It’s simple, isn’t it? A client wants their written text to be edited and a proofreader wants to help with this. But how do they go about things to make sure they’re both happy at the end of it?

All too often I see a vague description of work by a potential client, which doesn’t help anyone. For example, it isn’t uncommon to see a request along the lines of: “I need someone to check my 100-page document now. Budget around £50.”

On its own, this request is highly unlikely to result in a successful outcome for the client or proofreader. Therefore, how can a client make sure that they get a great service from a proofreader? Well, in many ways it’s very similar to employing a plumber to do some work on your house.

(Note: this article is intended to supplement the FAQs which answer general questions about proofreading and the service that I can provide)

Getting a quote for work


Make sure you understand the difference between proofreading, proof-editing and copy-editing

These words do not all mean the same thing and the roles are quite different; however, there is often an overlap or a grey area between them. It’s not uncommon for a student who’s asking for a proofread to actually require a proof-edit. I will probably be able to meet the demands of your job whatever they are, but it will help if you have a proper idea about the level of service that you actually need.

Send a sample of your work

The requirements of a proofreading/editing job can vary massively and therefore if you want an accurate quote, you will need to send a sample. It is possible to make a quotation without this but it can lead to problems later on: for example, if a job has been quoted on the expectation of taking 5 days to complete but it actually requires 10 days, then I will have to either sacrifice a large part of my profit or cut a few corners, neither of which are desirable. In reality, a quotation given without seeing a sample first is – for obvious reasons – likely to cater for a worst-case scenario and as a consequence you may end up paying more than you might have otherwise.

Would you ask a plumber to give you a quote without letting them see the bathroom first?

State the total word count

Talking about the number of pages or documents is almost meaningless: the only helpful figure is the word count because this will most accurately indicate the amount of editorial effort that is required. The amount of work required on a page can vary depending on many things such as line spacing, font size and type, images/tables etc, justification and layout, to name but a few.

Basing a quote on the number of pages/documents is a bit like a plumber basing a quote solely on the length of pipework that’s required. More detail is needed in both cases.

Set a realistic budget

As a starting point, think about how long it will take me to read your work: if it’s likely to take 10 hours, then you’ll need to pay for 10 hours’ work. On top of this, you’re not asking me to just read your work but also to review, analyse, interpret, fix, improve and polish it by using my skill and judgement. This skill and judgement has been honed through lots of studying and experience: you’ll obviously need to pay for this expertise.

The chances are that you can probably find a ridiculously low quote somewhere else but this can be a false economy, just the same as in other industries. If five plumbers are quoting £100 for a job and one plumber’s quoting £50, you may wonder with some justification how the latter can afford to do the work. You generally get what you pay for.

Set a realistic deadline

Don’t just choose a random date in the near future simply because you want the work to be all tidied up as soon as possible. In any line of work (including plumbing), rushing a job can sometimes lead to mistakes or corners being cut.

If you don’t have a particular deadline to meet, let me know: I won’t delay the job because of this, honestly (the sooner I do the work, the sooner I get paid!). In fact, allowing a generous timescale can work in a client’s favour because it will allow me the luxury of doing the absolute best job that I possibly can. For example, if I have time to spare I’ll be inclined to double- and triple-check things on your project, as any true perfectionist would like to do.

Also, please send me your material by the agreed time to help me meet your deadline. Sending me your essay later than we agreed and when you need it back within the next 4 hours is unlikely to result in my very best work, especially if it means I have to work outside the normal 9am–5pm.

Working on a computer


Send a preferred style guide/brief 

Let me know what your specific requirements are, rather than simply asking for your text to be proofread. If your material is going to be published, ask your publisher what their manuscript guidelines or preferences are. Is your text for a UK or US audience? Do you want “UK” or “U.K.”? Em dashes or en dashes? Double or single quotation marks? If you just want obvious errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, formatting, etc to be corrected and the text to be made consistent, then say so. This is a fundamental aspect of providing a clear brief to a proofreader.

A plumber who doesn’t know exactly what you want is unlikely to give you exactly what you want.

Review the corrections/suggestions and don’t just click on ‘Accept All Changes’ in MS Word

The words on the page are yours, even after I’ve checked them. Therefore, you should make sure that you’re happy with them. Most of the time, minor changes should be immediately apparent to you and therefore can be quickly skipped over, but more significant issues that require your attention will always be highlighted in Comment boxes: please ensure that you review all of these comments, along with any other commentary that may be included in my correspondence.

A quick tip: in MS Word, don’t click ‘Accept This Change’ on each change as you’re going through the document. Instead, read through the whole document – paying particular attention to Comment boxes, as mentioned above – and, if you’re happy with things, click ‘Accept All Changes’.

Sign for awesome or not awesome


Leave feedback

Please let me know if there’s anything that you’re unhappy with. Also, as in many other industries, editing work often relies on recommendations and referrals; therefore, it’s always appreciated when feedback is left by a client, either on social media or via email. A couple of sentences will be more than enough if it enhances my reputation and provides reassurance to a potential client that a great service is on offer.