Can you become a proofreader even if you have no publishing experience? That's what a reader wanted to know. Here's my answer.
Amanda is a UK-based primary-school teacher.
She says: ‘I have zero experience in publishing. However, I have a first-class degree in Education Studies and enjoy reading and grammar. I've been reading your blog recently and have thought of qualifying as a proofreader but appreciate how competitive it is. What is the likelihood of me obtaining work based on my background?’
Many thanks for your question, Amanda!
So, the short answer is, there’s a strong likelihood if you get your marketing head on.
Because, essentially, this is a marketing issue.
Here’s my current favourite mantra:
We have two jobs: the work we do, and the work we do to get the work we do.
In your email to me you talked in terms of ‘qualifying’ so you’re clearly prepared to embark on professional training – a wise decision. It tells me you’re prepared to make yourself fit for practice – the work we do.
Now let’s look at what you could do to get that work.
1st-stage marketing (pre-qualification)
These are the basics, but they’re enough to give you a solid set of standard online profiles that represent you and your proofreading business, and that will enable you to connect with like-minded professionals – old hands and new.
In reality, your potential client base is rather wide, but I believe that in the start-up phase, when you’re building a proofreading business, it makes sense to target publishers. That’s because:
2nd-stage marketing (post-qualification)
So why would a publisher be interested in you, Amanda? Here are some reasons:
And who are those education publishers?
Google is your friend here, but here’s a short list of publishers in the UK who have education lists or imprints. In your position, I’d start by getting in touch with every single publisher you can find in the UK who publishes education content.
My bet is that most (many, certainly) academic or scholarly publishers in the UK will have books, journals and electronic products in the field of education at some level.
Find out who’s in charge of hiring editorial freelancers. Email or post a cover letter and CV. Be sure to emphasize your training, background, society membership and subject specialisms.
In the early stages, education will be your core specialism but, honestly, if you can proofread an educational research book, you can proofread a politics book or a social theory book, so you might decide to expand your list of interests to education, social sciences and humanities.
Or you might talk in terms of education teaching, theory, practice, governance, and research, and other key related terms.
It’s something to think about. When you start looking at what else all those publishers with education books are putting out to market, you’ll get a sense of how you might customize each contact letter/email so that you really engage with each press’s list.
As you build up your publisher list, your portfolio of completed works, and your testimonials from all those satisfied in-house production editors, you can really start to make your online presence stand out.
Perhaps you now meet the criteria to advertise in the SfEP’s online Directory of Editorial Services.
This is one way of making yourself visible to clients outside the publishing industry – I’m thinking here of master’s and PhD students preparing dissertations and theses in the field of education and beyond; academics (particularly those whose first language isn’t English) preparing articles for journal submission); independent non-fiction authors, and so on.
For a broader look at different marketing approaches, check out the Marketing archive here on the Parlour, or my book Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business.
If accessing a market outside the mainstream publishing industry is something you’re serious about, start your content marketing as soon as possible. I have a wee primer that will give you the basics.
If you want to get serious, visit the Andrew and Pete website. I bang on about these two all the time, but they know their stuff.
I wish I’d known them 10 years ago. Unfortunately for me, they’re a fair bit younger so were probably doing their GCSEs when I started my editorial business! But I’m using them now to help me get the very best I can from my marketing.
So, yes, I think you can obtain work if you are practice-fit and ready to plant a big marketing hat on your head and really commit to it!
The fact is, it’s noisy out here, and getting noisier. But the market is bigger too – global, in fact – so there’s more competition, but more opportunities too.
Another mantra – be interesting and be discoverable.
Get your training and your marketing licked and there’s no reason why you can’t create a successful proofreading business. It will take time and hard graft, but it’s perfectly doable for those with the right mindset.
Hope that helps! If you have additional questions, just pop them in the comments below.
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.
22/6/2017 11:51:49 pm
Thank you for your detailed advice. It has given me the confidence to take the plunge and I'm looking forward to embarking on the first step of your recommendations.
22/6/2017 11:55:20 pm
And I look forward to seeing you in our online community, Amanda! We're a friendly bunch! When you're ready, check out the Editors' Association of Earth Facebook group, too. There are several thousand editors and proofreaders there from all over the planet, some who are new to the field, some who've been knocking around the block for a while. All are welcome!
Good post, Louise. As an ex-teacher-turned-editor, I would agree it is absolutely possible to make the transition into publishing. I would highly recommend the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) annual conference as an excellent place to go to put your marketing skills to the test in person and kick start the new career. Look at the list of attendees and make a beeline for any representatives of publishers who deal in education.
23/6/2017 05:24:37 pm
Thanks so much, Rachel! Great to have a former teacher's perspective on the issue.
9/8/2019 04:26:43 pm
Really interesting read. I too am a teacher (secondary Business Studies) and am seriously considering a career change into proofreading. I have just applied for entry level membership of the SfEP and am hoping that it will provide more information about how to proceed. I work full-time as a Head of Department and am hoping that I may be able to start on a part-time basis whilst building up some work and experience before giving up my job (and salary). Your website is a really useful source of information Louise. Thank you for sharing all of this information and advice.
10/8/2019 06:47:45 pm
Cheers, Nicki! Glad you've found the help you need here!
17/4/2021 09:42:36 am
17/4/2021 01:07:31 pm
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