How to start a proofreading and editing business

If poor grammar or punctuation is your biggest pet peeve and you love the idea of being your own boss, a career as a self-employed proofreader and editor might be perfect for you. Your job will be to review others’ written work and correct spelling, punctuation, and typos. 

You’ll need excellent writing and editing skills to do this job and a decent knowledge of how different types of content should look. For example, a novel or dissertation will use completely different language to blogs or other web content. If this sounds like the right career for you, and you need help to get started, this guide is for you.

This guide cover:

  • How to start a proofreading and editing business from scratch
  • How to market your proofreading and editing business
  • How Countingup can help you hit the ground running

How to start a proofreading and editing business

To get your new proofreading and editing business off the ground, you need to cover a few steps, which we’ve listed below:

Get trained up

The first thing you need to do is make sure you have the necessary knowledge to be a proofreader and editor. After all, your clients need to feel confident that their content is in the safe hands of someone who knows what they’re doing. 

Being properly trained up also makes you stand out to potential clients since it demonstrates that you’re serious about your job. Having completed a course also shows that you’ve invested your own money to make sure you’re fit for the job. As a result, clients will feel comfortable investing in your skills.

Look into general proofreading and copyediting courses to make sure you have the right skills and knowledge to become a self-employed proofreader. Even if you’ve worked in the field before, it’s still good to take a refresher course to make sure your knowledge is up to date.

Write a business plan

Starting a business without a plan is like driving to an unknown destination without a GPS. You might start out ok, but you will most likely get lost along the way. As a result, you’ll either arrive at your destination later than necessary or risk never getting there. 

When writing your business plan, you need to include the following:

  • Market research: you need to understand what the market looks like and how your editing and proofreading business will fit into it. Learn more here.
  • Target market: you also need to decide who your target audience is so you can determine how to get their attention and business. 
  • Competitor research: a key part of understanding the market and what you bring to it is knowing what other similar businesses you must compete with. Learn more here.
  • Company details: this section should include details about your new business, including your legal setup, service offering, business ownership, and so on.
  • Pricing strategy: you need to decide how you’ll package your services and how much you’ll charge for each service.
  • Marketing plan: this is where you explain how you’ll promote your business. Read more about creating a marketing strategy here.
  • Startup costs: you also need to list how much money you think you’ll need to get your business off the ground. Learn more about startup costs here.
  • Financing needs: will you need financial backup to cover your startup costs? If so, this section is where you explain what you need and why.

Once you have a clear business plan, you can move on to the next step in starting your proofreading and editing business. 

Register your business

Once you know how you want to set up your business, you need to register as either a sole trader or a limited company. Registering as a sole trader is easier, but you’ll be personally liable for anything that happens to your business. A limited company can also appear more professional since it’s a separate legal entity from you, meaning you also have limited liability

You’ll also need to choose a name for your business. You can use your own name, but a unique company name makes it easier to expand in the future. Consider a name that’s memorable and relevant to your business. To see if your name is already claimed, you can check the Companies House

Organise your taxes

Once you register your business, it’s important to know how your taxes will work. As a self-employed person, you’ll also need to inform the HMRC that you’ll manage your taxes yourself. Also, if you make over £1,000 from your business income each year, you’ll need to submit a Self Assessment tax return.

If you choose to register as a limited company, you’ll also need to register for Corporation Tax. Depending on how much you’re expecting to earn, you may need to register for VAT.

Open a business account

To organise the finances of your proofreading and editing business, you’ll want to open a business current account to separate your business finances from your personal ones. Doing this will also help you keep track of your cash flow and other aspects of your financial health. 

The Countingup business account is easy to set up and comes with a handy app that lets you manage your finances on the go. 

Get business insurance

When running your own business, insurance is important to decrease your risk. Here are a few covers you’ll want to look into to protect yourself in case something goes awry:

  • Health insurance where you pay a monthly premium to cover medical treatment or conditions that begin after the policy is taken out. 
  • Professional indemnity insurance in case something goes wrong for your customers after following your advice, and they experience a financial loss as a result.
  • Income protection insurance to protect you if you are unable to work for a period due to illness or injury. 

With the right insurance in place, you can rest easy knowing that your business is covered against the unexpected. To bring five-star Trustpilot-rated cover to small businesses like yours, we’ve partnered with an insurance provider, Superscript

How to market your proofreading and editing business

Once you’ve covered all the necessary steps to set up your new proofreading and editing business, it’s time to start finding clients. We’ve listed some of the most effective ways you can promote your new business below:

Set up a website

The first step to marketing your business is to set up a website that all your other marketing methods will lead to. The simplest way to create your site is to use template-based website builders like Squarespace, WordPress, or Wix. These platforms allow you to drag and drop different elements to customise a template to suit your tales.

Use your website to explain what you do and demonstrate your skills to potential clients. Include a page that outlines your services and prices and a contact page so prospects can get in touch with you easily. 

Start a blog

This gives you a chance to demonstrate your expertise by writing about proofreading-related topics. But regularly updating your site is also great for SEO (search engine optimisation), which refers to practices designed to improve the appearance and positioning of web pages in organic search results. 

You can leverage SEO by targeting high-value keywords, which are popular words and phrases that people in your target market search for on search engines. With a little research and planning, adding a blog to your website can attract new visitors and boost your profile online.

Be active on social media

One of the most powerful ways to promote your new proofreading and editing business is to open professional accounts on social media. You can then use your platforms to share valuable content and showcase your expertise to your followers. 

Social media also allows you to keep up to date with news in the writing and editing world. You can also use these platforms for networking and engaging with other proofreaders, editors, and content creators.

Due to its professional focus, LinkedIn is arguably the most important social network to be part of. Still, Facebook and Twitter are also hard to ignore. While you might be tempted to open an account on every platform to reach as many people as possible, you only need to pick two or three and focus your efforts on those.

Join a proofreading society

Joining a proofreading and editing society can offer many benefits. For example, you get plenty of opportunities to meet and discuss your work with other professionals. In addition, you get access to membership directories you can use to advertise your services, as well as training, industry news, and networking events.

Membership of a well-known society can reassure clients that you have the necessary skills and experience to do a professional job, which will help you secure more work. A great example of one such society is the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP).

Sign up to a freelancing website

Whether you’ve set up as a sole trader or a one-man limited company, freelance websites are great for finding your first clients. Examples of sites you can sign up to include:


Fiverr is an online platform where you can sign up for free and start offering ‘gigs’ for a set price. This platform offers price ranges from £5 to £5000 per gig, depending on the job and your experience level. If you’re new to this way of working, take a look at how others present themselves to get inspiration.


Like Fiverr, you can create a profile with UpWork and offer proofreading services to individuals worldwide. This platform also doesn’t require you to pay a fee for having a profile and finding clients. Instead, UpWork makes its money from taking a commission fee from what the client pays you. So, no work, no fees to pay.


Freelancer also lets you create a profile to get freelancing work. But, unlike Fiverr and UpWork, Freelancer will pair you with jobs they believe are relevant to your skills. This means you must create a compelling proposal for the client to choose you over others. There is more pressure, but that might be right up your street. 

Leaflets and flyers

You can also try some traditional marketing methods to spread the word about your new proofreading and editing business. You can try printing eye-catching and informative flyers and leaflets and distribute them around your area.

You can share your leaflets with local businesses and shops and ask if they need your services. If they don’t, you can ask whether they’d let you put up your leaflet for others to see. Another good bet would be local universities and colleges since you’ll likely find students that need help with essays and dissertations.

Gather testimonials from clients

Having testimonials from happy clients is an excellent way to attract new ones since they’ll feel reassured that you know what you’re doing.

Asking for a testimonial can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially when you’re first starting out and are nervous about how your first few jobs went. Although, if you’ve completed training courses as we recommended, you shouldn’t need to worry about getting a negative response.

Try emailing your first customers and ask if they would be willing to give you a testimonial that you can add to your website. Once you get some, make sure to place them in a highly visible spot on your website and social media so people can instantly see them.

If you follow this guide on how to start a proofreading and editing business, you should get off to a great start with your new venture. Keep in mind that building a successful business takes time, so don’t be discouraged if success doesn’t come as quickly as you’d like. So, keep working on your skills and marketing your business on a regular basis, and you’ll get there eventually.

Help your business hit the ground running with Countingup

When you’re starting your own business, it’s important to keep your personal and business finances separate from day one – to save yourself from time-consuming admin headaches further down the line. 

When you sign up for a Countingup business current account, you’ll receive free accounting software with a range of time-saving tools. 

Simply log into the app to create and send invoices, get financial insights, and confidently manage your new business finances Find out more here.