10 tips for anyone starting out as a proofreader

proofreader tips

This is a guest blog post from Rebecca Raimondo. Rebecca is a freelance proofreader specialising in the arts. Before becoming a proofreader, Rebecca worked at Sotheby’s Auction House for many years. She lives near Cambridge with her husband and two daughters. Visit her website Rebecca Raimondo, follow her on Twitter at @RRProofreading, or find her on Facebook.

1. Terms and Conditions

Have your T&Cs written before you accept any paid work. If you have a general template you can tailor it to each individual client whether they are a publisher, student or author. If you cover yourself from the start you will avoid the risk of potential issues further down the line.

2. Create a style and word sheet

Do this for every piece of work you carry out, no matter how small. It will save you a lot of time when you are 300 pages in and see something you know you saw earlier but can’t remember where.

3. Read out loud

It helps you listen to the flow of a piece and stops you skimming over words in your head.

4. Never proofread when you are tired or distracted

Concentration is key to proofreading. If you can, avoid last minute deadlines leaving you frantically trying to finish something at midnight. Plan your time and workload, switch off the television or radio and leave your mobile phone in another room.

5. Know your subject

Don’t agree to proofread a document about biomechanics when you know absolutely nothing about the subject, stick to those you understand or have some experience in. Having said that…

6. Don’t make assumptions

When you are working on something that you are experienced in, don’t assume you know best. Even if you are convinced a date, name or fact is wrong, query it with the author rather than automatically changing it.

7. Regularly take a break

Take a short break every hour to get a drink, have a stretch or even just look out of the window. Don’t take on another task in this time though, it will take your mind off the job and make it harder to get back into your flow when you sit down again.

8. Fresh air

I work from my home in the countryside and every morning I go for a walk across the fields to clear my head before I start work. It’s amazing how much difference this makes to my concentration and if you are in a position to do the same, I cannot recommend it enough.

9. Marketing

Marketing your business is essential. Unless you are incredibly lucky, work will not come to you if you don’t make the effort to find it. Dedicate time each week to focus on marketing, work on your USP and ensure your website, CV and social media accounts are always up to date.

10. Last but not least

My freelance proofreading business would not be where it is now without my ‘bible’ Louise Harnby’s ‘Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business’. I read it cover to cover before I started and I still dip into it most weeks. No freelance editor should set up on their own without reading this first.


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