Any copy-editors or proofreaders out there?

(44 Posts)
PlanetEarthIsBlue Sun 02-Feb-14 16:41:09

Not sure if this is the right place to post, but here goes. I'm looking for a change of direction job-wise, and am considering whether to try copy-editing/proofreading. I understand that there are correspondence courses out there for training, but don't know if these would be useful. I could also do with knowing whether this is really a job-field worth exploring? Any observations/advice would be appreciated.

PlanetEarthIsBlue Sun 02-Feb-14 17:32:24

Hmm, looks like I've killed my own thread ... or maybe I'm just in the wrong place. sad

Hoppinggreen Sun 02-Feb-14 18:18:47

It's a really hard area to get into as clients tend to use the same people each time. A lot of people overseas offer to do it and although the quality can be poor it pushes prices down.
Also, I'm not sure whether the courses are worth it. Who accredits them?

rallytog1 Sun 02-Feb-14 20:53:25

I promise I'm trying to be helpful in saying this. If you want to be in this line of work, you need to improve your understanding of how hyphens work. There can be a lot of competition, so your skills need to be first rate.

ArtexMonkey Sun 02-Feb-14 20:55:26

Marking place.

PlanetEarthIsBlue Sun 02-Feb-14 22:03:54

Thanks for your observations Hoppinggreen. You've said exactly what I was thinking regarding the courses. You're right, rallytog, I should have proof read my message before posting! smile

CommsWhizz Mon 03-Feb-14 09:21:40

Hi there,

I've carried out a lot of proofing and editing copy before, and I'll be honest, it's tricky to get into as, like HoppingGreen said, people use people and stick with them. All of my work in the past has come from people I've worked with who want someone they know and trust. In my experience, when I was commissioning this kind of work from freelancers, I tended to lean towards people who had vocational experience rather than academic - so someone who had been a book editor or in-house editor, sub or proofreader, rather than someone who had completed training of any kind.

My suggestion would be to focus on what kind of editing you want to do. For example, there's a staggering difference between proofreading a magazine and copy editing a lengthy academic tome. If it's books you fancy, my advice would be to contact the big academic publishers (Oxford Uni Press, Cambridge Uni Press, etc) and ask about taking on this work. They will send you an editing test and if you pass, they'll add you to their freelance files and, once you've done a couple of jobs, you'll find you'll get used more often as each production editor will have his/her tried-and-tested favourites that they choose to use.

Hope this is helpful?

WilsonFrickett Mon 03-Feb-14 12:26:14

Competition is fierce and as pp's have said, clients usually stick to who they know. However, that isn't necessarily a barrier for someone who is tenacious enough to keep plugging away. What I'd be more wary of (and I'm reading between the lines here so forgive me if I'm off-beam) is doing something because you think it brings a certain 'lifestyle' with it.

Do you freelance at the moment? Because it's tough. You have to be self-motivated, you have to know your market, build contacts, network, be full of energy and positive all the bloody time and find work, consolidate your experience and make enough to pay the bills. It really helps if you know what you're doing/and really like it in the first place.

DH and I are both full of the cold today. He's on his way home from work to go to bed, I'll be plugging away till 8pm tonight (7 if I stay off MN grin). It's not an easy life.

PlanetEarthIsBlue Mon 03-Feb-14 16:57:36

Thank you CommsWhizz and WilsonFrickett. You've both been really helpful. No Wilson, I don't freelance at the moment. This is something that's been suggested to me as a possible alternative to my current job. I'm trying to do some research on any possibilities that genuinely appeal to me, rather than dismissing anything out of hand. You've both given me plenty to think about. smile

Hope the colds clear soon Wilson!

Punkatheart Mon 03-Feb-14 21:10:47

I am a journalist, proofreader and copywriter. There is a Society of Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP). Everyone thinks they can proofread but it is so much more than spelling and even grammatical issues. Also, you will sometimes need to copyedit if the English is poor. I would contact the Society to check out their courses etc.

Try Elance for work though - as some people need a casual (but thorough proofread).

PlanetEarthIsBlue Tue 04-Feb-14 19:41:18

Thanks Punkatheart - good advice from someone with experience!. All the replies I've received have confirmed what I instinctively knew about this being a competitive and demanding field, but I also feel that I've now got some really good starting points if I decide that I want to take this any further. I really appreciate what you've all had to say.

PermaShattered Wed 05-Feb-14 09:26:28

I'm being pedantic for the sake of it here (I know this is Mumsnet and not a professional test! smile ) but I just can't resist. I'm a seasoned journalist and editor and Punk's post has various grammatical errors in.

Anyone spot them?! Planet - this will tell me whether you have the skill or not!

MooncupGoddess Wed 05-Feb-14 14:47:23

The correspondence courses don't have a great reputation... better to do a course with the Publishing Training Centre if you can as they're the official body.

It is very competitive and not very well paid, and as a previous poster said most people want to use someone who has previous inhouse experience and understands how the industry works. If you have an existing specialism in something (e.g. science) that will help a lot.

Punkatheart Wed 05-Feb-14 15:22:02

'Punk's post has various grammatical errors in.' - this is incorrect in itself. Nitpicking a speedily written post is not what proofreading is about. It is about careful and forensic review of a piece of writing, where someone has requested the proofreading.

MrsOakenshield Wed 05-Feb-14 15:28:45

I had already worked in publishing for several years when I went freelance, so I had ready-made contacts. I have to say, though I didn't try that hard, I can't see how you can make much of a living out of it - not just proofreading, at any rate. I worked for a publisher known to have pretty high freelancer rates and it was still just pin money really.

Punkatheart Wed 05-Feb-14 16:07:42

It pays £23-25 per hour if you work for yourself but it is intensive. There are plenty of cheap proofreading sites out there and if you work for them, it really is pin money!

MrsOakenshield Wed 05-Feb-14 19:58:55

I worked for trade publishers (well-known ones) and for proofreading you don't get paid anywhere like that much! Copy editing yes, something like that. Though one of the big publishers has apparently just dropped their copyediting rate!

Punkatheart Wed 05-Feb-14 20:24:50

That's really depressing, Mrs. Particularly for copyediting, which is a really specialised skill. I think more and more people are asking for a fixed rate, rather than an hourly rate. If you miscalculate, it can be really hard. Also if you quote for 1,000 words and they are appalling when you receive them, you lose out again!

Luckily it is not something I do a lot of now - I prefer the creativity of copywriting, which is a solid daily rate.

CocktailQueen Wed 05-Feb-14 20:32:26

I'm a freelance copy-editor and proofreader and belong to the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. I'd echo previous advice that the only courses you should consider are SfEP ones or PTC ones. Avoid Chapterhouse and the like. The SfEP runs an Introduction to Proofreading course which may be helpful.

Think about if you have a USP that could help you - do you speak another language, are you an expert on something? Then contact publishers and businesses in that field. A lot of my work is for businesses these days, as more realise that they need editors/proofreaders to ensure that their material is free from errors. They also pay better than many publishers ;-)

SfEP has certainly had loads and loads of new associates over the last couple of years - proofreading is a competitive field! Lots of people think they can do it - fewer people actually can...

Will think and post more later! Feel free to PM me.

dogrilla Fri 07-Feb-14 10:32:40

I'm a magazine sub-editor/proofreader - half in-house, half freelance – and agree with the above. It's the kind of job everyone thinks is a piece of piss, but there's a lot more to it than meets the eye. Can you use InDesign, know how to remedy a hanging participle, steer clear of potential legal problems and think of a clever headline that hasn't been used 1,000 times already? And, most importantly, can you deal with a client who quibbles your invoice because what you do is basically invisible?

No one will ever pat you on the back for ironing out a muddled paragraph but there's hell to pay if even the smallest mistake slips through the net. Also, the freelance day rate hasn't gone up since I started doing this 15 years ago. Most places won't pay more than £120 a day and if you work remotely you're only as good as the last edit. Sorry for the gloomy outlook – bit disillusioned with it all at the mo (can you tell?).

dogrilla Fri 07-Feb-14 10:47:04

p.s. CocktailQueen, how do you find businesses to work for? Have been fantasising about branching out into editing/proofing for corporate comms/marketing material, but really don't know where to start. Also probably about time I took the leap to digital. Has anyone tried to teach themselves coding/web stuff though Codeacademy or Team Treehouse?

CocktailQueen Fri 07-Feb-14 11:03:48

hi Dogrilla, I agree with this: No one will ever pat you on the back for ironing out a muddled paragraph but there's hell to pay if even the smallest mistake slips through the net. And the fact that publishing rates haven't increased over the past years but have in some cases gone down!

To answer your question, they find me. Either though my website or through my SfEP Directory entry. On occasion when I have really wanted to work for a company, I have contacted them, but have had mixed results.

SfEP runs a course called Working for non-publishers which I took a couple of years ago, which was helpful.

On my list of things to do this year is to become more au fait with digital publishing. SO you work in InDesign? I'm impressed!

dogrilla Fri 07-Feb-14 11:46:28

CocktailQueen Yes, have always used InDesign for work as a magazine sub, so now have it at home to do remote editing and laying out templated pages (rather then designing from scratch). Have a website, but the only clients it has attracted so far have been pretty dodgy!

Thanks for the SfEP advice. Have been mulling over joining for a while, but if the courses are good it's probably worth it. Notice there's also a Web Editorial Skills course that might be useful.

Nice to know that there are others like me out there. Can be a lonely line of work, made more so by the fact that, unlike a copywriter or designer, you are not actually producing anything, so what you do is not easily quantifiable (to the untrained eye, at least).

Good luck, PlanetEarthIsBlue, if you decide to make a go of it!

loveisagirlnameddaisy Fri 07-Feb-14 12:14:25

On the digital side, an ex-colleagues husband has set up an agency called Decoded which teaches you how to code in a day. The courses aren't cheap but may be of interest. I've never been on one so can't recommend personally. smile

dogrilla Fri 07-Feb-14 13:04:07

Thanks loveisagirlnameddaisy. Decoded website looks great and I'm sure they are brilliant, but you're right - courses aren't cheap. Maybe a freebie MOOC first to test the waters...

PermaShattered Fri 07-Feb-14 14:42:12

Punk - I won't bother pointing them out. I did say I was being pedantic. I do try to make sure I write correctly whether or not it's in a professional capacity! I'd expect people (as they do) to pick me up on my writing if it's grammatically wrong.... anyway, best of luck - it's a tough world out there if you're trying to break into it.

PermaShattered Fri 07-Feb-14 14:44:12

Punk - sorry you were't the OP. I think you don't like your mistakes being pointed out!

PermaShattered Fri 07-Feb-14 14:47:26

Planet - just had a really quick scan through the other replies and I'd reinforce the following:

1. Do you potentially have the skills to extend beyond proofreading to writing (or similar)?
2. A USP eg within a particular sector? It can make all the difference.

Good luck.

motherinferior Fri 07-Feb-14 14:47:47

I am a journalist who does some paid by the day editing. I charge a reasonable day rate, but it is gruelling and maddeningly nit-picky.

PlanetEarthIsBlue Fri 07-Feb-14 21:30:16

Thank you all for your observations and very honest advice. I was never under the illusion that this would be an easy option! I'm now clearer on what to do in terms of further research. Believe me, if I do decide to take the plunge it won't be a hasty decision.

Punkatheart Fri 07-Feb-14 21:31:59

But you didn't point out my mistakes, Perma - you invited someone else to do so, which was not a particularly pleasant thing to do and rather patronising. The only error in my previous post was that I should only have bracketed 'but thorough' and not 'proofread'.

However, I can spell 'weren't'.

Mother, you are so right. I am glad I don't do it all the time! It can make your head explode!

PermaShattered Mon 10-Feb-14 12:17:32

Punk, you're right (and thanks for pointing out my own typo!) it was not, with hindsight, the most pleasant thing to do so my apologies. It wasn't patronising though.

I would point out, then, that as the SfEP is singular it should be "its courses" not "their courses".

Good luck OP - I'm leaving the thread now, rarely come on MN smile

Punkatheart Mon 10-Feb-14 18:42:48

So OP - unless you have been completely put off by our pedantic scrapping (all friendly, honest!) - this is the world of nitpickery. I once spent time that I will never get back, discussing one comma in a sentence with my page designer. Oh yeah, it's so rock 'n roll!

CocktailQueen Tue 11-Feb-14 09:25:45

Actually, the only people being pedantic and arguing about grammar have been Perma and Punk - everyone else has been helpful.

And, OP, in case you've been put off, I never waste time worrying about the placement of a comma - I don't get paid enough per job to worry about things like that. There is more to proofreading!

Punkatheart Tue 11-Feb-14 10:53:51

I think I have been helpful as well, Cocktail. I have, for example, given the OP the details for the SfEP. I rate them quite highly. Perma simply truly got my back up on a day when I was foggy from chemo, rather ill and not in the mood. My bad, as they (apparently) say.

I agree in part about the ridiculous pedantic nature of commas for some people and yes, some proofreading can be relatively simple. But I edit a magazine and it has to be perfect. However, I have also enjoyed helping foreign students with their dissertations - it feels rewarding to help them and just adjust some of the language to make it more readable. As a proofreader, you will also learn a great deal about subjects you never knew and meet some interesting people.

I think proofreading, particularly combined with creative writing, journalism and maybe even copywriting, can be a rewarding and profitable profession.

I recommend too that you have a look on Elance, Planet - to get an idea what people are looking for, but also how much each job should be costed. There is also business networking, if you get yourself established. Lovely way to meet people but also to find work.

StUmbrageinSkelt Tue 11-Feb-14 11:09:27

Perma's got more errors than Punk for anyone else playing along. Em/en dashes and ellipses for a beginning.

OP good luck. I basically gave up on it.

WaitingForMe Tue 11-Feb-14 11:25:27

I'm a copywriter (run my own agency) that also proofreads and for me, being successful in this industry is about bringing extra skills to the table. The proofreader I outsource to is also a translator, I am great at the creative consultancy which leads to interesting briefs, a writer I outsource to is also a journalist and so on.

I don't know anybody making a living from just one thing. I'm sure it is possible but for me, a portfolio career is the way to go.

Oh and my posts on Mumsnet are shit but my client work is shit hot wink

BirdintheWings Tue 11-Feb-14 11:36:41

Do you know anything about geophysics, sampling theory or linguistics? All fields where it's hard to find a copyeditor.

One thing I'd say is that you sometimes have to swallow your instinctive, outraged feeling that something is 'right' or 'wrong'. If the in-house style manual says you hyphenate 'under-way', treat 'prior' as a verb, use Oxford commas, or bung in very, very long dashes, then you do it.

If you work in an academic field, be prepared to check an awful lot of references and lose the will to live.

rallytog1 Tue 11-Feb-14 11:43:46

That's interesting Bird - I have a Masters in linguistics and have never been able to find any proofreading or editing work related to it! Where would I find this gold dust?!

BirdintheWings Tue 11-Feb-14 12:27:55

Academic presses, Rally! (But possibly I'm extrapolating wildly from the one book they despairingly offered me because 'nobody else would agree to do it'. There may not be that many being written each year!)

CocktailQueen Tue 11-Feb-14 12:50:44

Punk - you have, you're quite right. Sorry. Perma started it!

And I agree - google some linguistics books and see who publishes them! Then contact those publishers smile (but also be warned that academic presses can be poor payers...)

Punkatheart Tue 11-Feb-14 16:21:08

I hate those words 'poor payers'! Oh those references too...I shudder at the thought of them. It's like picking daisies with a certain amount of petals out of a lawn.

But be careful. I have a friend who referred to herself on Twitter as a 'poofreader'. Cue a lot of jokes in her direction.

CocktailQueen Tue 11-Feb-14 16:26:45

lol at poofreader!!! grin You might not get quite the right kind of clients ;-)

But I quite like a nice pile of references to sort through and check - nice mindless stuff.

tuitiondevon Thu 20-Mar-14 07:57:40

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now