Earn Extra Money Working as a Proofreader

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How would you like to make a killing proofreading for foreign students? Let’s say maybe £22 per hour, which will make you over £17000 per year if you only do it 3 hours a day for 5 days. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

There are over 425,000 full-time and part-time students in the UK. There is definitely a large enough market for you to carve out a decent part-time income for yourself. The UK is one of the more popular destinations for mobile students, so that number will only increase over the coming years.

What is a Proofreader?

A proofreader is someone who goes over text to see that the correct language is used, there are no grammatical and spelling errors, and that correct sentence syntax is used. They also do a general quality check of the work to see that nothing is missed.

Proofreaders can also comment on the text and suggest certain improvements be made to the text.

What qualifications do you need to be a proofreader?

Not every man and his dog can start a proofreading business and solicit his/her services to any person. Here are some attributes that will definitely count in your favor if you are going to provide a decent service:

You need to have an eye for details. It is often the small things that people miss in written texts, and I see many mistakes even in published books. It is your job then to make sure NO MISTAKES slip through.

You will need a decent amount of IT knowledge. Luckily nothing too complicated, but you will need to know how to use a word processor very well. By that, I mean you will need to be able to add comments to the text and various skills. Alison.com offers a decent free course. You can have a look here.

Very good concentration and focus would be essential. Again you cannot let the small details slip by because that will give you a bad reputation, and then people will not use your service.

You will need to be able to motivate yourself and meet deadlines. If you cannot finish the task at hand and get the student’s paper back in time for him, then, unfortunately, you will not make it as a proofreader. Students are busy, and especially if they are not proficient in English, it might take them longer to do their homework than other students. This could lead to them needing proofreading services with a short deadline because they might still need to change some last-minute things when they return their paper and submit it to their lecturer. Therefore you will need to jump in and get the job done.

This is not essential but will go a long way to help you and give you a huge amount of credibility. Any degree in one of the following Masters in Journalism, Media and Communication Studies, Linguistics Degrees, or any degree in English or English literature.

Other degrees could also be of help because you could offer specialized proofreading in the particular area you studied, for example, Psychology or another degree where there you have to write a thesis as part of your grade.

What does a proofreader do?

As a Proofreader, you will be doing the following:

  • Make sure the content looks correct and follows a logical structure.
  • As previously stated, you will need to check for spelling and grammatical mistakes, plus the sentence syntax should be correct.
  • Images should have the right captions. Simple example: a picture of a dog cannot be captioned as a mermaid.
  • See if anything is left out. It has happened to many people that they write something and press the backspace key too long, and then start writing the next sentence. When I proofread it myself (after I have published it, obviously), only then do I realize my mistake. I do this all the time.
  • Have a look at the table of contents and see if it corresponds with the page numbers etc., as stated.
  • To identify all the changes that will be required to make sure the text is up to the required standard. This is usually done with a word processor or dedicated software.
  • Talking to the client. You are working for them and need to establish exactly what it is they need from you.

There are a few more things you need to do. However, this job does not involve much editing. Only very essential editing might be needed and should preferably be liaised with the client.

How much do proofreaders make?

This will depend on quite a few factors, most of which are within your control. The Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) recommends an hourly rate of £22 per hour. I do think you might be a bit ambitious in the beginning to charge that amount unless you have the credentials to go with it and you have proven experience.

You will probably be better off charging a bit less to start building up a customer base. Remember, you will do this as a part-time gig, but that does not mean you do not have to provide a decent service. Using a loss leader to drum up some business could also be an idea you could use. If your service is good enough, then you are definitely bound to have return customers seeing as a student has quite a few subjects and probably needs to submit papers for most of them.

Ultimately you could easily earn up to £17000 per year part-time if you build up your customer base and spend 15 hours a week proofreading. I have also seen proofreaders charge in the region of £8 per 1000 words. I would imagine that for an experienced proofreader, it will probably not take very long to do a 1000-word text, and most of them will, in most cases, be much longer than that.

How Will I Market Myself?

You could set up a website, which is always a good idea. Contact your local university or college and place an advert in their newspaper or campus radio. It is much cheaper than local radio/paper, and you will reach your target audience that way.

As I mentioned before, you could use a loss leader to get some customers. You could tell them that one of the conditions for giving them the service for free or at a much-reduced rate, they have to provide you with a testimonial. You can then use this testimonial on your website, or you could tell people what some of your previous customers said about you.

Providing exceptional service to your client will probably be your best way of marketing yourself. Your existing customers will then refer you to their fellow students and friends.

Anything Else I Should Know?

Proofreading is becoming an essential service in the UK. Universities and colleges are unfortunately not providing their foreign students with the necessary tuition to adapt to a country where their language of study is not their first language. This is where you can provide a much-needed service that will benefit not only you but the student as well.

I also have to add that it is also not wise or ethical to advertise that you can improve a student’s grade with your services. If you provide a decent service and they do get an improved grade, then that seems fair enough, but study institutions will not accept it when students start buying essays from people. They are not fools and will know if the paper submitted uses received English that is beyond the student’s capabilities.

I also have some more good news for you. You can start up your business on a shoestring.

The cost would be as follow:

  • You already have a computer, and you can get a word processor for free here.
  • A website will set you back as little as £40.
  • A short course in proofreading will set you back about £340, including VAT.

That will bring your total outlay to £380, which for starting any business is absolute peanuts.


I think this is a genuine opportunity for anyone that has the relevant knowledge and skills mixed with the will to make some extra money on a part-time basis. This is one of the few ways people can make good money part-time from home, and we know there is definitely a market out there that requires this service. To be honest, you will not easily find more ideal conditions than this.

So the ball is in your court now. You have enough information on how to become a proofreader here to see if this job is suited to you.

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About Maki Hojo

Maki Hojo is a student at the University of Michigan. A foodie since birth, she enjoys cooking, eating, photographing, reading about, and playing with any and all types of food. Her idolization of culinary delights is complemented by her active spirit - she enjoys running, swimming, barre classes, and even spontaneous bursts of interpretative dance if the mood strikes her.