How I Started A $1.2K/Month Editing And Proofreading Service

Published: August 2nd, 2020
Sara Davies
Founder, Prooftheword
from Southampton, England, United Kingdom
started April 2015
alexa rank
market size
avg revenue (monthly)
starting costs
gross margin
time to build
210 days
growth channels
business model
best tools
Twitter, Instagram
time investment
Full time
pros & cons
39 Pros & Cons
1 Tips
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

I’m Sara Davies, founder of Prooftheword, a complete editing and proofreading site that gives customers the ultimate editing service for any document. I’m a sole trader, so I work alone. All the editing and proofreading is done by me, along with everything else. I sort out my invoices, do my own accounts, file my own tax returns – everything.

My editing skills are excellent, which is my main selling point. People come to me because they know I will do a great job! I have a wide range of customers, from students to book writers and regular magazines. My work has grown over the years and, while I’m not making millions, I regularly take home around £1,200 a month.


What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I’m a graduate of Media & Society, South Bank University (2.1). From there I went on to sub-edit and proofread a range of magazines. My first job after graduation was for Legalease for a couple of years. I edited and proofread a range of magazines – Legal Business, The In-House Lawyer, and Commercial Law Journal. I was also the production editor of the Commercial Law Journal.

I moved on to various companies after that, including the Law Society Gazette, Hemming Group, Legal Business, and various freelancing jobs.

I also traveled for over a year, visiting Thailand, Indonesia, Australia (for a year), and Malaysia.

Once I was made redundant by Legalease (January 2011), I decided to work for myself. It took me a while to get going, but finally, I got to the point where filing my tax returns were worth the effort! I had something to file.

I knew I had great editing skills and could see, wherever I went, the awful English used by so many – menus, leaflets, websites, newspapers, magazines, books. You name it, I can find bad English in it.

My website and business have grown over the years, but more work is always welcome. I provide excellent English editing and proofreading work, so feel free to get in touch if you need any document edited.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

I don’t offer products, solely services, but my editing and proofreading services are the best you can get! My English-language skills have been great all my life – I could read well before I went to school.

I offer copy-editing and proofreading services to a wide range of clients – from students to small businesses, authors to magazine publishers.

Setting up my website was quite a challenge, not something I’ve done before. I set it up using WordPress, which gives you some help. I wouldn’t call myself a website expert, but I know my way around it now. I got there in the end though, then went on to copyrighting my logo, which I created myself. The whole process wasn’t that expensive, but it wasn’t anything I was familiar with, so clearly a bit daunting.

Describe the process of launching the business.

I was running about a year before I got significant customer traction. My customers come to me through a range of media – Facebook, Twitter, Google, and direct contact via my company email.

No one knows everything, so looking for help isn’t a weakness, it’s a must!

I have funded my business myself – no loans, start-ups, crowdfunding, or help from anyone.

I enjoy working for myself and not being accountable to anyone. I work when I want and how I want. Obviously, there are times when I’m inundated with work and have to work all the hours there are, but it’s all relative.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

The great work I do tends to retain customers. I have many regular clients, including Black Beauty & Hair magazine, Beech Hill Safety, Eloquence Works, and Gather Creative. I also garner new clients through word of mouth and reputation.

When I first started out, I got the majority of my work through People Per Hour. I had a great profile on there and had many regular clients. That helped to build my reputation and gained me more work. I don’t use People Per Hour any more as they charge ridiculous fees, but it was a good place to start out.

I use Google Ads, who doesn’t? I get seen on Google most days, but it isn’t as effective as I’d like it to be. I’m no Google expert either and I don’t really understand what I should bid, but I generally follow their recommendations. I am thinking of getting someone to help with it.

Facebook Ads seems to mainly serve itself (just don’t trust it!). I also have Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter accounts, which all my blogs automatically go to. I get some traffic through them, though not that much.

These days I tend to have one or two emails per week from people who say they found me through Google. I’ve edited a few books through this.

I am also on the Find a Proofreader website, through which I got the job editing Black Beauty & Hair.

Prooftheworld Facebook Post here.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

The only regular costs I have are my time, printer ink (when it’s required), postage (when it’s required), and buying HSE products for a client (which are paid by him).

Other than that, there are my website costs (around £250 a year), my Google Ads account (well over £130 a month), and my Adobe Creative Cloud account for access to InDesign (just under £20 a month).

Currently, most of my work comes through my regular customers. I am getting more and more clients directly through my work email ([email protected]) and I hope that will keep on rising.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

For large jobs, I generally ask for the first half of my payment upfront, with the second half coming once I send back the edited document. A few years ago I edited a book which was going very well – I had a good rapport with the writer, she was very happy with the work I was doing.

I sent her the final edited book and my second invoice. Suddenly, she wasn’t happy with my editing work. Tried to make out I hadn’t done the job I said I would, etc. Yet I hadn’t done anything wrong – she was just a swindler!

Always make sure you get some money upfront!

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

There is just so much to learn! I would advise you to take up any offers of help you get, take all the advice you can, and visit every platform you’ve offered!

No one knows everything, so looking for help isn’t a weakness, it’s a must! Getting a hand on everything you need to know from the start is important. The first thing to do if you’re going self-employed is to get a UTR!!! A vital first step to take, so do it now!!!

That will allow you to be included as self-employed by HMRC and let you file tax returns. If you don’t do that, you won’t be included and won’t have any self-employed right. So do it!

Other than that, get all the advice you can and ensure what you’re offering is needed. Best of luck!

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

Sara Davies, Founder of Prooftheword
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story
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