Side Hustle Stories: Can you proofread and earn more money?

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Jeannette earns a living from editing.

This article is part of the Side Hustle Stories.

When I tell people that they don’t need a brilliant idea to make extra money, they usually think I’m joking.

But today, I’m happy to share the story of Jeannette de Beauvoir.

Jeanette has been freelancing full time for more than 20 years … and guess what she does?

Proofreads and edits writing.

Editing isn’t a groundbreaking idea, but you can earn money from it … and apparently enough to live on.

Check out Jeannette’s story below.

What she does

I proofread and edit the writing of others.

When I’m editing, I like to think of my work as invisible: the end product will sound like the author, but even more so — because mistakes in usage, grammar, etc. will have been eliminated. Editing is the art of transformation, of making the author’s work shine.

You can view all of my writing services on my website.

What she gets paid

I generally charge per project, and I charge based on the number of words multiplied by how much editing is needed. There are three levels of editing: copyediting, substantive editing, and developmental editing. Substantive editing is more than copyediting; developmental editing is more than substantive editing.

Many if not most clients are surprised by the amount of editing required: they often approach me for “proofreading” but in reality need far more than that.

This brings the cost to anywhere from three to twelve cents per word.

Who she edits for

My typical editing client is either an author seeking to self–publish or a small independent publisher, though I work with far more authors than publishers.

I think that in terms of my editing, I’m very comfortable with this group and wouldn’t do anything differently. That’s not true, by the way, for the writing side of my business!

In general, authors are great to work with and as I take the approach of teaching them as I edit, they always feel like they’ve gotten something out of it. One calls me “Dr. J.” — I’m her book doctor!

How can someone get started?

We’d have to start by assuming that the would–be editor is in fact capable of editing. Because there are no universally accepted certifications or degrees, it’s an easy–entry endeavor, but you have to be sure that you are able to follow a style guide, recognize errors, etc.

No one will pay you for a job poorly done.

With that said, here are five steps you can take if you want to get started.

1. Go to the library and open a copy of the current Writer’s Market. In there you’ll find a list of publishers. Contact every one and offer your services as a freelance editor. This is a time–consuming task, so perhaps you’ll want to spread it out; but the more you contact, the more options you’ll have. Many will send you an editing test. If the above assumption is correct — i.e., that you do have the skill set required — you’ll probably pass these tests and become available for editing assignments.

2. Join the Editorial Freelancers’ Association. There’s a terrific jobs board there, much of which is for freelance editors.

3. Offer your services on as many Craigslists as you can. This is even more time–consuming, because Craigslist will not allow duplicate ads, so you need to recraft it for every list on which you’d like to advertise. I’ve gotten some very nice editing jobs this way.

Here is a screenshot of a previous ad I posted on Craigslist.


4. Create a website. Look at other editors’ sites and adapt them to your own needs. Hire a professional to do this — it’s going to be your calling–card, so it has to be the best it can be.

(Editor’s note: If you’re looking for an easy way to build a website, I recommend Headway for WordPress. Much cheaper than hiring a designer and it’s what I used to build Passive Panda.)

5. Join the copyediting discussion list at Indiana University. The best place literally in the world for advice, for support, for questions and answers, and for community.

Want to learn more?

Thanks Jeannette! If you’re looking to earn more, then I’m sure this article will help you get started today!

For even more tips on freelancing and earning more money, join Passive Panda’s free newsletter.

5 Responses to Side Hustle Stories: Can you proofread and earn more money?

  1. eemusings says:

    Great post! I occasionally proof students’ essays (prefer it and it fits in better with my lifestyle than actual tutoring), although I definitely couldn’t do it full time.

  2. Okay, this is pretty incredible. I used to proofread my friends’ notes they passed me in class, correct them with red pen, and hand them back! And this was in grade school. =)

    I should really get into this and see where it can take me. I’ve lost a bit of my advanced grammar over the years, but that can easily be regained with a bit of study. I’m going to print this article out and do every single item Jeanette suggests. I can *do* this.


  3. Jessica Oman says:

    Yes, you can make money as an editor! I do it too. My target market is more small businesses – especially creative, design and web companies that need proofing and editing for their clients’ projects. I love the work and always want to take on more projects!

  4. Josh says:

    If you were doing something like this off of Craigslist, how would you accept payment from people? Paypal?

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