In an era where content is king, the value of clear, concise, and error-free communication cannot be underestimated. You might think the likes of Google Translate, Grammarly, and AI have made professional proofreading redundant. But that is not the case at all.
Proofreaders are responsible for putting the finishing touches on written content, from books, marketing materials, legal documents, blog posts, resumes, cover letters, and much more. Successful proofreading needs a storyteller who loves wordsmithing and reading, is methodical, and has a sound knowledge of spelling, grammar, and punctuation. All this without losing the overall essence of a text.
So, if you’re interested in the written word and have an eye for errors, starting a proofreading business could be a great business idea. To help you get started, our guide will walk you through the steps to set up a proofreading side hustle or full-time business..
A proofreading business provides editing and correction services for written content before it’s published. Proofreading is an essential step in the writing process and this business can cater to a wide range of clients, including authors, businesses, students, and website owners, who require their content to be error-free.
As a proofreader, you will ensure that the spelling, punctuation, grammar, word choices, formatting, and spacing of a text (online and print) are all correct. As a proofreader, you will be that last frontier for manuscripts, reports, CVs, essays, articles, letters, and other written communication.
The business model is straightforward – you earn money by charging clients for proofreading their documents. This could be on a per-word, per-page, or project basis, depending on the nature and complexity of the work.
Related Business Ideas
The proofreading industry is a significant component of the broader professional editing services industry. While specific data on the size of the proofreading industry in the United States is not broken out, the professional editing services industry, which includes proofreading, is substantial and growing. This growth is driven by the increasing demand for high-quality written content across various sectors, including publishing, academia, and business. Despite the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) proofreading programs, the demand for human proofreaders remains high, as AI cannot match the nuanced understanding of language that humans possess.
The key to tapping into this growth is honing your expertise as a proofreader and learning the business side of managing a proofreading services company. This requires business planning, developing efficient workflows, effective marketing, and expertise on editing, style guidelines, and more.
Steps To Start A Proofreading Business
Step 1: Choose a Niche
When starting a proofreading business, choosing the right niche can be one of the most important decisions you make. And while being a general proofreader isn’t a bad thing, focusing on a niche can make it easier to find clients and earn more money.
Here are four common steps that can guide you:
- Evaluate your interests and skills: Take stock of the areas you are genuinely interested in and knowledgeable about. These could be industries where you have worked before or topics that are more interesting or easier to understand based on your skillset and prior experience.
- Research potential niches: Look at different sectors that require proofreading services. These could be areas like academic writing, corporate reports, legal documents, medical writing, or self-publishing.
- Determine market demand: Once you’ve identified some potential niches, it’s important to gauge if there’s enough demand for proofreading services in these areas. Use internet research, ask in relevant communities and forums, or speak to people in the field to understand the demand.
- Look at the competition: Finally, find out who your competitors might be in each niche. It’s not necessarily bad to have competitors since it can indicate there’s a healthy market. But, it’s good to have a sense of what you’re up against and what you can do better or differently.
Step 2: Develop your Proofreading Skills
Even if you already have the knack for spotting grammatical errors from a mile away, to become a professional proofreader, it’s important to develop the mindset and skills to succeed.
Accuracy, attention, and speed are critical components of a successful proofreader. Developing accuracy requires that the proofreader seeks out small details that are often difficult to recognize; these details refer to formatting elements like font type, font size, and the placement of words or phrases within the text. Attention to detail can be developed by actively seeking grammar mistakes and identifying any inconsistencies in general stylistic choices and how they appear throughout a piece of writing. Last but not least, doing this quickly day in and day out can get tedious, so having the tricks to stay motivated and consistent can be tough.
There are a number of free proofreading courses, such as Proofread Anywhere, that can help launch your business better and faster than trying to figure it out on your own.
Step 3: Register the Business
Starting a proofreading business is pretty straightforward but does involve a few tasks to ensure that the business is properly registered. Every state has different requirements, but here are some key tasks to consider:
Choose a business structure: There are four main types of business structures: sole proprietorship, general partnership, corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC). Each has its own advantages and disadvantages:
- Sole proprietorship: This is the simplest business structure, with the ease of startup and lowest cost being its main advantages. However, the owner is personally liable for the business.
- General partnership: Not common for a proofreading business, but this structure involves two or more people sharing the profits, liabilities, and management of the business. Like a sole proprietorship, it’s easy to start, but partners are personally liable for business debts.
- Corporation: This is a legal entity separate from its owners, providing them with liability protection. However, it’s more complex and costly to set up and has more regulatory requirements.
- Limited Liability Company (LLC): This provides the liability protection of a corporation with the tax advantages and simplicity of a sole proprietorship or partnership.
Starting out as a sole proprietor is typically the most popular choice, but the LLC can be popular once the business is generating ample profits due to the additional tax benefits it provides.
Related: Comparison of business structures
Forming an LLC sounds complicated and expensive, but using an entity formation service guides you through the process so you know it was done right.
Some popular LLC formation services include:
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Business name registration: After registering the business structure, you may need to register your business name. This process will vary depending on what business structure you pick. Sole proprietors and partnerships will often be required to register a “Doing Business As” (DBA), while corporations and LLCs register with the state during the formation process.
During this time, it’s also a good idea to check if the name you want is available as a web domain, even if you’re not ready to set up a website yet.
Obtain business licenses and permits: Depending on your location, there will likely be a variety of general business registrations needed before opening. These could include a business license, seller’s permit, and Employer Identification Number (EIN).
Step 4: Set Up your Workspace
Starting a proofreading business is quite flexible when it comes to choosing a work location. Unlike many businesses, you don’t necessarily need a physical location, such as an office to run a proofreading business. In fact, many proofreaders work remotely from the comfort of their homes, co-working spaces, or even from cafés.
Wherever you set up shop, you’ll want a well-lit space that is comfortable and free from distractions. Investing in quality furniture, such as an ergonomic chair, can help you stay healthy and productive while working. Also, creating a systematic way to save and find various documents, both online and physical, and utilizing online tools like Google Drive or project management apps like Trello can help keep track of different projects, their deadlines, and requirements..
Step 5: Create a Marketing Plan
Here’s the simple truth: No matter how excellent your proofreading skills are, if people don’t know about your business, they won’t hire your services. The proper way to spread the word about your new proofreading business is through a sound marketing strategy.
After getting clear on who your ideal clients are, one of the most important things you can do is identify what makes your proofreading service stand out from the rest. Distilling your unique strengths into a single, compelling proposition will provide a clear and consistent message about why customers should choose you.
Next, build an online presence with a current, clear, easy-to-use website showcasing your services, qualifications, and testimonials from satisfied clients. Additionally, where relevant to your target market, social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are great places to reach potential clients.
You can also leverage your network by telling friends, family, past colleagues, and acquaintances about your new proofreading services. Also, you can find freelance proofreading jobs on marketplaces like Upwork, you can begin to build your reputation through the reviews of happy clients.
Step 6: Prepare to Launch!
So far, we have covered several essential steps in setting up a proofreading business. However, there are other tasks you may want to complete depending on your individual needs to finalize the startup process. Everyone will have different needs, but here are some common things to consider:
Business insurance: Depending on the work you do, business insurance may be necessary. For example, professional liability insurance can offer you protection if a client claims that an error in your proofreading work caused them financial loss.
Bookkeeping: Implement a system for managing your daily transactions, taxes, and financial statements. This can involve hiring a bookkeeper or using accounting software, such as Wave Accounting (FREE) or Quickbooks.
Contracts: Establish agreements to outline the terms of your relationships with clients. Examples of contracts to consider include a service agreement to outline the scope of work, rates and payment terms, or a non-disclosure agreement to help establish confidentiality assurances when handling sensitive documents. RocketLawyer and Law Depot have free and inexpensive templates that may be helpful.
Opening a business bank account: Having a separate bank account for your business can help you keep your personal and business finances separate, making it easier to manage your business’s income and expenses.
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Common Questions When Starting A Proofreading Business
How much does it cost to start a proofreading business?
Starting a proofreading business can be relatively cost-effective, especially if you already have some of the necessary equipment. The total cost to start can be less than $1,000 if you don’t need to purchase major items like a laptop or printer and if you limit your initial spending on non-essentials. The major expenses include:
Equipment: Primarily, a proofreading business requires a reliable computer and internet connection. If you need to purchase a new laptop, you might spend anywhere from $500 to $1,000. Additionally, a high-speed internet connection might have an initial setup cost of around $100 plus the cost of your first month’s service.
Location: The good news is, as a proofreader, you can often work from home or anywhere with a reliable internet connection. But if you decide to rent a co-working space, you can expect to pay around $200 to $400 a month, plus any deposits.
Business registration: The cost to register your business can vary significantly depending on the business structure you choose and the state in which you operate. For instance, forming an LLC can cost between $50 to $500 in filing fees.
Insurance: Depending on the nature of your work and client requirements, you may need professional liability insurance. Initial costs for this type of insurance, which covers you if a client claims your mistake cost them money, can be about $500 for the year.
Marketing: The initial costs for setting up a website, business cards, and other marketing activities can range from $200 to $500. This would cover basic website design and hosting services, business card printing, and maybe some online advertising to get you started.
Other miscellaneous costs: Any other tools or resources you’ll need for your business will add to your startup costs. For example, you might want to get a premium Grammarly subscription or purchase other proofreading tools, which can cost up to $150 per year.
How much should I charge for proofreading?
The niche you cater to and the complexity of the document will influence your rates, but to see the average proofreading rates, but research from the Editorial Freelancers Association shows that freelance proofreaders typically charge around $31–$45 per hour or $0.02–$0.039.
What qualifications do you need to be a proofreader?
If you’re looking to become a professional proofreader or editor, there are many different routes you can take. The necessary qualifications depend on the field, but proofreaders generally do not need any specific qualifications. However, some jobs may require a bachelor’s degree in English or journalism.
To be successful as a proofreader, you should have a great command of English, an eye for detail, and the ability to spot errors quickly. You should also be familiar with AP and other style guides and have experience fact-checking content.
Proofreading is an excellent job for those who love grammar and spelling and have intense attention to detail. With the right skill set and knowledge, you can easily become a successful proofreader without needing any qualifications.