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Have you been blessed with an eagle eye and a passion for pointing out other people’s mistakes? Want to turn these skills into a profit? We asked Prague-based professional proofreader and owner of Write Moment English Proofreading and Copy-Editing Services Barrie Lock what it takes to become a successful (i.e. working) proofreader in the Czech Republic.
What special skills are needed?
Aside from the aforementioned attributes, potential proofreaders, says Lock, need “Top-notch English language skills and absolute attention to detail.” Professional certifications can’t hurt either, he adds. “I believe that many proofreaders work without any formal training or certification, undertaking work on the grounds of having had plenty of diverse proofreading and editing work experience.” He believes, however, that a proper training course increases marketability…and credibility.
How does one become certified?
At a proofreading and copy-editing training center, where else? “There are many of these centers around the world offering both in-house and distance learning,” says Lock. He did his via a distance learning course from Chapterhouse Publishing, based in Exeter, UK. Of the experience he says: “These courses are extremely challenging. The assessors do not give the qualification away too easily. During the course, you learn to spot obvious, often-missed errors and are made aware of commonplace textual problems.”
The terms “proofreading/copy-editing” are often used interchangeably. What is the difference?
Lock agrees that in his work for Czech clients, the terms tend to merge and overlap but notes that there is a substantial difference between the two. “Proofreading is more of a straightforward exercise than editing. Proofreading is done when you check a document for spelling and grammatical accuracy as well as ensuring that the syntax is correct. Checking for correct use of punctuation is also important. Copy-editing often involves several revisions of the text and may require that portions of the document are removed, changed or that more text is added to make communication clearer. A copy-editor’s job is to make a document: clear, correct, concise, consistent, and complete.
Is it useful to learn some Czech proofreader’s marks? What about software? Other valuable tools of the trade?
Lock has never had to use anything beyond standard British proofreader’s symbols. He says that ‘track changes’ in Word has been his most valuable tool. “I always use it. I believe it is necessary for the writer to still be responsible for his or her work even after it has been copy-edited and/or proofread. It allows the client to look through the changes you have made and accept, reject, or discuss comments. It is a simple tool and, perhaps, the most user-friendly and effective.”
Who is hiring?
Lock’s own projects have included company catalogues, official letters, students’ theses, texts for company websites, restaurant menus, academic essays for publication, and UK charity literature. He says that while most industries have need of a proofreader, many have their own arrangements with proofreading/editing firms. These are often incorporated into translation services. Proofreaders, however, should always be in demand. Says Lock: “It is crucial for important/official documents written by even native speakers of English to be checked through, whether this means copy-editing, proofreading, or both.”
How much to charge?
While Lock charges hourly (300-350 CZK is standard), he notes that some editors set a fee for each completed page, for example, 150 CZK per normal page. His advice for giving a quote: “Attempt to be realistic in terms of how long it is likely to take you, and try and negotiate some kind of leeway with the client. At the end of the day, the client wants somebody they can trust. But things need to be flexible and negotiable depending on different projects and clients (you might want to have different rates for, say, a multinational company and a student who wants to have his thesis checked through).”
Proofreading do’s and don’ts
- …Make absolute certain what the client wants before you agree to undertake the task.
- …Keep in regular contact with the client if you are not sure about meaning or sense in the text.
- …Meet the client face-to-face before agreeing to undertake the project. A friendly handshake is good for business.
- …Market your services professionally (website, advertisements, business cards, etc).
- …Keep a portfolio of your published work with recommendations from clients.
- …Take regular breaks while working on a project – you can easily miss important things when tired.
- …Agree to undertake the task if you don’t feel comfortable with it or if you feel it is beyond your scope of ability.
- …Make any changes in a document if you are not certain about what the writer’s intended meaning is.
- …Interfere with the text too much. Control yourself! Remember that your job is that of a proofreader not a writer.
- …Allow yourself to take on too much work all at one time – you probably won’t be able to cope with it.
Lock says that he finds work mainly through word-of-mouth and his website which has been professionally designed and “Says everything I want it to say about me, my work, and my services.” For job leads look to the Facebook forums Crowdsauce and Czechlist; Craig’s List has a Prague writing/editing/proofreading page; the various faculties of Charles University have notice boards for posting proofreader-for-hire ads; and of course here on Expats.cz/jobs.
Are you a professional proofreader/copyeditor? Share your networking tips here.