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How Ann Went from Fear of Failure to Fully Booked

Many of us spend too much time worrying about what will happen if we don’t get any proofreading clients. 

So much so that we don’t even try to get any clients!

How crazy is that?! It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

If we actually just tried to reach out to some people to see how we could help them and let them know about our services, eventually we would be successful. 

That’s what Ann did. Her fear of failure stopped her from trying to get proofreading clients. She finally decided to give her business a year and started trying to get clients. Now she’s fully booked!

Keep reading to hear more about Ann’s story! 

Q: Hi, Ann! Tell us a little about your background. What did your life look like before you crossed paths with PA?

Kick fear of failure to the curb and become a fully booked freelancer

Before PA, I had been a political science major and then jumped into teaching high school social studies. Then I got married and became a mom to a special needs child. Soon after, we adopted a special needs child and I wanted to bring in some income, but I couldn’t take a traditional job with everything else going on. I saw Proofread Anywhere and thought that was right up my alley; I could definitely take those skills and turn them into something. 

Q: Proofreading can definitely be a flexible side hustle for moms. When did you start proofreading, and what made you decide to learn how to proofread?

I started proofreading in elementary school. Grammar and spelling and punctuation and words and writing—all of it—has always come easily to me. I probably started that young and then it just was something I always did: proofread papers. 

Q: What was the most challenging part of getting started?

Getting over the scarcity mindset. I knew what I wanted to focus on (what I wanted as my niche) but felt like the market was saturated and I didn’t know how to find clients. I actually wasted a whole year on fear. 

I started the course in January 2018, had to pause briefly, and finished in August 2018. Then I spent until December 31, 2019 just paralyzed by the fear of failure. I finally decided I needed to at least TRY and so I built a very basic website and pushed publish on New Year’s Eve. I told myself I’d try for a year, and if nothing happened, I’d pivot and try something else. 

Q: The only way to really fail is to not even try! What was the most valuable thing you learned during the course?

That the market isn’t saturated. You just have to find the clients that you would best serve. And to really love those clients because it shows through your communication (even just over email) and your final product for them. Repeat clients are invaluable. 

Q: How long did it take you to find your first client? And how many clients do you have now?

Because I stalled for so long, I got my first client in February 2020. I had five more lined up right as COVID-19 shut everything down and my five all backed out. (Understandably because nobody knew how this would affect life for the immediate future.) In April, I started getting authors requesting services and I have been booked solid ever since

I take on about eight authors a month. I offer three services and so I fit them in based on what they need and how long their manuscripts are. I am not doing this full-time right now because my kids have to do virtual learning this school year, but maybe if things even out and they can go back, I can definitely up my workload. I turn down a lot of authors. 

Q: That’s awesome that you’re fully booked! How long did it take you to recoup the cost of the course?

Once I started getting clients, it took three clients to recoup the cost of the course. Because of COVID-19, this took three months instead of the month or so I had lined up. 

Q: What advice would you give anyone thinking about enrolling in the course to learn how to proofread? Is it worth the money?

I believe that courses are worth the money if you are willing to look at the big picture. It was great to have a refresher that was well-organized on how to proofread, what proofreading is versus editing, etc. It was also nice to have a really basic outline on marketing, how to set up a website, how to get your business up and running; things I had some idea about but wanted all my information in one place instead of from various sources. 

The course was $500. I have now made close to $5,000 this year (really in four and a half months), very-part-time, with minimal overhead. I call that a huge win. Definitely worth the investment. You can take these skills and apply them to all sorts of areas, even if you decide you don’t want to just proofread.  

Q: You’re killing it! What does your life look like now as a working freelance proofreader? 

BUSY! I’m blessed with lots of authors who refer me to their author friends, and repeat authors. I definitely have all the workload I can handle right now. Someday I’d like to scale and grow bigger (or even jump into social media management for indie authors) but this is good for the time being. 

It’s all about time management. Making sure you hit your deadlines and do quality work, keeping lines of communication open with clients, and being professional. I also believe in being willing to share the names of other proofreaders when I can’t take a client, and pass along some opportunities. 

Q: I love that! We’ve built a really great proofreading community with the Facebook groups. Anything else you’d like to share with the PA community?

If you’re looking to make a quick buck, this isn’t the place for you. There are a lot of work-from-home opportunities that are a better fit. 

This is a community that needs quality proofreaders—it’s a large community but people talk, so if you are going to do a poor job, we all hear about it. Be professional. If you’re willing to work hard and be a team player within the PA community, this is a great place to be! 

Our Take

I love that Ann overcame her fear of failure and became fully booked! One thing is for sure: If you don’t try to get clients, then chances are you never will. It takes some time and effort, but once you get that first client under your belt, there’s no stopping you! 

Your Turn

If you want to be a fully booked freelance proofreader like Ann, check out our free proofreading workshop to see how you can get started!

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  1. Ann,
    Your story is an inspiration to me. I'm just getting started and it is a bit overwhelming. I know I can be successful and it is people like you that keep me going.
    Thank you,

  2. Thank you for your candor! I, too, fear failure. That being said, I have decided to put that energy I use to fear into showing up. I know with time, patience, and hard work (and Oxford commas) I will break through.

  3. That’s awesome! I’d love to know what three services you offer / what type of manuscripts you work on. If these are full length novels, eight authors a month sounds more like full-time than part-time work. This is inspiring. Thanks for sharing!

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