How to Start a Proofreading Business
You’d 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 and 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.
Does that sound like you? Then starting a proofreading business is an excellent opportunity to become your own boss without the weight of hefty startup expenses. This is an easy work-from-home-option as long as you have a quiet spot to work from, a computer, and well-working wifi.
Proofreading is an essential step in the writing process. 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. Grammarly, perhaps one of the best-known proofreading and editing programs, defines proofreading as “the last opportunity to correct any errors that might have slipped past top editing, line editing, and copy editing before the text is published.” As a proofreader, you will be that last frontier for manuscripts, reports, CVs, essays, articles, letters, and other written communication.
Proofreading sits within the editorial services industry, and that industry holds a market size of $3 billion in the US, according to IBISWorld. Editorial services such as proofreading are commonly outsourced services and therefore depend on the economy doing well and corporations achieving healthy profits.
In 2021, this industry comprised over 51,000 businesses, employing almost 73,500 staff. According to Zippia, females make up nearly 67% of this workforce.
After the slump of recent years, the outlook for the editorial services industry is positive. Recruiter.com forecasts over 3,500 new proofreading jobs will be filled by 2029, representing an annual increase of 5.92% over the next few years. At the same time, IBISWorld notes the continued decline in the price of computers and computer software, contributing to a lower barrier to entry into this industry. However, it also anticipates increased competition through internet-based operators and improved technological abilities.
Your target market is businesses and individuals looking for proofreading services. Most companies can’t afford full-time proofreaders and will often outsource the entire editing and proofreading function. Corporates, Government departments, and healthcare providers are some of the bigger clients to outsource these services. Individuals may need help with their CVs. Assistance with essays, research reports, and theses makes for quite a large market segment.
Consider specializing in a particular sector or subject area. Analyze your competition. What fields are already covered, and where can you see gaps in supply?
Checklist for Starting a Proofreading Business
To help take the guesswork out of getting started, here’s a helpful checklist outlining all of the steps necessary to launch your own successful proofreading business.
Step 1: Choose a Niche to Focus On
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.
The best way to select a niche is to focus on one or two specific types of documents, subjects, or industries that you’d like to work with. When selecting a niche, prioritize the topics that are more interesting or easier to understand, based on your skillset and prior experience.
Once you have pinpointed your niche, specialize in it—this could help create opportunities for referrals and generate an established and stable client base.
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 being 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 not only actively seeking grammar mistakes but by additionally 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 a Business Entity
A business entity (also referred to as a business structure) refers to how a business is legally organized to operate. There are four primary business structures to choose from, which include the sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC). Each type of entity has its own pros and cons, such as liability exposure, costs, and administrative requirements.
When deciding on which business entity is best for a proofreading business, it normally comes down to the sole proprietorship and Limited Liability Company.
A partnership opens the owners up to unnecessary personal liability because if a partner does something to get the business sued, or runs off with cash from the business, the other partners are personally liable to repay.
The corporation can be a good choice to minimize liability risk because it separates the business assets from the owner’s assets. If the corporation is sued or certain business debts can’t be paid back, the owners aren’t personally responsible to repay them. The downside to the corporation is that it is more complicated than all the other entities and requires more administration than the LLC. If you plan on raising a lot of investment though, the corporation is usually the better choice.
That leaves the sole proprietorship and LLC.
The sole proprietorship is the least expensive and easiest entity to start which is appealing. The downside is that the owner is personally liable should anything happen to the business, which is an important consideration. The LLC offers the ability to operate as a sole proprietorship with the liability protection of a corporation. Depending on the state, the cost to form an LLC runs from $40 – $500, which is pretty inexpensive for protecting the owners from business-related lawsuits and certain debts.
Related: Guide to forming your LLC
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:
IncFile - $0 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!
ZenBusiness - Best for beginners. $0 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!
Northwest - Best privacy protection. $39 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!
Step 4: Apply for Business Licenses and Permits
Registering a proofreading business is super easy.
As a sole proprietor, you may be required to register the business name. Also, a business license is rare, but in some cities, even home-based businesses are required to register.
Step 5: Set Up your Workspace
Setting up an efficient workspace for a proofreading business requires planning and attention to detail. It is important to find 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.
A good filing system should be implemented so that proofreading tasks are easy to track and reference later on.
Step 6: Open a Business Bank Account
Keeping your small business and personal finances in separate bank accounts is important to track the income and expenses of your business and identify trends.
Many banks offer free business checking accounts, so be sure to find a cost-effective option for your business.
Step 7: Get your Marketing Plan in Place
Running a proofreading business can be rewarding, but also highly competitive. It’s essential to have a well thought-out marketing strategy that works for your particular business and appeals to your potential clients.
After identifying your target market, one of the most important things you can do is to ensure that your website is current, clear, easy to use, and contains plenty of relevant information about how you can help your customers. Additionally, it’s a good idea to reach out to other businesses in related fields by forming partnerships or joint ventures – for example, offering package deals on services or promotions. Online marketing should also be utilized as much as possible on social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, with engaging posts and consistent branding across all channels.
By utilizing a smart combination of traditional and modern marketing techniques, you can ensure that your proofreading business gets the desired attention from its target audience.
This material is property of StartingYourBusiness.com
Common Questions When Starting A Proofreading Business
How much does it cost to start a proofreading business?
Proofreading may be one of the easiest and safest ways to start a business. It really lends itself to freelancing. That way, you can build your client base and find your feet as a business owner.
The editorial services industry enjoys a very low barrier to entry. Your budget will primarily consist of the following:
– A reliable, fast computer, including a second computer screen – $500 – $3,500
– A solid wifi connection
– Proofreading, spellcheck, and citation as well as antivirus software – $300 – $600
Subscriptions – A current version of Microsoft Word (and Google Docs) subscriptions to standard style guides such as the Associated Press Stylebook , the MLA Handbook, the APA Manual, and the Chicago Manual of Style
– Online presence and marketing: You can easily start via online job platforms like Fiverr or Upwork as a freelancer. Or you can invest in your own website, branding, and marketing campaign – $0 – $5,000
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.
How much money can you make with a proofreading service?
Are there grants to start a proofreading business?
It’s extremely rare to find a grant to start a proofreading business. If you search for business grants, you will come across a lot of scams and misinformation. Occasionally an organization will offer grants to start a business, however, be skeptical and don’t provide any sensitive personal information or pay money to get more information.
Legitimate federal grants can be found at Grants.gov, and you can check on your state’s economic development office to see if they have any grants available.
What skills are needed to run a proofreading business?
Professional Expertise. Confidence in applying correct spelling, punctuation, spacing, and grammar is an absolute must. We also recommend you are knowledgeable and confident with various referencing styles such as APA, MLA, Chicago (Chicago Document style), and CSE (Biology and o Other Sciences). This is especially true for proofreading essays, theses, and research reports.
Although not essential, proofreaders commonly hold a Bachelor’s in Journalism, Literature, Communications, or English, demonstrating your competency and understanding of written language. Other degrees or experience in a particular industry, such as law or the sciences, may be called for. In any case, holding relevant certifications will be a crucial part of attracting clients.
Transferrable skills. As a proofreader, you must have an eye for detail and be systematic, organized, and focused. You will enjoy working by yourself and will be able to remain calm even when deadlines are looming. At the same time, good communication with your clients is essential and part of excellent customer service.
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 generally speaking, proofreaders 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.
Is proofreading a good business opportunity? We think it is. The flexibility of proofreading is very appealing, because not only can proofreading be a work at home job (or anywhere, for that matter), but you can choose whether to make it a side hustle or a full-time job. If you have the right skills, it can be a very rewarding career in terms of job satisfaction and finances. In addition, it makes for a great ‘starter business’ without the burden of huge expenses.