How To Work From Anywhere As A Proofreader
+ Essential Resource List
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When people ask me how they can start working as a proofreader, I always ask the question: Why do you want to proofread?
There is no right or wrong answer—I just ask because I’m curious.
I get a few different answers such as “I love to read” or “I’m really good at catching mistakes,” which are excellent reasons, but I’ve found that the number one reason why people want to proofread is because they want freedom.
Freedom to a lot of people means being able to work how you want, where you want, and whenever you want. And it’s why I became a freelance proofreader, as well.
In this post I’ll discuss what it takes to work from anywhere as a proofreader, and I’ve made a list of editorial resources you’ll need to get started. These resources are the industry standard, so make sure you get the list at the end of this post.
To start, let me share where I’ve worked in the past 10 years as a freelance proofreader who isn’t location dependant and can set my own schedule. Here are some of the places I’ve proofread from:
- Turks and Caicos
- Vancouver, BC
- Cottage weekends
- In the hospital where my son was admitted for a few days (I never had to leave his side)
- On many airplanes
- New York City (went with hubby on a business trip)
- On roadtrips, during our stops at hotels for the night
- At a lot of rec centers while my son took hockey, basketball, soccer, karate, and drama classes
- Tokyo, Japan
As you can see I’ve been able to work while I travel, and also in moments when I wouldn’t normally be able to if I were in a typical 9 to 5 job.
When my son was in the hospital for a few days I was able to sit by his side and work while he slept or watched tv. I didn’t have to call in sick to the office or worry about how my absence would affect my job.
What You Need
Laptop or computer
You don’t need much to do any sort of remote work. Proofreading doesn’t require a lot of physical equipment beyond a laptop or computer. I don’t recommend using a tablet or iPad to proofread on because I find that it slows down your process.
Having a proper keyboard on which you can quickly type notes on a project, queries, create word lists, and communicate with clients is key. Remember, the faster you work, the more money you make. Also, it’s convenient to have tabs open so you can quickly check resources, do research, or check with your client’s style guide.
Clients usually write their content in either Word or Google Docs. Keep things simple for them and edit in whichever program they wrote in. There’s absolutely no need to go out and purchase editing apps or other programs to get your proofreading done. In fact, I currently use a 2007 version of Word to proofread, copyedit, and edit manuscripts! (I know people who use even older versions.)
To proofread in Word you use the Track Changes program, which shows your changes as you go through the document. Clients will be able to see what you deleted and inserted, and if there’s anything you want to comment on you just highlight the text and write your note. Track changes will author and time stamp all of your work. When you submit the finished proofread your client will be able to easily accept or reject your changes.
Knowing how to proofread/edit in Word Track Changes is an industry essential skill, and only takes minutes to learn.
Proofreading in Google Docs is becoming more common, especially for collaborative efforts. In Google Docs your client can see the changes to the content as you make them, and can also allow others to view and comment on your work, as well.
Some proofreaders aren’t comfortable with this as they feel it impedes on their process and prefer to work in privacy mode. However, if your client wants you to keep the document public then you don’t really have a choice.
I personally don’t have a problem proofreading online in Google Docs. It’s not as if I’m doing a heavy substantive edit where I’m tearing the content apart. Clients tend to just send the work, and then choose to accept or reject the changes.
Some people prefer to send over their content in PDF form. Usually it’s because they’ve already formatted the document and don’t want any changes to affect the design. If you already have Adobe Acrobat that’s great, but there’s no need to purchase the software when you can proofread in Adobe Reader for free.
You can download it here. It’s easy to learn and this is what your proofread PDF will look like:
Working remotely is so easy now because of the internet. You need an internet connection in order to find work, market yourself, communicate with clients, receive and send projects, and invoice. You can schedule these things so that you don’t have to be online all day. For example, you can do job searches and marketing twice a week, and check your email two or three times a day.
Proofreading can be done offline. After you’ve downloaded your project you can work from anywhere without needing to be connected to the internet. Even if you receive a Google Doc you can download it as a Word doc and work offline.
If there’s anything that needs to be researched you can make a note (don’t forget what page number/location you’re referencing) and later check it out when you’re connected. Then you go back into your document and make the necessary changes.
A lot of editorial resources that proofreaders rely on can be downloaded onto your laptop, tablet, or mobile device. They’re also available in book form or online, but if you really want to create an effortless proofreading process then it’s a good idea to have them downloaded (if possible) so you’re never at the mercy of an internet connection.
The two most important resources you’ll use will be a dictionary and a style guide.
The Chicago Manual of Style is considered the bible of style guides, and will help you immensely. It’s only available in book form or online. You can sign up for a free 30-day trial period, after which the online annual access is $39. Or you can purchase a print copy, which is very handy to have next to you. The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th Edition was just released and it looks amazing!
Another style guide you need to have access to is The Associated Press Stylebook, which is available in print and ebook formats. It’s often used instead of Chicago because it’s less dense. Both are the top two most referenced style guides, are the industry standards, and are used by major publishing companies. You must be familiar with them.
The Associated Press Stylebook
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary (free & can be used offline)
If you have any questions about creating and maintaining your freelance proofreading business, you can also use my ebook “The Ultimate Guide To Freelance Proofreading” as a reference. It’ll answer your questions about marketing, client management, contracts, and also contains a style guide.
I’ll also be hosting a FREE workshop on how to proofread blog posts and books. You can save your spot for that in the box below:
Get Your Resource List
So that’s really all you need to be able to work from anywhere as a proofreader. Proofreading is a great skill that can be adapted to your situation, whether you’re a digital nomad living in Bali or a stay-at-home parent. You also don’t need a degree or special certificate to start working as a proofreader. I know some people who proofread as a side hustle and do it on their lunch hour at coffee shops. Another friend is proofreading as she travels through Europe.
I’ve made a handy list of the most commonly used editorial resources for you to download and reference. The 10 Essential Proofreading Resources list contains items that are used by professional proofreaders, copy editors, and editors. They are the industry standard and being familiar with using them is valuable.
Click the blue button to get the list!
Now let me know where you would like to work from in the comments below!