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Freelance proofreading is quickly becoming one of the most talked about jobs for anyone who wants to work at home or have a side hustle.
I used to be a freelancer myself (writer, Virtual Assistant, etc.) so I know what it’s like to be in the situation where I need to make money to pay my bills while I’m building my blogging business. Can you relate?
Today I've got Caitlin Pyle, a freelance proofreader and creator of Proofread Anywhere, on the blog today and she's giving us all the secrets to getting started and how much money you can expect to make.
When Caitlin began working in proofreading, she quickly became known as "Eagle Eyes" because she was so good! She's used her talents and success to create an awesome proofreading course you can take online so you can get started in freelance proofreading too.
I had a lot of questions for Caitlin and she was kind enough to spill all of her secrets. Check out our Q&A session below.
What is a proofreader? What does a proofreader do?
A proofreader is someone who spots stray errors in any kind of text. Often confused with an editor, a proofreader only points out and/or corrects the errors in the text as-is. An editor actually edits... changes sentence structure, fixes grammar, etc.
How did you get started as a proofreader? What do you love about your job?
I actually started while I was living abroad in Germany back in 2007. I proofread website text and dissertations written by non-native English speakers.
Then, in 2009, I started working at a court reporting agency as a receptionist. It caught on quickly that I was really skilled with the written word, and before I knew it, the transcript team had recruited me to work with the reporters and proofreaders who freelanced with our agency.
What I love about proofreading is how flexible it is -- I just need my iPad and email. There are no ringing phones, coworkers to interrupt me, or constant deadlines. Most jobs have a two-day turnaround, so I can work it in on my own schedule.
How do I know if proofreading is the right job for me?
You have to have the "eagle eye" -- errors jump out at you; you're always the person people come to with their writing to check it for those pesky stray errors. Most people who have the eagle eye know they have it.
Any kind of freelance job, too, takes work to build. If the idea of using your brain and learned skills and hard work to build something worthwhile gets you pumped up, that's also a good sign. If you'd rather someone just hand you every opportunity instead of taking action, freelancing probably isn't a good fit for you.
Are there enough proofreading job opportunities out there?
Definitely. As long as there is printed word -- which will be forever and always -- there will be a need for proofreaders.
My course focuses on the specific niche of proofreading for court reporters; however, many students have been able to apply their skills for proofreading of all kinds of texts, including eBooks, blog posts, and grad school dissertations.
Excellent writing makes the best first impression in the business world -- especially online -- so people with eagle eyes that can provide assistance in this area will always be in demand.
Let’s talk about proofreading rates.What kind of income could be earned working as a proofreader?
General proofreading is much more competitive, so the earnings are lower than proofreading for a niche like court reporters -- usually $5 per 500-1000 words of whatever kind of text, whether it's online or hard copy. General proofreading, however, is easier to get into. So it's a give and take.
Transcript proofreaders, like me, earn between $0.30 and $0.45 per page on a two-day turnaround transcript, and if you read 40 pages per hour at even the lowest page rate of $0.30, you'd earn $12 per hour. $0.30 per page is VERY low, though. The average is $0.40 per page these days, so those same 40 pages per hour would earn you $16 per hour.
Beginners generally start out at 40 pages per hour. Speed can and does improve over time, but it's recommended to go sloooooowly while you are learning the ropes. One wrong move could cost you a client and your reputation in the court reporting world, so knowing what you're doing and doing it with excellence is non-negotiable.
Page rates can go up depending on how quick of a turn around the client requires. My rush rate is $0.65 per page; on a 100-page job that I'd likely be able to proofread in about two-and-a-half hours, I'd earn $26 per hour. Not bad at all!
What kind of expenses should I worry about to become a proofreader?
For general proofreading, not too much. For transcript proofreading, you DO need training unless you feel like making a fool of yourself :-)
Training isn't cheap, but I've never met anyone who said it wasn't worth it -- there are a lot of intricacies and details to learn in this niche that aren't an issue in traditional proofreading. A good reference text (usually less than $60 a pop) is also a worthwhile investment and something you'll use a lot.
As for general overhead expenses, a good cloud accounting software, like FreshBooks, is recommended, and that could either be free or about $200 per year, depending on how many clients you invoice with the software. This is one recurring charge I gladly pay: it helps me keep my expenses and income super organized.
I also use an iPad mini plus a $10 app to do my proofreading work.
Like FreshBooks, these are totally tax-deductible business expenses, and they're one-time investments as well. I'm not a big fan of paying recurring fees for services/software unless I really have to.
How do I get started in proofreading? How do I become a freelancer without a degree?
There are no official certifications for transcript proofreaders.
If you're just interested in seeing if proofreading for court reporters would be a good fit for you, I'd recommend checking out my free training -- you'll dive a little deeper into the world of proofreading, meet some other proofreaders, and learn more about what it takes to build a business as a proofreader.
After that, if you choose to pursue a career or side hustle as a freelance proofreader, consider enrolling in my intensive training program, Transcript Proofreading: Theory and Practice™. The marketing module alone is worth its weight in gold.
Do you have any tips for someone who wants to proofread?
Caitlin has a FREE 76-minute workshop, where she’ll teach you:
What a successful proofreader does (and doesn't do!)
How to elevate your skills to become a GREAT proofreader
How to use one of the most popular proofreading tools out there... and learn a few places to find clients!
More about the proofreading profession
What does a Day in the Life of a Freelance Proofreader look like?
Ever wonder what a typical day for a freelance proofreader looks like? Vanessa Macaspac, a graduate of Caitlin Pyle’s online proofreading course, owns her own freelancing business in Los Angeles. I asked her what a Day in the Life might look like and she had some awesome info to share here.
Who is Caitlin Pyle?
(Hi, this is Allison again!) Caitlin Pyle is a former freelance proofreader who lives in Florida. That was her primary income ($40,000+ per year!) -- until she realized that she was just as good at teaching proofreading as she was at actually doing the proofreading itself (so… pretty darn good!).
After some encouragement from her husband, Ben, she created an online transcript proofreading course which now has hundreds of graduates, and almost all of them have incredible success stories.
Caitlin and Proofread Anywhere have been featured in everything from Business Insider to Forbes to other online blogs like The Penny Hoarder.
Does Caitlin have any Proofread Anywhere reviews?
Yes, she does!
Let me tell you the story of Alicia, who made $1,100 the first month after she graduated from one of Caitlin’s proofreading courses -- even while she was still working full-time at her retail banking job!
She’s got a degree in accounting (NOT English!) and uses her daily work commute to proofread and earn extra money.
It took her only three weeks to find her first client. Here’s what Alicia had to say.
“I got a rush job that a client needed back in two hours from my phone… I was so excited that I forgot that I had a massage appointment in two hours (an anniversary present from my husband)!
The job was a little technical, and I was nervous. I spent a lot of time looking up medical terms, but I used what I had learned and got it in just in time.
After my massage I sat in my car and read the emails she sent me. She was thrilled with my work and asked me if she could send all her work to me. Of course, I said yes.”
Alicia made $1,100 her first month -- using time that was usually wasted on a railway commute -- while still working a full-time job. And did I mention she has two kids?! With some hard work and effort, you can make real money with just a few clients too.
As Alicia confirmed, it is not easy at first. Not everyone is cut out for it. But I think you are.
Do you want to start living a more financially free life? Want to be able to take your family to the Grand Canyon like Alicia? (That was what her proofreading money was going toward!)