Today I am thrilled to share this interview I had with Catilin Pyle, the owner and blogger behind Proofread Anywhere. If you are wanting to increase or even replace your current income, freelance proofreading might be the answer for you. You can sign up for her FREE 7 day course to get started to learn if this is the right option for you.
Catilin was able to make more than $43,000 in 2014 just from proofreading. She has developed a plan to help anyone looking to either supplement or replace their income by becoming a freelance proofreader. Read on to see if this might be the right option for you.
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Hey, Caitlin! Who are you and what do you do?
Hey! Thanks for having me today! I started out working a 9-to-5 job as a receptionist at a busy court reporting office back in 2009. I was so good at spotting errors that court reporters started calling me “Eagle Eyes.” As I moved up at the office, I started proofreading for court reporters as a side hustle. In 2011, I parted ways with that firm but kept my proofreading clients. I’ve been on my own ever since.
As I gained experience and got more and more clients, I streamlined my proofreading method so I could work more efficiently. Eventually, proofreading became my primary source of income. My friends and family took notice and started asking me how I built my business. In November 2014, my blog, Proofread Anywhere, was born. Three months later, version 1 of my flagship training program, Transcript Proofreading: Theory and Practice™, launched.
What type of proofreaders are people looking for?
People (specifically bloggers and other business owners) are looking for passionate, detail-oriented proofreaders. Whenever words get put into print, they need to be proofread for accuracy. Someone can write a blog post or a resume (or anything, really) and read over it themselves, but they already know what they put on the page. That makes it super easy to read what you expect to be there rather than what’s actually on the page. That’s when writers can overlook a misspelled word (think their instead of there) or a missing word. So it’s always good to have someone else read over your writing. I even have someone read my blog posts before they go live. No one’s immune!
It comes as no surprise, but my favorite type of proofreading is proofreading transcripts for court reporters. Anyone who’s watched crime drama TV shows has probably seen a person sitting in the front of the courtroom typing away on a little machine. That’s a court reporter, and they’re writing on a steno machine. They take down word for word what everyone in the courtroom says. Their steno notes are turned into a transcript, which then needs to be proofread before it’s handed over to the person requesting it. Transcript proofreading is a very specific niche and requires very detailed training before proofreaders start helping out court reporters.
Who would do well as a proofreader?
Surprisingly, it isn’t just about being a whiz at grammar and spelling. It’s actually about having a good work ethic. You are in charge of your own success. Your reputation will determine if you’re someone in the proofreading community who will be known for your outstanding work ethic or rather as someone who can’t be trusted to respond to emails, return a quality job, meet a deadline, and/or be honest.
A good proofreader likes to read. You will be doing lots (and LOTS) of reading. If you don’t enjoy reading, you definitely won’t enjoy sitting down and picking up a 300-something-page transcript. Lastly, you need a desire to learn and keep learning. If you’ve never proofread a transcript before but think you know it all already — and just need to know how to get clients — you’ll be in for a rude awakening. Court reporters can smell inexperience from a mile away.
Is this type of work good for everyone?
No, it’s not. And that’s perfectly okay. Not everyone is cut out to be a transcript proofreader. We all have our strengths and weaknesses.
It’s not for those looking to get rich quickly by putting in minimal effort. Transcript proofreading is a lot of work. If you’re looking for a willy-nilly little “course” to give you some general ideas on how to catch errors and make crazy cash, this isn’t for you. Transcript Proofreading: Theory and Practice™ isn’t designed to chuck a gazillion people haphazardly out into the world to scrounge for clients. It’s there to equip serious people with the serious skills needed to perform serious work.
Do I need a background in proofreading or English?
A really common question I get is whether or not you need an English degree (or even experience) before you get started as a proofreader, and the answer is no! You don’t need to have an English degree or previous proofreading experience; however, you do need to be familiar with basic grammar and spelling rules. You don’t have to be perfect at them, but if you have a hard time catching errors as you read through advertisements or magazines and such, you’ll have a very difficult time with transcript proofreading, and I wouldn’t recommend it for you.
Now before you think about just calling up your court reporter friend and asking to be their proofreader, note that transcript proofreading is very different from general proofreading. Because the transcripts are exactly what’s said in a legal proceeding, most grammar and syntax rules are thrown out the window immediately. You can’t rearrange and rewrite like you would a blog post or a term paper. Transcripts aren’t as black and white. You first need to be able to understand the role of a court reporter, the bits ‘n pieces of the transcript, know what you’re looking for, what proofreaders can and cannot do within a transcript, and practice — before you can dive in and start building a business.
Do I need special training?
While theoretically anyone could call themselves a proofreader and start trying to proofread general text like term papers, blog posts, and the like, now you know that transcript proofreading for court reporters takes a different kind of skill set than general proofreading. Transcript Proofreading: Theory and Practice™ goes in depth on everything, from the very basics of what makes up a transcript, to how to proofread transcripts (you practice on over 3,000 real transcript pages), to marketing specifics. Even if you’ve proofread other types of text before, if you haven’t proofread a transcript before, you’ll need specific training before offering that as a service.
What type of income could I expect to make?
That depends on quite a few factors. Transcript proofreaders charge by the page, so your rate will depend on how quickly you can work through a transcript — and with what accuracy you can do that. Blasting through a transcript ultra fast and leaving loads of errors in your wake won’t make you more money in the long run because it will ruin your reputation. It’s best to start slowly and build up speed.
It also depends on your goals. Do you want to quit your job and stay at home? Some graduates of Transcript Proofreading: Theory and Practice™ consistently earn more than $2,000 a month and are able to stay at home with their kids. Others don’t want to quit their jobs but appreciate the extra cash to pay off debt faster or have more wiggle room in their budgets.
It’s your business. You decide how much you want to proofread. That kind of flexibility is exactly what makes me so passionate about the work.
What if I try it and decide it isn’t for me?
Then be honest but kind with yourself. You won’t know until you try, so if it seems interesting to you, give it a fair shot. Don’t quit too early, but if you get into it and honestly don’t enjoy it, that’s a good sign it’s time to move on.
Some folks get started and LOVE every minute of it. Others start and find out it’s really not something they enjoy. That’s why I break the training into levels. Students invest in each level as they go — not all up front. So if someone decides it’s not something he or she wants to continue, then they’d simply not invest in the next level of training. Easy!
Now while there have been students — and even graduates — who have decided proofreading just isn’t for them, the knowledge and confidence they gain through the community and the training (especially the marketing training) gave them the confidence to branch out into other freelance skills. Some stick with proofreading but instead of proofreading transcripts, they do other types of proofreading. Others find a completely different area of the freelance world they really love, like transcribing or writing. We even encourage branching out because more skills always translates to more money.
What does it cost to get started?
You can sign up for my free 7-day intro course for, well, free! It won’t cost you a dime to see if proofreading transcripts for court reporters is something you would be interested in pursuing further. Full disclosure: It takes a LOT of work to learn the ins and outs of this work, so you won’t learn everything you need to know in a free week-long course. BUT it will help you decide if you want to pursue transcript proofreading further in the intensive course, and you’ll get some excellent marketing tips for general proofreading. If you do choose to move on with structured training, you’ll find that compared to investing in a college degree to start a new career, our online training is quite affordable.
Aside from your training, we recommend an iPad (around $200 for a mini) and a special annotation app we use (about $10).
What additional tips can you provide to help someone who may want to become a freelance proofreader?
Don’t second-guess yourself. If you have eagle eyes that are always catching errors all over the place, transcript proofreading may just be your niche. Self-doubt is one of the biggest reasons dreams never make it to reality. Time to do something about that! Enroll in the free 7-day course to see if you’d enjoy proofreading for more than just fun 🙂