Freelance Proofreading Tips: 5 Types of Client

Freelance Proofreading Tips: 5 Types of Client

  • Mar 09, 2020
  • 8 min read

One of the joys of freelance proofreading and editing is the variety it offers. Every client is a little bit different, each with their own requirements and posing their own challenges. But there are some types of client you’ll encounter more often than others, including:

  1. Students, academics, and researchers
  2. Business clients
  3. Authors and publishers
  4. Private individuals with personal or professional documents
  5. People who speak English as a second language (ESL)

In this post, we’ll take a quick look at how they differ.

1. Student and Academic Clients

Students and academics are a great source of work for freelance proofreaders. This includes everything from college essays to published books and journal articles. And while academic writing varies in its subject matter and complexity, it should usually:

  • Use formal, technical language
  • Be impersonal and objective in tone
  • Aim for precision and consistency in terminology
  • Have a clear structure, broken down into chapters or sections
  • Feature source citations and references

As a rule, it helps to have some relevant subject knowledge with more complex academic writing (e.g., a postgraduate dissertation or a journal article), especially if it is dense with technical jargon. But this isn’t always necessary, especially with student work.

One challenge posed by academic writing is how much you should change. Generally, it is best to be conservative, especially with documents that will be assessed (e.g., a student essay). This is because extensive editing may fall foul of academic plagiarism rules.

2. Business Clients

Business clients vary hugely, including everything from sole traders to major international companies in a range of industries. Broadly, though, business writing comes in two types:

  • Formal business writing is typically dry and often uses jargon. It is usually for internal use or for external stakeholders, with examples including business reports and plans.
  • Marketing and website copy is usually simpler and less formal, though this may depend on the business. It is usually aimed at the public, clients, or customers.

Business clients will often have a company voice that they want to maintain across all their written content, so you may need to ask for a style sheet when proofreading.

In addition, business clients may want a heavier edit in some cases (e.g., rather than just checking copy for errors, the client may want you to adapt the tone or make it punchier). It is thus important to agree the scope of the changes you’ll make before you begin work.

3. Authors and Publishers

You’re probably tired of us mentioning how much clients can vary by now, but the same thing applies when working with creative writers and publishers! This is because creative writing encompasses everything from historical fiction to poetry anthologies for children. And publishers of different kinds specialize in different types of writing.

Nevertheless, there are a few broad client types in the world of creative writing:

  • Authors who have a manuscript that they want to submit to a publisher.
  • Self-published authors who want some help with editing and proofreading.
  • Publishers at various stages of preparing a book for publication.

The type of editing required will depend heavily on where the client is in the drafting process. Some will want an expert to help them throughout the development and writing of a manuscript, which may involve checking multiple drafts. Others will only get in touch when they have a final draft ready to check for minor errors. As a result, it is very important to discuss the scope of the project and what kind of editing the client wants early on.

In addition, if a publisher asks you for a “proofreading” service, they usually mean this in the old-fashioned sense: i.e., checking a page proof for errors introduced during typesetting.

4. Personal and Professional Documents

We all need to make a good impression in writing at times, such as in a resume, a cover letter, or a formal email. And at these times, people sometimes need a proofreader.

These documents tend to be shorter and often one-off jobs. After all, if you do a good job on a resume or cover letter, your client will hopefully land the job they’ve applied for!

However, people will always need personal and professional documents proofread. And you may take on a lot of these if you work for an agency, such as our partner company Proofed.

5. ESL Clients

Finally, as a proofreader, you may work with many clients who speak English as a second language (ESL) or English as an additional language (EAL).

This isn’t so much a different “client type” – ESL clients may be any of the client types above, especially academic and business – but working with someone for whom English is a second or additional language poses its own challenges.

Things to keep in mind when working with ESL clients include:

  • Documents may require more editing than those from other clients.
  • Even if their level of English is good, they may still make grammatical errors that a native English speaker wouldn’t (e.g., incorrect preposition choice or word order).
  • They may need more help varying their vocabulary.
  • You may want to offer help in comments (e.g., if you spot a repeated error, you could leave a comment explaining the problem). However, if so, you should try to keep feedback simple unless you’re confident the client will understand technical terminology.

Patience is a virtue, too. It is easy to get frustrated with ESL writing if you’re struggling to follow something, but remember the client has been writing in a second language. And unless you’re a prodigious polyglot yourself, you can appreciate the challenges this involves!

Client Types: Every Client Is Different

While it is useful to think about clients in terms of their type, don’t forget what we said at the start of this post: every client is a different, each with their own requirements.

As such, while drawing broad distinctions between client types can be helpful, you also need to tailor your service to the individual. What are they trying to achieve? Do they have a distinct voice? How can you help them express themselves effectively in this specific document?

If you can do this, you should end up with a happy client every time.

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