Imagine taking a two-month-long trip to Bali or Paris and being able to take your work with you. What if you could use your word skills to earn a living without relying on freelance writing gigs or teaching English abroad for $8 per hour? What if, like Valerie, you could replace your entire income with location-independent work?
And what if you could do it using something you already have a knack for?
If you’re a word nerd, like me, you can learn to use your word skills to earn money like me, too. And you can do it without becoming a writer or an English teacher.
The three career options I’m about to share with you — one of which I’ll bet you’ve never heard of! — all have four things in common. I call it the “genius” criteria. They are…
- Location-independent, meaning you can do it from anywhere in the world.
- Profitable — as in, actually worth your time!
- Require actual skills (read: not mind-numbing!)
- In industries with repeat clients, so you don’t have to market constantly.
These three career options for people who excel in English, specifically reading and spelling. They do require some specialized training — which takes nowhere near as long as a college degree — and you can learn it all online.
I’ve been blogging about these careers since 2014. Every day, I receive emails from language lovers and self-described “Grammar Nazis” who are itching to learn how to earn money doing what comes so naturally to them: reading, correcting errors, and unraveling tricky, grammar-related problems.
What if I don’t have an English degree?
Really! You do not need an English degree to succeed.
Now, there’s a caveat to that. Just because you don’t need an expensive four-year degree doesn’t mean you know it all.
The three careers outlined in this guide are specialized and as such, they require skills — skills you may not yet possess.
Learning something new shouldn’t scare you if you have a “growth” mindset and know you’re capable of adding new skills. In fact, you may be even more excited at the challenge of mastering a new skill, especially if that skill can benefit you financially.
But let’s face it: Some folks don’t have the growth mindset and will likely sulk away from this post and back to a job — or life! — they hate. Others are lazy and will foolishly try to jump in without the necessary know-how. These folks will land in hot, hot water!
If you’re not afraid of growing as a professional, and you’re willing to put in hard work to learn new skills, keep reading.
What if I do have an English degree?
Having a degree in English is great! It may help you some. It’ll certainly make it easier to get started. But unless your English degree program taught you exactly how to do the following three skills, it’s not enough. You have to admit to yourself that you don’t know what you’re doing yet… and that’s okay! You’re not stuck with what you’ve got. New skills can be added. Our brains are wired for it.
Ready to dig in? Let’s go!
Word Lover’s Career Option #1: Transcript Proofreading
This is where it all began for me, and it’s still the nearest and dearest to my heart! I began proofreading transcripts for court reporters in 2009. Before then, I had no idea this type of work even existed. I didn’t even know what a deposition was.
Transcript proofreading is great as either a stand-alone career or paired with other word-related careers. Many proofreaders eventually branch out by adding other related skills.
A lot of work goes into building a proofreading business in this niche — and a lot of learning, too.
Proofreading spoken word isn’t the same as proofreading a term paper or your company’s marketing materials. In fact, grammar doesn’t matter as much as punctuation in transcript proofreading, and this can unnerve some people who consider themselves good at proofreading. It’s unnerving because this type of proofreading isn’t about just spotting errors — it’s also about fully understanding the mechanics of a transcript and how a court reporter’s job works. But with some practice, word nerds who can make that mental switch will have a lot of fun making the spoken word readable.
“I’m intrigued! What’s next?” Enroll in our free 7-day intro course to learn more about proofreading for profit — whether or not breaking into the niche of court reporting is in the cards for you.
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Word Lover’s Career Option #2: Transcription
Not to be confused with medical transcription, general transcription has a myriad of uses. I even hire my own transcriptionists for my blog posts. It’s not just me taking advantage of these talented super typists. In fact, transcription authority blogger Janet Shaughnessy writes a blog series titled People Who Use Transcriptionists where she profiles the vast array of businesses who hire general transcriptionists to grow their businesses. From bloggers like me to best-selling authors — and even super fun ones like toy store owners! — the need for quality transcription is everywhere.
A skilled transcriptionist offers high value to these clients and can command top pay — earning an average of $45,000 a year. Transcription is more than just typing work: you actually need to know more than typing to truly make a good living. Things like punctuation, software skills, networking, even bits and pieces of virtual assistance knowledge like how to prepare a PDF of show notes for a podcaster is essential to succeeding as a transcriptionist.
Transcription is tough.
It seems easy because on the outside, it looks like just typing, but it’s so much more than that. You won’t make much money from the cursory “education” of a $3 eBook you found on Amazon. Yes, you may be able to get a couple of low-paying gigs without real hands-on training, but you’ll likely find it frustratingly difficult to make your efforts financially worth it. Most importantly, you’ll find it next to impossible to get work from higher paying clients. These clients need someone who actually knows their stuff. You’re there to make your clients’ lives easier. Higher paying clients are 99% of the time not going to have time to help you along, teach you the ropes, or give you extra time to finish work so you can build your speed. They want it all up front — accuracy, speed, and excellent service.
peaked piqued my interest! What next?” Enroll in Janet’s free mini-course to learn more about what it takes to become an excellent, well-paid general transcriptionist.
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BONUS OPTION: Combine Options 1 and 2, and you’ve got a firm foundation for legal transcription, another in-demand career choice for word nerds. Janet teaches a second, even further specialized course in legal transcription. Legal transcriptionists can work with court reporters, but there are many other branches of the legal world in which legal transcriptionists are also hired. Find out more with Janet’s free 4-day mini course in legal transcription.
Word Lover’s Career Option #3: Scoping
At this point, you might be thinking, “Caitlin, ‘scoping’ isn’t even in the dictionary! Are you just making this stuff up?”
Well, you’re right about that: it’s not in the dictionary … yet! But scoping is a lucrative, location-independent career option for word lovers and has been “a thing” for about 50 years. This is the one I’m guessing you’ve never heard of!
What’s a scopist?
A scopist is an editor for court reporters; it’s the step before the transcript gets to proofreaders. The two work hand in hand. Think of a scopist working with the rough draft and a proofreader working with the more polished, almost-final draft. Both professionals work alongside a court reporter.
A scopist doesn’t replace a proofreader, and a proofreader doesn’t replace a scopist — they are complementary skill sets. Just like editing a book is different than proofreading it, scoping a transcript is different from proofreading.
The scopist takes the court reporter’s transcript and deciphers untranslated notes (steno), researches spellings, punctuates, adds paragraphs, fixes formatting issues, marks anything the reporter needs to check, and creates as close to a final document as possible in time to meet the reporter’s deadline. Many reporters ask the scopist to listen to the full audio recording as they edit the file. Others may want just a spot-check whenever something doesn’t read quite right.
What does a scopist earn?
This is likely the highest paid of the three options outlined in this guide. That’s because a scopist’s job saves a court reporter so much time. Many reporters feel editing their transcripts is even more difficult than writing it down on their steno writing machines. Hiring a scopist allows a court reporter to make more money. The scopist frees them up and allows them to take on more work by appearing at more depositions, trials, and other legal proceedings. Skilled scopists are in very high demand by the court reporting industry.
But how do you even learn a skill that’s not even in the dictionary? (Get on that, Merriam-Webster!) Well, Linda Evenson is a scopist with 35 years of experience. She is the creator and chief instructor of the premier online scoping course, Internet Scoping School. Her thorough course includes all the training and tools necessary to launch a successful scoping business.
Waiting with bated breath? Here’s what’s next.
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What is scoping? Is it for you?
Enroll in our free intro course to discover more about scoping and learn whether Internet Scoping School is a good fit for you.
Wait… is some kind of degree or prior experience required?
All of these jobs are ideal for word lovers and language nerds, and they do not require a degree or prior experience.
FACT: It’s not a college degree that helps you create income; it’s skills plus the willingness to work hard to learn new ones when necessary.
That doesn’t mean proofreading, transcribing, and scoping are easy jobs or that they don’t require proper training, but it does mean that the proper training doesn’t take four years and thousands of dollars. Whew! So if you’re willing to put in the work to learn these skills, you can build your dream career.
Are you currently using your word skills to earn income? Which of these three career options have you heard of before? Are any of them new to you? What’s your next step to create your dream life? Leave a comment below!