Want to be your own boss and make use of your mad word skills? Starting a proofreading side hustle could be right up your alley! Running a freelance proofreading business not only allows you to nerd out on grammar, but it can also be a launchpad into other online businesses.
I thought I would be “just a proofreader” until I was 80 because I didn’t think I had the capacity to learn more skills. But then I realized that proofreading is a business and I was learning business skills… skills that can then be applied to all sorts of other ventures.
A proofreading side hustle can allow you to earn extra money while giving you the freedom to expand your skills and build your online business.
Proofreading was the perfect stepping stone for Tiffany. She proofreads part-time while also building her business as a writer and blogger. Check out her story below!
Q: Hey there, Tiffany! Tell us a little about your background. What did your life look like before you crossed paths with PA?
I have been a lover of words, spelling, punctuation, and all things writing since I was a little kid. In my elementary school years, I used to plop down at our family’s giant dinosaur computer (remember those?!) and hammer out pages upon pages of stories — usually tales of horses or innocent romance — for hours at a time. Spelling and punctuation just made sense to me, and my word-nerd self couldn’t get enough of my English classes. Fast-forward to college when I realized there are writing and writing-related careers out there. I knew I wanted to do something like that… but I wasn’t exactly sure what.
Before I came across PA, I was attending online classes and working as a barista at a local bakery and coffee bar. Prior to proofreading, I had worked mostly food service jobs, and let me tell you, I did NOT want to make food service my career. I always wanted to be my own boss, but I had no idea how to go about building a business. I was intrigued and inspired when I stumbled upon Caitlin’s story on The Penny Hoarder blog.
One thing that gave me the confidence in particular was having studied multiple styles and types of writing in school, despite never graduating with my degree. I took journalism courses that used AP style, and I had to know MLA style as an English major; I also took technical writing and poetry classes. You certainly don’t need an English degree to be a proofreader, but learning different styles and rules really helped my brain be flexible enough for proofreading. Knowing the rules for proofreading is vital, but so is being able to adapt and accommodate for clients’ preferences.
Q: I 100% agree! A happy client is more likely to be a repeat client. When did you start proofreading transcripts, and what made you decide to learn how to proofread transcripts?
I started proofreading professionally in August of 2016. In college, I was the resident proofreader, always proofing my roommates’ and friends’ papers. So I knew I had a knack for catching errors. I had no idea what proofreading for court reporters would be like, but I was eager to learn! I had worked so many food service gigs and life-sucking office jobs that I was ready to build a business and be my own boss.
Q: I hear ya! Being your own boss is awesome 🙂 What was the most challenging part of getting started?
By far the biggest challenge in the beginning of my proofreading journey was marketing. With proofreading, YOU are your business, and working up the confidence to promote my services was absolutely terrifying. I despised making phone calls, but emails got easier to send every day. You just have to keep plugging along, stop overthinking, and remember that once you’ve graduated from the course, you have all the tools you need. Confidence comes with time.
Q: So many people are afraid of marketing. Kudos to you for overcoming your fear! What was the most valuable thing you learned during the course?
While learning the rules of proofreading was essential, gaining the knowledge and tools to build a successful business has changed my life. To me, that knowledge is priceless; if you can learn how to create a business, you can do just about anything you want! Running my proofing business has enhanced my skills like marketing, self-starting, and goal-setting, which are invaluable assets for building any type of business. These skills I learned from the PA course have been crucial to proofreading as well as other aspects of my business such as writing/blogging. Proofreading has served as a launchpad into the world of online entrepreneurship.
Q: Proofreading opened up so many doors for me, too. I wouldn’t be where I am today without it! How long did it take you to find your first client? And how many clients do you have now?
It took me about a month after graduating to find my first client, and that felt like the longest month of my life! I was also terrified of marketing, and I may have found clients faster if I hadn’t let my fear slow me down. However, as you continue to work, word-of-mouth can become a powerful marketing tool. I haven’t done any marketing in over a year, but I still often get inquiries for my services. I currently have five regular clients, and I’ve worked with a total of eleven court reporters throughout my two years of proofing.
See what some of Tiffany’s happy clients have to say!
Q: How long did it take you to recoup the cost of the course?
I made back what I paid for the course in about two months. Pretty darn fast if you ask me, especially for someone who loathed marketing and was working another part-time job.
Q: Not long at all! What advice would you give anyone thinking about enrolling in the course to learn how to proofread? Is it worth the money?
The course is certainly worth the money, but proofreading is a niche job that requires skills that can’t be taught. You also MUST be willing to put in the work! Don’t get into proofreading and expect somebody else to do the work for you. It’s not an easy, get-rich-quick scheme, but it is a rewarding career that can go literally anywhere with internet. That said, if you know you have the eagle eyes that Caitlin talks about and you’re willing to put your nose to the grindstone, go for it. The cost of the course is minuscule in comparison to the value of the skills you’ll acquire from it!
Q: Yes! Having an eagle eye is essential! What does your life look like now as a working freelance proofreader/writer/blogger?
While I’ve absolutely loved proofreading, my current focus is on writing. I work part-time on my blog and other various freelance writing gigs, and I still proofread about 8–20 hours a week. I’ve consistently pulled in an extra $400 to $1,200 a month just from proofreading very part-time, which has been a huge blessing. When my husband lost his job earlier this year, the money I made from proofing was a major lifesaver.
Q: Anything else you’d like to share with the PA community?
Proofreading was the first thing I had ever done because I wanted to. I went to college for my degree because that’s what you’re “supposed” to do, and I had various jobs throughout the years just to pay the bills. My proofing business was built by me and for me. There is nothing more empowering than watching something you built yourself succeed.
Proofing was always a side hustle for me, and it’s been a fantastic stepping stone that fits in perfectly with my goal of being a self-employed writer/blogger. Whether you want to make proofreading a side hustle like I did, or you want to make it your full-time career (because you totally can!), it can be a flexible, lucrative work-from-home job if you’re willing to put in the work. If you’re looking to ditch your 9-to-5 or you just need a more flexible job, I highly recommend proofreading.
Go, Tiffany! I love seeing my students setting goals and crushing them! Tiffany has taken her love of words and created a business she can be proud of.
Ready to take the first step toward your online business empire? Try my free 7-day intro course and see if a proofreading side hustle could be your launchpad to success. What have you got to lose?