The following tips for getting the most out of your freelance proofreader are based on those suggested on the website of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP), with a few my suggestions included. The tips are presented from the viewpoint of the freelance proofreader to make the proofread as smooth and efficient as possible.
At the planning stage
1. Decide which proofreader you want to work with and check with them in plenty of time, hopefully before your document or book has finished going through the previous stages, including copy-editing. Agree a date when you can send the work and the latest date you need it back by. If you are in doubt as to who you can approach go the Directory of Editorial Services at SfEP and use keyword searches to be given a list of suitable freelances.
2. Agree a realistic time frame and budget, making clear what you want them to do. Is it just a basic proofread for spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors or will you need some extra help with sense and phrasing (e.g. proofreading-plus). If the latter this will impact the budget and time taken to complete the proofread.
3. Use appropriate technology. Most proofreaders usually work on manuscripts or drafts that are in Word format using the Track Changes tool, or on PDFs using the Adobe Acrobat editing tools, both of which are the industry standards, so please use them. Do not send your edits, comments, or responses by email or as a separate document as page numbers you may refer to may have changed by the time proofreading commences.
When submitting for proofreading
4. Consistent style is important. If you or a copy-editor has compiled a style sheet in the process of writing or editing please send a copy of this to the proofreader to ensure style issues that have been decided upon are maintained.
5. Ensure documentation is complete. Besides the style sheet for spellings and capitalization, are there any other documents the proofreader should see besides the proofs? For instance, are there any appendices that will be included that the text refers to?
6. Be aware that your proofreader may have several projects on the go. When you phone, ask if it is a convenient time to talk. Remember also that your proofreader may not be able to start your job immediately.
7. Keep your proofreader in the loop. Give reasonable notice of schedule changes so they can rearrange other work and complete your work by the deadline. Please let the proofreader know if you are going on holiday or on leave and who to contact instead, especially if the deadline falls during your absence.
8. Do not be afraid to ask your proofreader for advice. They will probably have years of experience and can offer suggestions to get around problems. Accept that their suggested corrections are meant constructively to improve your document and not to criticize your style. After all, you are paying them to be your consultant.
After completion of the job
9. Set aside some time (perhaps 15 to 20 minutes) to give constructive feedback at the end of the job. Let the proofreader know if they have done a good job or if there is anything that you would have preferred to have been done differently. Were comments and queries raised by the proofreader in an easily understandable way? If you are particularly pleased with the work produced offer your proofreader a review or testimonial for their website.
10. Pay your proofreader promptly. They have their own bills to pay on time.
The better you liaise with and treat your proofreader the better and quicker they will be able to complete your proofreading job. Hopefully you will both want to work with each other in the future on other projects.
Stephen York is a freelance proofreader with over 25 years' experience in book and journal publishing offering proofreading services to publishers, businesses, organizations, educational institutions, academics, students, and authors. He regularly proofreads in digital format a wide variety of media in an extensive range of specialist subject areas, including business, finance, economics, education, marketing, and real estate.