is a freelance?
freelance is someone, usually self-employed, who offers his or her services
to several businesses on a temporary basis. There is no formal contract
of employment involved, hence no obligation on an employer to provide work,
nor on a freelance to accept it. Freelancing obviously lacks the security
afforded by formal employment, not to mention other benefits such as paid
holidays and company pensions, but many freelances consider this disadvantage
to be more than offset by freedom from the daily grind and the variety
of work available. The majority of freelance copy-editors/proofreaders
work almost exclusively from home.
does a copy-editor
in this sense, means a piece of writing. This is often an author's typewritten
- or computer-printed - manuscript which is to form the basis of a published
book, though it could just as easily be a journal article, an instruction
manual, a leaflet or brochure . . . in fact, anything that someone has
taken the trouble to put down on paper (or disk). One dictionary definition
of 'edit' is 'to assemble, prepare or modify for publication'. The copy-editor's
task, therefore, is to weed out any errors or inconsistencies in the author's
copy before it is published. Such errors can take a number of forms. It
is a common conception that 'finding spelling mistakes' forms the basis
of the job, and it is true that this is an important element, but there
are also many other things to watch out for: errors in punctuation and/or
grammar, inconsistencies of presentation and/or style, and so on.
does a proofreader
a manuscript has been copy-edited (see What
does a copy-editor do?) it is sent to a typesetter, who produces a
loose-leaf proof copy of the book (or article, or brochure, or whatever)
prior to publication. These proofs, together with the copy-edited manuscript,
are then sent to a proofreader who checks (a) that the setter has not made
any errors while typesetting the manuscript and (b) that the copy-editor
has not missed any errors in the original copy. Again, the proofreader's
task consists of rather more than simply 'checking the spelling'.
much can I earn?
is no short answer to this question. In theory, as a freelance, you can
set your own hourly rates, which, according to the Society for
Editors and Proofreaders' (SfEP) 2016 guidelines, should be a minimum of
£22.75 for proofreading and £26.50 for copy-editing. Before
you get too excited, though, I should warn you that, as usual, theory does
not always correspond with practice. In my experience, most publishers
have their own set rates for freelance work, and it's up to you to accept
these or not. Rates vary from company to company, of course, but - again
only in my experience - a figure of between £16.00 and £18.00
for proofreading seems to be roughly the going rate, and about £20.00 to £22.50
for copy-editing. Rates-of-pay surveys I have come
across in the profession's literature would seem to confirm that these
figures are a fair reflection of the current situation, though of course
some lucky folk will earn more and some will settle for less. The hourly
rates do not include expenses such as postage and telephone charges, which
you may add to your invoice. It's obviously up to you how many hours a
week you want to work, but a full-time freelance working a 35-hour week
at a reasonably achievable rate could expect to gross around
£30,000 per annum - hardly enough to enable you to retire in five
years' time but, in my opinion anyway, a fair return for an enjoyable job.
I have no idea. Here are a few figures, though. The Society for
Editors and Proofreaders has around a thousand members, and of course not
all freelances are members of the Society. There are literally thousands
of publishers in the UK, who between them publish tens of thousands of
titles each year. There are also hundreds of specialist journals published
monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly. All of these need to be copy-edited and
proofread. Publishers make use of freelances for these tasks for at least
two reasons: (1) the flow of work through a publishing house can be very
uneven and it therefore makes sense to employ labour only when needed;
(2) some books and journals, especially if highly technical, require the
experience of a specialist in the subject. Such expert knowledge is unlikely
to be available in-house, so a freelance specialist is contracted. Some
cynics would also say that freelances are used as cheap labour, burdening
the employer with no Employers' National Insurance, holiday leave, sick
pay, etc. You might think that - I couldn't possibly comment.
to find work?
is a short answer to this question - NO. While there is an awful
lot of work to be had (see answer to previous question), there are also
an awful lot of people chasing it. Few publishers are tearing out their
hair wondering where their next copy-editor or proofreader is coming from.
That's the bad news. However, the same could be said of many jobs. Didn't
you have to compete with a number of other candidates before you got your
present job? Or, if you don't have a job at the moment, is anyone knocking
on your door offering work? Of course not. The good news is that
publishers will always need new freelance talent for any number of reasons:
retirement, illness, maternity leave, holiday cover, a sudden glut of work.
And of those thousands of publishers mentioned in the previous answer,
you only need to receive regular commissions from half a dozen or so to
keep you busy full time.
The truth is that to be a successful freelance you must convince your prospective
employer(s) that you can do the task better than the next person, just
as if you were applying for any other job. How do you do this? Well, that
is one of the things my book deals with, so it wouldn't do to go into too
much detail here, but I will say that it is quite possible for someone
with absolutely no previous experience of publishing to become a successful
full-time freelance within six months. I know - I was that person!
for the job?
is not, so far as I am aware, any piece of paper you can wave in a publisher's
face and say, 'Look, I'm qualified - give me a job.' Naturally, you must
have a good command of the English language, and any relevant experience
or academic qualifications you can present as evidence of specialist knowledge
will be to your advantage, but the publishers I have spoken to all consider
that the most important qualification is an ability to do the job properly,
irrespective of how many letters you happen to have after your name. Having
said that, training is never a waste of time, and there are many training
opportunities available, ranging from distance-learning (home-study) courses
through day-long workshops to full-time residential courses. (Information
on training facilities is, of course, provided in my book.) You may also
come across a number of 'How to be a proofreader' advertisements in the
press. The value, and value-for-money, of such opportunities is variable, to say
the least, and you would be well advised to compare as many training alternatives
as possible before parting with your cash. Above all, NEVER send money
in exchange for a promise of employment - it just doesn't work that way.
you may have gathered from the foregoing answers, ability and suitability
are far more important than paper qualifications. Virtually anybody is
eligible. Age is no barrier, neither is location (most of the publishers
I work for are based in London, well away from my home in Devon, and if
I so chose I could relocate to anywhere from Inverness to the Isle of Wight
without affecting my volume of work). You can choose your hours to suit
your situation and, of course, working from home means that the dreaded
daily commute is a thing of the past.
I decided that my own life needed to change I was living in the industrial
Midlands, approaching middle age and with a history of employment in the
security industry. At the time, I was a sales manager and earning a fairly
good salary, but the daily motorway journeys, awkward customers and office
politics were taking their toll. A change was required, but I had no idea
in which direction. Then I saw a newspaper ad extolling the virtues of
freelance proofreading. This turned out to be one of those 'variable' opportunities
I spoke of in the 'Am
I qualified?' answer. However, it did set me thinking. My only connection
with the publishing industry was as an avid reader of its products, but
here was a job I thought I would both be good at and find extremely enjoyable.
The only problem was, I hadn't a clue how or where to start. A strategy
was required, so I devised one. This proved most successful, and it wasn't
too long before I received my first paid commission. Today I work full
time doing a job I love and, because all my work arrives at my door, I
am able to live in a place where I rarely see ten cars a day, as opposed
to the thousands an hour I used to battle through on the M6.
A few years
ago, it occurred to me that others could well benefit from my experience,
so I decided to put my strategy into print. Thus was Freelance Proofreading
and Copy-editing - A Guide conceived and born.
ends this potted version of my own experience of ceasing to be a wage slave
and entering the less-secure but far more rewarding field of self-employment.
Perhaps some of it strikes a chord with you, perhaps not. I include it
here not to sing my own praises, but to show that it is possible for any
ordinary, reasonably intelligent person to break free from the daily grind.
And I also hope it might interest you in my book.
you a con
I hope the answers to the previous questions will have eased any fears
you might have harboured about me or my book. If, however, you have any
lingering doubts that either exists other than on this site you can visit
the British Library Public Catalogue, click on Search the Integrated Catalogue, paste 0952397471 in the search box and see what appears (for your convenience,
this link will open in a new window in order that you might carry on browsing
this page while it loads). There are many scams around in the homeworking
field, but this isn't one of them. I can't promise that you will become
a successful proofreader or copy-editor as a result of buying my book -
that is largely up to you - but I can guarantee that you will stand a far
better chance of doing so with its guidance than without it.
it for the FAQs. Still think you can do the job? Then perhaps you should
try my proofreading test. Dare you click the link in the sidebar?