Do I have to pay for a beta reader?
No, you don't. Just be sure you're not compromising on quality.
Here are some ideas for those who need to save their pennies for everything else publishing a book entails.
Look for, and join, writer support groups. There are lots on Facebook to start with, and you’ll find both fiction and non-fiction options. You can also ask on Twitter for recommendations, and Goodreads has many writers you could reach out to. The problem here is that you may have to make friends before you ask someone to do a beta read for you. It’s a huge undertaking, just in terms of the time commitment, and some people won’t want to do it for a complete stranger.
Book clubs, online or local, are also a great option—but again, you’ll probably need to cultivate some friendships first.
If you’re a non-fiction writer, consider asking a colleague who’s familiar with your topic to help you out. Be certain, though, that getting and receiving honest, constructive feedback won’t be an issue.
Find someone who’s writing in a similar genre, or on a similar topic, and do a beta read for each other.
You can ask other writers if they can recommend anyone who beta reads free of charge, although I suggest you talk to people who write in a similar genre to yours.
You may well have a family member, a friend or a ‘friend of a friend’, who can do a great job. What is important is that he or she can be objective, so be cautious about using people who might pull punches because they don’t want to hurt you. Also, be sure you can take input from them without becoming defensive.
I’m going to sound biased here, but a realistic option is to find someone who can give you great quality at a very low cost because they’re working in a country with a weaker currency than yours—like South Africa 😉. Of course, if you live in South Africa you're probably doing that already.