Case study

Proofreader — Becky Ashwell

An interest in language and an eye for detail prompted Becky to start her own proofreading business. She reflects on how peak times can be challenging, but the flexibility and variety of work is highly enjoyable

What degree did you study?

I completed a degree in European Area Studies at the University of Bradford.

How did you get into proofreading?

I set up my own proofreading business called Dot & Cross Proofreading back in 2006 when my two children were young. When I first started, I printed out some A5 flyers and took them to the University of Bradford to advertise my proofreading service to students and I made contacts by attending networking events. I didn't set up a website initially but if I were to start a business now, I'd definitely do this straight away. I seem to remember, though, that speaking to people face to face was the best way for me to build relationships and advertise my business.

How is your degree relevant to proofreading?

It's not really relevant. Before university, I was interested in languages (I studied English Language, French and German at A-level) and knew I had an eye for detail, and my work roles following graduation involved a lot of checking documentation.

What is a typical working day as a proofreader like?

My work days are very flexible, depending on my workload. An average day involves checking my emails first thing to see if anything new or urgent has cropped up and then I start proofreading projects. After a break for lunch, I'll spend another couple of hours proofreading, and then the rest of my working day involves admin-based tasks such as replying to emails, updating my business' social media accounts and invoicing.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

My role has become more varied. I started out proofreading student dissertations, but I now have mainly business clients, marketing agencies, some copywriters, individuals, and the occasional PhD student. My career ambitions are to widen my client base and take on more copywriting clients.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I enjoy the flexibility of being a self-employed proofreader, and being involved in a variety of projects.

What are the challenging aspects of proofreading?

Managing my workload and meeting every client's deadline can be challenging when lots of projects arrive in my inbox at the same time. Self-employment can involve lots of peaks and troughs when it comes to workload.

Any words of advice for someone who wants to get into proofreading?

  • Build relationships as people like to work with people who they can relate to.
  • Make sure you have a quiet space to work without distractions.
  • Keep up to date with current affairs as proofreading is not just about checking spelling and grammar, but also checking facts.

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