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Is Freelance Proofreading For Me?

Jun 13, 2008
Did it ever cross your mind that maybe those amazing authors whose work gets lapped up by the New Yorker can't write or spell nearly as well as those five-star reviews suggest? Or that editors often miss crucial spelling errors and word omissions that can make a work seem amateurish? If so, you're thinking of the realm of the mystical proofreader who often makes published material look perfect and impeccable.

Proofreaders are the final line of defense before publication of material. Even though their lot is often lumped in with that of copywriters and editors, they are in fact a different breed altogether. After initial editing for clarity and coherence, and typesetting of a manuscript, the publishers rely on freelance proofreaders to check for formatting, spelling and manuscript errors/omissions. Freelance proofreaders hone an impeccable sense of grammar, and their spelling is second to none. More importantly, they pay attention to minuscule details. They carefully read every line and cross-reference with the original manuscript. Proofreaders make all the difference between a perfect run and a thousand disseminated copies of an error-riddled manuscript. Elsewhere, proof-readers pore over web content, brochures, and just about anything that requires error-checking.

Error-correction requires one of two things, depending on for whom and for what medium the finished product is being generated. Don't panic, however, as the requirements to become a successful freelance proofreading are not nearly as prolific as one might imagine.

If one is proofreading for hard copy, such as a book, then the publisher requires you to know the correct "mark-up" conventions, as dictated by the chosen Style Manual of the employer. Consult the Chicago Manual of Style as a baseline for all other Style Manuals. Many big publishers will have their own bastardized style format which they will introduce to you during the process of undertaking a proof-reading position. Corrections you mark for would be implemented or reviewed by another party and the final manuscript would move to the next stage of publication.

However, if you find yourself employed within a less formal setting, then you are both the one to mark and correct a manuscript. Manuals of style are much less important here, and you may find that your role cross-pollinates somewhat with that of a freelance copywriter, as text may require rewrites under your guidance.

Gaining work to proofread and write may be initially difficult, as your abilities remain unproven. A few good ways to build an impressive CV include finding part-time work with a facility that already provides proof reading services, and a degree or diploma with a focus on formal editing will help (but this is by no means necessary) to impress skeptical clients. Forming relationships with established copywriters and proof-readers (as well as SEO technicians), will lead to trickle-down benefits as overflow from their successes comes to you. As always, the local community (particularly restaurants and other service-type establishments) is a viable source of income and networking, and offers gigs to rewrite menus and advertising content.

Volunteer positions on websites and an online blog that showcases your writing and/or abilities can also be helpful. Never forget to take advantage of unorthodox opportunities like contacting websites and organizations about poorly written or extremely typo-riddled print. Offer to produce new copy and give them a sample of a rewritten passage from their published text as proof of your viability. While this may not work all the time, you may just impress enough to get your foot in the door, and that's all you need.

While your job description may be radically different depending on the expectations of those who employ you, with the proviso that you bring high-level language skills and a beady editor's eye for detail to the table, appreciation for your work skills is assured. Here your best hope for steady employment lies with being fluid and adaptable. Ready yourself to fill roles wherever and whenever they pop up, and you're sure to succeed.
About the Author
Brian Scott is a freelance writer for http://www.FreelanceWriting.com, a free website offering freelance writing jobs and hundreds of writer's guidelines to paying magazines. Read his blog for freelance writers at http://workingwritersnewsletter.blogspot.com
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