and your client. The Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) suggest that the minimum rate should be £22.50 an hour. The SfEP website has more information about suggested minimum freelance rates.
Rates of pay may depend on experience.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
There are no set qualifications for becoming a proofreader. It is becoming more common for new entrants to have a degree, although employers will also be interested in any relevant experience you may have. Some proofreaders may have worked in publishing, journalism or other related areas.
If you wish to study towards a degree, relevant subjects could include:
- digital media
If you have a degree or a background in a particular area you could use it to develop a proofreading specialism. For example, a technical or scientific degree could be used to specialise in proofreading scientific textbooks or manuals.
Competition for jobs is very strong. Many publishing companies do not advertise vacancies and most are filled through word of mouth or recommendation. Whatever your qualifications, employers would be very interested in any proofreading experience you have had.
Volunteering is a great way of getting valuable experience and could also give you a better understanding of the job and the publishing industry. It’s also a good way of making contacts in the industry that you can use to help you find work. Ways of getting experience could include:
- writing or proofreading for student magazines or publications
- working in a bookshop or library
- proofreading for small businesses or university students
- working on charity publications, websites or social media.
You should start to develop a portfolio of work that you do, paid or unpaid. You can use this to showcase your skills to employers.
Gaining proofreading skills could improve your chances of finding work. Short courses are offered through the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) and the Publishing Training Centre. Courses are also available through private training providers.
When you have completed some SfEP courses, you could get support in establishing your career by joining the SfEP mentoring scheme.
Training and development
In some publishing companies you will receive in-house training when you start work. You can also develop your skills by attending courses like those run by the SfEP and the Publishing Training Centre.
As an experienced proofreader, you can join the SfEP accreditation and registration scheme. You would need to pass a proofreading test and have a certain amount of experience with two or more clients.
It will be useful to become a member of professional bodies such as the SfEP, Women in Publishing and the Publishers' Association. This will give you opportunities for professional support and the chance to expand your list of contacts through networking.
As a member of the SfEP, your details can be entered on the Society's directory, which is a resource for people who need proofreading and editing services.
You will need to keep up to date with developments in publishing, and with technical skills such as changes in relevant computer software. You can update your knowledge in these areas by attending seminars and completing distance learning or online courses run by the SfEP and the Publishing Training Centre.
Skills, interests and qualities
To be a proofreader you will need to have:
- a good standard of English, especially grammar and spelling
- a high level of concentration, accuracy and attention to detail
- good IT skills
- a methodical approach
- the ability to cope with repetitive tasks
- the ability to meet deadlines
- tact and diplomacy for working with writers
Creative Skillset (Young creative talent)
Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP)
176 Upper Richmond Road
Tel: 020 8785 6155
Women in Publishing
29b Montague Street
Tel: 020 7691 9191
Publishing Training Centre at Book House
45 East Hill
Tel: 020 8874 2718
You would usually be self-employed and work freelance.
Vacancies are sometimes advertised in the national press or on websites such as The Bookseller. Jobs for full-time in-house proofreaders are rare. You may find that you need to combine proofreading with other employment until you have built up a reputation and developed a wide network of contacts. This will increase the possibility of finding work through word of mouth or recommendation.
As an experienced proofreader, you could build up your reputation as a specialist in a particular field, or approach larger, more well-known publishing companies for work.
Job market information
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