The Pros and Cons of Starting a Proofreading Business

How to make a living off of your grammatical know-how

Young woman on couch with a laptop working from home as a proofreader.

 Mimi Thian / Unsplash

Do you have experience writing and editing? Are you detail-oriented and able to provide constructive critiques? Do you frequently catch typos and grammatical errors in books, advertisements, and articles, even when you are reading for enjoyment? If you have an eye for detail, love to read, and have experience with writing structured content, consider starting your own proofreading business.

Proofreaders ensure text matches an established style, check hyphenation and capitalization, make sure changes from previous versions have been made accurately, and sometimes check for grammatical errors. Consider some of the pros and cons involved before starting such a business.

The Pros

There are many reasons why a proofreading business is a good option when you're ready to become a business owner. Some of the benefits of starting such a business include:

Startup Costs Should Be Relatively Low, Especially If You Are Operating Your Business out of Your Home

Aside from standard office supplies, basic startup costs can be limited to maintaining a current version of Microsoft Word and online subscriptions to standard style guides such as the Associated Press Stylebook, the MLA Handbook, the APA Manual, and the Chicago Manual of Style, as well as any other specialized style guides that your clients use.

No Storefront Is Needed

This is work that can be done exclusively out of your own home. Not only can this make for a more comfortable work environment, but you'll be able to deduct the expenses for your home office when you file your taxes.

Formal Training or Certification Is Not Needed

However, a background editing news copy or working as an English or composition teacher will make it easier to market your value to potential clients.

A Broad Range of Potential Clients Is Available

Possibilities range from individuals seeking help with resumes, cover letters, or other important documents to businesses seeking professional editing for proposals or detailed reports. You can seek the broadest possible range of clients, or you might choose to specialize in one area where you have the most expertise.

The Cons

You also need to be prepared for the inevitable challenges that come with starting a business. Potential challenges of opening your own proofreading business include:

An Exceptional Command of the English Language Is Not Enough to Be a Good Proofreader

It's imperative that you have a working knowledge of multiple style guides and the ability to adapt from one to the other based on client and assignment.

Further Education and Experience May Be Necessary:

Some studying may be necessary to familiarize yourself with some of the different styles of writing you'll need to proofread. For example, a business proposal should not look or read like a journal article describing scientific research. As a proofreader, it's important that you can adapt quickly from assignment to assignment.

Deadlines Sometimes Can Be Tight

Especially in the business world, clients may need an assignment to be turned around within 24 hours or less. You have to be able to work well under that kind of pressure.

It Can Take a Long Time to Build up a Steady Client Base

Selling the value of your work might be as challenging as selling the fact that you are the right person to do the work—especially in a culture where speed and internet shorthand sometimes take precedence over accuracy and well-written prose.