We all have our reasons for wanting to start our own businesses.
Some people want to escape the soul-sucking 9:00 – 5:00 routine…
Some want to travel the world…
And others want to stay home with their kids…
Whatever your reason, it’s probably got a lot to do with wanting to spend time doing things that make you happy. Let’s face it, that 9:00 – 5:00 routine doesn’t tend to make many of us very happy!
Clara’s life goals have always been based on doing things that are meaningful to her. She wants to spend more time with her family, build a little house in the country, run a small homestead and farm stand, and write a book. She needed something that would help finance these goals and give her a way to put her perfectionist tendencies to good use. And she found it proofreading legal transcripts!
Keep reading to find out more about Clara’s story.
Q: Welcome to the blog, Clara! Tell us a little about your background. What did your life look like before you crossed paths with PA?
My life goals have always been centered around making it possible to spend more time doing the things that are meaningful to me. This has, of course, always involved an acceptance that transitional stepping stones toward that end might not always feel like a “meaningful” or “useful” way to spend my time, but it’s always been about moving forward toward that goal of living a purposeful life.
I graduated from college with a writing degree a semester early, in the winter of 2010, and I married my boyfriend of five years one month later. We moved into an apartment together, and I began my life in the post-college working world pouring coffee. I loved the social aspect of working at a coffee shop, but I eventually moved on to a higher-paying job at a bank, where I was able to use my writing and proofreading skills. I worked at the bank for several years writing procedural documents and proofreading newly created account data. It was a moderately enjoyable job, and I was contributing a lot to the team. But there was something in the 9:00 – 5:00 routine that just felt a little bit soul-sucking to me.
When we started a family four and a half years ago, I decided to leave the bank to stay home with my little girl. I didn’t look back once. We were blessed enough to be able to manage life on one income and to even set aside a little money every month for something that both my husband and I really wanted: to build a modest little house in the country.
Fast-forward to two years ago, Baby Number Two in my arms, concrete plans for the home-building project in the works, and I am struggling big-time with my health. There were very few answers; just some disconcerting blood work that couldn’t quite deny or confirm some major autoimmune issues bordering on disease. Always a problem-solver, I wasn’t about to wait around for things to get bad enough for a diagnosis and life on medication. I organized a complete overhaul of our family’s diet and began primarily purchasing and eating nutrient-dense foods. Within a few months, I lost twenty-five pounds and began to feel healthy again.
We had a problem, however. When you go from eating pasta three times a week to eating organic, pasture-raised meat and local produce, your grocery budget goes up. My husband’s income alone could no longer support my new healthy eating habits along with our house plans (which were turning out to be more expensive than we had originally thought). We considered our options: compromise on our diet (and my health), compromise on our house in the country (and stay, indefinitely, in our little apartment with two kids), compromise on my plan to stay home with the kids (and I would go find a job working for someone else), quickly write and publish a masterful work of art and sell ten thousand copies ASAP, or something else. Enter PA.
Q: I’m so glad you found a way to earn extra income without having to compromise on the life you want. When did you start proofreading, and what made you decide to learn how to proofread legal transcripts?
In June of 2017, I found the Transcript Proofreading course after my husband and I had spent some time researching ways that stay-at-home moms can earn an income. I started the course right away, graduated within a few months, and in December of 2017, I got my first client.
I decided to learn the skill of proofreading because it was a tangible way to earn an income using a skill I already knew I had, while still being able to create my own schedule, be with my kids, and make room for bigger and better dreams.
For example, I want to write a book. I want to have a small homestead at our new house, maybe a farm stand. And I want to have time to just hang out with my family and live life a little slower. Proofreading has been an amazing tool that I use a few hours a day (usually during pre-K, naptime, and in the wee hours of the morning before the kids wake up) to give me the freedom and peace of mind to be able to accomplish the other things in life that I want.
Q: I love a woman with goals, and I have no doubt you’ll achieve them! ? What was the most challenging part of getting started?
Guilt and self-doubt. For several months, just about every single day that my husband came home from work, I handed him the kids and dinner and hightailed it out of our apartment to the library or a coffee shop to study. I felt so guilty for not helping more with the kids. The laundry piled up. We ate a lot of Chipotle. He was really a champ throughout that time. Without his support, I wouldn’t have been able to get things up and running so quickly.
I also wondered pretty much every day whether this was going to turn out to be the most expensive and time-consuming mistake of my life (pushing “missed international flight in Europe” from its pedestal). I started out on this journey with a lot of self-doubt, and I was also very tired.
Q: I know lots of moms feel guilty about taking time away from their kids to study the course, but I think remembering why you’re doing that – because you want to spend more time with them – will ease the guilt and help you stay focused on achieving your end goal. What was the most valuable thing you learned during the course?
One of the biggest takeaways I had was to play the part you want to be. I can’t remember the exact wording Caitlin used, but it was something along the lines of “Fake it ’til you make it.” I’m pretty sure that, even for that very first client who ever reached out to me, I was all like, “One Mississippi… two Mississippi… three Mississippi… hello. Thanks for getting in touch! Yes, I should be able to fit that in this week among all my other high-profile, super-duper confidential transcripts I’m working on.”
Okay, maybe that’s not exactly what I said, but the point is I played the part. And, honestly, I felt the part. And that first client provided fantastic feedback! It turned out I WAS the part. At first, I’d felt like I was tricking someone into believing I was a proofreader, but the reality is I was ready; I was a proofreader.
I’ve also learned a lot about self-respect and boundaries, to set my own expectations high and, in turn, meet the high expectations clients had in terms of work quality and respect. I work Saturdays, but I don’t want to and never will work on Sundays. I’m very clear about my policies from the start, and it’s important to me to only encourage clients that are respectful of those policies. My rates and turnaround times are not negotiable. I spend a lot of time making sure the transcripts I send back have been meticulously swept clean. I have a high level of respect and appreciation for the clients that I work with, and I expect the same level of respect in return with regard to my rates and policies.
Q: You bet you’re the part! You spent time and effort learning how to proofread transcripts correctly. That already makes you way more legit than other people out there. ? How long did it take you to find your first client? And how many clients do you have now?
It took me a little over a month to get my first job. I sent my first invoice January 1st of 2018. You have no idea how satisfying the symmetry of that was to me, sending out my first invoice on the first day of the year.
I’ve worked for sixteen reporters total. I have three consistent regulars, two relatively new clients, and a few that pop in and out of my life here and there. I make it a point to keep my work part time. I’m very protective of my family time. And it’s more important for me to provide top-quality work for just a few clients than to get as much work as I can and burn out.
Q: How long did it take you to recoup the cost of the course?
Three months from my first invoice, five months from my first marketing attempt, and ten months from when I first laid eyes on Caitlin’s smiling face.
Q: What advice would you give anyone thinking about enrolling in the course to learn how to proofread? Is it worth the money?
Here’s the thing: You’re actually going to have to do the work. Caitlin shows you how to do that work, but you really have to put in the time and brainpower to make it happen. Caitlin’s not here to show you the money button. If you want to find a way to use your natural eye for detail to earn some income, it’s a very steady field. I have spent a minimal amount of time marketing. As someone that really doesn’t like being “salesy,” my biggest fear was that I’d have to beg and convince people to use my service. That was not, by any means, the experience I had. So if you’re serious about it, do it. If you’re willing to work hard for it, it will pay off.
Clara hard at work ?
Q: I couldn’t have put it better myself. There’s no magic money button; you have to do the work! What does your life look like now as a working freelance proofreader?
I would really love to say that I’m in my little library in my little house with the afterglow of a country sunset on my back and a glass of Bordeaux at my side, eating nutrient-dense, honey-sweetened, homemade cookies. The reality is that I’m actually still on one of those transitional stepping stones right now. We’re still in our apartment. There are boxes everywhere. My “office” is a small desk in the corner of our apartment bedroom.
It’s not perfect. But things are moving forward. Our little house in the country has been framed, and we expect to move in within a few months! We’re members of three different local CSAs; we eat fresh, healthy food every day; and we can afford it! We’re exactly where we need to be right now in our lives, and we haven’t had to compromise on things that are important to us. We have financial peace of mind, a tangible and steady source of income, and future plans that are attainable.
There’s still a big pile of laundry on our couch. And I’m not going to pretend there aren’t Chipotle leftovers in the fridge. It’s crazy. It’s sometimes stressful, but we’re in a beautiful transitional season, and things are happening! I have this course to thank for making it possible to be able to afford to stay healthy and to raise my kids how and where I want to.
Q: It sounds like you’re already well on your way to building the life of your dreams! Anything else you’d like to share with the PA community?
I bet most people who find themselves reading this and looking into proofreading would, like myself, probably identify as perfectionists. You notice errors, flaws, ways things can be improved. I mean, that’s exactly why you think you might make a good proofreader, right?
You are the driving force behind the many improvements that work toward making the world a better place. You see potential everywhere. The shadow side of that is that, if you are anything like me, you often notice the many ways in which you yourself are inadequate and need improvement. Sure, that can be helpful at times. It’s always good to be moving in a direction of improvement. But perfectionism, pointed inward, can also lead to a crippling habit of self-criticism. I encourage anyone who identifies with that to realize your mistakes are, as James Joyce once said, “portals of discovery.” And other people’s mistakes? Well, if you can learn to shift that critical eye from yourself and onto something constructive like proofreading, other people’s mistakes, my friend, are portals of income!
You said it, girl! Why use your perfectionism for self-criticism when you could use it for good and help improve other people’s content? Way to turn your perfectionism into profit!
Ready to use your perfectionism to help other people? Check out my free 7-day proofreading intro course to see how you can get started.