Starting out as a proofreader

(36 Posts)
WineSpider Thu 10-Jul-14 20:04:11

I have spent 10 years in a demanding operations management role and am considering a big career change as freelance proofreader. Partly to fit in with family life and partly because I have an English degree and think I would be good at it (hope there are no misplaced apostrophes in this post!).

I've done some reading on the SFEP website and know I have a long way to go so wonder if anyone has any advice or experience? How do you build up your network and reputation when you start from scratch? How to you make it work for you? What is the money like?

Thanks in advance.

joanofarchitrave Thu 10-Jul-14 20:06:15

Sorry to be gloomy but I would bet that proofreading contracts go to ex-editors and known former workmates of editors. However, I'm not in publishing (many family members are) so I hope others will come along with more accurate experience.

dogrilla Fri 11-Jul-14 07:56:13

It's a job everyone thinks they can do but there's more to it than spelling and punctuation. If you are willing to go down the SfEP route that's good, though at the other end there are a lot of very experienced people chasing poorly paid work.

If you have an area of expertise, use that to your advantage. When you have the proofreading basics, approach publishing companies that deal with your subject/sector or go to companies direct if they are likely to need help proofing internal comms or marketing material.

Good luck!

ParsingFlatly Fri 11-Jul-14 08:04:31

Agree with both posters, particularly about using your area of expertise. I think you're going to faint at how little it's paid, though.

WineSpider Fri 11-Jul-14 10:09:12

Thanks for your advice. It's definitely going to be a big decision and I would be giving up a lot of benefits, reasonable job security and a fairly high salary. I must be mad?!

Thing is, I can't get the idea out of my head and I do need to do something different as my current role involves unsocial hours that don't marry well with family life.

My plan would be to spend the next year or so completing some online training and building a portfolio by proofing for free (charities, schools, students etc). I can see how I like it, how good I am and get a feel for whether there is enough work out there.

I just need to fit it in around going back to work full time, looking after a baby and getting a house extension built...

gilbertysullivan Fri 11-Jul-14 13:22:29

Do you mean just proof reading or sub-editing too?

It's not only businesses that use proof readers- it's students writing dissertations -sometimes, websites and anything that goes out online. Publishing is just a small part of it.

I think the going rate is around £25 an hour- not great.

OnlyLovers Fri 11-Jul-14 13:29:05

I think the going rate is around £25 an hour

<<hollow laugh>>

NigellasDealer Fri 11-Jul-14 13:35:33

I started my own proofreading business targeting overseas students a few years ago and profits are doubling each year. smile I also collaborate with one or two translators.
I charge per 1000 words not per hour.
I have a website and a facebook page and also put up paper ads with tear off slips at some universities.

NigellasDealer Fri 11-Jul-14 13:40:14

oh and as a self employed person you can still get tax credits etc

gilbertysullivan Fri 11-Jul-14 15:56:12

Not quite sure why you are laughing OnlyLovers- this is from the SofP website

minimum rates for proof reading

I did my research before posting. maybe you are charging too little?

OnlyLovers Fri 11-Jul-14 16:00:42

I'm laughing hollowly because, in book publishing anyway, I don't know a single person who gets close to that. (magazines and business publications are different).

I charge what people will accept me charging before they give the work to someone else instead. Even the highest rate falls far short of what the SFEP suggests.

Corygal Fri 11-Jul-14 16:07:15

SFEP is one of those industry organisations that really hasn't got much to do with the industry. 25 an hour? Ha!

I've hired proofreaders for years. We really only used tried and tested people who understand the sort of books we publish, as do most publishers. There isn't any room to see 'how good you are': you have to be flawless in books at any rate as mistakes get viewed pretty meanly.

And yes, the jobs do go to the ex-editor and their professional friends. They know the score, see, and you won't.

I would advise firmly against it - it's a cruel world and you won't make any money.

CocktailQueen Fri 11-Jul-14 16:07:42

Gilbert - they are suggested minimum rates. A lot of proofreaders won't make that per hour.

Wine spider - I will reply to you later. Going out now. I'm an editor and proofreader.

KittiesInsane Fri 11-Jul-14 16:08:49

Going rate at the big university presses is currently more like £15 per hour/per 10 pages, OP.

Agree that copy-editing furrin theses can be a better way to go, at maybe £25 to £30 per hour before you price yourself out of the market (especially if other people offer to do it for free...)

It does help if it's a field you know something about, as every area has its own jargon.

OnlyLovers Fri 11-Jul-14 16:11:55

Corygal is spot on. Harsh but true.

WineSpider Fri 11-Jul-14 16:13:45

I guess I would probably aim to start with proofing for students (I live in a big university city) rather than publishing houses, which I imagine are harder to crack.

Nigella - what was your background before proofing if you don't mind me asking?

OnlyLovers - do you manage to make a living from it?

Would really live to copy edit but I think that is a bigger leap.

Lots of food for thought, thank you.

KittiesInsane Fri 11-Jul-14 16:17:33

Another thing to consider apart from the rates is the workflow.
Last week I had no work. This week I have four separate jobs competing for my time with Mumsnet.

pinkerson Fri 11-Jul-14 16:17:44

Yes corygirl is right. I work in publishing and only give work to known contacts or to people highly recommended by people I trust. No publisher will give proof reading work to someone newly trained - they don't need to.

But proofreading essays, dissertations etc might be a possibility. However, you'd need to know the academic world I think. And I doubt you'd make a living even then.

Sorry for the negativity - but I would think again.

TheBuskersDog Fri 11-Jul-14 16:22:42

I think the going rate is around £25 an hour- not great.

£25 an hour not great? Most people in this country earn well below that as an hourly rate.

KittiesInsane Fri 11-Jul-14 16:24:16

Yes, Busker, it sound good, but the reality is more likely to be £15 an hour for the hours you get the work and zero for the times you don't.

Oh, and no holidays, sick pay, pension contributions either.

KittiesInsane Fri 11-Jul-14 16:25:01

Now must really bugger off and get back to the joys of electrochemical biophysics, or whatever it was just pinged in my Inbox.

OnlyLovers Fri 11-Jul-14 16:25:02

Including most proofreaders, Dog.

TheFirmament Fri 11-Jul-14 16:27:52

I do it sometimes though my main job is as a writer/editor. I accept a fee for the job, not hourly. It can sometimes work out at 25/hour but that's because I'm very experienced and know my field well. It can also be a lot less though.

OP it seems to me you might do better getting contract/freelance work related to your skill area. If you desperately want to be a proofreader for its own sake, that's different but it probably won't pay well and you won't always have work. Also remember being freelance means doing a whole load of work that isn't paid - your admin and housekeeping, scouting for work and making new client relationships, maintaining your website, etc etc etc., as well as periods of time with no work. So you can't just multiply up an hourly rate IYSWIM.

You can find recommended rates all over the place but I have never in 20+ years in this business known any client to actually refer to them. It's a market, they are interested in getting acceptable work for what they can get away with paying, and that is normally more around the £15 per hour mark IME. It might be a bit different in specialised industries though.

KittiesInsane Fri 11-Jul-14 16:53:02

I did have a client phone back last week and say 'Thought you'd like to know that the department were surprised at how reasonable your rates were and expected them to be 50% more -- shall I tell them that was an introductory rate and further work will be at the 'usual' rates?'

Now that's the kind of client I like.

<ceases to ignore Inbox>

OnlyLovers Fri 11-Jul-14 16:54:01

shock Kitties

That never happens. Make the most of that. grin

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