How to Start a Proofreading Business in Australia | finder.com.au

How to start a proofreading business

Use your proofreading skills to build a profitable venture.

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If you have experience in proofreading and editing, setting up your own proofreading business can be a good way to monetise your skills. With a lot of proofreading software now attracting potential customers away from proofreaders, it's important to find your niche so you can stand out in the market.

Read on to find out how to set up your proofreading business for success.

What is a proofreading business?

A proofreading business helps clients review their written work so it's publication-ready. A good proofreader will correct any spelling, punctuation and grammar errors, and ensure the work meets any relevant style guide.

How to start a proofreading business

Before you launch your own proofreading business, it's important to have a clear plan. The following steps will help guide you through the process:

  1. Find your niche. There is a lot of competition in the proofreading industry, including from automated proofreading software such as Grammarly and Hemingway. That is why it's important to identify your strengths and tailor your services accordingly. Research different target markets to see which subject area is in demand. For example, if you have a finance background, you may be able to pitch services specifically aimed at corporate clients. Or if you have a background in science, you may specialise in proofreading scientific papers.
  2. Develop a business plan and products. As with any business, it's important to develop a business plan and design packages that are tailored to your target market. For example, if you are specialising in academic proofreading, you can create different packages and prices for thesis editing, journal article editing and essay editing.
  3. Create a business name and logo. As a proofreader, most of the time you will use your own name as the business name, but you can also register a business name that better reflects your expertise and style. You can also hire a graphic designer to create a logo, but if you don't have a budget, you can use these graphic design tools and services to create your own.
  4. Choose the right business structure. If you're just starting out in the proofreading industry, the chances are you will be running the business on your own. In that case, registering your business as a Sole Trader is often the quickest and simplest way to get started. However, speaking to a small business lawyer can help you choose the right structure for your business.
  5. Consider your legal requirements. Before you agree to take on any proofreading work, it's important to get your paperwork in order so you are compensated for your work if the client changes their mind.
  6. Market your services. It's a good idea to build a website and social media page to showcase your skills and experience in proofreading. You can also use freelancing websites and online marketplaces to reach out to potential clients.
  7. Retain your clients. Make sure you seek feedback from your clients regarding your work. It's also a good idea to keep in touch with them so you can get future work and referrals.

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Skills needed to start a proofreading business

Starting your own proofreading business requires a lot of patience and diligence. You'll need to have an attention to detail and have a good grasp of the English language including grammar, punctuation, spelling and style.

As a professional proofreader, you will also need to be familiar with different style guides. A style guide is a document that provides guidelines for the way the work should be presented. Popular style guides include:

  • Associated Press Style (AP Style). Typically used in the journalism industry.
  • American Psychological Association (APA Style). Common among the behavioural and social sciences.
  • Chicago Manual of Style (CMS).
  • Style Manual. Used for creating Australian government content.

In addition, if you have corporate clients, they may have their own style guides for their content and branding which you need to be familiar with.

Courses and qualifications

While you don't strictly need formal qualifications to start your business, having a degree in the relevant field will be a big help. Qualifications in English Language, English Literature, Journalism or Creative Writing can lay the initial foundations for a quality proofreading business.

In addition to certified professional qualifications and courses, there are many online courses that will help you develop proofreading skills. In an industry that continues to shift online, you'll find a whole database of courses on proofreading, copy editing and developmental editing.

Taking courses is just one way of gathering the skills and knowledge to start a proofreading business. There is a huge selection of books written by those who have turned their language skills into a successful enterprise.

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    Equipment and software needed to start a proofreading business

    A proofreading business will require a few important pieces of equipment and software. These may include:

    • Reference books
    • Microsoft Office Suite, Google Docs, Adobe Acrobat and InDesign
    • Accounting software for billing clients

    Your business may also benefit from subscribing to proofreading software. Some popular proofreading software on the market today includes:

    • ProWritingAid. A grammar checker and editing tool that's used by everyone from business authors to fashion bloggers.
    • Grammarly. This widely popular application works to ensure that what you type is correct, clear and easy to read.
    • Hemingway. This piece of software aims to make your writing "bold and clear".

    How to structure your proofreading business

    There are a few different ways to set up your proofreading business. Choosing the one that best suits your needs can depend on several factors, including the size of your business, how many employees you have and how many external investors you have in the business.

    Here are a few of the most common ways to structure your business:

    Sole Trader

    As a Sole Trader, your business is based around one single person, and every decision and responsibility rests with that Sole Trader. This is an ideal structure if you are one person working within a small business model and have a small turnover. One possible drawback from choosing this structure is that losses, debts and legal liabilities all lie with that one person.

    Partnership

    A Partnership business is similar to a Sole Trader but involves two people instead of one. Both partners have equal rights in the company and must make decisions together. This can be a good choice for those going into business with a partner or friend.

    Companies

    Registering your business as a Company will treat the business as a separate entity to you and the employees. Although there is a bigger chance of having lots of set-up costs, a business can also sell shares to raise capital.

    Most of the time, proofreading businesses might operate as a Sole Trader because it's an easy, cheap and effective way to set up a small company. However, as your business grows you may consider changing your legal structure to register it as a Company.

    As with any new business, having the correct legal documents in place is important to safeguard your work.

    There are a number of important legal documents to think about before getting started. The most important one will be an Independent Contractor Agreement or Service Agreement. It should detail:

    • The scope of the project
    • Payment and deposits
    • Cancellation Policy
    • Confidentiality
    • Copyright

    Other useful documents may include a Data Sharing Agreement and Non-Disclosure Agreement, although most of the time the client will provide a copy. If you want to take on additional staff, you will also need an Employment Agreement.

    Data updated regularly
    Name Product What's offered? Starting price to become a member Annual Fee from Free legal documents available?
    Lawpath
    Legal documents and templates, Access to lawyers, Legal guides, Legal advice
    $79 per month
    Essentials: $288, legal advice: $828
    You can view samples for free and you can create your first document for free.
    Choose an annual plan from just $288 and get unlimited revisions to your legal or business documents. Plus, unlock exclusive partner offers.
    LawDepot
    Legal documents and templates, Legal guides
    $4.99 per month
    $59.88
    Free one week trial available which gives access to hundreds of documents.
    Customise and download legal documents in as little as five minutes. Plus, LawDepot offers peace of mind with two service guarantees.
    Legal123
    Legal documents and templates, Legal guides
    Varies per template
    N/A
    No
    Legal123 offers a range of individual templates or document packages for consultants, app developers, personal trainers and more.
    LegalVision
    Legal documents and templates, Legal guides, Legal advice
    $49 + GST per week
    $2,548 + GST
    No
    Your business can take advantage of unlimited lawyer consultations, fast turnaround times and free legal templates with LegalVision.
    Law Central
    Legal documents and templates, Legal guides
    Free for the Silver membership
    Gold: $99
    You can view samples and create your own document for free with the Silver membership.
    Law Central offers a large number of legal templates for super, trusts, estate planning, employment and commercial uses.
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    How to find customers

    Building up a customer base is important for the success of any business, and especially so in the world of proofreading. Most of the time, you will find customers through online sources, so having a strong business website is a great first step. It's a good idea to share a biography detailing your academic background, any relevant experience (for example working in an editing role) and post some of the projects you worked on.

    In order to find customers, you can sign up to freelancing websites such a Fiverr, Upwork and Freelancer.com, and online marketplaces like Airtasker. That way, you can actively respond to requests for proofreading work and get testimonials from clients. You can also browse Seek, Indeed and other job platforms for casual proofreading jobs.

    How much should I charge my customers?

    Knowing how much to charge your customers can be a difficult decision to make. Proofreading businesses tend to charge by the word or by the number of pages you are reading. You can also charge your customer by the hour.

    When deciding how much to charge, ask yourself:

    • How long will it take you to proofread the work?
    • How much are similar proofreading businesses charging for their services?
    • How much are my overheads?
    • Have I factored in the cost of wages if I need to employ others?
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    Frequently asked questions

    What are the pros and cons of starting a proofreading business?

    Pros

    • You can start your business from home.
    • You don't need a lot of equipment and software.
    • You don't need formal education, training or certification.

    Cons

    • It's a saturated market, so initially you might find it difficult to get consistent work.
    • You might be competing with proofreaders outside of Australia who can charge customers less.

    How can I market my proofreading business on social media?

    When you work in a competitive industry, having a website alone may not be enough to attract clients. Many proofreaders have a presence on social media so potential clients can find them easily. Depending on your expertise, social media platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook groups can be useful if you use them to make connections with authors and other editors.

    Are proofreading courses worth it?

    Proofreading courses can provide even expert readers and writers a more effective way of approaching their work. You can fill gaps in your knowledge and learn to avoid outdated grammar rules. Completing a proofreading course can also help make a good impression on potential clients because it shows your commitment and professionalism.

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