Got an Eagle Eye? Work From Home and Make $17.50 an Hour as a Freelance Proofreader
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Sometimes, it takes getting fired from your day job to realize the perfect business is staring right at you.
That’s how it happened for Caitlin Pyle, the proofreading powerhouse behind ProofreadAnywhere.com. While working for a court reporting agency, Pyle proofread a transcript to help her boss, and she excelled. She was moved to the editing department, where she met a lot of court reporters — and started taking on a few on the side as proofreading clients.
Pyle wasn’t yet convinced proofreading was going to be her best source of income. She even spent nearly $6,000 to learn to become a personal trainer, and worked with high-profile clients for several years. But her eagle eye kept calling her back to proofreading. In 2012, she hung up her tennis shoes and devoted her career to proofreading — and teaching the trade to others.
What's your educational background? Were you a word nerd as a kid?
I was always the one people gave their essays to for proofreading. I wasn't all that great at writing them from scratch, but man, I could spot errors like a hawk, and had a real knack for making things sound good on paper. I got my bachelor's degree in communications at University of Central Florida in 2009.
What made you change your mind from personal training to proofreading?
I was proofreading for two court reporters from my old job before I went to school for personal training, and just kept that up on the side. After I finished personal training school, I thought I'd do proofreading to pay the bills while I got my bearings as a trainer.
[But] as that business grew, I quickly noticed I was able to make quite a bit more money per-hour proofreading transcripts than I was able to make as a trainer — and I didn't have to be anywhere at a certain time to do the work. I really liked being able to make money on my own terms, and loved the flexibility it provided. I eventually realized while fitness training was fun, it was economically inefficient.
How do you hustle to find clients and get your work done?
At the beginning, I did a lot of contract work with one court reporting agency. This agency still hands out my name. I do get referrals from current clients, too. With those two things combined, I really don't need to do much marketing of my own these days. The work tends to market itself: if you find potentially embarrassing errors in a transcript, those really market to your client: “See what I found? This is why you need me.”
Much of my hustle comes from being really focused and willing to prioritize and eliminate distractions to get the work done, and done well. That leads to really happy clients and more work for me.
It did take some time to build up stamina to read as much as I do. Not procrastinating plays a role, too. I never, ever “sit” on work. If I have work to do, I get it done as soon as possible. If I let it sit, it can pile up fast and I can get overwhelmed.
How much does a proofreader make?
I'd say the average rate per page is about $0.35. Most of my students in my course, Transcript Proofreading: Theory and Practice, begin at around 50 pages an hour with their first “real” jobs. We'll call that average — some students may read faster or slower. If the average student charges the average rate of $0.35 per page and reads at 50 pages an hour, that's $17.50 per hour. Not bad! What's cool is you're in control of your rate, and you can charge more for rush [work].
It's important to remember you are paid per page! So if you get distracted or procrastinate and drag out those 50 pages over several hours, it may seem like you're not making any money. I do a lot to stay focused: I plug in headphones and set a timer to time my speed, so I can ensure I stay on task and my bottom line isn't affected.
Have you ever been in a situation where you've had too much on your plate? How do you balance your workload?
Yep! I have indeed been in a situation where I've had too much work. My first step is to communicate with the client and tell them I am swamped. Usually they'll say, “OK, it's cool, no problem,” and let me know the latest I can get their work back to them and still be happy. Or they will find someone else, or ask me to refer them to someone else. Other times I simply say no.
I've learned that time is just as precious as money. Sometimes, I'll gladly turn down a job worth $50 or $60 just so I can have an afternoon to myself to watch Friends on Netflix. Or take a Friday off because I want to take the train downtown with my husband and eat French fries at a bar (true story!). Life is short, and I don't get to do it over, so I don't want to spend every minute working to earn money if I'll never get to spend any of it to do cool things or see new places.
I have also learned to tell new clients right up front that I'm a very busy proofreader, and give them my list of “smooth sailing” guidelines so they know how I work before they even send me the first job. If they want to look elsewhere, they can, but most don't — they know if I'm that busy, I must be good.
What are your business costs? Can you talk about some of the tools that have been worth paying for?
Anyone who feels they are cut out for proofreading transcripts and wants to start can get a beginner course for about $200 total. After that, you can choose to move on with the full training. There are very few costs aside from that. Most of my students make back their course investment — and even the investment in a new iPad — in the first few months of work after they complete the full course
As for what equipment is required, you can proofread without an iPad (I did so for almost a year!) but I 100% recommend using one. I use an iPad Mini 2. Switching from laptop proofreading to iPad was a game changer for my business because of the $10 app I downloaded, iAnnotate. It has so many crazy-amazing tools that made my work so much faster and efficient than proofreading on my laptop.
My other optional, yet for me essential, expense is FreshBooks cloud accounting. I've been using it for over two years now. It costs me over $200 a year, but I am so organized! Invoicing and billing is so easy. I can't believe I used to write invoices manually on Excel. Never again!
Thanks to Caitlin Pyle for sharing her expertise and advice!
Your Turn: Does proofreading sound like the job for you?
Sponsorship Disclosure: A huge thanks to Caitlin for working with us to bring you this content. It's rare that we have the opportunity to share something so awesome and get paid for it!