I get asked all the time if you can proofread court transcripts even if you don’t live in the US.
And my answer is always YES!
As long as you have a laptop or tablet and a reliable internet connection (and the skills to complete the job!), you can work anywhere as a transcript proofreader and make money proofreading online.
But don’t take my word for it; take my students’ words.
Here’s one student who’s making money proofreading online outside of the US! Rae is a Canadian who currently lives in Mexico, and she has NEVER met any of her clients face-to-face. Her location simply doesn’t matter because all communication and work can be completed online.
Keep reading to learn more about Rae’s story!
Q: Hi, Rae! Tell us a little about your background. What did your life look like before you crossed paths with PA?
Before crossing paths with PA, I was already a full-time, professional freelance transcriptionist and proofreader occasionally working in the legal field.
In late 2008, I quit the rat race after a short career in the Canadian civil service, bought an RV, and hit the open road. I quickly realized that I needed to find something I could do from home that would be portable. It took a few years, but I settled on transcription due to the low start-up costs and started doing that full-time in 2011. I had also been doing a little proofreading here and there for about twenty years and knew that was actually what I wanted to do, but I didn’t have the mental energy or budget to go back to school to get any sort of certification that would truly get me in the door in the proofreading field. Transcription clients cared more about my performance than my credentials, so that was just easier and less investment.
By late 2015, I knew that I had to get out of transcription as I was close to hitting the ceiling earnings-wise and was tired of not being treated like the professional I was. I happened to come across the Proofread Anywhere Transcript Proofreading course and knew it would be the perfect fit for me, but the time wasn’t right.
Fast forward to late 2018, I’d emigrated to Mexico, was staying put in one location for longer than six months for the first time in over a decade, and the transcription field was going through a lot of transition that resulted in rates going even lower. It was really time to get out. My tax advisor told me that the PA course qualified as a tax deduction for me and that I needed that deduction for my 2018 taxes, so it was time. The course took me a full year to complete because I wanted to get through all the practice transcripts without rushing.
Q: I’m glad the timing was finally right and you decided to take the leap! When did you start proofreading, and what made you decide to make money proofreading online?
I have been proofreading since I was a teenager — books, websites, marketing manuals, college papers, etc. I’ve always loved languages (I speak three, and English is actually the second I learned!). I’ve always been a reader and a writer. University taught me CMOS and AP. Legal transcription introduced me to the styles and resources used in that industry. So I never really made a decision to learn how to proofread; it’s always been something I dabbled in and knew I wanted to do full-time. PA just gave me a certificate that gave me the resources to reach clients I couldn’t find before.
Q: Investing in yourself can open a lot of doors. What was the most challenging part of getting started?
Transcription is mentally exhausting. It was hard to get into the headspace of committing to working on the course for an hour or two most evenings after writing all day. And I didn’t do it most days, hence why it took so long.
Q: Taking the course does require an investment of your time, but it’s worth it in the end. What was the most valuable thing you learned during the course?
How to market myself to court reporters and where to find them.
Q: How long did it take you to find your first client? And how many clients do you have now?
Days. I finished on December 9th, so everyone was looking for coverage for the holidays!
Just for transcript proofreading, eight, but I’ve also found legal transcription clients and one proofing to audio client through resources provided by the course. I’m currently juggling fourteen clients total, including transcription clients I’ve had for a very long time (one for ten years).
Here’s what some of Rae’s happy clients have to say:
Q: That’s amazing that proofreading transcripts led you to finding other clients as well. How long did it take you to recoup the cost of the course?
About three weeks — but only a small part of that was proofreading work. Taking the course gave me access to some Facebook groups that wouldn’t let me join before. Through one of those, I got a huge and very lucrative rush transcription contract one weekend that covered something like 90% of the cost of the course! But I still say that counts because I would never have found this now repeat transcription client with my old networking resources. That single client’s invoices 100% paid for the course.
Since I graduated on December 9th, strictly in proofreading and not other work directly received from taking the course, it took just over four months to recoup the cost of the course.
Q: What advice would you give anyone thinking about enrolling in the course to learn how to proofread? Is it worth the money?
Get some transcription experience first so you understand what you’re proofreading. I found that that was the biggest deficiency in the course. I’ve several clients who have tried other PA proofreaders before me and who say that there is a huge difference between a transcript proofreader who understands transcription and one who doesn’t.
I also think that you need to be a writer and a reader to be a good proofreader. Just one course on punctuation isn’t enough. You need to know how language flows naturally for the actual mistakes to pop out at you. Otherwise, you will be like some proofreaders I’ve met who really struggle and find the work tedious and slow because they question everything.
For me, it absolutely was worth the money. The course hasn’t changed my life yet, but I know it will once I get a stable enough base of proofreading clients to do this work full-time. I think this course is worth money to anyone who uses it as continuing education, and I’ve recommended it to several fellow transcriptionists also looking to get out of the field. But I wouldn’t recommend it to someone with no prior experience in the field as I don’t feel the course is complete enough and creates false expectations in someone with no prior related experience. That’s not to say I haven’t met PA grads with no prior experience who are doing very well, but it seems like they might be the exceptions.
Q: What does your life look like now as a working freelance proofreader?
I enjoy working so much more. I really love this profession. Transcription always felt like something that paid the bills, but I never warmed up to it. Proofreading doesn’t feel like work in the same way. I mean, I just got back from “vacation,” during which I worked almost full-time without resenting it! All I needed was my iPad, which I could reach for while waiting at the airport or for a meal at a restaurant or sitting in a park or even in bed in my rental apartment.
I transcribed while traveling around Europe for nine months. I dreamed the whole time of being able to just work from my iPad as it was so hard to find a quiet place with a proper desk to work from, plus I had to carry so much equipment. So I’m now living that dream!
Also, proofreading pays a lot better than transcription, despite needing the same skill set, so the weeks I have a full proofreading load, I’m working a lot fewer hours for the same or better money. I’ve taken up two outside hobbies since I graduated and actually have time for them!
Q: Anything else you’d like to share with the PA community?
Cast a wide net when looking for clients. There is a current slowdown in the industry due to the pandemic crisis. Some jurisdictions are proving to be slower than others in getting set up for electronic depositions. Colleagues who only have clients in those areas are really struggling. But I have clients in about a dozen states, plus in Canada, so things are thankfully steady right now if a tad slower than normal (fingers crossed!).
Also, I’m sure that in-person marketing really helps, but I’ve found success in my freelancing career without ever having met a single client in person. So if you’re someone living in another country (like I am), don’t let that stop you. Just take responsibility for things like time zone differences, payment processing fees, and even communications (like being the one to make the long-distance phone calls).
My hourly working rate ranges from $20 USD to $40 USD. Most days, I’m earning about $25 USD per hour. That’s reading 63 pages per hour at my standard rate. This is pretty good, but remember that I have taxes, business expenses, healthcare insurance, etc. to deduct from those earnings, plus I don’t get paid vacations or holidays. But it’s plenty for me because I live in Mexico, which has a much lower cost of living than the U.S. or Canada.
I’ve seen many graduates who are brand new to this who work at a much slower pace. This is often because they have no experience reading and/or writing all day and lack an understanding of transcription, which makes them question and mark up everything possible. They’re usually the ones who complain about earnings being lower than they expected. But I’m seeing similar numbers to mine from those who are experienced.
Work processes also affect speed and therefore the hourly working rate. I’m pretty streamlined and efficient, using a lot of stamps and other shortcuts to reduce how much time I spend marking up a transcript. It can be easy to fall into the trap of wanting to send a client back a transcript with lots of annotations as it makes it clear you spent a lot of time on the transcript, but that’s actually not always that helpful and can even overwhelm the client.
Also, proofreaders who work around a lot of distractions, like at their kid’s soccer game, often report slower progress than those, like me, for whom this is a full-time job and generally done in a dedicated, distraction-free workspace during set hours.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and tips, Rae! It’s always interesting to hear what path people take to get into proofreading and how they use their previous experience to their advantage. Keep up the good work!
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