One of the fun things about having an atypical career (defining it is hard too… am I a professional blogger? an internet marketer?) is that you get to meet all sorts of folks with atypical careers.
Today, I want to share an interview with Caitlin Pyle.
A little background on Caitlin – in 2013 and 2014, she earned more than $40,000 as a proofreader. Specifically, she did courtroom transcript proofreading, which sounds very niche but is very much in demand and has a high competency bar. In other words, if you devote the time to the training (yes, there's training), you won't be competing with a million people for work. Proofreading was her primary source of income.
I always love learning about different careers and I was fascinated to learn more about proofreading because it's something that is in demand but no one talks about it. You can find a million people talking about how to start a blog but not nearly as many who talk about proofreading.
If you have an eye for detail and want to ditch the 9-to-5 for a legitimate career working from home (or you're just looking to earn a little supplemental income, something many of her students do by proofreading at night or on weekends), I recommend reading the rest of this interview with Caitlin.
Q. How did you get started as a proofreader?
I actually got my start in 2007 when I was studying abroad in Germany. I would read masters' theses and any type of text written by non-native English speakers at my university. From there, I did odd jobs, and in 2009 was hired at a court reporting office as a receptionist.
I moved up the ranks and learned all about transcripts, court reporting, and — of course — proofreading. I worked for several court reporters while employed and eventually took it full-time in 2012.
It was my primary income from 2012 to 2015.
Q. How did you narrow it down to a transcript proofreader?
It just kind of happened that way!
I never knew it could even become a full-time-income thing, but I just kept saying “yes” to the work as it would come, and before I knew it I had full-time income! I like to say I “accidentally” became a transcript proofreader. It just snowballed.
Q. Did you have any special training/education/background to get you ready for this type of work?
I've always had a love for words. I'm the exact opposite with math, but I have always been very good with words — writing, editing, and proofreading — naturally. Most people who are a good fit for what I do have a similar background. They always spot errors everywhere, and it annoys them to no end.
There's really no one naturally good at transcript proofreading, though — it's quite technical in nature and every possible topic under the sun could pop up, so everyone has to learn the ins and outs of all the same things one way or another.
Obviously, training for it is a lot better than just learning as you go because learning as you go often involves lots of mistakes — and in this industry, mistakes are what get you fired!
Q. How much can you earn being a proofreader?
It depends. With transcripts, you're paid per page, so your earnings depend on how quickly you read, your page rate, how dense the transcript is, what method you use to mark up/correct the job; things like that.
A very dense and difficult job will take you twice as long as an easier workers' compensation job, for example. I find most of my students start out earning what comes out to around $17 per hour and moving up from there. You do pick up speed with practice.
This is when I truly realized how much she knew about this business and how little I knew — you see, to answer that question she would have to get really detailed and it would distract from one key fact — you won't be ready.
She, and thus I, would be setting you up to fail. If you want to get into transcript proofreading and you don't get training beforehand you will hurt your chances and there are only so many courtrooms.
In a world where people will tell you anything to give you a good sounding answer, this was refreshing. Get the training, which includes how to find work and grow your business.
Q. How do I know if I'd be good at proofreading?
People usually just know. They love words; they're patient; they spot errors everywhere all the time; and they don't mind being alone and working independently.
On the other hand, if you've always been a bad speller or have found it difficult to read for long periods of time, proofreading is probably not for you.
Q. What does someone need to do to start making money proofreading? How long does it take?
For the type of proofreading I do, getting your bearings and enough practice usually takes between two to four months of structured training. As for equipment, you need access to the internet and preferably an iPad. There are ways to proofread without an iPad, but I don't recommend them because they're much less efficient. When you're getting paid per page, you want to make things as efficient as possible.
Q. You have a free 7-day intro course and then a paid program, what would I learn from taking those courses?
The free intro course gives you a lot of valuable tips on getting started as a freelancer in general plus some tips on how to make money as a proofreader in the general sense. We even include a guide on setting up a website.
It will introduce you to the niche of transcript proofreading, teach you the many ways it's different from general proofreading, and test you a bit in your aptitude for this type of work. It's also designed to help you decide if further training is something you'd like to pursue.
The full (paid) course is designed to take you from “totally new to transcript proofreading” to polished professional transcript proofreader. It's broken up into three sections, and everyone starts with just the first two modules, called “Jumpstart.”
I found that plopping new students into a long, scary course all at once can be overwhelming, so now we lovingly force everyone to move slowly. It's helped tremendously! The full course includes the entire gamut of everything you'd possibly need to start up — including marketing and business setup.
Q. What's your favorite part(s) about proofreading?
Finding errors in text is like a treasure hunt for me.
I'm always eagerly waiting for the next one to just pop out. I love how tranquil the work is. I also love how mobile it is. I can truly proofread anywhere! The ability to take work with you on the road is priceless.
Q. You mentioned you can proofread anywhere, what has this work enabled you to do that you don't think a typical 9-to-5 would've?
What proofreading allows me to do that a regular 9-to-5 wouldn't is be in charge. If I need to head to the grocery store at 1pm, I can. If I need a nap at 3pm, I can take one. For moms, if they need to pick up their kid(s) from school early due to some emergency, they can.
There is no need to request time off; you just take it.
The autonomy is really the best part. You have far fewer limits in when and where you can work. A lot of folks do their best work early in the morning or late at night — but your average 9-to-5 job would never allow you to set your own schedule like that.
Q. Any last tips for someone who is thinking about being a proofreader or is already a proofreader but wants to do more?
Definitely check out the free intro course if you think you'd be a good fit for the work — we're not interested in enrolling just any Joe Schmo off the street though, so we put a lot of effort into deterring people who are not a good fit, but if you're a word lover and want to expand your skills to earn money in other niches, it's definitely worth checking out. The earning potential in transcript proofreading is much better than in general proofreading, and because it's more technical and requires a lot of skill, the competition isn't nearly as steep. That's because the work's more difficult, so not everyone can do it — but that's very good news for those who really love it!
My favorite is this one about Kimberly. She's a stay home mom of four, her husband is a graduate student, and used the course to start proofreading a few hours a week to earn $400 a month. Not everyone wants to quit their job!
Proofread Anywhere Free 7-Day Intro Course
If you're interested in earning extra income as a proofreader, you need to take a look at her free 7-day intro course. It's probably one of the most honest free courses I've seen because not only does it give you a ton of knowledge and value but it'll also show you if this might not be the right career for you. Most people want to sell you something no matter what, Caitlin's course will only do it if it makes sense. You can find out in just 7 days with no commitment.
What else is included:
- Test your proofreading prowess with the trickiest grammar quiz ever!
- The 3 biggest mistakes freelancers make that could be stunting your potential
- Tried-and-true solutions to fix each mistake
- My top 7 marketing strategies to spike your earnings as a proofreader
- We’ll talk MONEY and how even newbies can get that first client
- The opportunity to ask me any questions you want about the course content
- The most common errors “mediocre” proofreaders miss every day!
- LOADS of freebies, including videos, printable content, motivating success stories and more —all designed to help proofreaders get focused and start earning more money.