Not every writer has an excellent command of flow, grammar and punctuation. For this reason, writers turn to proofreaders. Proofreaders are different from general editors in that they don't have quite as much say over content, but a proofreader is critical to the editing process because they find the technical glitches in the writing that impair meaning and clarity. Most proofreaders don't make more than $60,000 annually, but pay depends on how a proofreader works.
Typical Annual Earnings
The SimplyHired website indicates proofreaders earn an average of $31,000 a year as of April 2011. The Indeed website shows a higher estimate of $38,000 as of April 2011. Still another source, the Salary website, shows a range of $29,763 to $52,952 as of April 2011. All of these figures are consistent with data from Proofreadersalary.com, which states that most proofreaders earn between $30,000 and $60,000 a year.
Although the general duties of a proofreader remain the same regardless of what project she has, different sectors pay slightly different rates. For instance, within book publishing, proofreaders earn an average of $31 per hour, or $3.26 per page as of 2011, according to Lynn Wasnak of Writer's Digest. On the low end, book publishing proofreaders make $15 an hour, or $2 per page. The high end is $75 per hour or $5 per page. Pay is roughly the same for magazine and trade publication proofreaders. Newspaper proofreaders make between $15 and $45 an hour, with the average rate being $23. Medical and science publication editors make between $18 and $125 per hour, earning an average of $64. Their salaries are higher because of the technical level of the content. Many proofreaders take work from more than one sector, but some choose to work within just one field as experts.
Salaried vs. Freelance Proofreaders
Proofreaders may be either salaried or freelance. Freelance proofreaders may take on projects according to their own preferences and can set their own rates. However, they often have to market themselves aggressively for enough projects to maintain a steady income. Salaried proofreaders may not have the flexibility freelancers do, but they can count on regular paychecks. If a proofreader opts for a salaried job, the best bet is to look for a large publisher, preferably in the medical or technical sector, as these companies can afford to pay proofreaders well and may offer significant benefits. It is possible for a freelancer to earn a salary comparable to a salaried proofreader, but a freelancer has to be able to manage their own business well in order to turn a good profit. It usually takes several years for a freelancer to gain the experience and reputation necessary for higher wages.
Although many proofreaders have degrees related to English or writing, not all do. The market thus is flooded with individuals who try who obtain proofreading projects. Supply of proofreaders thus often exceeds demand. This puts proofreaders and other editors and writers at a disadvantage, because it has the potential to drive down the market value of the work -- some companies and individuals expect proofreaders to take on projects for as little as $1 to $5 an hour. Proofreaders thus are in a bit of a conundrum -- many don't have the experience necessary to land a good salaried job, but if they freelance, they have to wade through scores of bad offers and have to compete with hundreds or even thousands of other providers. The need to assert the value of the job is constant.