Why not get paid for what you already love to do for free?
Today, I have an amazing interview to share with you that will show you how to make money proofreading by becoming a freelance proofreader. I recently had the chance to interview Caitlin Pyle, the blogger behind Proofread Anywhere (not to be confused with Transcribe Anywhere) – who explains how this may be a possibility for you.
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- Best 5 Legit Work from home jobs for Stay at Home Moms (& Dads)
How did you get started as a court transcript proofreader?
I have been proofreading all kinds of text since 2007, but I got into transcript proofreading in 2009.
My first job after graduating college was as a receptionist at a court reporting agency in town. I quickly moved up the ranks into transcript production, which is where I learned the ins and outs of transcript format and the common mistakes that can be found in transcripts.
At the agency, we required the freelance reporters that contracted with us to not only have every job proofread, but they also had to upload their proofreader’s corrections as proof they had it done.
We were very strict! Yet even when the reporter had the job proofread, we still found tons of errors at the office!
Excellent proofreaders were very hard to find back then. I worked for the office until the summer of 2011. We parted ways, and I went to personal training school. I had a few proofreading clients on the side, but had no idea I could make an entire freelance business out of proofreading.
One day the following summer, one of my clients suggested I email her manager who was looking for quality assurance proofreaders. From that email, my career as a proofreader catapulted.
What is a court reporter, and why proofread specifically for them?
Court reporters use digital stenography machines in combination with computer-aided transcription software to write verbatim records of various legal proceedings. They report depositions, trials, hearings, arbitrations, case management conferences, compulsory medical examinations, examinations under oath, and pretty much any other type of legal proceeding. Because of the sensitive nature of legal proceedings, it’s imperative that as many errors as possible be eliminated from transcripts — an especially major error could ruin an entire trial!
Many people ask why reporters use court transcript proofreaders instead of just using spell check or grammar check.
Thing is, they do, but it’s not enough.
See, they could use the proper spelling of the word, but it could be the wrong word altogether! An example is “affect” and “effect” or “principal” and “principle.” Spell check may pick that up on occasion, but often the basic spell check within court reporting software would not detect this.
For the accuracy required in transcripts, the human brain is irreplaceable both for court reporters and proofreaders. Court reporters who use freelance proofreaders — good proofreaders, that is — know how valuable that extra set of eyes is to the quality of their product. Reporters don’t get paid for the time they spend proofreading their work, either, so outsourcing it to a proofreader saves them time — time they could use to take more jobs.
A fresh set of eyes will 99% of the time catch more errors than the same eyes who saw the text from start to finish, too. An excellent proofreader is a huge asset to a court reporter — especially a court reporter who wants to make more money.
What kind of money can be made as a proofreader for court reporters?
Keep in mind, I had been proofreading for three years before I even had the slightest clue I could make real money doing this. So I had plenty of practice by the time I signed on as a contractor with an agency and as a result, my numbers grew faster than they would’ve if I’d been starting from scratch.
My first month working for the agency (August 2012), I made $1,300.
By December, my name had traveled to enough reporters that I was earning $4,000+ per month — full-time income, and double what I was making working at the agency after college. I had unintentionally stumbled across a great freelance career, and it eventually replaced my various personal training gigs.
I earned more than $40,000 per year in 2013 and in 2014 from proofreading transcripts alone.
In that time, I trained several people one-on-one to do this type of work as well, and late 2014 I launched my blog, Proofread Anywhere, which offers lots of free blog content in addition to intensive training on exactly how to proofread transcripts and grow a side business — or full-time business — as a proofreader.
Most students have reported earning between $500 – $1000 in their first two months after their training, but a good number have made quite a bit more than that.
The record is $3,200 in the first month. That’s not as common, but it’s possible. It really takes time to build a freelance business and market it, no matter what industry you want to break into.
A little more on pay: court reporters are paid per page, and proofreaders generally earn about 10% of the court reporter’s page rate — the average pay rate is $0.35 per page.
Now, that might sound like pocket change, but transcript pages are double-spaced and much less dense than a book page, so the time it takes to proofread each page is dramatically reduced in comparison to a textbook. If you proofread 30 pages per hour, at $0.35/page that’s $10.50 per hour.
Your speed does increase as you get better at the work, and the software you use to do the work also helps a lot with becoming quick and efficient. So if your speed increases to 45 pages an hour, $15.75 would be your hourly rate. If you increased your rate to $0.40 as you get more experience, those same 45 pages would earn you $18 in an hour.
Once my business grew, my rate was $0.45 per page for regular turnaround, and if it was a rush job with fast turnaround, I charged $0.65 per page.
It takes time to make money proofreading and to build speed without sacrificing accuracy, so I always caution students not to aim for what I earn right away — it took me quite a while to get there!
Can you also make money freelance proofreading for others?
Actually, many of my students have been offered opportunities to proofread for blogs, law firms, and even for authors. The pay is not generally anywhere near as good for other types of proofreading, but when you’re side-hustling and trying to pay off debt, every little bit can help.
Blogs are actually a great submarket for freelance proofreaders. I’ve even hired several of my own students to help me proofread my blog content! Well-written, error-free blog posts pack a heavier punch for readers on the hunt for useful content, whereas blogs riddled with errors may give readers the impression you don’t take your time putting it together.
Proofreaders can really help polish blog content and make it shine.
Can anyone make money proofreading?
Big, fat no, actually
Having an eagle eye for detail is critical, and not everyone has it. If you frequently need to use spell check to find errors and find yourself eternally confused with punctuation, it’s likely not a natural skill for you and proofreading wouldn’t be a good fit. However, those whose eyes are drawn immediately to errors in text, love punctuation and spelling, and overall enjoy reading would be a much better fit for this type of work. It’s not easy, though, so even if you do have that “eye,” it’s no guarantee you’ll make money proofreading.
You have to be motivated and committed to learning. If you go into learning this expecting other people to do it for you, you’ll be disappointed.
The students who succeed are not only excellent at proofreading; they are positive, persistent people who are committed to what they’re trying to build and don’t give up when it gets tough. And as with any sort of business, it WILL get tough… but it’s worth it.
Why do you need training to do this type of work?
The quickest way to get your name tarnished in the world of court reporting is by trying to jump in without having a clue what you’re doing.
Court reporters can spot incompetence from a mile away. Even if you do know exactly what you’re doing, if you haven’t learned how to communicate effectively with your target market, you’ll still risk coming off like a rookie, and you could blow your chances very quickly. I’ve received emails from people who are English majors and are ultra-confident they already know what it takes but “just need to learn how to market.”
Thing is, proofreading transcripts is so much different than proofreading a paper or a blog post.
Transcripts are all spoken word, so the grammar can’t just be fixed; the words can’t be rearranged if it sounds weird. As a transcript proofreader, you need to understand that, plus understand exactly what a court reporter goes through, how they do their job, exactly what kinds of errors you need to find, be knowledgeable in legal terminology, and know how to provide excellent service for your clients.
That’s why I created Transcript Proofreading: Theory and Practice™ — so you can learn how to do the work and how to get the work.
What if you’re not sure proofreading is a good fit?
You won’t learn how to do the work or how to get the work in the free intro, but you will learn more about my work as a transcript proofreader, meet current and former students, and have an opportunity to ask any questions to determine if it’s a good fit. We’ve even got a few quizzes to help you gauge your eagle eye ability
What specific steps does a person need to take in order to make money proofreading?
Step one is learning. You’ll be on this step for a while
On average, it takes about 2-4 months to learn how to do the work properly. It’s serious business working in the legal world, so shortcuts aren’t recommended when it comes to education.
The training takes you step by step through learning the industry, the necessary punctuation rules, over 3,000 practice pages, setting up a business, and lastly, an enormous module on marketing. A lot of people want to know how to market before they even know how to do the work, but we save marketing skills for last because it can actually be very overwhelming to learn how to get work before knowing how to do it. Once you learn how to do the work (and do it well!), your confidence grows exponentially and you can start learning marketing knowing you have a marketable skill.
Once you do learn marketing, being persistent and thorough in your marketing efforts is critical, too. We give you all the tools to learn modern marketing techniques, but you have to understand them, implement them, and be consistent with them over time. Any business owner knows marketing is a consistent effort. Staying connected with other freelance proofreaders (and transcript proofreaders) is another great step to stay motivated and up to date on industry happenings.
How much does it cost to start this side hustle and how much on a monthly basis to maintain it?
Our 7-day intro course is totally free, and our program options start at $197. The full course is $897, which includes lifetime access, ongoing support, and lifetime membership in our student community on Facebook, where questions get answered in mere minutes.
Students tend to earn their investment back within a month or two after the training — we’re really proud to be able to say that!
Other than that, we do recommend using an iPad for the most efficient method of proofreading. Check out this link for details on exactly why we recommend an iPad.
Overhead costs are generally very low — there isn’t much by way of monthly expenses unless you pay for a specific accounting software or some kind of pay-as-you-go productivity app. There are free accounting options available, like ZohoBooks, and even free ways to create your own logo and website. There’s only a cost if you choose your own domain or use premium design tools.
Marketing doesn’t have to cost anything but time and only costs something if you choose to invest in business cards or something like a premium LinkedIn membership. Those can be a good investment if it helps you get more clients.
What do you love about being able to make money proofreading? What has it helped you do?
It’s so flexible and much more autonomous than an office job. Because I don’t have to be in an office and I only use email and an iPad, I can live and work anywhere there’s internet access.
My husband and I have been able to travel for a solid five months this year, and we have plans to travel for eight months of 2016, too. I’ve even been able to meet several students in my travels: two in New York City, and four in Ecuador, of all places.
Being an excellent transcript proofreader doesn’t require you to live in any particular place; it just requires you to turn around quality work that helps your clients shine.
That’s another one of my favorite parts — you get to play an integral role in producing excellent work. It can be a little scary for some people knowing they’re 100% responsible for the quality of their work, and if they screw up it could cost them, but for me, it pushes me to always be my best when I’m the one in charge!
Lastly, are there any other tips that you have for someone who wants to become a freelance proofreader?
Definitely take the free intro course first to see if it’s a good fit for you. It’s not for everyone. Don’t go into this thinking it’s going to be an overnight success or a quick-fix, get-rich-quick thing. It’s NOT. It takes lots of hard work and persistence.
If you choose to enroll in the training, make good use of the extensive support forum and our Facebook group instead of trying to do it all alone. There are so many helpful people there (including me) to answer any questions. Because we have students around the world, there’s usually someone there to answer your questions at any time of the day.
If this sounds like something you are interested in, you can check out Caitlin’s courses here.