How to Hire A Reliable Proofreader

by Alicia Jay

I received a great comment on my last post that I wrote about why you should hire a proofreader. I had a lot to say in response so I thought I’d just write another post about it.

Reliable proofreader

Here is Stan Faryna‘s comment:

“A proof reader is a very good idea. The global market rate ranges from one to two cents per word. Theoretically, that’s about what the market would bear. But finding an intelligent proof reader may be difficult.

I worked with a proof reader for about three months at a flat rate of $200/month for roughly 20,000 words/month with a 24 hour turn around for up to 1,500 words. I retained her with a 3 month advance. She had 10 other clients. She was retired. So it was a nice add to her social security check revenue.

At the end of the 3 months, she kinda up and disappeared. Don’t know what happened to her. She didn’t leave me hanging in the sense that she served her three months. But I didn’t like that she disappeared. I was worried about her. Her Facebook and Twitter account were deleted.

Anyway, that kind of behavior makes me nervous considering the intellectual property and deep confidentiality involved with most of my business documents. How should we discern that a proof reader is trustworthy and reliable?”

Stan brought up a lot of great points. In this fickle world of online business anyone could be here today and gone the next be they blogger, proofreader or online business coach. You may have run into a situation such as Stan’s before. Here are my suggestions for hiring a reliable proofreader or any other kind of virtual assistant.

Referrals. Get referrals from others and ask them who they’ve used. Start spreading the word in your circle that you’re looking for a proofreader. Contact the ones who received glowing recommendations.  Word of mouth is the best way to find a dependable person.

Screen Them. You can have a conversation with the person you’re interested in hiring about working together long-term to get an idea if they’ll be sticking around. While it’s no guarantee that they won’t close up shop and take off, at least you’ve made it clear that you’re looking for a long-term partnership.

Confidentiality Clause. If you’re working with confidential materials, my good proofreading friend Paula Kiger recommends having both parties sign a confidentiality clause. It can be a simple document created to specify what is to be done with the material after the project–or your business relationship–has ended. You can decide if things should be deleted, shredded, returned or retained for a one year period. This way you will both be clear on where you stand with divulging information and what to do with personal documents, passwords, etc.

Communicate Often. Keeping in touch with each other on a regular basis will help to ensure that the work is being done and that your proofreader is still there. You can even check in with each other in between projects. Any good virtual assistant will pop in to say hello if they haven’t heard from you in a while. It’s also okay to get a little personal. I’m not saying you need to discuss “boxers or briefs.” However, having a bit of a personal relationship really helps the business relationship in this kind of situation when you’re working online and the chances are that you’ll never meet.

Developing these kinds of relationships is my favorite part of what I do. Has anyone had an experience like Stan’s? Does anyone have a story to share about a good working relationship they’ve had with a VA? Please feel free to add something in the comments that I haven’t touched on as well.

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About Alicia Jay


Alicia is a virtual assistant specializing in transcription. She loves to help her clients make the most out of their audio posts, webinars and teleclasses by re-purposing them with transcripts. Her clients include entrepreneurs, business coaches, health and fitness experts and other virtual assistants. She blogs about news in the VA industry as well as business and customer service tips.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Paula Kiger

This is a useful post, Alicia, with some valid points. Thank you to linking to me. The thoughts I had come mainly from procurement efforts I have been involved with, where parties did not want other parties (competitors) to have access to materials. They also knew that with public records laws, etc., their materials may eventually be subpoenaed or subject to public records requests, and the verbiage was an effort to protect some of the materials.

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Alicia Jay

Hi Paula!

You bring up a great perspective regarding confidentiality. Thanks for stopping by!

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Bill Dorman

Yep, leave it to Stan to have a deep, very well thought out response. Much better than my ‘hey, nice post,’ huh?

He does bring up a good point because in a virtual sense you can just be gone and no one knows what happened. I think doing a little background check and referrals will keep you in the safest position possible.

Interesting indeed; let’s see if Stan has another layer to add to this.

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Alicia Jay

Hey Bill!

Yup, Stan got me thinkin’. Working with someone online does bring an added sense of “how do I know they won’t disappear?” However, more businesses are moving to virtual workplaces so we need to find a way to establish trust. Thanks for hangin’ out here this morning!

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Louise Harnby

As a proofreader myself, I can appreciate Stan’s concerns that I might up and off (though I’m not sure that his proofreader’s disappearance can necessarily be linked to intelligence! I think it’s more likely that she passed away and perhaps her family closed down her social media applications.). Other things to consider when vetting in addition to Alicia’s valid points could include the following:

Check out LinkedIn and see if the proofreader has recommendations from clients.

Choose proofreaders who work for reputable publishing houses and source references from such clients. Publishers tend to stick to a trusted bank of freelance editorial staff from whom they commission repeat work. They are not going to recommend a proofreader who’s done a sloppy job for them; nor are they likely to give a reference for someone who’s only been commissioned once.

Assess their training and qualifications. Are they a member of a professional society and can they demonstrate a certain level of training undertaken? Here in the UK we have the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP), and a number of industry-recognized training agencies including the Publishing Training Centre (PTC). While these won’t guarantee quality, they do demonstrate a certain commitment to high editorial standards. Annual membership of the SfEP is not free and members have to have achieved a certain level of experience before they can join; training by the PTC involves external assessment in order to pass. Involvement in these types of organization will therefore give you some indication that your proofreader is a professional, and committed to the task.

I’ve got a blog post coming out in a couple of days, entitled Does Training Matter?, in which I’ve interviewed a number of publishers to get their view on the importance of society membership and training, and the value they place on these aspects of a proofreader’s resumé. After all, publishers, like individuals such as Stan, want to minimize the risk of the unknown, too – they’re just as concerned with the issues of confidentiality and intellectual property rights, meeting agreed deadlines and the ability to follow a client’s brief.

Hope this helps!
Louise

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Alicia Jay

Hi Louise!

So glad to see you here! Thank you so much for this wonderful addition to my post. You made some very valid points. Your comment proves the statement I make all of the time: “Don’t forget to read other people’s comments on a post. You may find a golden nugget in there!” Thanks for stopping by!

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Louise Harnby

And make sure your proofreader knows how to spell résumé correctly – I managed to leave off the first accent in my previous comment. Tut tut!

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Alicia Jay

Ha ha! Good one, Louise!

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