5 Tips for Starting a Career in Proofreading with No Experience

5 Tips for Starting a Career in Proofreading with No Experience

  • Oct 25, 2020
  • 6 min read

Thinking about a career as a freelance proofreader? Worried you don’t have the right training or background? If so, we have good news! You can start on your path to working as a proofreader with no experience whatsoever. All you need to do is:

  1. Research what a proofreader does and brush up on your core skills.
  2. Learn how to use common editing tools in Microsoft Word.
  3. Get to know some of the major style guides that proofreaders use.
  4. Volunteer your services to build some experience.
  5. Take our Becoming A Proofreader course to hone your skills.

Read on below to find out why freelance proofreading is a perfect entry-level job, even for those who haven’t done any proofreading or editing before.

1. Learn What a Proofreader Does

You don’t need a degree to work as a proofreader, but you do need a strong grasp of the English language. For instance, when proofreading, you may need to:

  • Correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors.
  • Amend text for clarity and consistency.
  • Check that the tone and vocabulary of a document are appropriate.
  • Address other usage errors (e.g., how to write numbers and dates correctly).
  • Check for formatting issues (e.g., missing page numbers or inconsistent fonts).
  • Know the conventions of different writing styles and English dialects.

As well as researching what proofreaders do, though, you should brush up on your spelling, grammar, and punctuation skills. There are lots of books you can use for this, but you can also find great advice online (e.g., on our blog and the blog of our partner company, Proofed).

2. Learn How to Use Common Editing Tools in Microsoft Word

Most documents are written using Microsoft Word these days. To work as a proofreader, then, you’ll need to learn to use the editing tools in this program. The three most important are:

  • Track Changes – A tool that records changes to the text in a document.
  • Compare – This lets you compare two versions of a document, highlighting the differences in a new copy, which gives you another way of highlighting edits for clients.
  • Comment – The comment tool is great for leaving feedback, asking clients questions, and highlighting potential problems that require the document author’s attention.

There are other programs you may need to learn eventually (e.g., many proofreaders use Adobe Acrobat to mark up PDF documents). But Microsoft Word is the most important!

3. Get to Know the Major Style Guides

Style guides set out rules for good writing. Depending on the guide, this might mean:

  • General rules for formal writing in a specific dialect (e.g., A Dictionary of Modern English Usage focuses on British English, while The Elements of Style covers American English).
  • Rules for writing in a particular field (e.g., academic guides such as the MLA and APA style manuals, or the AP Stylebook, which is used for journalism and business writing).

You won’t have to buy and read every style guide out there to start working. But knowing the most common styles, and when they’re used, is useful even for entry-level proofreaders.

4. Volunteer Your Services

You might not have any experience yet, but it’s never too early to get some! And one of the best ways to do this until you’ve established yourself is to volunteer your services.

The easiest option here is to ask friends, colleagues, and family members if you can look over their emails, resumes, or creative writing projects for them. This will let you practice your proofreading skills without the pressure of working for a paying stranger.

Alternatively, look for charities or other non-profits seeking help with proofreading. For instance, you could sign up with Distributed Proofreaders. They take books in the public domain, convert them to ebooks, and make them available online via Project Gutenberg.

5. Sign Up with Knowadays

What’s the best way to become a proofreader with no prior experience? Our Becoming A Proofreader course! We cover many of the skills discussed here – what to look for when proofreading, how to use Microsoft Word, and the basics of style – plus you can build experience as you work through the quizzes and example documents in each module.

As an added bonus, if you pass the final exams of both Becoming A Proofreader and Becoming An Editor with marks of 80% or higher, you will get a chance to work with Proofed. And agencies like Proofed are a perfect way to start your proofreading career and gain experience in the industry.

So, to start your journey from an aspiring proofreader with no experience to a confident, trained editor, sign up for a free trial of our Becoming A Proofreader and Becoming An Editor courses today.

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Join the Conversation

February 11, 2022 at 9:51AM
Good day. I am highly interested in starting a career in proofreading and editing.May please take me through aspects enrolment suitable for me as a newcomer in the field. I am in possession of a BA with Education and Communication as my majors, and English as one of my ancillaries.
    Knowadays says:
    February 11, 2022 at 12:51PM
    Hi, DT. You can find out more about the courses available via Knowadays here: https://knowadays.com/courses/ If you'd like more information on anything in particular, you could check out our FAQs page or get in touch via the methods here: https://knowadays.com/contact-us/
Lesley Butler says:
April 12, 2022 at 8:27PM
It's April and it's snowing again! I'm newly retired and contrary to popular wisdom, I miss working. New challenge is needed...desperately! Flicking through UTube I notice the ads for proof reading as a career. Not something I'd really thought about but why not? I'd earned a BA and Masters degrees at reputable Canadian universities. One degree in English literature, a grasp of literary style....not to mention spelling and basic grammar. I'd even marked term papers for Engineer's English (an oxymoron if ever there was one!). Maybe I could turn these somewhat obscure abilities into income producing work. So here I am....ready to sign up with Knowadays and stpart a new challenge!
Kim Baxter says:
October 16, 2022 at 5:55AM
Hello. I am interested in proofreading books on Google Play Books. I read so many books on there and it seems as though no one proofreads them. I read a ton of the young adult stories and love them but the errors drive me nuts. Do you have any idea how I can see about becoming a proofreader for them? I am an adult, but I like the stories written for the young adults. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
Dian Gordon says:
November 11, 2022 at 10:38PM
would like to do proofreading course
    Knowadays says:
    November 21, 2022 at 9:15AM
    That's great to hear! Our Becoming A Proofreader course covers everything you need to know to get started. You can learn more about the course here: https://knowadays.com/courses/becoming-a-proofreader/ (plus you can try it out for free!).
Mary Goodleaffe says:
December 15, 2022 at 9:38AM
I would like to learn more about proofreading, but my question is do I have to use my personal email for proofreading job?
    Knowadays says:
    December 23, 2022 at 4:51PM
    Hi Mary! That's completely up to you! You can use a personal email address, or set up a professional email address. Many freelancers prefer to set up a professional email address to add a greater sense of legitimacy to their business, and to help keep their personal and work correspondence separate.
Germán says:
January 13, 2023 at 3:33PM
Hi! I´m really interested in taking the course. English is not my main languaje, is a C2 level sufficient to complete it?
    Knowadays says:
    January 23, 2023 at 12:24PM
    Hi! We'd expect that a C2 Level would be sufficient to complete the course successfully, but we'd recommend giving our free trial a go first. This will help you get a feel for the content of the course, how it is written/presented, and whether there are any areas you'd like to learn more about before taking the full course. Hope that helps!
Heba Abd El Meguid says:
July 3, 2023 at 3:36PM
i want to work from home
    Knowadays says:
    July 10, 2023 at 1:05PM
    Hi Heba. Proofreading and/or editing could be a great option for you! We offer proofreading and editing courses, which you can read about here: https://knowadays.com/courses/ We also have lots of blog posts about finding flexible work, and work from home jobs. For example: https://knowadays.com/blog/why-proofreading-is-a-great-work-from-home-job/?swcfpc=1 https://knowadays.com/blog/how-to-find-work-from-home-proofreading-jobs/?swcfpc=1 https://knowadays.com/blog/what-is-flexible-working-and-how-to-find-flexible-jobs/?swcfpc=1 We hope that helps :)

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