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From Memes to Kids’ Books: Katherine Makes Money from Her Proofreading Services

Skills are an investment in your future. 

Plain and simple. 

Expanding your mind is never a waste of time or money. 

Even if life leads you off in a different direction…

Even if you decide this path wasn’t for you after all…

Learning changes everything. It can give you confidence AND increase your income.

Katherine agrees with me on this! Even though she had already taken other proofreading courses, she still found value in taking the General Proofreading course because it filled in gaps she had about marketing her proofreading services. 

And she didn’t stop there! Continuous professional development is hugely important to her as she continues to work on growing her skill set. 

Keep reading to find out more about Katherine’s story!

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

From Memes to Kids' Books: Katherine Makes Money from Her Proofreading Services

I’m South African, but I grew up on a tiny island near Madagascar, called Mauritius. I have always been an avid reader, and growing up in a country without much access to English books meant I was soon reading far above my age level because there just wasn’t anything else. This love of reading has stuck with me throughout my whole life. 

When I finished university, I thought it would be a great idea to teach ESL in Asia, with the aim of using it as a stepping stone into educational publishing, and from there to fiction publishing. 

Ten years, three countries and two continents later, I realized that teaching was less a stepping stone and more like quicksand. Although I loved the contribution I was making and the impact I had on these kids’ lives, dealing with the daily minutiae of classrooms, parents, bureaucracy, and boogers was stressing me out like crazy. I was thirty and somehow I’d lost sight of my dream and gotten stuck in someone else’s. 

When I realized I was humming “I don’t want to be here” on the way to work every day, I knew it was time for a change.

Q: Not wanting to go into work every day is no fun for anyone! When did you start proofreading, and what made you decide to learn how to proofread?

When I started this grand, but doomed, master plan, I did some proofreading for my fellow university students. I proofread theses on a wide range of topics, from Nazi submarines hiding off the coast of Madagascar, to sheep farming in the Karoo desert. Then I did a little bit of it here and there while teaching, such as proofreading expatriate newspapers and magazines and documents for friends and colleagues. 

But my big “Aha” moment, when I decided to sign up for Proofread Anywhere, came during a big crisis (as it tends to happen with our crowd). I live in Ecuador, and the whole country shut down for two weeks during a nationwide strike which escalated into protests and rioting. Sound familiar? 

At the same time, I went to the doctor for a check-up, and seven appointments later discovered that I had a cyst on the membrane of my brain, which had probably been there for a good five or so years. It was pushing on my pituitary gland, causing some major apathy, depression, and a host of other hormonal problems. I started treatment the week the country shut down. 

Having time alone with my thoughts, coupled with balanced hormones for the first time in half a decade, was the push I needed. I decided to quit my job and go full-time with freelance editing. I signed up for Proofread Anywhere.

Q: Wow! It’s amazing what will give us the final push we need to follow the path we’ve always wanted to be on. I’m glad you’re on the mend now! What was the most challenging part of getting started?

From Memes to Kids' Books: Katherine Makes Money from Her Proofreading Services

I had done proofreading courses before, so the technicalities were not such a big deal for me. Also, a decade of teaching grammar and spelling had made some of it stick pretty well. 

For me, the challenging part was figuring out my niche and marketing myself to my audience. At first, I thought I’d target online content. Then (and I’m embarrassed by how long it took to figure out what was staring me in the face) I leaned toward educational content, but I couldn’t really find much work there. Finally, I saw a post from another PA graduate who had written her own book, aimed at children. I proofread one book for her. And then another. And then another. 

I still wake up in the middle of the night, thinking, “I’m not going to have any clients and I’m going to run out of money and my poor husband is going to lose his mind trying to support us both.” I don’t know if that will ever go away.

Q: Fear can linger for a while, but once you start to build momentum in your business, it rears its head less and less. What was the most valuable thing you learned during the course?

I think the mindset module was key. Knowing that it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and that you only fail if you quit, was a big shift for me. 

I’ve always been an overachiever, and not having instant success would have been quite disheartening without that mental jump. 

Another big thing was the idea that any money or time spent on developing skills is an investment. Since I finished the course, I’ve gone on to do courses in editing memoir, developmental editing for fiction, using macros, and business planning for editing. The courses offered by CIEP, the EFA, and ACES are excellent. I might be a little bit addicted to them. 

I’ve broadened my skill-base considerably as I edge closer and closer to figuring out where my best fit is in the publishing process. It seems more and more like I’m most comfortable as a developmental editor of fiction.

Q: Preach! Time and money spent on learning new skills is never a waste. How long did it take you to find your first client? And how many clients do you have now?

My first client was super quick! I think I got him within the first week of finishing the course. However, I fell into the trap of accepting a job that paid significantly less than I am worth. I wrote it off as “practice” and decided not to make that mistake again. 

Since then, I’ve had six unique clients. One has returned twice, and one is the author of a series, so I see a lot of potential there. Okay, so one of them is my sister, but she paid double what I invoiced her!

Here’s what one of Katherine’s happy clients has to say (in the form of a poem!).

From Memes to Kids' Books: Katherine Makes Money from Her Proofreading Services

Q: What a wonderful sister she is to acknowledge your skills! How long did it take you to recoup the cost of the course?

On my most recent job, the client paid $650 upfront, so that more than covered it. It took a couple of months to get to that point, but if you keep looking and keep engaging authentically with your market, the fish will bite. 

I got that client by commenting on a meme! You know, the one with the bunny in the bar that pops up about once a week in every editing group. I commented about being an editor, and the author queried me within ten minutes. He had paid me within an hour.

From Memes to Kids' Books: Katherine Makes Money from Her Proofreading Services

Q: I love it! Way to think outside the box to connect with potential clients! What advice would you give anyone thinking about enrolling in the course to learn how to proofread? Is it worth the money?

While other proofreading courses might dive deeper into the proofreading marks and technicalities specifically for working with traditional publishers, Proofread Anywhere is unique in that it teaches you to set up your website, set up your business, market yourself, and keep your head in the game. I think that THAT is worth every cent.

Q: What does your life look like now that you’re earning money from your proofreading services?

I planned to launch my editing business in September after I finished my teaching contract. I wanted to pick up a couple of clients here and there to build some word-of-mouth marketing and get some experience, but I wasn’t trying very hard to market myself. 

Then the Coronavirus hit and the world went crazy. The day after I submitted my official notice to the admin team, our school shut down, leaving me with plenty of time on my hands to hone my skills, promote myself, and build my business (in between Zoom classes with 24 eight-year-olds). 

As for my daily life: I work best in the mornings and late at night. So I get all my teaching work done by 12:30. Then I have lunch, do some exercise to keep my mind fresh and my body moving, and switch to editing mode. Each morning, I spend an hour or two on soft marketing: maintaining relationships with clients, contributing helpful content to writers’ groups, networking with other editors. I have a weekly CIEP Zoom chat with some experienced editors, and sometimes we have guest speakers who are famous authors! I make obnoxiously big cups of tea and settle in for some editing sprints, tracking my time with Toggl. During breaks I putter around the house or go for walks if I can. After dinner, I hang out with my guy or work on my CPD (continuous professional development) with a book on editing, a webinar, or an online course. 

I’ve got two weeks left of being a teacher. Once that’s over, I’ll use the mornings for hard-core marketing. 

From Memes to Kids' Books: Katherine Makes Money from Her Proofreading Services
Seven-year-old Katherine reading Adrian Mole!

Q: I love that you didn’t wait until the timing would have been more convenient for you and just jumped right in! What an action-taker. Anything else you’d like to share with the PA community?

Two things. First, build your brand. Design a logo, pick a color scheme and fonts, and use them consistently across all your marketing materials. It will make you seem far more professional. 

Second, I cannot stress enough how helpful joining CIEP has been for me. Although it is based in the UK, there is a big group of international editors, and I have learned so much from them. If you think the support you get in the PA GP Facebook group is good, multiply it by ten thousand, add decades of combined publishing experience and resources, and you’ll get a sense of what the CIEP community is like. It’s not an either-or scenario either; you can be part of both. It is SO worth it.

Our Take

Katherine is my kind of woman. She recognizes the benefits of continuous professional development. Our brains are not at capacity and we can always learn new skills that will open up the possibilities for us to grow not only our incomes but also minds. 

Your Turn

Want to learn how to market your proofreading services like Katherine did? Check out our free proofreading course to see what it’s all about.

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