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Setting up a Proofreading Business

All you need to know about starting and running your business

Business guides » Setting up a Proofreading Business

What is a Proofreading Business

Proofreading refers to the careful reading and checking of written or printed materials and identifying and marking any errors. A proofreader will complete a thorough check for any errors before a text or piece of writing is published or shared.

A proofreader will work to identify all errors. Proofreading is the final stage of the editorial process. Because of this, a proofreader is required to go through the text with a fine-tooth comb, meaning the writing is examined in great detail with a high level of care. Proofreaders are not concerned with the quality of a text or the content, instead, they focus on how well the writing adheres to grammar conventions and the logic of the text as a whole.

A proofreader will look for issues related to:

  • Spelling errors.
  • Punctuation errors.
  • Grammar errors.
  • Text inconsistencies.
  • Typographical errors.
  • Inconsistent terminology.
  • Referencing errors.
  • Formatting changes.
  • Inconsistencies in the style or layout.

 

When proofreading, you will likely use proofreading marks or editing symbols to identify errors. Depending on the client you are working for, you may be asked to make direct changes to the text and mark where the changes have been made or mark where you suggest a change should be made for the client to make a final decision.

Proofreaders can work on a variety of different types of texts and pieces of writing, including:

  • Fiction and non-fiction books.
  • Academic writing.
  • Online and print news articles.
  • Website copy and blog posts.
  • Essays.
  • Medical texts.
  • Court reports.
  • Business-to-business (B2B) writing.
  • Business-to-consumer (B2C) writing.
  • Social media content.
  • Technical writing.

 

You may choose to specialise in a specific type of writing, for example by primarily focusing on proofreading court reports, or you may focus on a diverse range of projects and types of writing.

Proofreaders usually work on a freelance basis rather than for a specific company or organisation. If you set up a proofreading business, you will work directly for the client on a self-employed basis. You could work on one-off proofreading jobs or on a short-term or long-term basis for a specific client or company. However, you will always be working as an individual entity. The types of clients that typically hire proofreaders can vary but can include authors, publishers and businesses.

Proofreading and editing are two different processes that take place at different times. The editing process begins during the first draft and is an ongoing process that focuses on improving the clarity, style and flow of the writing, making the text more readable and improving the overall quality of the writing. Proofreading, on the other hand, usually takes place once the editing process is finished and is usually the last stage before a text is shared, published or submitted. Proofreading mainly focuses on correcting surface errors, such as spelling, grammar and punctuation. Some proofreading businesses offer editing and proofreading services as a complete package whereas others focus solely on proofreading.

Starting up a proofreading business can be extremely lucrative, particularly because this type of business has low investment requirements, and you may already have a lot of the required equipment. You can choose to run your business independently and complete all proofreading tasks yourself or hire employees or other freelancers.

There are several different tasks and responsibilities associated with setting up and running a proofreading business, including:

  • Consulting with clients.
  • Reviewing documents to check for errors or inconsistencies.
  • Proofreading content to a high standard.
  • Fact-checking certain information (such as names, dates and quotes).
  • Using editing and proofreading programmes.
  • Ensuring the writing meets the specified character or word count.
  • Making corrections and suggesting edits.
  • Checking that the submitted writing is original content and is not plagiarised.
  • Adhering to all proofreading deadlines.
  • Preparing quotes, handling payments and creating invoices.
  • Creating and maintaining a portfolio.
  • Advertising and marketing.
  • Completing business and administrative tasks.
  • Complying with all legal guidelines.
  • Complying with confidentiality agreements.

 

If you are thinking of starting up a proofreading business, there are certain skills and personal qualities that will be advantageous. This includes excellent grammar and writing skills, a strong eye for detail, good verbal and written communication skills and the ability to adhere to deadlines. Familiarity with various style guides, proficiency in using computer programmes and editing programmes and the ability to work thoroughly and meticulously are also recommended. Depending on how you run your business and the requests of your clients, the ability to work collaboratively may also be required.

Types of Customers

Determining the types of customers your proofreading business is likely to appeal to is an important step when planning and setting up your business. Being aware of your typical client base can help you to plan your advertising and marketing strategies, focus your business and maximise your profits.

Multiple factors can determine your typical client base, including:

The type of proofreading you specialise in

This will be the most significant factor in determining your typical customer base. If you focus on one speciality, such as non-fiction books, your typical client base will likely be made up of writers and publishers of non-fiction books. Although you could choose not to specialise in a specific type of proofreading and instead work on a variety of projects, choosing a speciality can help you to build your skills and expertise, create a solid reputation as a proofreader and become known as a specialist proofreader in your chosen field. This usually allows you to target higher-value clients and increase your pricing.

Your qualifications, skills and level of expertise

There are a lot of proofreaders and proofreading businesses in operation. The more highly qualified you are and the higher your level of expertise, the more money you are able to charge and the more in-demand your services are likely to be with higher-value clients (e.g. national newspapers and famous publishing houses). If you have an extremely high level of expertise in your chosen speciality, you are more likely to attract clients who are looking for a higher level of proofreading. New proofreaders may be more likely to attract lower-value work, such as proofreading university essays, which typically pays less.

Your pricing

Clients can typically be separated into three pricing categories:

  • Budget: Price is the most important factor for this type of client. They will be looking for the lowest-price proofreaders and are less likely to look at your qualifications, experience and reputation.
  • Mid-market: This type of client is looking for a combination of quality and affordability. Although price is important to them, it is not the most significant factor.
  • High-end: These clients are willing to pay higher prices for the highest qualified, most experienced and most highly skilled proofreaders. Price will not be an important factor and they are more likely to want a more intense and detailed level of proofreading.

 

Your branding, advertising and marketing strategy

Your marketing and advertising strategies will have a significant impact on the types of clients you attract. Consider how your marketing is likely to be seen by specific types of clients and how your advertising strategies can appeal to these clients.

Your availability

Your availability includes the size of the projects you are able to undertake and the number of projects you can work on at one time. Some clients reserve the services of a proofreader in advance, whereas others are looking for a proofreader to begin the process as quickly as possible. Your availability and whether you can adhere to the client’s deadline can impact whether you are considered for a certain job.

How and where you offer your proofreading services can also have a significant impact on your customer base. For example, if you offer your services on freelancer platforms, such as Upwork or Freelance UK, your typical client base will likely be other users of these platforms. If you have your own business website, you are more likely to attract clients who are looking for a specialised proofreader for larger projects.

Proofreader Business Cartoon
Proofreader Cartoon
Proofreading Cartoon

Equipment You Will Need

The equipment requirements for a proofreading business can vary. The majority of freelance proofreaders operate their businesses remotely (usually from their homes). However, some people opt to set up a physical business, for example, by opening an office or another type of premises. If you choose to do this, your equipment requirements will grow.

You may already have some of the equipment you require for proofreading. If you decide to use your existing equipment, ensure it is in good working condition.

Below is an approximate list of equipment requirements for a proofreading business:

A reliable laptop or desktop computer

You will need a high-specification, reliable laptop or computer that can handle the amount of time you will be using it each day. If you plan to work from different locations or take your computer to in-person meetings with you, you will need a laptop, rather than a desktop. Your computer will be an important tool in your proofreading business as all of your work will be done on your device. Ensuring your laptop is compatible with a variety of software and computer programs is essential. Your laptop will also need an updated operating system.

A printer

Some proofreaders like to have the option to print a physical copy of the writing and will do at least one stage of proofreading on the printed copy (particularly if the writing is intended to be a physical piece, such as a book). Choosing a printer that comes with an in-built scanner and fax machine can also be beneficial.

As well as your printer, you will also need:

  • High-quality printing paper.
  • Black and coloured inks.

 

Reliable and high-speed Wi-Fi

Because you will be running your business remotely, you will need to ensure your Wi-Fi is reliable and high-speed. Downloading documents, running editing and proofreading programs and meeting with clients online all require a strong and consistent connection. Ensure your Wi-Fi has a minimum connection speed of 20 megabytes per second (Mbps).

A website

A website is a way for potential customers to find your business and see your experience, qualifications, skills and areas of expertise (e.g. if there is a specific type of proofreading you specialise in). Your website can act as your online portfolio, showcasing your previous work or providing information about your previous clients or projects. Ensure your website includes your contact information so potential clients can connect with you. You should also include an About page, a contact page and a blog (to demonstrate your expertise).

A Microsoft Office subscription

You can utilise Microsoft Office for a variety of tasks, such as preparing and analysing documents and texts in Word and accessing Teams or OneDrive. Many proofreaders use Microsoft Word to edit and annotate documents. You can use the Track Changes feature of Word to show any changes you suggest or have made. You can also share documents with your clients through Microsoft, making it easier to communicate without having to schedule a meeting.

An Adobe Acrobat subscription

This is another popular software choice for proofreaders. If any of your clients work on PDF documents, Adobe Acrobat allows you to annotate the PDFs, including making comments, highlighting content, adding notes and adding proofreading symbols.

A Grammarly subscription

Grammarly is a digital writing tool that is also frequently used by editors and proofreaders. It offers grammar and spelling checks, a plagiarism detection service and suggestions and recommendations about writing clarity, style and tone. Grammarly can help you to do your job more efficiently and ensure there are no errors you have missed. Grammarly can be used to check documents in Word and Google Docs, as well as check text in your email service and web browser.

A PerfectIt subscription

PerfectIt is another popular tool for professional proofreaders and editors. It helps you to identify typing errors and inconsistencies in the document. For example, it will look for inconsistencies in capitalisation, abbreviations, punctuation and numbering, which are often not picked up by other proofreading software and may not be easily detectable by the proofreader as they are inconsistencies rather than errors.

An email service

Setting up your own email service using your own domain may be beneficial as your business grows. A business domain can make your business seem more professional and official. Using a public email domain such as @google or @hotmail can look less professional compared to using your own business domain, for example, oscar@ostorey.co.uk. You will need to make sure your email service is fully secure and encrypted and abides by email security policies in the UK.

A secure storage system

You will likely amass a lot of resources and documents that are vital to your business. If your laptop breaks or contracts a virus, you may lose everything you have stored on your device. Investing in secure Cloud storage that is password protected and encrypted ensures everything is backed up and protected in the event of a technological issue.

Invoice software

You will likely need to issue invoices to your clients and keep them for your own records (and for when you submit your taxes). Digital invoice software allows you to create electronic invoices, send them to your clients and store them safely.

An electronic signature tool

To create a faster and more streamlined service, you will need an electronic signature (e-sign) tool. Having this tool will save you a significant amount of time compared to physically mailing each document when a signature is required. An e-sign tool allows you to email documents that need signing to your clients and receive an electronic signature immediately. Electronic signatures are legally recognised in the UK.

Scheduling tool or software

Scheduling software allows you to track your projects, deadlines and availability and track any appointments and meetings. The software also links to your calendar and recognises your availability. If a client books a meeting with you via the software, you accept a project or a deadline date changes, you will receive an automatic confirmation email and the event or deadline will appear in your calendar.

A headset with a microphone

If you conduct any online or video phone calls or meetings with clients, it is recommended that you use a headset with an attached microphone. A computer microphone can pick up background noises, which can be distracting to your clients and can create an echoing sound which can interfere with your meetings. A headset with a microphone results in higher-quality sound for your clients and enables you to hear your meetings more effectively. You can opt for a wireless or wired headset.

Work-from-home equipment

Some of the other equipment you may require if you run your proofreading business remotely includes:

  • A laptop stand.
  • A larger desktop monitor.
  • Noise-cancelling headphones.
  • A paper shredder.
  • Appropriate lighting.
  • A transportable document holder.

 

A business phone

A business smartphone can be used for keeping in contact with your clients, having constant access to your emails and even conducting research on the go. Having a work phone also helps to keep your business separate from your personal life.

Stationery

Several pieces of stationery can be beneficial to your business and can make it easier for you to make notes and plan your projects.

Some stationery you can purchase includes:

  • Pens and pencils.
  • Paper and notepads.
  • A diary and/or calendar.
  • Highlighters.
  • Post-it notes.

 

Business cards

Business cards are an important marketing tool and can be given to new or existing clients. Your business cards should include your business name, contact information, location and the types of services you offer.

A payment system

The type of payment system you require will depend on your primary payment strategy. For example, if you accept online payments, you may require an online payment system or a way to track payments to your business bank account.

Office furniture

If you choose to set up an at-home office or open an in-person office, investing in high-quality, comfortable furniture can help to protect you from strain or injury. Ensure the furniture is an appropriate height and doesn’t require you to strain your neck or back. Your minimum furniture requirements will be a desk and ergonomic office chair, although you may also opt for additional furniture, such as secure filing cabinets and bookshelves. If you hire employees, you may need to purchase additional equipment.

Proofreader Business

Typical Costs

When you are creating your business plan, an important consideration you will need to make is your expected start-up costs and running costs. Calculating your expected costs allows you to determine your initial investment requirements, your pricing strategy and your profit goals.

There are multiple costs associated with setting up and running a proofreading business. Some of these costs will be one-off initial costs that you will need to pay when you are setting up your business. Other costs will be ongoing costs you will need to pay regularly – usually weekly, monthly, quarterly or annually.

Some of the typical costs associated with a proofreading business are:

Equipment

Your equipment is an important purchase, as without it you will not be able to work as a proofreader. You may have some of the equipment already and as long as it is in good working condition, this can allow you to purchase less equipment initially and expand or update your equipment as your business grows. The cost of your equipment can vary significantly, depending on how much equipment you require and the specification of the equipment. Equipment for a proofreading business tends to cost between £500 and £5,000.

Monthly and annual subscriptions

Your monthly and annual subscription costs could include the proofreading programmes and software you require, your Wi-Fi, website, email service and your secure storage. Depending on which subscriptions you require and the specifications of the ones you choose, you can expect to pay between £40 and £250 per month.

Your business website

A business website is an essential advertising tool, as it allows potential clients to find your services online and view your skills, experience and portfolio. You should ensure your website is attractive to customers and use search engine optimisation (SEO) so that your website ranks highly on search engines, such as Google. Your website will need regular monitoring, updating and upgrading. You also need to make sure your website is secure, particularly if you will be collecting any customer information or banking details. You may choose to set up and run your website yourself or hire someone to do this for you. You can expect to pay between £20 and £100 per hour for someone to set up and run your website.

Platform fees

If you find clients through freelancing platforms, such as Upwork or Freelance UK, you can expect to pay platform fees. While some platforms charge you a monthly fee, the majority take a percentage of your earnings (often up to 20% + VAT). When calculating your monthly earnings, consider how much of your money is reserved for your platform fees. For example, if you earn £4,000 per month on Upwork, you may only receive £3,200, minus VAT and taxes.

Maintaining, repairing and replacing equipment

Repairs, maintenance and replacements are ongoing costs you will need to factor into your budget. Although some of your equipment will come with warranties, repairs and replacements are inevitable – because much of your equipment will experience frequent usage and technology, such as laptops, generally only has a lifespan of a couple of years. Regularly cleaning and maintaining equipment and ensuring it is used correctly can extend its life, but potential repairs and replacements should still be factored into your budget.

Branding

Branding is an essential expenditure for your business. It can help you to establish your business’s identity and set you apart from your competition. Branding could include creating your business’s visual identity, a logo and your business name, and creating your business website. You can hire a professional to help you with branding or do some of the work yourself. Branding can cost between £500 and £10,000, depending on the amount of branding you require.

Advertising and marketing

To ensure your proofreading business attracts clients and creates maximum profits, you will need to invest in advertising and marketing. It is recommended that you spend between 1%-3% of your annual turnover on marketing. For example, if your annual turnover (or your desired annual turnover) is £50,000, you should spend between £500 and £1,500 on advertising and marketing. You may need to invest more money when you initially set up your business or when you are trying to grow your business.

Staff

You may choose to run a business where you are the sole proofreader or hire other proofreaders (particularly as your business grows). If you hire employees on a permanent basis (rather than as freelancers), you will need to pay them at least the national minimum wage and account for other expenses such as holiday pay, sick pay and maternity/paternity pay.

Business insurance

Insurance is recommended to help protect your business, your equipment and your clients.

Some insurance coverage you could opt for includes:

  • Public Liability Insurance.
  • Professional Indemnity Insurance.
  • Equipment Cover.
  • Portable Equipment Cover.
  • Cyber and Data Risk Insurance.
  • Cyber Liability Insurance.
  • Business Interruption Cover.
  • Freelancer Assist.
  • Employers’ Liability Insurance (if relevant).

 

Insurance prices can vary significantly, depending on your insurance provider and the level of coverage you require. Prices typically start at £10 per month.

Typical Pricing for Customers

Once you have calculated the approximate costs associated with setting up and running a proofreading business, you can then determine your pricing strategy.

Your pricing strategy will depend on multiple factors, including:

  • The type of proofreading you specialise in.
  • The complexity and word count of each project.
  • The time required for each project.
  • The level of editing that has already occurred.
  • Your qualifications, experience and level of expertise.
  • The demand for your services.
  • Your typical clients.

 

You may choose to charge a set price for your proofreading services (e.g. a per-word price). Alternatively, you can price your services on a job-by-job basis.

Safely Running a Proofreading Business

Safe practices in your proofreading business can help to protect you, your equipment and your clients.

Some safe practices you could implement are:

Prevent the publication of sensitive information

Although you are not responsible for writing the text or publishing it, it is still your moral responsibility to ensure that no information is published that could be considered unethical or confidential.

For example:

  • Personal information, such as addresses.
  • Information relating to children, such as the school they attend.
  • Information that is protected by privacy settings.
  • Information that is not suitable for the public domain.

If the text you are proofreading contains such information, it is recommended that you make the writer or publisher aware of the issue.

Follow ethical codes

This is particularly applicable to proofreaders who work in certain industries, for example journalism. Ethical guidelines are designed to protect you and the general public.

Some ethical guidelines to follow are:

  • Ensure any writing you proofread and approve is accurate and double-check any facts and sources.
  • Protect vulnerable people, such as children and those with disabilities.
  • Protect public health and safety.
  • Highlight any writing that could misinform or mislead.
  • Expose crimes or dangerous events (within reason).

Create client contracts

Although contracts are not a legal requirement, creating a legally enforceable contract with your clients ensures that any terms are laid out straight away and both parties are aware of the project’s expectations and timeframes and the agreed-upon payment amount. Business contracts help to protect you in the event of a dispute (e.g. if a client refuses to pay you). They can also make your business operate more professionally.

Use a secure payment system

This is a key way to protect your business and your profits. You must ensure all payments are completely secure and are made through secure and legitimate channels. This ensures none of your payments are lost or untraceable and reduces the likelihood that you will fall victim to fraud or theft. Secure payment systems can also help to protect your and your clients’ identities and other personal information.

Install anti-virus software

Anti-virus software can detect and remove malicious codes and intrusions on your computer or laptop. This can protect you and your business from viruses and malware. If your laptop becomes infected with a virus, this can cause irreparable damage to your equipment, can delete your computer’s data and cause you to lose money and business. Anti-virus software should be installed on all of your devices and your Wi-Fi.

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Proofreading Business

Install a firewall on all of your devices

Any information kept on your devices is better protected by a firewall. It shields your device and accounts from unauthorised access and notifies you automatically if someone tries to access your information. While some laptops and desktops already have a firewall installed, others could require you to install or activate one.

Install anti-spyware software

Without your knowledge, spyware can track and gather all of the sensitive data you keep on your computer or other devices. Some spyware varieties can even find your passwords and access bank data. To safeguard your business and your clients, make sure that anti-spyware software is installed on all of your devices.

Always install updates on your browser, operating system and applications

One of the reasons why updates are released is to keep your devices protected from new security risks. Failure to install updates could make your computer vulnerable to hackers. Updates can also help your devices to run faster and more efficiently, making your job easier.

Secure your Wi-Fi network

It isn’t recommended to set up your Wi-Fi and enter the default password. Make sure your Wi-Fi network is encrypted and that you use a strong password to prevent unauthorised access. This helps to protect your devices and prevent anyone from accessing the writing you are working on or any client information.

Properly maintain and set up equipment and ensure it is safe to use

Ensure all equipment is set up and used in accordance with the manufacturers’ instructions and that safety standards are being met. This includes your office furniture, which should be safe and supportive to prevent injuries and strain. You should also ensure electronic items, plugs and chargers comply with all electrical safety regulations.

Carry out risk assessments

Although risk assessments are only a legal requirement for businesses with more than five employees, they are recommended to all businesses to ensure the safety of you, your staff (if applicable) and your clients. Risk assessments can help you to identify any potential hazards and risks in your business and how these can be reduced or eliminated.

As part of your risk assessment, you should:

  • Identify hazards.
  • Determine who could be at risk.
  • Evaluate any potential risks.
  • Implement relevant safety measures.
  • Record the results of the risk assessment.
  • Review the risk assessment regularly.

Legal Requirements

Complying with any legal requirements and regulations is essential when setting up and running your business. The legal requirements can change depending on the type of proofreading business you set up.

Some factors that can impact the legislation you need to comply with include:

  • The type of writing you are proofreading.
  • Whether there is a confidentiality agreement in place.
  • Whether your clients are based in the UK or elsewhere.
  • Whether your hire employees.
  • How and where you offer your proofreading services.

 

Some legal requirements you should be aware of are:

Comply with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

This Act gives the author or creator of written work the exclusive right to copy, adapt, communicate or sell copies of their work. You automatically get copyright protection if you create any original literary content; however, as the proofreader, you have no legal right to the writing you proofread. It is also your responsibility to ensure that any writing you are proofreading does not plagiarise, copy or adapt another person’s writing, whether this is advertent or inadvertent.

Comply with the Consumer Rights Act 2015

The Consumer Rights Act is designed to protect clients from substandard work and overpriced services. It covers the selling, terms and conditions and supply of services (including editing and proofreading) to ensure consumers are better informed and more well-protected.

Under this Act, your clients have the right to:

  • Request that substandard work is redone or receive a price reduction.
  • Challenge unfair small-print terms, conditions and costs.
  • Reject work if the tradesperson (you) used their one chance to redo the service ineffectively (e.g. if there were still multiple errors within the writing).

 

Comply with consumer protection legislation

Legislation is in place that is designed to protect the rights of individuals and to prevent businesses (including freelancers providing a service) from using unfair practices.

Consumer protection legislation you must ensure you comply with includes:

  • You cannot make false claims about yourself or the service you provide.
  • The service you provide must be up to the expected standard.
  • Services must be performed with reasonable care and skill.

 

Be aware of the legal limits to confidentiality

If you proofread certain types of writing, such as news articles, you may be made aware of confidential information that relates to criminal or illegal behaviour. Even though you did not write the text and likely did not uncover the information yourself, you should be aware of your legal duty relating to reporting certain illegal activities, such as:

  • Drug trafficking.
  • Money laundering.
  • Terrorism.
  • Child abuse.

 

You should also contact the relevant authorities if you become aware of any activities that could be causing someone harm.

Ensure your website is disability friendly

Under the Equality Act (2010), all websites in the UK must be accessible to people with disabilities. If you set up your own website, you must make reasonable adjustments to your website to ensure it is accessible, for example:

  • Having text-only versions of each page so that they can be read by text converters.
  • Ensuring your website is accessible without using a mouse.
  • Avoid poor contrast.

 

Ensure your website complies with the guidelines

If you set up your own website to advertise your business and help you find clients, there are several guidelines you need to comply with, relating to:

  • Privacy policies.
  • Cookie legislation.
  • Service descriptions.

 

Comply with the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act (DPA)

You must comply with both pieces of legislation when storing or sharing personal information, such as your clients’ personal information, contact details and banking information. You must also apply for a Notification to Process Personal Data Licence. You will also need to apply for a licence with the Information Commissioner’s Office and renew your registration every year.

Comply with invoice requirements

When sending invoices to your clients, there are certain pieces of information you should include:

  • The word ‘invoice’ and a unique invoice number.
  • Your business name and address.
  • The client’s name and address.
  • A brief description of your work.
  • The total you are charging the client and when the payment is due.
  • The payment method.

 

Keep in mind that if a client pays you later (after the date specified on the invoice), you have a legal right to interest and a debt recovery fee.

Comply with employment legislation

If you employ any proofreaders on a permanent basis (rather than as independent freelancers) you must ensure you follow employment legislation, including the Employment Rights Act (1996) and the National Minimum Wage Act (1998). You must also comply with legislation relating to recruitment, working hours, sickness, discrimination, dismissals, and maternity or paternity pay.

Register your business

You must register your business with HMRC before you begin operating. You can register as a sole trader or as a limited company. You will need to register your business name and any other relevant information.

Register for self-assessment tax

This allows you to calculate and pay your own taxes each year. You will need to track your finances every month and submit any expenses as part of your tax assessment.

As part of your tax responsibilities, you must:

  • Record all forms of income and expenses.
  • Complete an annual self-assessment tax return.
  • Register for VAT if you earn above the threshold (currently £85,000).
  • Pay National Insurance contributions.
  • Keep a record of your business accounts for the previous five years.
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Positives of Owning a Proofreading Business

Starting up a proofreading business can be rewarding in many ways.

Some of the main pros associated with this type of business include:

High demand

Even with the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) proofreading programmes and software, the demand for proofreaders remains high. There is no replacement for a person with experience in proofreading, particularly when AI struggles with non-standard spelling, grammar and punctuation and can have difficulties with style, tone, structure and flow. Many different businesses and individuals use the services of proofreaders, meaning you are unlikely to be short of work. High demand makes it more likely that your business will succeed.

Easy to get started

Proofreading has relatively low entry barriers and requires little training and no qualifications. Although qualified, experienced proofreaders can demand higher pay, anyone can become a proofreader – as long as you have strong language skills and a good understanding of grammar. You can begin working as a proofreader immediately.

Choose your clients and projects

As a freelancer, you will have complete control over the clients and projects you accept. You can work in areas you are interested in and choose your projects based on your own skill and interests. You can choose not to work with difficult clients and can turn down or accept as many jobs as you choose. Being aware of your target market and the types of clients that are going to be most beneficial to your business will enable you to maximise your opportunities. You can opt to only work with clients that you think will benefit your business growth, pay a higher rate or that you think you will enjoy working with.

Set your rate of pay

The rate of pay for proofreaders can vary significantly. You can create your own payment strategy based on your skills, experience, qualifications and the demand for your services. It can be liberating to charge what you think you are worth and as your skills improve, you can increase your prices.

High income potential

Proofreaders usually charge per word, per hour or per project. You can set your own rate of pay, based on your experience, knowledge, area of expertise and reputation. You can also raise your rates periodically to reflect your increased experience and the cost of living. Depending on the type of proofreading you do, you will likely charge between £15 and £100 per hour. If you outsource proofreading work or hire other freelance proofreaders, you will take a cut of their pay or charge them a fee. You have the potential to earn a very high income while working flexibly.

Choose how to run your business

You can choose how your business operates, how you find clients and how contracts are created. You could choose to set up a business website, operate on a freelancing platform or work directly with one company, such as a publishing house. As the business owner, you can decide the best way to run your business.

Specialise your business

It can be financially rewarding to specialise your business in a particular type of proofreading or a particular type of client, for example legal clients. This enables you to learn specialist knowledge and skills and develop your expertise, which can help to raise your reputation. Being seen as a specialist proofreader in a particular field can help your business to be more attractive to potential clients and can allow you to charge a higher rate.

Varied work

As a freelance proofreader, every day could be different. You can choose to work for different clients, on different projects with different requirements and expectations. Varied tasks can help to keep your job interesting.

Flexible working hours

Proofreading gives you the flexibility to work as little or as often as you want. You can design your own schedule and have the flexibility to change your schedule from day to day and week to week. You could choose to take on more work at certain times and work less or not take on any work at other times. You can also take on as many or as few clients as you choose. Freelancing gives you a huge amount of freedom and flexibility.

Work from anywhere

One of the biggest advantages of working as a freelancer is that you can work from anywhere. Whether that’s working in your home, from your local coffee shop, in a park or even from another country. All you need is your laptop and a good Wi-Fi connection to run your business.

Low start-up costs

A proofreading business is a low-investment enterprise. You will have very few equipment requirements and low set-up costs and running costs. You can initially use equipment that you already have and buy more high-tech equipment as your business grows. You also likely won’t need to invest in business premises and can run your business without staff. Low initial investment requirements will mean you won’t require any outside investment and can begin turning a profit earlier.

Opportunities for growth

As your business becomes more successful, you can hire additional proofreaders, allowing you to expand your business. Having more proofreaders allows you to take on more work and maximise your profits. If you operate remotely, you can also work with clients all over the world, which expands your potential reach.

Client loyalty and recommendations

You can gain a lot of business and maximise your profits through client loyalty. Some clients may have ongoing work and by creating a positive business relationship with them, you can gain consistent work and increase your income. Some clients may also recommend your business to others or may write positive reviews, which can help you to grow your business further.

Capitalise on your qualifications, experience, knowledge and interests

Because you can choose your speciality, you can opt to focus on a specific industry or area of proofreading that you are knowledgeable about and interested in. Not only will this make your work more interesting and enjoyable, but clients are also usually willing to pay extra if the proofreader has specific qualifications and experience in their industry.

Build business connections

You can connect with other people in your industry and create beneficial business connections. You could also work with many of the same clients for extended periods of time, creating strong business relationships. Connecting with other people in your industry who have the same interests as you can be rewarding in multiple ways.

Be your own boss

Being your own boss gives you the opportunity to control the growth of your business, manage your own time, and gain more self-confidence and job satisfaction. Owning your own proofreading business also means that all your profits will belong to you, and you will be in control of creating your ideal business.

Proofreader

Negatives of Owning a Proofreading Business

Although owning a proofreading business can be rewarding in many ways, there are some potentially negative aspects to this type of business you should be aware of:

Purchasing debt can lose you money

Although in some situations purchasing a debt can be financially rewarding, there are many situations where you could end up losing money. If a lender is willing to sell a debt, this could mean that they are not optimistic that they are likely to receive the money they are owed or they predict the process will be arduous. You could invest the initial capital to purchase the debt with little or no gains.

It can be repetitive

There’s no denying that proofreading can be repetitive and, at times, boring. You will be analysing a text for hours at a time, and depending on the client’s expectations, you may have to proofread the same text multiple times. If you specialise in a specific type of proofreading or enter into long-term contracts, you may find that you are proofreading the same types of text on a daily basis.

Demanding clients

Some clients may have a lot of demands and expect too much from you. They may be demanding and difficult to deal with and expect you to complete a lot of tasks, complete projects in unrealistic timeframes and request constant changes and edits. This can be stressful for you and have a negative impact on your time availability for other clients.

It can be physically demanding

You may think proofreading will result in no physical strain because you will be sitting down for much of the day. However, several physical concerns could be attached to this type of job, for example:

  • Eye strain.
  • Back and neck pain and strain.
  • Musculoskeletal pain and strain.
  • Reduced cardiovascular fitness.

 

It can be difficult to grow your client base

Many clients (particularly high-value clients) are looking to work with a well-established proofreading business with a strong portfolio and positive reviews or a proofreader that has been recommended to them. This can make it difficult to grow your client base, particularly because there are already a lot of well-established proofreaders operating. Difficulties in growing your client base will result in a reduced income and could affect your ability to make your business succeed.

Constantly searching for clients

Because many proofreading jobs are one-off tasks or short-term projects, freelance proofreaders often find themselves constantly looking for new clients and new jobs. This can be time-consuming, and you may find that you are spending a lot of your working week searching for new clients. Because it is unpaid, this can affect your income.

It can be isolating

As a proofreader, you will spend the majority of your working time alone. You will have no or very little face-to-face contact with other people and even if you have employees working for your business, they will likely also work remotely. Proofreading involves sitting in front of your laptop alone for most or all of your working day and this can be lonely and make it difficult to motivate yourself.

Inconsistent pay

It can be difficult to plan your finances, predict your profits and plan your schedule when you cannot predict the amount of work you will have. There could be certain times of the year when you have few or no projects on the go, which can have a significant impact on your overall profits. Because you will be working on a self-employed basis, there are no guarantees on the amount of work you will get, which can be difficult if you have bills to pay. Additionally, during holidays, such as Christmas, much of the writing industry closes for an extended period of time, forcing you to take unpaid time off. Because you won’t be working, you won’t be earning any money.

Complying with legislation

There are many different pieces of legislation and legal guidelines you will need to comply with. Not only can this be complicated and time-consuming, but any non-compliance (even if this is accidental) can be punished with a fine or the forced closure of your business. Some types of legislation also require you to follow very specific procedures, which can be costly and arduous. This can be very stressful.

Bad reviews

Although the majority of clients leave honest reviews, some customers are difficult to please and will leave a negative review because of the smallest complaint (even if it was something outside of your control, such as the article they wrote was widely criticised because of the content). Sometimes a fake customer also leaves a fake review, which can be extremely difficult to disprove and remove. Negative reviews can be extremely damaging to your business, particularly if your business is new or you’ve had relatively few reviews.

High risk of your business failing

Starting up your own business can be risky. Many new businesses fail which could result in you losing money or getting into debt. Your business could fail for several reasons, such as high competition, an ineffective business plan or if the UK encounters another recession or a period of financial difficulty.

No benefits

As you are self-employed, you won’t receive benefits such as pension contributions. You will also be responsible for doing your own taxes and organising your National Insurance contributions. You will also have a lack of job security.

Planning Your Proofreading Business

An effective and well-designed business plan is essential to the success of your proofreading business. A business plan can help you to focus on the specific steps that will help your business succeed, plan your short-term and long-term goals, determine your financial needs and help your business to grow.

When creating your business plan, ensure it contains information such as:

  • Your company information.
  • Your company description.
  • The services you will provide.
  • Your branding, marketing and advertising plan.
  • The structure of your business.
  • The operational plan for your business.
  • The financial plan for your business.

 

Some of the factors you will need to consider when creating your business plan are:

The type of proofreading business you are going to set up

Consider whether you want to specialise in one specific type of proofreading (e.g. proofreading legal documents) or whether you want to work on a variety of different projects in various industries. By focusing on one industry, you can grow your reputation and specialise your business. However, if you choose not to specialise, this allows you to accept work from any client you choose. If you do decide to specialise in one industry, ensure you conduct thorough research before finalising your decision. Consider your experience, skills, qualifications and interests, as well as the demand and the average pay when deciding which type of proofreading to focus on.

Your primary sales platform

This is a key consideration and can have a significant impact on the types of customers you attract and the success of your business. Will you set up your own website? Will you operate on a freelancing platform, such as Upwork or Freelance UK? Will you operate your business online or offer your services to in-person businesses? Whichever option you choose requires forward thinking before you begin setting up your business. You could choose to utilise a combination of different approaches in order to increase your custom. Your primary selling strategy could also change as your business grows.

Your typical client base

Determining your typical client base is a key step in helping your business to succeed. Determining your typical client base can help you to plan your advertising and marketing strategies and help you to make your business more attractive to prospective clients. Determining the types of clients you target and the likely size of each project will also help you to calculate your pricing.

Your competition

Being aware of your competition is an important step to ensuring the success of your business. Analysing your competition allows you to look at what they do well and what you think can be improved upon. Look at your competitors’ pricing, their primary sales platform, the services they offer and the factors that you think help their business to succeed. Analysing your competition also identifies whether there is space in the market for your business and whether there are any proofreading niches or popular areas of proofreading that you can capitalise on.

Your brand and your unique selling point (USP)

Creating your brand is a key way to ensure you stand out from your competition. Branding can help you to focus your target audience, attract customers and concentrate your marketing and advertising strategies. Some ways you can create your brand are by focusing on your business’s visual identity (e.g. your website) and creating a brand story. Your USP can also be part of your brand and can help your business stand out from your competitors. Consider what makes your business special and how this fits into what defines your business.

Your advertising and marketing strategies

There are many ways you can choose to advertise your business. Your marketing and advertising plan should detail what your brand is and how you plan to promote your business. As part of your marketing strategy, consider the most effective way to reach your target audience and attract potential customers. Create an advertising plan that is specific to the type of business you are going to run and how you plan to operate. Your marketing plan should also be effective and budget friendly.

Some ways you could advertise and market your business includes:

  • Advertise on freelancing platforms.
  • Network with other professionals and businesses.
  • Advertise on social media.
  • Use paid online ads.

 

Your equipment requirements

Consult the list above to determine your equipment requirements. The equipment you require will depend on the size of your business. Once you have determined your equipment requirements, you can then calculate the initial costs of purchasing the equipment.

Your start-up costs and running costs

Consult the list above to calculate your approximate start-up costs and running costs. Determining your approximate costs allows you to calculate your initial investment and what your monthly and annual running costs will be. You can then calculate whether you can finance your business yourself. Being aware of your expected costs also allows you to create a budget, which is a key part of your business plan. Once you have calculated your approximate costs, you can then calculate your pricing strategy and determine your profit forecast.

Financing your business

Consult the list of start-up costs and running costs above to determine what capital you will require. Can you finance the business yourself or will you need to source outside investment? You will also need to calculate when you are likely to begin turning a profit. Because a proofreading business has relatively low start-up costs, you will likely begin making a profit sooner.

Your pricing strategy

Deciding how much you are going to charge your clients is an important consideration. Will you charge per word, per hour or per project? What will your typical pricing be? How often will you increase your pricing? As your experience and skill level grow and you develop a positive business reputation, your pricing is likely to change. You may also want to increase your pricing each year to keep up with the rising cost of living.

Your sales forecast

How long will it take you to proofread each project? Consider how long it will take to proofread 1,000 words to create an estimated timeframe. How many projects can you realistically take on at one time? What are your weekly, monthly and annual sales forecasts? As your business grows, your sales forecast is likely to change.

Your strategy for growth

Your strategy for growth is the actions you will take to realise your goals for expansion and any potential challenges your business could face and how you will avoid or overcome them. This can help to make your business more successful.

Potential challenges could include:

  • Difficulties finding clients.
  • An oversaturated market.
  • Clients offering low rates of pay.

 

Some potential strategies for growth include:

  • Changing your sales platform and advertising strategy.
  • Outsourcing proofreading jobs for a lower price.
  • Targeting larger and more established businesses, publications and websites.

 

Your business summary

Your business plan should include a detailed overview of your business, including the type of proofreading business you are setting up, your primary operation strategy, your typical customer base, your equipment requirements and your business goals.

Your business goals

Your business goals or objectives are an essential part of creating your business plan. Your business objectives highlight the targets and goals of your proofreading business and help you to create a one-year, three-year and five-year business plan.

Your business objectives should be SMART:

  • S = Specific
  • M = Measurable
  • A = Achievable
  • R = Realistic
  • T = Time-bound

 

Check you have complied with all legal requirements

Consult the list of legal requirements above to check you have complied with all requirements and regulations and that all your paperwork is accurate. Failure to comply with legal requirements could have a detrimental effect on your business or could result in a fine, the forced closure of your business or, in serious cases, prosecution.

 

Download our business plan

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