How to Make a Full-Time Income as a Proofreader

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Thank you for answering these questions for the Horkey HandBook readers, Caitlin!

Tell us about your business. What do you do and how did you get started?

From 2009 – 2011, I worked in a court reporting office doing various tasks, one of which was proofreading transcripts to ensure their quality. I parted ways with that company and set out to become a personal trainer, but I ended up not liking that so much. I still did it as a side gig, though.

In 2012, I somewhat accidentally started a business from home, from scratch, proofreading transcripts for court reporters. I say accidentally because I had no idea I could make full-time income as a proofreader. It just happened!

I kept getting new clients and didn’t turn down work (unless I really had to!), and it turned into a full-blown, $3-$5k/month business within a few months — and I wasn’t even close to working 40 hours a week!

I’ve been making a full-time income as a proofreader for almost three years. In fact, in 2013 and 2014, my income amounted to over $40,000 from just proofreading.

In late 2014, I started my blog, Proofread Anywhere, and in early 2015 launched a course called Transcript Proofreading: Theory and Practice™ to teach other folks with “eagle eyes” how to start their own transcript proofreading businesses. Managing the blog and the course has taken the place of much of my proofreading, but proofreading is still my first love!

Can anyone do what you do?

No. It takes someone with patience and a very sharp eye for error and detail: I call these folks “eagle eyes.” Not everyone has an eye for error sharp enough to notice the tiny details within a transcript.

What’s been most challenging thus far?

I’d say managing the ebb and flow of the workload – it can get really busy all at once, and then you can go days without a single page. Many of my students have experienced the same thing, so I know it’s not just me! We’ve learned to be cool with it, though, and celebrate “breathers” or “spontaneous vacations” when they happen.

Did you ever want to quit or give up?

Yes. Once I had a client who did not respect me at all! She would constantly demand special treatment (discounted rushes and weekend reading, etc.), be upset when I refused to meet the unreasonable demands, etc. It was about six months after I’d started proofreading as my sole income (early 2013).

I thought to myself, GEEZ, is this the way it’s always going to be?! Thankfully, it wasn’t. I parted ways with that client and learned “those people” are lurking in every type of business, and I didn’t have to be a doormat.

Gina’s Tip: Proofreading is one of the many services you can offer as a virtual assistant. Here is a list of 150 services you can also offer as a VA.

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What specific strategies, tactics or pieces of advice have helped you grow?

Always provide excellent, professional customer service. Don’t act like you’re there to do your clients a favor. You’re a team with your client – their work becomes better with your help, and your bills get paid with their loyalty. If you can put your client first (within reason) and exceed their expectations, they will do anything they can to help you out.

Another thing: don’t let the Negative Nancies get you down. Every now and then you meet a negative person or client, and they may be really “loud,” claim to know everything, and perhaps they make you feel like you know nothing.

That’s not true. Their negativity seems to project outward, but the reality is they’re practically screaming their own insecurities and unhappiness. If you can keep that in mind, you’ll have an easier time dealing with people who are like that in business.

What are some big successes you’ve had recently?

Oh man, we just had a student submit the best success story – Ashley lives in the UK, and she had some major doubts that she’d be able to make it happen from across the pond. When I first started teaching the course, I honestly wasn’t sure if people outside the US would be successful, but I couldn’t think of any reason why they couldn’t be if they were truly excellent at the work.

Ashley ended up making $1,300 in her first month post course completion – this was a HUGE win for her as a student and me as the teacher. If Ashley can do it from the UK, students here in the US can definitely find success!

What are you most excited about for your business for the rest of 2015?

I really can’t wait to see how the students continue to grow their businesses. We’ll be publishing more of their stories, plus we’re seeking to feature some experts within the court reporting community to speak out on the importance of proofreading for superb quality within the industry. (Wow, that sounded really nerdy … :-))

My husband and I are also traveling in South America right now, and we’re super excited about the new things we’re experiencing now and for the rest of the year! Being able to work from anywhere is a true blessing.

Tell us about your course. Who is it for? How does it work?

The name of my course is Transcript Proofreading: Theory and Practice. It is an intense, self-paced multimedia online course designed to get you from “proofreading newbie” to “professional proofreader” in 2-4 months.

It spans 45 units over 9 modules, includes 50 simulation transcripts (3,109 practice pages), and students take three tests to demonstrate their aptitude before receiving their Certificate of Completion at the end. Two of the tests are manually graded by a human.

What should someone reasonably expect to accomplish upon completion?

Upon completion, how quickly you’re able to get clients depends solely on the student and whether or not they follow the instructions in Module 8, the marketing module. Students have gotten their first client in as little as a few days. For some it took a month.

One student got her first transcript in 20 minutes after she began her marketing efforts. It all varies. One thing’s for sure, though: if you do an excellent job on the transcripts, if you follow the instructions, and if you don’t just give up, you can do it. I’ve seen it happen dozens and dozens of times!

Would you ever consider transcript proofreading as a part of your freelance business? Why or why not?

Caitlin_HeadshotCaitlin Pyle has been making a full time living as a freelance court transcript proofreader since 2012. She’s now working part time and making $40,000 a year. Because she is able to run her business remotely, Caitlin is now embarking on an international traveling adventure. Find out more about Caitlin and her course at ProofreadAnywhere.com

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This post contains affiliate links to Caitlin’s course. If you’re offended by this, we may not be friends. Kidding, of course, this is just my due diligence disclosure statement!

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20 thoughts on “How to Make a Full-Time Income as a Proofreader”

  1. I love Caitlin’s course! I’m half way through. I already work from home as a hairdresser part time, plus I’m taking Gina’s course, plus I write books and have a 7 month old baby. So if I can do it, you can do it! 🙂

    • You’re one motivated mama Ashley – LOVE IT! When I was building my business, I was working FT, had an infant, a toddler and a husband. It is possible if you can stay motivated and focused 🙂

  2. I’m working my way through Caitlin’s course, on practice transcripts right now, strengthening my skills and excited about launching out into the transcript proofreader’s world! I’m currently working full time at a job I despise, and I’m highly motivated to replace that income with proofreading. I know it can be done and I’m going to prove it to myself and everyone I know. I want to be one of Caitlin’s success stories!!

  3. Great post and great idea, Caitlin! I wish you the best of success with your course. It sounds informative, challenging, and just plain awesome. I know that court reporting is in high demand but had not thought about the proofreading aspect of it. Something to think about… Awesome job!

  4. I proofread texts but in Russian and in Ukrainian. Here it is impossible to make a living doing it as they pay very little for proofreading( usually this task is done by those you write texts.
    Nevertheless your article is very interesting! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  5. Caitlin, I can relate to you on so many levels, as I LOVE proofreading (as well as reading and writing).

    I think it’s great that you stumbled into a career doing what you love!

    You know, they say that if you do what you love you will never have to “work” a day in your life. I totally agree with that statement, and I’m sure you do as well.

    Correct me if I’m wrong!

    …Gina, great interview! 🙂

  6. I plan a full time proofreader! Your post is very helpful and interesting (as always, by the way). While reading your article I cannot stop thinking what a great consulter you are) you should make it your second career))

  7. I would LOVE to do this. I help authors all the time as a beta reader. For one author I found an additional 19 items everyone else missed. But I don’t have that kind of money to pay for the course 🙁 Dang it.

  8. I would like more information about this as I will be retiring in June and want something part time from camp and for tje winter months …. I have my own pc and want to work from home..

  9. I am really interested. I used to do proofreading for a printing company in the Philippines and went to law school. I will look into Caitlin’s course. Thank you.

  10. Hi,
    I love the inspiration from this page. I can also relate to not totally being passionate about my full time job and I have always loved English and thought proofreading would be a good career.
    I am just not sure where to begin. Any ideas?
    Thanks!

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