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If you’re interested in becoming a proofreader, you’ve probably wondered whether it’s worth the time and money to take a proofreading course. I took a proofreading course before proofreading professionally, and it proved to be an excellent investment.
If you would like to be a professional proofreader, taking a reputable course is well worth the time and money. Not only will you learn necessary proofreading skills but you will also gain confidence, protect your reputation, learn how to set proofreading rates, and attract more clients.
Let’s look at the many reasons why a proofreading course is a sound investment. I’ll also leave you a link to an article that discusses some of the best proofreading courses available, one of which I’ve taken. Finally, if you’re not sure how much proofreaders typically earn, I’ll give you a link to a post that talks about money.
Proofreading Courses Are Worth It
If you’re on the fence about whether to take a proofreading course, let me help lead you to the solid ground with the lush green grass on the “yes” side of the fence.
Being a proofreader requires a specific set of skills. Here is one of the ways Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines a skill: “a learned power of doing something competently; a developed aptitude or ability.”
Successfully completing a proofreading course will help you to obtain this “learned power.” Although having a college degree or having been a grammar superstar in high school will behoove you, it won’t be enough. Of course, if you happen to have studied copyediting in college, you probably already have the skills to be a successful proofreader.
More to Proofreading Than Meets the Eye
When I took a proofreading course, I was surprised to learn there was much more to being a proofreader than I initially thought. Many of my classmates shared this sentiment.
Had I taken the course closer to the time I graduated from college, it would have undoubtedly required less effort. However, many years had passed.
I was so rusty with my grammar and punctuation knowledge that I decided to brush up on those skills by reading the book Painless Grammar by Rebecca Elliot, PhD. I highly recommend it for anyone who needs a refresher. (Although the word grammar is in the title, it does include a chapter on punctuation and a chapter on commonly misused words.)
I’m so glad I read that book first because it helped me better understand The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS)—the most commonly used style guide for general proofreaders.
Proofreaders Use Style Guides
One of the most valuable lessons I learned in my proofreading course is that proofreaders follow style guides. Otherwise, how would we make decisions when it comes to grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc.?
There are four main style guides used by proofreaders of American English:
- The Chicago Manual of Style
- The Associated Press Stylebook
- MLA (Modern Language Association) Handbook
- Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association
The kind of document you are proofreading determines the style guide that needs to be used. For example, if you’re proofreading a book, you need to use CMOS; however, if you’re working on a press release, you would use The Associated Press Stylebook.
Certain proofreading courses will help you to practice using one of these style guides. You’ll be able to put your new proofreading skills to use with numerous documents to find out where you excel and which areas you need to improve.
Without comprehensive practice that mimics real-world jobs and includes answer keys or feedback, how would you be able to measure your skills and know when you’re ready to start doing work for clients?
Finally, investing in a proofreading course will give you confidence since you’ll know you can do your job well. Some courses provide a certificate for participation or passing the final exam. Your clients will be interested in knowing you’ve acquired formal training.
Having solid skills and being able to provide value to clients will help you build an excellent reputation. Your favorable reputation will then help you scale your proofreading business and ultimately allow you to charge higher prices as you gain even more knowledge and experience.
Gain Proofreading Skills and Get Practice
What We Don’t Know That We Don’t Know
Proofreading requires more knowledge than I originally thought. I’m glad I invested in a course so that I could make that knowledge mine. I learned that trying to be a proofreader without taking a course would have been a problem because I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Let’s take a brief look at the table below:
As you can see, we have knowledge that we’re aware of, and we have knowledge (somewhere in our subconscious) that we don’t even know that we have. We can also scan our brains quickly to reveal what we know that we don’t know. However, it’s what we don’t know that we don’t know that’s a problem. If you don’t take a course, you won’t have the opportunity to learn the knowledge you’re not yet aware you should have.
Proofreading Is a Skill
Proofreading is a skill that you need to learn before you do it professionally. Learn and then earn. I wrote an article about the skills you need to be a proofreader. The first seven skills mentioned in this article are the following:
- A great grasp of grammar
- The capability to correct capitalization errors
- A penchant for proper punctuation
- Superb spelling skills
- Stellar style guide familiarity
- Refined research skills
- Competence with computers
These are the primary skills you’ll learn in a proofreading course. The last two skills you’ll learn in a proofreading-specific way. Finally, some courses also teach the needed business and marketing skills for those who want to freelance.
Become Familiar with Style Guides
Before taking a course, I wasn’t at all familiar with CMOS. As a general proofreader, knowing how to use this guide is essential. Although you don’t need to memorize all the relevant rules (that would be a tall order!), you do need to be aware they exist and know where to find them quickly whenever you need them.
It’s also to your advantage to learn a little bit about the other common style guides and when they apply. If you’re familiar with more than one guide, you’ll be able to work on a broader range of documents.
Get Relevant Proofreading Practice
Certain proofreading courses will give you plenty of practice in using the appropriate style guide. If you take a general proofreading course, you will (hopefully) be given a variety of texts to proofread. You’ll become comfortable with the proofreading process and learn tips about how to be effective and efficient.
Having the opportunity to practice your skills means you’ll get to know your weak points, so you can focus on improving them. Receiving a lot of proofreading practice was invaluable in honing my skills.
Build Confidence in Your Abilities
Gain Confidence Knowing You Have the Skills
Being confident in your proofreading prowess is priceless. With a comprehensive course, you’ll become more confident not only as a result of the skills you learn but also because of the time you spend practicing them.
When you’re proofreading for a client, you don’t want to be second-guessing yourself over every decision you make. But I’ll let you in on a little secret. Even if you take a proofreading course, you’ll probably be doing this in the beginning anyway.
However, having training under your belt means that you’re most likely making the right decision; you’re just doubting yourself since you’re just starting. This is totally normal—not only in proofreading but with any career. In fact, this self-doubt that creeps up on us is so common that it has a name: imposter syndrome.
Harvard Business Review defines imposter syndrome as “a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success.” But you have to start somewhere, and before you know it, that confidence will be yours!
Feel Good about the Value You Give to Clients
A proofreading course will help you feel good about the value you give to your clients. You’ll be able to inspire confidence in your clients from the get-go, and you’ll be glad to know you can help them in a meaningful way. After all, you will have put forth the effort to learn your trade well. It’s a win-win deal for both parties!
There Will Be Competition
Although there will always be a demand for qualified proofreaders who do good work, there will still be competition (as there is with any job). This doesn’t mean you won’t be able to obtain clients who need your services; it just means there will be other proofreaders also vying for clients.
A way to set yourself apart from the competition is to have a solid set of skills, which can be attained by taking a well-known proofreading course.
Clients Want to See Credentials
Although a degree (especially in English or journalism) is helpful, it isn’t enough. I would much rather hire someone who has successfully completed a reputable proofreading course to proofread my work than someone who has a college degree but lacks industry-specific training. That decision is a no-brainer!
Potential clients will want to see your qualifications. Would you invest in someone to provide you with a service if they weren’t qualified for the job?
One time, I received a job on Fiverr from a client who told me that one of the reasons he chose me was because I was knowledgeable about CMOS. He told me that he always asks the proofreaders he hires if they’re familiar with CMOS. If they’re not, he knows to look elsewhere.
Finally, if you’re a well-trained proofreader, you’ll be able to work with clients who have higher-than-average expectations. These clients are usually willing to pay more in exchange for outstanding service.
In the last section of this post, I’ll let you know about some reputable proofreading courses.
Protect Your Reputation
What You Don’t Know Will Show
Of course, if you’re expecting to get paid for proofreading, you need to be able to do a much better job than your clients could do for themselves. And although clients will not have the skill set of a professional proofreader (unless they are one), they will most likely find out if you don’t know what you’re doing.
One of the first proofreading jobs I received on Fiverr was given to me by a lady who had already hired a proofreader (from Fiverr) to polish her blog post. Unfortunately, this woman could see that there were still numerous errors in her post; that’s when she decided to hire me for round two.
As you may imagine, the review she left for the first proofreader was subpar. That proofreader received two out of five stars. Fortunately, she gave me a positive review, five stars, and a tip. For that, I have Caitlin Pyle to thank. She’s the creator of the awesome proofreading course I took.
You Want Clients to Come Back
The client from the last example continued to hire me whenever she needed a blog post to be proofread. I feel fortunate to have taken a course that allowed me to obtain the skills I need to do my job well.
In any business, you always want to earn clients’ trust, so they keep coming back. Those repeat clients are also the ones who are most likely to recommend your services to someone else. Finally, they will leave you glowing reviews that enable you to attain more clients and continue to grow your business.
Recommended Proofreading Courses
The list below shows three proofreading courses I recommend and the organization or company that offers each one. All of these courses take place online, so they’re available to students anywhere in the world.
- General Proofreading: Theory and Practice™ (offered by Proofread Anywhere in the US)
This is the course I took, and I highly recommend it. It includes a module on turning your proofreading know-how into a business and another module on finding clients. If you’d like to learn more about this course, I’ve written an in-depth article: “Is Proofread Anywhere Worth It? (A Student’s Perspective). “
- Essential Proofreading: Editorial Skills One (offered by The Publishing Training Centre in the UK)
3. Proofreading 1: Introduction
Proofreading 2: Headway
Proofreading 3: Progress
(offered by The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading in the UK)
* It’s recommended that students take all three courses to complete the series.
For an in-depth comparison of each of the courses listed above, please read this post I wrote.
How Much Proofreaders Make
Please check out my post about how much proofreaders earn if you’re interested. This post discusses pay rates for proofreaders who are employed as well as for freelance proofreaders.
It also talks about how to determine freelance proofreading rates and mentions an important point we often overlook.
I hope this article has helped you learn more about why proofreading courses are well worth it. I wish you every success in the pursuit of your goals.
Best wishes to you!