Updated: Jul 18
Do you like reading and wish you could get paid for it? Did you know that you actually can? That's right. Aspiring and established authors alike need proofreaders to help turn manuscript into a final product.
Not only do you get to read interesting stories and get paid for it, but you get that sense of pride knowing that you played a role in helping bring a story, book, or piece into its' final form.
So, is proofreading the best side hustle that you haven't considered this year? Keep reading to find out.
What is proofreading?
Before you can decide is proofreading is the right side hustle for you, it is important to make sure we're on the same page. Proofreading is a process in which you will review written text for grammatical or other errors.
All sorts of written work need proofreaders, including blogs, magazines, novels, and nonfiction stories.
Proofreading is different from editing. Copy editors oftentimes provide the support needed to come up with a final manuscript, such as content organization, tone, and style changes. Proofreaders, on the other hand, spend their time evaluating the text as it is, rather than suggesting content or other changes.
Skills needed to be a proofreader
Let's get something clear. Proofreading is not easy work. And though you may not need any formal or extensive training to get started, it will require a very nuanced skill set. Generally, proofreading may be a good fit for those that have:
Mastery of the English language, both verbal and written
Great attention to detail skills (finding grammatical mistakes can be like searching for a needle in a haystack)
Time management skills and the ability to meet sometimes aggressive deadlines
Familiarity with certain academic formatting styles, such as MLA, Chicago Style, and APA
Of course, not all of these skills will be used for every job, but possessing these skills will allow you to accept a variety of freelancing gigs as they pop up.
Other than these skills, communication will also be paramount to your success. The ability to talk to an author and help them understand your suggestions is key to doing your job well.
Get your first proofreading jobs
Before you can be officially established in the field, you’ll need to get and successfully complete your first job. Like most other side and full-time businesses, you’ll find That finding your first proofreading job is the most difficult.
And afterwards, each gig will get easier and easier. When it comes to finding your first gig, you really have two options to consider. You may opt to be a freelancer, offering your services on sites like Fiverr or Upwork, or you may opt to take a part-time online side job with an already established company.
The path you take is up to you and will depend on where your interests lie. If you’re looking to build your own client acquisition funnel and find your own clients, then you’ll likely be happier as a freelancer. And if not, considering a side job may be better for you.
Regardless of what you choose, here is a list of the top proofreading side jobs and platforms you may use to find your first jobs.
Top proofreading jobs
Believe it or not, there are no shortage of online options for you to build out your side hustle. Let’s start with your freelancing options.
Fiverr is my favorite freelancing site on the entire Internet, and you can use it to advertise your proofreading services.
The site is home to plenty of other proofreaders already, so you'll want your profile to stand out. After you've created your account, the best ways to stand out are to:
Price your services aggressively low at first to build a couple of really good reviews
Go above and beyond for your first clients
Create detailed descriptions of exactly what services you'll provide
Then, once you've started to gain more traction on the site, you can raise your prices and still attract future clients.
I've both purchased and offered services on Fiverr, and as a buyer, I find much more comfort in working with those that have started to build a track record of success.
Upwork is another freelancing profile, similar to Fiverr in many ways. Many of my advice, therefore, extends to your freelance proofreading on Upwork, though I recommend you also consider picking a niche for your services.
There is so much competition for generic proofreading services, but you may find better luck if you select a niche and center a professional looking profile around it.
For example, you may market yourself as an expert blog or novel proofreader. Picking a niche positions yourself as a person of authority, and will help others to find confidence in the services you'll provide.
The third approach that I recommend you look at to expend your reach is to build a LinkedIn profile centered around your proofreading services.
Not only will this signal to writers and content creators in your network what you're up to, but it will also help you to connect with other content writers that may need your services at some point in the near to medium term.
Of course, there are plenty of other options for you if freelancing isn't really up your alley.
Babbletype was new to me until I was completing the research that I needed to write this piece. But they're actually a really cool company!
Babbletype is a transcription based business that focuses on market research. They hire proofreaders to verify that their transcriptions are grammatically correct. Going rates for proofreaders are about $0.20 per audio minute.
I've heard of Edit 911 before, but wasn't really familiar with their business model. Edit 911 positions itself as a leading proofreading service on the market, and offers services on books, academic research, and other types of content.
There is a caveat, unfortunately. You'll need a PhD in English to be eligible.
Scribbr is an option for those with at least a bachelor's degree. And though you do need a degree to be eligible, you'll be rewarded financially for your work.
Scribbr proofreaders are paid using a fixed per word model, but report earning between $20-$30 per hour on average.
Of course, these are only a sampling of the companies and sites you can use to get paid for proofreading services. There are many other jobs and companies to consider too. Some of my other favorites are:
American Journal Experts
Tools to help you proofread
Luckily, you are not alone without tools to help you proofread documents and hunt for grammatical mistakes. That said, there are a number of tools, some free and others paid, that can make a real difference once you add them to your proofreading toolbelt. Among my favorites are:
At this point, my business is a one-man operation - me! And while I don't hire proofreaders to review my materials before I post them out to my readers, I do use Grammarly to help me identify any mistakes that could have been easily prevented.
Currently, Grammarly offers a few different options, including a free version, a premium version, and a business version. I use the free version, and have found it to offer all of the main tools I need to identify and remove mistakes before my readers find them. Included in the free version of Grammarly are grammar, spelling, punctuation, conciseness, and tone detection checks.
Those willing to pay for premium or business versions will find additional tools that I don't need, including citation help and account roles/permissions.
I have not used the ProWritingAid tool firsthand, but I have heard really good things about it. It is oftentimes considered to be a good tool for authors and business writers alike, and offers a free trial, albeit with limited access.
The free trial will only allow you to proofread 500 words at a time, and limits you to ten rephrases per day. The premium version, however, at just $10 per month, offers a ton of tools, including:
Unlimited word count/rephrases
Writing style improvement suggestions
3. Hemingway Editor
Hemingway Editor is another software option that will call out and help you correct grammar, structure, and sentence fluency in an easy to understand way.
You may not need all of the functionality offered by Hemingway on all of your proofreading jobs, but I really like the way the app color codes and calls out suggested improvements.
The tool is not free, but you can add it to your Mac or Windows device for just $19.99, a purchase that you may find to be worth every penny.
How much do proofreaders make?
Freelance proofreaders report making around $20 per hour on average, but in my experience, I’d say anything between $15-$40 is average. In many instances, you’ll be able to price your services based on what you think is fair.
However, the going rates in the industry are dependent on a few different variables, including your experience level, type of literary work, and expected turnaround time.
You’ll also find that these rates vary based on platform.
Pros and cons of freelance proofreading
Proofreading on the side has a number of benefits for workers, including:
Totally remote work: What could be better than making money from the comfort of home? Not much, in my opinion.
No real start-up costs: One of my main qualms with some side hustles is the upfront expenses you’ll incur to get started. Luckily, this is not an issue with proofreading. All you’ll need to get started is an Internet connection, which you likely have anyway.
Limited overhead: Not only is proofreading a side hustle with really limited start-up costs, but it is also a side hustle with really limited ongoing costs! I've mentioned a couple of editing software options if you're aiming to scale your operation quickly, but these are more of a luxury than a requirement.
No credentials required to get started: You won’t need any formal training or educational credentials to enter the proofreading game, though you may find it easier to get started with some base level training or experience.
Though these pros are plentiful in both size and scope, there are a couple of main drawbacks to proofreading that you should be aware of:
No guarantee you’ll make money: Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that you’ll be able to sufficiently supplement or replace your income. This is a risk that is true with most all side gigs though.
Tight deadlines: While you can set your own hours, there are going to be times when you have tighter turnarounds or requests. Ultimately, it is up to you whether you want to accept these gigs or not, but they oftentimes are more lucrative
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