Money, money, money… MONEY!
Who else read that sentence to the tune of a popular ’70s song? Let me know in the comments!
Unlike the lyrics of that song, most people want to earn more money so they can do really good things with it.
Like contribute to their family’s income…
Stay home with their kids…
Go to grad school…
Travel the world…
We’ve all got reasons why we want to increase our income — reasons that are very important to us. But sometimes it’s hard to find a way to earn some extra money that doesn’t make you want to poke your eyes out. So when you hit on a way to make that extra money doing something you love, it’s super exciting!
When Darcy ran across the idea of proofreading as a way to contribute to her family’s income, she thought, “This is the job for me!” Fast forward two years, and she’s killing it as a proofreader and scopist.
Take it away, Darcy!
(P.S. — Don’t know what song I was talking about? It was “For the Love of Money” by The O’Jays.)
Q: Hi, Darcy! Tell us a little about your background. What did your life look like before you crossed paths with PA?
I grew up in Maryland and got married in January of 2015. My husband got a job down in South Carolina, so I quit my job working for TSA at Washington-Dulles International Airport, and we moved in late May/early June of the same year. I could have transferred to another airport, but we had already planned a vacation later that summer that we would have had to cancel, due to my having to use too much of my paid vacation time to move and unpack.
During the summer a year or so later, I was looking for legitimate work-from-home jobs, as we were planning on starting a family soon, and I wanted to be able to contribute financially to the household as well as stay home with any children. I also wanted to go to graduate school for my master’s degree, and I thought proofreading would be a good way to pay for it.
Q: Proofreading is a great way to bring extra money in — no matter what you plan to use it for! When did you start proofreading, and what made you decide to learn how to proofread?
I’ve always been an avid reader and pretty detail-oriented, and I have an associate’s degree in English literature, as well as a bachelor’s degree in applied linguistics. I saw Proofread Anywhere in a list of work-from-home opportunities, and I thought, “This is the job for me.” I finished the course in December of 2016, got my business set up by the day my daughter was born near the beginning of January 2017, and got my first client around April 2017.
Q: What was the most challenging part of getting started?
Overcoming my trepidation at contacting people I’d never met before was pretty difficult; however, the most challenging part was the imposter syndrome. Up until I started working with my first regular client (my second client overall), I had a lot of irrational doubts.
Q: It’s totally normal to suffer from self-doubt when you’re starting something new! The more experience you get, the more confident you’ll feel though. What was the most valuable thing you learned during the course?
How to market myself professionally — and not only get clients but also keep them.
Q: That’s a super important distinction! Getting clients is awesome, but if you don’t do a professional job, they won’t stick around long. How long did it take you to find your first client? And how many clients do you have now?
After a couple of months of sporadic marketing (sending emails while breastfeeding, basically), I had a nibble: A court reporter in the Georgia county that abuts the South Carolina county that I live in sent me an eleven-page transcript to proofread. After that, it was just a matter of getting more clients.
I’m not sure how to answer the question of how many clients I have now, but I’ll say that I have done one-offs for clients, and I have a few regular clients as well. For proofreading alone (I’ve since branched out into scoping), I have about three to five regular clients. I have two or three scoping-only clients, and I converted two or three of my regular proofreading clients into proofreading/scoping clients.
Q: Mo’ skills = mo’ money! How long did it take you to recoup the cost of the course?
Longer than it would have if I wasn’t also trying to go to graduate school at the same time as building up a business. The timing for that was way off, but within a year at most, I would say, I had recouped the cost.
Q: What advice would you give anyone thinking about enrolling in the course to learn how to proofread? Is it worth the money?
Even if you think you know everything about proofreading, it helps to have a course tailored to your preferred proofreading niche. And the marketing information is a great resource too.
As for advice? Create separate bank accounts for your business, so as to avoid confusion at tax time. Also, have a plan, before you start marketing, for how you are going to use the money you make. I suggest putting 1/3 of all income into a business savings account for tax purposes (and maybe health insurance, if necessary), keeping 1/3 in a business checking account for business expenses and growth (like if you want to learn a new skill or need a new desk chair or something), and then writing yourself a check (an owner’s draft) for the other 1/3 and depositing that into a personal account to “pay” yourself. But that’s just my suggestion; you might have a better idea. As long as you have a plan, it’s all good. That plan will prevent you from overspending in one area or the other.
Q: Thanks for sharing those awesome business tips, Darcy! What does your life look like now as a working freelance proofreader?
Saturday through Monday, my daughter is home with me, and I work at nap time (about 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.) and after bedtime (about 7:30 p.m.) for an hour or two. Tuesday through Friday, she is in daycare, and I work from the time I get home after dropping her off (and running any errands/going to appointments I might have) until about 4:00 p.m. Then I work after bedtime too. Or rather, those are the times I have set aside for work. It all depends on if I have work to do at that point.
When I’m not working, my husband and I take our daughter to places like the zoo, the local splash pad, or story time at a local branch of a chain bookstore. I can also proofread when we go on trips, though I limit my working hours while I’m on vacation since my daughter is there pretty much all the time.
Scoping on vacation is more difficult. I do have a laptop computer, but it is set up — with various peripherals and cords — on a cart at home. Packing it up for travel is time-consuming and tedious. So when I go on vacation, I let all of my clients know that I will have limited availability for proofreading, but scoping will be out until I get back.
Q: Anything else you’d like to share with the PA community?
This is the most fun at work I’ve ever had. It’s truly awesome to be able to take only the work I can handle and still contribute substantially to our household finances. (Or at least I will be once my business is at the level I want it to be at — I’m still ramping up from when I quit grad school in February 2019.)
Also, don’t be afraid of the lulls. Work will come; just trust that your clients haven’t forgotten you. And if you haven’t heard from them in a while, you can always send them what one of my fellow proofreaders calls a “calendar email.”
Since February, I have made over $1,000 per month. And that number is getting closer to where I want it to be weekly. I would like to make at least $30,000 per year, which is doable but means either proofreading or scoping for at least twenty-nine hours per week at my average or ideal speeds.
Darcy shared some supersmart business tips with us. And I love that she shared how she fits proofreading into her life. Sometimes it’s not easy when you have other commitments like a family or a full-time job, but where there’s a will, there’s a way!
If you’re looking for a way to bring in some extra money to contribute to your family’s income or fund something important in your life, check out our free 7-day intro course to see how proofreading could be just the thing you’re looking for.