How to find a professional proofreader: part two

How to find a proofreader - what questions to ask


Six questions you should ask when you’re deciding on the best proofreader or editor for your project

So you’re looking for a proofreader or editor. It’s a very crowded market, with thousands of freelancers competing for your business, and you may think that it’s an impossible job to find the right one for you.
Don’t give up! Taking a systematic approach will help you to climb that mountain (see what I did there?).


You should already have thought about your content and technical requirements and your proofreader’s location and specialist knowledge, as discussed in my post on four things to consider before hiring a proofreader.
You know there are many, many places you can look for a proofreader or editor, as outlined in Part 1 of this post, and you’re casting your net wide. But while you’re scrolling through listings in directories or on service sites, how do you narrow down the field?
Here are six questions you can ask to make sure the person you choose is the real deal. They don’t have to tick all of the boxes, but going through these categories will help you build a more complete picture of the person you’re entrusting with your writing.

​1 Do they have an online presence?

Do they have a website? A blog? A LinkedIn profile? A Facebook page for their editing business? A Twitter account? Instagram? Snapchat?
Of course it isn’t necessary to have all of these (I have a business page on Facebook, and my Twitter account is a mix of language, editing, reading, tennis, food and other random things, but I do more looking than posting on Instagram and Snapchat!) BUT, you will begin to get a real sense of someone when you look at their online profiles.
​Most editors will have a website and usually a LinkedIn profile, and between them you should be able to build a pretty good picture of an editor’s training, skills, areas of work and experience.

2 Have they had editorial training?

You’ll want evidence that they have undertaken specific training. Having an A level in English literature – or even a degree – doesn’t necessarily make you a good proofreader. It can be a good foundation to build on, but there is so much more to proofreading and editing than enjoying reading and being interested in language. Louise Harnby, a highly experienced proofreader and Advanced Professional member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP), explains why in this blog post
​In the UK, the training courses provided by the Publishing Training Centre and the SfEP are highly regarded by the publishing world. There are many other providers, such as Publishing Scotland, where I did some of my introductory training, and Editor Training.

3 Are they a member of a recognised professional organisation?

​A professional will be committed to high standards of practice, and so may be a member of a recognised organisation, such as the Society for Editors and Proofreaders or the National Union of Journalists.
​This is not compulsory, so not being a member doesn’t mean that someone is not a professional in their approach to their work, and many highly experienced editors don’t belong to any organisations, but it is another factor in someone’s favour when you don’t know them and you’re checking them out – they’re not likely to spend the money on membership fees if they have a cowboy attitude to their work!

4 Do they have a portfolio?

​Many editorial websites have a portfolio page where you can see examples of the type of projects they work on, but bear in mind some clients don’t allow this because of confidentiality agreements, so these are showcases but will not be exhaustive.

5 Do they have testimonials?

This is a big bonus – if you see testimonials from satisfied clients, you know that your editor is doing something right! You should be able to find testimonials both on ​their website and on LinkedIn. Bear in mind the difference between an endorsement and a testimonial on LinkedIn – a testimonial carries much more weight.

6 Is there evidence of continuing professional development?

Apart from their initial training, is there evidence of an ongoing commitment to learning and keeping up to date?
Have they attended training days or courses to advance their editorial skills? Do they attend conferences, either editorial or connected to the field they specialise in? ​
For example, as well as attending the SfEP annual conference, I usually go to the IATEFL conference each year, as I do a lot of work on English Language Teaching (ELT) materials for a variety of educational publishers. Next year it just happens to be in my home town of Glasgow. This year I have also been to an ELT freelance editors’ awayday to meet with and learn from editors who work specifically in the ELT field, and also the Content Marketing Academy conference to learn more about marketing my business. 
Once you’ve answered these questions, you should have narrowed down your field quite a bit.
The next thing you will need to consider is price. How much does a proofreader charge? How much will it cost to edit my book? How much should I pay for proofing my blog article? I’ll look at these very important questions in my next post.
Thanks for reading. How did you find your editor or proofreader? Was the experience straightforward or difficult? Are you still looking and having difficulty finding the right person? I’d love to hear from you, so why not drop me a message in the comments below? 

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