Help for a single mom trying to support her family

A reader writes:

I’m trying to support myself and my kids with proofreading and editing work (and am training to become an indexer as well). I’m sure you have your own proofreading and editing resources through your publishers, but if you have any advice on breaking into the business or making publishing contacts, I would love to pick up what wisdom I can!

I got nothing since I don’t know how published hire such folk, but I do know publishers who do.  I would particularly appreciate it if any of my readers out there in the world of publishing could leave some info in the comboxes for her. I will also poke around in email with some of the people I know and see what they know.  God bless you quest to support your family!

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  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

    Check publishers websites. Most of them should have info on how to apply for proofreading, copyediting, etc. Most of them will ask you to take a test. If you can’t find this on the website, just find the Contact Us page, and send them a cordial email, requesting information. A great many publishers are now farming this work out to third party companies, but they should be able to suggest where to apply. The downside is that a GREAT MANY of these third party companies are now in India, where copyeditors and proofers speak very good English and work for pennies on the dollar. This is particulary true amongst many academic publishers. Your best bet is probably to approach fiction and general non-fiction publishers.

  • CS

    Here are my scrabbling-together-money suggestions, as I have no idea how to break into anything to make any kind of money:

    You can sometimes pick up money helping ESL/other writing-struggling students in a college town. Pick one where they have a bit of money, probably. Advertise on campus. People writing dissertations need editors, too.

    Have you considered being a writing tutor? Again, colleges — esp. community colleges– usually have writing workshops (look on their employment page). I work for a company that does tutoring for h.s. students and offers a variety of programs including a writing program. It’s a national company, so it has locations all over the country. As a single mom it might not work as well because the peak hours for tutoring obviously coincide with times kids are home, but thought I would put that out there, too.

    • silicasandra

      As an addition to this, my mother got a great part-time job at the local community college as an aide in a GED prep class, (she had been looking for tutoring and other writing instruction jobs.) The hours are during the day and the scheduling is pretty flexible (she and the other aide coordinate their schedules together).

  • JustAGuest

    Grading AP exams is another line of work for folks like this. Not sure how that works, but maybe searching out the testing company websites?

  • Claire

    University of Maryland University College (UMUC) frequently hires writer/editors for its Effective Writing Center. The EWC allows students to submit works in progress for advice on writing, formatting, documentation, etc. I think that they work from home. It might be a great job if your reader has the required qualifications.

  • Check Sarah D. Bunting’s website, Tomatonation (dot) com. She has done a lot of this work in the past, and I think she has also provided tips on how to break into it. I found this:, and there may be more if you poke around (you could email her, too, she’s generally responsive).

    Also, for temp. work and one-time jobs, check Craig’s List; in the past I’ve seen requests for proofreaders.

  • Pavel Chichikov

    What experience does this person have? Can she pass an editing/proofreading test?

    • Kate Cousino

      I wrote an extended reply to this, but it seems to have disappeared into the ether! You can see my LinkedIn profile here:

      Short answer: give me the appropriate style guide and a week, and I’ll pass any test you give me. I’m still brushing up on my grammatical terminology, but I have always had good instincts. I’ve passed a Chicago Manual test and an AP style test on the freelance brokerage site oDesk, both in the top 15%, and a couple of months ago I had to familiarize myself with the Cambridge style guide while proofreading a journal article submission.

      • Pavel Chichikov

        I don’t have any work to offer of my own, but I do know that the think tanks and institutions here in DC hire freelancers. The World Bank, American Enterprise Institute, Brookings Institution, perhaps the Heritage Foundation, the Hudson Institute – all are worth a try. It would help if you have economics, finance or international relations experience in your background.

        • Kate Cousino

          I’ll look into it, thanks!

  • Kate Cousino

    Thank you, Mark!

    Give me the style manual and a free week, and I’ll pass any test you give me. I’ve passed both the AP and CMS tests on oDesk in the top ten percent, though my score was not as high in CMS as I’d like; I want to invest in a copy of the Chicago Manual but money is especially tight at the end of the school year.

    My work history is spotty, since I was a homeschooling, stay at home mom until about 20 months ago. That said, I have experience proofreading graduate level academic work, academic journal submissions, public relations materials, website content, and this week I am copy editing software UI text. I proofread user-submitted material for three days a week, and have active profiles on, oDesk, and

    I’ve been expanding my repertoire to include writing web content, and have found work through and I have a five star rating on iWriter (based on client reviews), and a four star rating on textbroker (based on a scored test submission). Five star textbroker ratings are reserved for published writers, and payment correlates with star rating.

    The problem is that most of these venues for freelance work pay very poorly, and I’m not willing to sacrifice quality for quantity. When I wrote web content for the client a web developer friend referred to me, I could charge $25 for every 500 word section and still be under the going rate for quality SEO web content. When I write web content for iWriter, I make $2.58/500 words. Textbroker has slightly better rates for writing, and I can proofread for textbroker once I take (and pass) the Oxford style test. The proofreading rates are lower, but I can proofread 2500 words in the time it takes me to write 500.

    On top of all of the rest, I’m taking the American Society of Indexers online course, and I just volunteered for the Translators Without Borders Medical Terminology Project, which begins next week.

    I clean houses on the side but, to be completely honest, I’m far better with words than I am with a mop!