7 Essential Skills for Proofreading and Editing

While you don’t need a specific degree to launch a successful proofreading and editing business, you do need certain skills. And although many freelancers offer both proofreading and editing, those two things are very distinct services that require different skill sets. 

However, they share many of the same essentials, and if you’re motivated to learn, you can be a successful freelance proofreader and editor! Here are some skills you’ll need for both:

1. Attention to Detail

When proofreading or editing, it’s important to focus on the task at hand. Both require concentration, as that’s the only way you’ll be able to spot errors or notice subtle edits that are needed. 

When proofreading and editing, it’s a good idea to work in a distraction-free environment, like a library or dedicated home office, and if your mind starts to wander, take a quick break to refocus.

2. Strong Spelling and Grammar Skills

A strong grasp of spelling and grammar is essential for any proofreader or editor – it’s their job to spot errors, after all! Although it’s important to have a solid understanding of spelling and grammar rules, you can also refer to reliable online or print resources, such as a dictionary or punctuation guidebook, to double-check any issues you’re unsure of.

3. Excellent Time Management

Proofreaders and editors often have tight deadlines, so they need first-rate time management skills. If you’re a freelancer, it can be especially difficult to stick to a schedule. 

While it can be tempting to say yes to every opportunity that comes your way, only take on what you can effectively manage within a realistic timeframe. Otherwise, you risk missing deadlines or experiencing burnout. A healthy work–life balance is critical in any line of work, and being well rested increases productivity.

4. Independence

As a freelance proofreader and editor, you may be working on multiple projects at once – and since you don’t have a supervisor, self-motivation is vital to meet deadlines and stay organized. 

To keep track of your progress, it can help to break large assignments into smaller, more manageable tasks. And be sure to keep a detailed calendar or use project management software to keep track of your clients and jobs.

5. Ability to Stick to a Style Guide

A style guide is a crucial part of proofreading and editing, and different clients will provide their own specific guides for you to follow. A style guide includes guidance on referencing, vocabulary, formatting, tone of voice, etc. 

It’s important that you closely follow it when proofreading or editing, no matter what type of document you’re working on. A good tip is to have it open and accessible so that you can refer to it frequently as you work through the document.

6. Good Interpersonal Skills

As a proofreader or editor, you’ll need to market your freelance business and effectively communicate with clients. Interpersonal skills are an important part of the job, as you may develop long-term relationships with clients, and editors often review several drafts of a document throughout the editing process and provide feedback for each revision. 

As a freelancer, it’s a good idea to establish good working relationships with your clients because proofreading and editing businesses often grow from word-of-mouth recommendations.

7. Technological Know-How

A good understanding of the digital world is another key part of proofreading and editing. Although proofreading and editing mostly involve reading, you’ll need to know your way around word processing software (e.g., Microsoft Word) and online literary resources

Also, since much of the business side of freelancing is conducted virtually, such as over video conferencing or email, you’ll need to be familiar with these to communicate with clients (and get paid!).

Becoming A Proofreader

Don’t worry if you don’t have all these skills down yet – if you’re interested in developing them, our courses will teach you everything you need to know to launch your freelance business. And if you pass our Becoming A Proofreader course with a mark of 80% or higher, you’re guaranteed work with our partner company, Proofed. So, if you haven’t already, sign up for a free trial today!

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