Day in the Life of a Freelance Proofreader

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Ever wonder what a typical day for a freelance proofreader looks like? Vanessa Macaspac owns her own freelancing business in Los Angeles. I asked her what a daily schedule might look like and she's got some goodies to share!

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What is a freelance proofreader?

A freelance proofreader is someone who works independently with a client to catch errors in a text document. They are often confused with editors, who are people that actually modify sentence structure and correct grammar.

A proofreader will not modify a sentence. Instead, they are simply looking for errors within text and will either point them out to their client or quickly fix.

Vanessa’s Day in the Life of a Freelance Proofreader

5:30 AM - This is about the time I wake up. I'm an early riser by nature, and I use this quiet time to do some yoga and reflect on what needs to be accomplished that day.

6:15 AM - I like to go for a run at around this time. Keeping fit, especially since I'm a freelancer who works from home, is essential. It's early enough that not too many people are up and about, but late enough that the sun is up.

7:00 AM - Have breakfast with my love. We like to start our day off with healthy food, but it's not always the case. This morning it was leftover chili and rice, with a runny egg on top. Yum!

8:00 AM - Right about now is when most people who work conventional jobs are on their way to work, so I avoid going out just yet. I live in Los Angeles, and I can tell you that the traffic can be just as horrendous as everyone says. I like to start my workday right about now, so if I have any transcripts to complete, I'll start on the one that needs to be finished the soonest.

9:00 AM - The beauty of being a freelance proofreader is that I can take my work anywhere! As long as I've downloaded the job to PDF Expert on my iPad, I can work wherever I am. Today, that means getting some serious work done while waiting at the doctor's office. It definitely beats flipping through magazines that are a few months old. ;-)

10:30 AM - Around this time, I like to check my planner and e-mail to make sure I'm still on track for the day. I use an old-fashioned paper planner that's geared toward students, so there's plenty of space to pencil in my pending jobs and appointments.

11:00 AM - This has proven to be a good time for me to reach out to potential clients. I send out personalized e-mails, maybe call an agency or two, and keep my social media presence alive and updated. It's vital to let your audience and potential clients know that you put in the effort to keep your business "brand" online.

1:00 PM - When proofreading legal transcripts, I can't change what's said, but I can punctuate it better so it's infinitely more readable. Whenever I come across a particularly complex (read: rambling!) sentence, I consult any one of my reference books. Today my weapon of choice was Morson's English Guide for Court Reporters.

2:30 PM - I check again with my planner and e-mail to make sure I'm still making good progress. I send in all jobs that have been completed and start working on the next batch of transcripts. I usually do this on a first-come-first-served basis, but if I get an expedite that needs to be finished ASAP, I'll prioritize that job.

3:00 PM - Working from home means I can eat as early or as late as I want! Lunch at 3PM isn't all that unusual for me. Haha!

3:45 PM - I usually like to start tapering off my work at this point. Around this time, I feel the urge to work from any place other than my desk, so I like to bring my iPad along wherever I need to go. Today, I worked while waiting in line at the grocery store!

5:00 PM - I usually start making dinner for me and my love around this time. While most people use their iPad to pull up recipes, I use mine to -- you guessed it -- work on transcripts! The sheer flexibility of my job makes me so happy.

7:00 PM - After dinner I like to just relax, maybe catch up on a few episodes of a TV show (currently loving Scandal!) or read a few chapters (currently reading The Art of Work by Jeff Goins).

Of course, I keep my phone close at all times, so I can respond quickly to any e-mails, texts, or phone calls from clients or potential clients. I can even submit jobs when I'm not home by attaching them via Dropbox or Google Docs!

If I need to, I can work during any time of day (or night). I once had to finish proofreading 230 pages of a doctor's deposition before 6 AM, and the job was sent to me at around 9PM! It doesn't happen very often, but it can. The fact that I work from home makes it infinitely easier to be able to get stuff done whenever, wherever, and still have time to get errands done. I love it! :)

Allison here again! Thanks, Vanessa!

Proofreading FAQ

Freelance proofreading is a hot market right now as more and more people are trying to find an independent means of making money. Who doesn’t love setting their own schedule and having the freedom to travel or take time off when they want to? I know I love being my own boss!

I was curious to see what kind of hours a freelance proofreader might have, and was pleasantly surprised to see so much flexibility in Vanessa’s day (lunchtime whenever she wants?!).

How can I become a good proofreader?

If you're inspired by Vanessa's schedule and want to start proofreading yourself, I recommend looking into the Proofread Anywhere courses, created by Caitlin Pyle (the proofreading master herself- she actually answered a ton of my proofreading questions here). Vanessa took Caitlin’s course and there’s no doubt Caitlin knows what she’s talking about.

Caitlin is a former freelance proofreader who lives in Florida. Proofreading used to be her primary income (of $40,000+/year!) until she realized that she was just as good at teaching proofreading as she was at actually doing the proofreading itself.

Nowadays, she teaches thousands of men and women how to become freelance proofreaders. You can find her FREE 76-minute workshop here where she shows you:

  • What a successful proofreader does and doesn't do

  • How to elevate your skills to become a GREAT proofreader

  • How to use one of the most popular proofreading tools out there... and learn a few places to find clients!

What skills do I need to become a proofreader?

Proofreaders must be able to easily spot errors in a text and have the ability to thoroughly comb through content. Oftentimes, projects may contain a mass amount of text so you must be able to stay focused and find any and all spelling or grammatical issues.

If you find your eyes often glaze over while reading, proofreading is not the job for you. You must remain sharp at all times.

Do I need a degree to become a proofreader? How do you become certified?

You do not need a degree to become a proofreader and there are no official certifications for transcript proofreaders, making proofreading for court reporters a good place to start.

Alicia, a graduate of one of Caitlin’s proofreading courses, was working in a retail banking job when she decided she wanted to become a proofreader. Yes, she has a college degree but it’s in Accounting (NOT English!) and she was still able to find her first proofreading client within 3 weeks.

Alicia made $1,100 as a proofreader in the first month after she graduated from Caitlin’s proofreading course, and that was while still working her full-time job and raising 2 children!

Here’s what Alicia had to say about landing that first proofreading client.

I got a rush job that a client needed back in two hours from my phone… I was so excited that I forgot that I had a massage appointment in two hours (an anniversary present from my husband)! The job was a little technical, and I was nervous. I spent a lot of time looking up medical terms, but I used what I had learned and got it in just in time. After my massage I sat in my car and read the emails she sent me. She was thrilled with my work and asked me if she could send all her work to me. Of course, I said yes.”

How much should I charge for proofreading per word?

I asked Caitlin about this in another post and here’s what she had to say:

“General proofreading is much more competitive, so the earnings are lower than proofreading for a niche like court reporters -- usually $5 per 500-1000 words of whatever kind of text, whether it's online or hard copy. General proofreading, however, is easier to get into. So it's a give and take.

Transcript proofreaders, like me, earn between $0.30 and $0.45 per page on a two-day turnaround transcript, and if you read 40 pages per hour at even the lowest page rate of $0.30, you'd earn $12 per hour. $0.30 per page is VERY low, though. The average is $0.40 per page these days, so those same 40 pages per hour would earn you $16 per hour.”

How much does a freelance proofreader make?

The average rate for a freelance proofreader is $0.40 per page. If you read 40 pages per hour then you could potentially earn $16 per hour.

If you are able to find enough assignments to work approximately 160 hours/month (that’s 40 hours/week) then you would make about $30,000 per year.

Fortunately, being a freelance proofreader means you can work as much or as little as you like, and you can also negotiate higher rates based on your proficiency and experience.