5 Tips for Starting a Career in Proofreading with No Experience
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:
- Research what a proofreader does and brush up on your core skills.
- Learn how to use common editing tools in Microsoft Word.
- Get to know some of the major style guides that proofreaders use.
- Volunteer your services to build some experience.
- 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! In this, 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 assignments in each module.
As an added bonus, if you pass the final exam with a mark 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 course today.