Skip to main content
19 April 2021

From literature enthusiast to professional proofreader

A career-shaping passion for reading

I grew up as a bookworm in a multilingual household where storytelling was the norm. This early fascination with stories and language led me to pursue English Literature and English Language & Communications at university. Literature reading lists and seminars fed my obsession with books, grammar and language development theories. I wanted to work with books, but didn’t know how or where…

A taste of publishing

I knew nothing about publishing at the time. I figured there must be someone making all those books, but wasn’t sure what the major publishing houses actually did. After some internet searches, I came across the publishing industry.

My placement year offered the opportunity to intern as a publishing assistant at an independent press, to learn more about the business of publishing and whether it was for me – it was!

After graduating, an editorial career beckoned. I applied for publishing roles but didn’t get very far; there were fewer entry-level schemes back then. I eventually got a job as a copy-editor at a market research business where I worked for five years. In that time, I switched to remote working (pre-Covid!) to pursue a master’s in creative writing, to learn more about the craft of storytelling and fuel my ongoing obsession with books and language.

While studying at the University of Edinburgh, I teamed up with some course mates and co-founded The Selkie Publications CIC, a non-profit literary magazine that supports and promotes work by under-represented writers (another passion of mine).

The impact of Covid-19

My master’s degree and experience with The Selkie reminded me how much I missed publishing. So after finishing my degree, I continued to apply for editorial roles, when the coronavirus pandemic hit.

It had a huge impact on the small business I worked for, including redundancies and the startling realisation that I didn’t know what to do after losing my job. My applications for publishing roles saw little success. Why, despite five years of copy-editing, and plenty of admin, experience was I was being turned down for entry-level editorial roles?

A turning point in my career

Then I discovered The Literary Consultancy’s Editorial Skills Training Scheme, in collaboration with the Publishing Training Centre. Curiosity led me to apply, successfully, for the chance to develop more specialist editing skills. It was through this programme that I learnt about freelancing and how different editing books is from business reports.

The programme was an excellent introduction to different types of editing, and it prompted me to think hard about investing in further training. Other freelancers advised taking a proofreading course to gain the necessary skills and understanding of proofreading terminology needed to build a good foundation for a career in copy-editing.

Building for the future with expert training

The PTC’s Essential Proofreading course was fantastically thorough – it was comprehensive and covered everything I needed to know about the proofreading process from beginning to end. My tutor was helpful and provided detailed feedback, including the next steps to take after completing the course.

The course has given me the confidence to approach clients, and the knowledge to adapt to their requirements and deliver high-quality work. For example, one of the key learnings was when to leave things alone! Trust me, it’s harder than it sounds.

Since completing training, and with an industry-recognised qualification under my belt, I’ve been fortunate enough to work as a freelance proofreader with a number of publishing clients. I now plan to build my experience and client base to get more frequent work, and to continue training – in fact, I’ve just started the PTC’s Essential Copy-Editing course!

Taliha Quadri

Taliha Quadri is a freelance proofreader, events officer for the Society of Young Publishers and co-founder of The Selkie Publications CIC.

Follow her on Twitter @talihawrites.