A short question on this blog about which training course I would recommend for someone considering a career in proofreading prompted a rather long reply from me. It made me realize that the issue deserved a post of its own.
Professional proofreading training
Please note that this article isn’t designed to recommend one particular course over another. What you choose will depend on a number of factors, e.g. location, career stage.
Readers of this blog who’ve searched my training archive will know the course I chose – the Publishing Training Centre's Essential Proofreading.
While I found this course to be outstanding, this accolade is based on my business plan, my place of residence, my knowledge of the market I chose to focus on, and my training budget. It won’t necessarily be the right choice for, say, a Belgian with a different niche market in mind, or a Canadian whose pockets are feeling a little shallow at the moment.
Instead, the aim here is to give voice to some of the basic issues that are worth considering when choosing what, where and how to train for a career as a freelance proofreader, wherever you live and whatever your budget.
What’s on offer?
The options are numerous. Distance learning and on-site; online and book-based; and DIY and professionally assessed. Some cost hundreds of pounds while other options cost less than the price of a family cinema outing. Googling for proofreading training courses throws up lots of information but little guidance on how to make a choice. Here are some ideas to get you on the right track.
Is there a national or regional professional society you can contact?
This is probably the best place to start. Get in touch with your national editing/proofreading society and see what they recommend. Their membership is full of people who were once in your position, so they will have some great advice to share, and at no cost. Visit my Editing & Proofreading Societies page to locate your national association or regional chapter.
At what stage are you in the process?
Consider what point you’re at in the process of your career change. Are you definitely looking to become a professional proofreader or are you at the earlier stage of considering it as one of several options? If the latter, you might opt for a cheaper, preliminary short course to see if the work suits you before you invest a larger amount of money in a more time-consuming distance learning course.
If you've recently completed some training you might want to consider a mentoring programme. The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) runs a mentoring programme in the UK. Contact your national editing and proofreading society for more details on mentoring opportunities in your own country.
What kind of client are you hoping to target?
Case study 1
You’re an ex-solicitor/attorney who’s decided that the law’s not your bag after all. You decide you want to focus on publisher clients, possibly those with lists in criminology, law and policing.
Do some research to find out which houses publish in these fields and give them a call. Ask to speak to the production manager, or the person in charge of hiring freelance editorial staff. Ask that person what their criteria are for freelancers. They'll be able to tell you the training providers they recognize.
They’ll also be able to give you some ideas about any experience or expertise they are looking for. You may be surprised to find that they accept a qualification that you hadn’t considered.
And it may not be the most expensive one on the market. Even if you do find out that you would be better off going for one of the more expensive training courses, at least you know that it will be money well spent and that you’ll get the return on your investment once you start applying for paid work.
Getting a feel for what publishers want is a good start because they are one type of client that is in a position to offer you repeat work.
Case study 2
You’ve worked as an English-language teacher for years in a school or college, helping young adults improve their literacy skills. You decide to focus on independent fiction and creative non-fiction authors who are looking for the final polish before they submit their manuscript to an agent, in-house commissioning editor, or custom-publishing organization. You need to do the same research.
Start networking with writers’ groups and online networks and ask the people themselves what training and experience they expect a proofreader to have. They may have a set of very different preferred externals based on their experiences of commissioning freelance editorial services.
Join social networking forums such as LinkedIn where existing freelancers congregate and ask what training routes other freelance proofreaders in your country, who work with the type of client you’re interested in, took to get their careers off the ground.
The point is to research your market and find out what people want and expect. Every training provider on the market will tell you that their course is the best, and they wouldn’t be doing a good job of marketing themselves if they claimed otherwise. Asking the end-users, however, is the key to ensuring you make the decision that best suits your business strategy.
Assessed or not?
Assuming you’ve decided proofreading is the job for you, and you need a training course that is going to give you the confidence and readiness to do the job to a professional standard, find out whether your training provider offers an assessment element.
It’s best to iron out the creases while you are training, rather than alienating unhappy clients further down the line.
Or to quote an old proverb: What the fool does in the end, the wise man does in the beginning.
Louise Harnby is a line editor, copyeditor and proofreader who specializes in working with crime, mystery, suspense and thriller writers.
She is an Advanced Professional Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP), a member of ACES, a Partner Member of The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), and co-hosts The Editing Podcast.
Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Fiction Editor & Proofreader, say hello on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, connect via Facebook and LinkedIn, and check out her books and courses.
17/2/2012 08:18:30 am
Louise, thank you so much for this web site, I have rarely seen such great information and resources, and I have only scratched the surface!!
17/2/2012 09:17:19 am
Why, thank you so much, Linda - lovely to have positive feedback. This blog and and the Resources section of the website were designed to help others - comments like this encourage me to continue adding new content in the knowledge that I'm achieving my objective. Thanks again!
21/2/2012 04:51:35 am
21/2/2012 05:18:19 am
Thanks so much, Ruth - good to hear an endorsement of the article's advice from someone else who's had to make these difficult decisions.
26/11/2012 08:28:41 am
Can you suggest some Providers who provide training courses for Proof Reading/ Editorial Service/ Indexing. How good is 'writersbureau.com'?
26/11/2012 09:14:56 am
Without knowing which country you live in, Mathew, it's difficult to point you in the direction of particular training providers. There's a list of UK providers here: http://www.louiseharnbyproofreader.com/4/post/2011/12/proofreader-training-courses.html; some information about what UK publishers have to say about training here: http://www.louiseharnbyproofreader.com/4/post/2011/11/does-training-matter-what-publishers-say-about-proofreading-editing-courses.html; and information about US training here: http://www.kokedit.com/ckb_2.php. I can't comment on which particular course is good or not because I only know about the one I did: The PTC's Basic Proofreading by Distance Learning. I thought this was outstanding and more info about that can be found here: http://www.train4publishing.co.uk/courses/distance-learning/basic-proofreading. They also do a distance learning copy-editing course.
8/9/2013 02:04:45 am
8/9/2013 03:43:44 am
8/9/2013 03:45:26 am
8/9/2013 04:08:09 am
Hi Stuart. If you look at these two organizations' websites, you will be able to identify which courses are available via the distance learning route, and whether they are suitable for your skill level. You could also check the Editorial Freelancers Association website. The EFA is based in the US -- keeping a look-out on their training schedule may help. It's difficult to give accurate advice without knowing specifically what area of your skill set you are looking to improve. The Editorial Bootcamp runs a series of webinars that may be of interest. I've heard my US colleagues talk highly of this company: http://www.editorialbootcamp.com/webinars/. And the people at Copyediting.com (whom I follow via social media) always have great information to share, and they host a range of online audio conferences: http://www.copyediting.com/courses-events.
26/10/2013 07:42:07 am
Your national editorial society would be the best place to enquire: there's a list here: http://www.louiseharnbyproofreader.com/editing--proofreading-societies.html. Many former lawyers specialize in this type of work, though I proofread legal books for publishers. See this article: http://www.louiseharnbyproofreader.com/4/post/2012/10/proofreading-law-books.html. I don't have specialist legal training, and for that reason I won't take on legal work for non-publisher clients.
25/3/2014 09:36:00 am
I have heard Chapterhouse Publishing are quite good? Have you had any dealings with them?
25/3/2014 03:48:07 pm
I haven't, Kenny, so I can't offer an evaluation of the course. Sorry! Perhaps ask around on some of the LinkedIn discussion boards. Or call up a few publishers and ask which training organizations they rate highly.
5/9/2014 03:44:00 am
Hi just to alert you that case study 2, first word, last line I think should be 'off'. Cheers.
26/1/2015 03:25:46 pm
Hello. Thank you so much for all of the fantastic information on this site. I was a Fiction Editor with D C Thomson 15 years ago, then left to go into law - a career I've detested for pretty much the entire 15 years. I've now escaped, due to redundancy, and am hoping to find some proofreading work. I didn't have a clue where to start, especially as DCT did all their training in-house and I have no relevant formal qualifications, but your site makes it all seem a little less intimidating! Thanks again for pointing me in the right direction - your efforts are much appreciated.
28/1/2015 06:20:45 am
Hello Louise, I'm a 57 year old Canadian man considering a new career path, and the idea of becoming a proofreader is an intriguing one for me. The question I have for you, in your opinion is advancing technology a viable threat to professional proofreaders? We already have a myriad of spellcheck programs to clean up sloppy spelling, grammar and sentence structure, do you foresee the day technology will render this field as relevant as the horse and buggy? Thanks, Dan.
28/1/2015 07:11:33 am
13/4/2017 10:46:17 am
Hello Louise and thank you. Something positive, informative and free! I recently paid for a Proofreading course having done a certain amount of research but I am disappointed. Having read your article Louise, I feel more positive and ready to take the next step.
13/4/2017 12:12:38 pm
Hi, Patricia! So glad you found it useful. Check out the Training and Starting Out archives on this blog too. I've offered some other approaches to thinking about the issue. Sorry to hear that you've been disappointed with a previous course. That's always so frustrating and demotivating. Finding the right training 'home' is essential. I know this from my own experience - we need to feel that our investment's really taking us forward in the right direction. If you're in the UK, you might like to consider joining the SfEP. It's a brilliant community of editors at all stages of career development, and there's a ton of support that goes well beyond training.
22/6/2017 12:01:13 am
Even if someone is not in the UK, SfEP is well worth joining. It's an editorial association with a great international outlook, and excellent provisions for those not in the UK.
24/5/2017 09:51:57 am
24/5/2017 11:23:59 am
28/6/2017 11:53:28 pm
29/6/2017 11:01:28 am
Hi, Janice! See these posts, which will answer that question and more:
15/8/2017 10:52:30 am
Great post. Have you heard of chapterhouse proofreading course? I was thinking of taking it but I'm not sure how helpful it would be in me gearing towards proofing as I don't know if tge certificate hold any weight. Any advice would be helpful.
25/6/2018 10:22:02 pm
Do you have any up-to-date training info for Proofreaders for 2018?
25/6/2018 10:31:15 pm
20/7/2018 09:21:25 pm
To Louise Harnby, Proofreader & Copyeditor
20/7/2018 09:47:30 pm
Hi, Steve. In the first instance, seek the advice of the Professional Editors Guild in South Africa to find out what they recommend: https://www.editors.org.za/Default.aspx
31/3/2020 09:02:10 am
Hi Louise. Brilliant article thank you. I am notoriously bad at proof reading my own work. I, irregularly, produce 60 page documents and it is not worth employing a proof reader with the amount that I receive for them. So, I thought it might be a good idea to take a proof reading course but (a) can a proof reader read their own work effectively, and (b) is this the PTC course (which I think has been updated) to which you refer [https://www.publishingtrainingcentre.co.uk/courses/self-study/tutor-guided-courses/item/essential-proofreading-editorial-skills-one#what-s-included]. Many thanks for your help. Philip
31/3/2020 10:32:51 am
31/3/2020 03:11:08 pm
Thanks Louise. That actually helped quite a lot; particularly knowing that it wasn't me inadequately proof reading! I'm quite good at proofreading other people's work so I may do the training anyway as it interests me. Thank you also for the tip about PerfectIt. I am using Grammarly for the last year and it's a little cumbersome for me.
31/3/2020 04:09:04 pm
I've put together that blog post, Philip, but if you email me I'll give you a draft form so you can access it now. There are 10 tips, including what I mentioned above, but some other tools too. email@example.com
11/4/2020 04:33:36 pm
Hi Louise, I'm in between jobs right now and interested in doing a proofreading course as writing reports and checking my colleagues' before publication was a part of my previous job which I did for 10 years and I enjoyed it. My question is, with the exception of freelancing (the idea terrifies me!) do you know what other career options are available for trained proofreaders? I'd be training with no particular goal in mind except to learn something new and see where it took me. I'm considering the PTC introduction course. Thank you.
11/4/2020 05:57:08 pm
As far as I'm aware, most publishers don't employ dedicated proofreaders, though in-house editors perform a range of functions. It may well be that come corporations employ quality-control checkers but my gut feeling is that this kind of work tends to be contracted out. Either that or the people doing in from within the organization have additional roles. However, I'm so embedded in the freelance market that I'm probably not best placed to answer this question with authority. Sorry!
15/4/2020 03:31:12 am
Thank you for your reply.
6/6/2020 02:38:44 pm
6/6/2020 03:33:45 pm
Hi, Cobeya. Thanks - I've fixed that broken link.
4/9/2020 11:46:35 am
Hi there, found your blog really helpful as I look into freelance proofreading. It sounds as though a membership with Ciep is a worthy investment? I work my day job as a care assistant but having completed a degree in creative writing and self publishing my first book last year, I want to venture into proofreading in order to build a freelance career and give up care work. I love the written word, whether writing or reading but when looking for research on things I was rather overwhelmed. With tight control of finances I need to also be sure the money I spend is best placed to help me. Any advice you can give me would be most appreated, Thank you
4/9/2020 01:06:51 pm
Hi, Zoe. Look in the blog sidebar at the top. There's a box called WHAT DO YOU NEED? There are links to more advice there.
19/9/2020 09:40:18 pm
Thank you, I'll definitely take a look
24/10/2020 01:09:45 pm
Hi Louise, Thank you for all the great information you have posted. I am looking to start a career in proof reading and/or editing. From what I have read do I understand that I am best to start with a proofreading course first and then move on to editing once I have worked on my skill set and knowledge?
25/10/2020 02:51:23 pm
25/10/2020 07:34:19 pm
That's great, thank you x
3/2/2021 07:04:29 pm
9/4/2021 09:02:07 am
Hi Louise, this article is a great starting guideline to a very overwhelming world of proofreading. Thank you for it. I would like to ask if I can become a proofreader even without a teaching or law background. Is there a certain requirement?
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