How to Become a Proofreader (Duties, Salaries and Steps)

Can you spot the the mistake?

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

How to become a proofreader

Proofreading is an essential part of the professional writing process. Nothing published is finalized before it is proofread, and this takes time and talent.

Proofreaders use their skills to ensure error-free text. The career offers a great way into the writing and publishing industry, and is a highly sought-after role, especially as it can offer a lot of flexibility.

If you’re interested in becoming a proofreader, then read on for insights into the role and what you can do to get started in this interesting job.

What is a proofreader?

Proofreaders review written documents such as articles or printed prose, with a view to identifying and correcting errors in grammar, spelling, syntax, punctuation and formatting.

The role is an essential part of the editorial process. It’s often said that a good proofreader is invisible — if they let through no errors, you won’t know they have reviewed the text at all!

What’s the difference between proofreaders and editors?

Editors and proofreaders differ in the depth of their review of written materials.

Proofreading roles focus on surface-level corrections, such as grammar and punctuation, as indicated above. Because of this, they will usually work on the final draft of a document before it’s published.

Editors, on the other hand, will also review surface-level corrections but will primarily be focused on comprehensive corrections, such as checking structures, impact, tone, and the overall effectiveness and angle of the writing.

Editors might rewrite sections of writing or request corrections from the author. They will work closer with authors and work on several drafts before the final one is submitted.

What does a proofreader do?

Despite having a limited remit over the writing that they review, proofreaders have several critical tasks. Here are their top responsibilities:

  • Checking grammar: Ensuring grammar rules are followed, and correcting mistakes as appropriate.
  • Correcting spelling: Identifying and spell-checking text to ensure the writing is accurate.
  • Correcting typos: Fixing extra spaces, missing letters or other formatting issues that occur in text.
  • Ensuring consistency: Ensuring all the above checks are undertaken consistently throughout the document.
  • Reviewing punctuation: Ensuring that punctuation is used correctly and is applied in the right style.
  • Verifying accuracy: Fact-checking information such as names, dates, places and other such information.

What is their work environment?

Proofreaders are typically office-based and will be based either in a company’s office or at home, working remotely. The role can involve adhering to tight deadlines, sometimes working on several tasks at once, and can therefore be stressful at times. There is also a need for serious concentration, given the nature of the role.

Proofreaders can be based in a variety of settings, such as in educational buildings, publishing houses, government offices, corporate headquarters, or simply hotdesk as needed. Proofreaders can be contracted to a company on their payroll, which offers more stability, or work as a freelancer, which allows them to choose their own working pattern.

How many hours do they work?

Working hours of proofreaders vary considerably based on their working arrangement, such as whether or not they are part-time, freelancing, or part of a larger company.

Full-time proofreaders, employed by the government or a publishing house, for example, will work a typical 9-to-5 working pattern. Freelance proofreaders, meanwhile, will work atypical hours that might be based around other jobs or family commitments.

Some proofreaders might only be contracted per project, and their hours might be a little more unpredictable. Occasionally, pressing deadlines or heavier workloads will mean longer days and sometimes needing to work additional hours to ensure projects are completed on time.

How much do they earn?

As a career, there is plenty of variation and scope in proofreaders’ responsibilities. With freelancing a popular form of employment, wage data is skewed by people only doing a little freelancing, perhaps as a side hustle. This is reflected in the profession’s broad wage scale.

Overall, the Bureau of Labor Statistics cites the mean annual wage for a proofreader to be $48,770.

Percentile wage estimates vary significantly. The annual wage at the 10th percentile is $29,350, and $72,660 at the 90th percentile.

States that have large publishing, journalism and writing industries pay much more for proofreaders. The District of Columbia pays the highest overall, with an annual mean wage of $68,980, followed by New York ($63,700), California ($60,490), Massachusetts ($51,320) and Illinois ($51,250).

Here’s a quick rundown:

Proofreader Salary

What is the job market like for proofreaders?

The job market for proofreading services is in a state of flux.

Whereas the occupational outlook for proofreaders has decreased by almost 70% since 2004, future demand looks strong, with an extra 4,000 new roles by 2029. The reason for this mixed report is because the profession is under a huge amount of pressure from artificial intelligence and other automated editing software, which threatens jobs by offering cheaper and more accurate services to writers and companies.

That said, there will always be a demand for talented, human proofreaders, as the role will always require a personal touch when it comes to reviewing text and spotting nuances in grammar and intonation that AI cannot. Newer roles often manifest in freelancing form, as more people take up proofreading as a side hustle.

What are the entry requirements?

If you’re wondering about how to start as a proofreader, read on for the entry requirements regarding education, skills and certification.


Proofreaders typically don’t require much in the form of formal education; however, a high school or bachelor’s degree-level education in literature or languages would be very useful. Proofreaders can improve their skills through proofreading courses, as well as education.

Skills and knowledge

Having knowledge of languages and style guides is important for a proofreader, and this is something that can be acquired over time. Useful proofreader skills include attention to detail, patience, time management, adaptability, written communication, and adaptability.


Although there aren’t specific proofreading certifications to acquire, there are a couple of supporting credentials that can really benefit your experience in this role.

The Editorial Freelancers Association, for example, offers proofreading certifications, and language examinations such as the Certificate in Proficiency in English or the Test of English for International Communication can be useful.

Do you have what it takes?

Becoming a proofreader requires the application of many different skills, as well as a natural eye for detail. The role can be hugely rewarding if you’re interested in writing and editing, and have a passion for written content and helping people improve.

It’s a great first step if you aspire to become more experienced in the publishing industry; it can even help you get into writing if your dream is to become an author!

If you’re unsure at this stage what the ideal career looks like, then consider taking CareerHunter’s six-stage assessment. Created by psychologists, this is a collection of six tests to gauge your career interests and skills, and help you find that perfect job.

How to become a proofreader

Proofreading is a comparably easy profession to get into. There are multiple ways in, and because of its reliance on soft skills rather than technical ability, you can go from entry level to becoming established and credible quite easily.

Here are 10 steps to becoming a successful proofreader.

Step 1: Focus on your education and skills

As mentioned above, having a solid foundation in subjects such as English or English literature is an important start to becoming a proofreader.

Alongside this, you must hone and develop your proofreading skills, including grammar, punctuation, spelling and style. Proofreading tests can help you do this. Reading and paying attention to literature styles is also a good idea.

Step 2: Become familiar with style guides

A style guide is a writing standard developed by organizations, outlining their expectations when it comes to formatting text. Style guides include components such as how to use references, punctuation, language, how to quote books or TV shows, and so on.

Some commonly used style guides to prioritize understanding are the AP Stylebook (often used by journalists), the Chicago Manual of Style (widely used in publishing) and the MLA Style Manual (which is frequently used in academic writing).

Step 3: Practice

Although you’ll want to practice even when you’re an established proofreader, get started as soon as you can.

Proofread any available publications such as articles or blog posts, and look for errors in grammar, formatting, language and punctuation. Read about publications with rigorous proofreading, such as the New Yorker, and how they’re so thorough at what they do.

Soon, you’ll begin to develop an eye for attention to detail: this is the proofreader’s secret weapon!

Step 4: Familiarize yourself with tools and systems

Proofreaders can benefit greatly from proofreading tools.

As you practice your proofreading skills, start to use some of these tools, such as Grammarly, or the “Track Changes” function in Microsoft Word. You might also want to research the best dictionaries and thesauri for proofreaders, as these will also be an important part of how you work as well.

Step 5: Find your niche

As you learn about proofreading, research it, and practice, the chances are that you’ll start to find your niche.

You might prefer to focus on academic proofreading, legal proofreading (such as reviewing court reports), print proofreading, translation proofreading, or business proofreading. You might also decide to branch out into a related profession such as copy editors or editorial roles.

Try to settle on a niche and commit to it; this way, you can build a reputation as a specialist in what you do.

Step 6: Network

Cultivate a network of fellow professional proofreaders.

You might want to reach out to them via LinkedIn for advice or connect with them via proofreading forums. If you decide to use a freelancing platform to find work, you might also communicate with fellow proofreaders on here.

Networking will help you develop your skills, as well as potentially land you new jobs and gigs.

Step 7: Build your portfolio

As you practice your proofreading and hone your skills, begin to build your portfolio. Of course, this will really start to take shape once you become an experienced proofreader, but you’ll need to have something ready in order to set yourself up as a freelancer to link into your résumé.

Include in your portfolio samples of texts you have proofread, as well as illustrating your familiarity with any style guides you have used. Remember to keep your portfolio live and evolve it as you take on more work.

Step 8: Build your résumé

Ensure your résumé is kept up to date as your career progresses, and that you link it into your portfolio. On your résumé, mention key proofreading skills, as referenced above. This will ensure clients and recruiters are clear on what you are capable of.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly of all, ensure your résumé is completely error-free because, of course, it’s your job to have proofread it to ensure it’s perfect!

Step 9: Become certified

Obtaining a CPE or TOIEC award, or certification from the EFA isn’t mandatory to become a proofreader, but it can be really helpful. Certifications can enhance your credibility and also support in honing your skills over time; it’s win-win!

Step 10: Search for job opportunities

There are two main ways to find proofreading jobs.

The first is freelancing, where you set up a profile or use a freelancing service such as Fiverr or Upwork to advertise yourself to clients. Setting up a compelling freelancing profile is vital in this regard, as is showcasing your portfolio and what you can do. Focus on offering a competitive introductory price, and take on small gigs in order to build your reputation and get good reviews. This will lead to larger projects in the future.

You can also look for proofreading jobs in companies such as publishing houses or media organizations. Send your résumé in or leverage your network, and focus on nailing the interview to land an entry-level role.

Final thoughts

Becoming a proofreader is a rewarding career that ensures the accuracy and readiness of important pieces of writing. Whereas it’s a reasonably easy job to get into, you will need to possess a specific set of skills and knowledge to be successful as a proofreader.

Ensure you take time to learn proofreading standards such as style guides and professional writing techniques, and then focus on building your reputation and network to really excel as a talented proofreader. Good luck!

Got a question? Let us know in the comments section below.