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If you’ve ever read one of my articles or visited my website, you’ll know that one of the areas I specialise in is proofreading for small businesses.
In my experience, proofreading isn’t always the most obvious of tasks for a small business to outsource, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done! This article explores – in reverse order – the five questions small business owners ask most often when they discover that proofreading could be an important part of publishing their content.
The Top 5 FAQs
#5: Is proofreading really necessary?
Proofreading is always a good idea – and that’s true for anyone who publishes a piece of writing. You might use English as a second language, or you might be a professional editor. Whoever you are – you should always proofread your writing before you share it.
Just last week, I came across a real-life example of why proofreading is so important. A small business owner had posted in a support group, asking for advice. They were offering a free download and getting a lot of traffic to their website, but no one was downloading the file.
Several commenters agreed the reason could be that the numerous typos and errors on the landing page made their work look rushed and unprofessional. Put yourself in your clients’ shoes and ask yourself this: would you bother sharing your details with a business whose work appeared sloppy?
#4: There are so many proofreaders out there. How do I choose one?
The first thing you need to know is that there’s no specific qualification needed to call yourself a proofreader. That’s just one of the reasons why the market is full of people offering proofreading services.
However, there are things to look out for to help you differentiate a professional proofreader from one who has put in minimal effort:
- do they have a website?
- have they completed training with a reputable provider?
- are they a member of any professional organisations?
If your proofreader can answer ‘yes’ to these questions, it shows you that they’ve put in hard work, time, and money to ensure they can do the job well. And if they’re a member of a professional organisation like the CIEP that requires its members to meet certain entry criteria, it means they’ve proven their skills in the industry.
Answering ‘no’ to the questions above doesn’t automatically mean that your proofreader will do an awful job, but asking about these things can help you choose the right person from the crowd. And if you’re still unsure, think about it in the context of another industry: I know how to use a pair of scissors, but you wouldn’t want me to give you a haircut – ask my son!
#3: Should I always look for a proofreader who uses English as a first language?
Not necessarily! It’s essential that your proofreader has a detailed understanding of English and how it works, but that doesn’t mean English needs to be their first language. There’s an unfortunate misperception that ‘native’ equals ‘better’, but it’s just not true! The most important things to look for are fluency in English and an excellent understanding of the mechanics of the language.
#2: How long does proofreading take?
There isn’t a clear answer to this one, I’m afraid! The time it takes to a proofread a text depends on a few factors:
- the subject matter
- how complex the writing is
- how well the text has been written
- how experienced your proofreader is
- whether the text is truly ready for proofreading, or if it needs further editing first
The best way to find out how long proofreading of your writing will take is to chat with your proofreader. Many will ask to see a representative sample of your work before they give you an idea of the time it will take to complete the job.
#1: Why is proofreading so expensive?
This is the most common question I hear from small business owners, and I completely understand why! You want to make sure that your hard-earned money is used wisely.
One of the reasons that proofreading work can cost more than you initially expect is that it takes time to do it well, and paying someone fairly for their time is essential.
A proofreader doesn’t read your writing quickly to get a general understanding of your message. They need to read every single character on the page; this includes the spaces between your words!
Did you know that while you may be able to read a 2,000-word article in five or six minutes, the same article could take 1.5 hours to proofread?
In a 2020 survey of its members, the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) concluded that the median pace of work when proofreading non-fiction was 7–10 pages of 250 words per hour. Using this as a guide, a proofread on 2,000 words (eight pages) would take 1 to 1.5 hours to complete – not including any further passes or admin work involved.
Rates might also be higher than you’d expect for reasons that apply to all businesses. All freelancers need to be paid enough to operate their businesses sustainably, and their rates will often reflect the investments they’ve made to make sure they do their jobs well, such as paid training, purchase of equipment and software, and subscriptions to reference material.
These are just some of the questions that small business owners have when exploring the idea of hiring a professional proofreader. If you have a question that I haven’t covered here, please feel free to reach out and ask. My goal is to use my expertise to support you, so if you need some help, I’m here!
EFA Editorial Freelancers Association (2022) Editorial Rates. https://www.the-efa.org/rates/
Thanks for visiting – see you next time!