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Why Other People’s Success Doesn’t Determine YOUR Success

One of the most common questions we get about the proofreading courses I offer here on PA is “What percentage of your students are successful?”

People want to estimate their own probability of success based on how successful other people have been.

And it’s a recipe for disaster. Why would someone else’s efforts determine your outcome?

Let Me Be Brutally Honest… Quality Matters.

Most of my readers on PA know I can be brutally honest. I write posts that strike to the core, that call people out, and I love giving whiners and complainers a swift kick in the pants when I feel it’s necessary.

I’m also brutally honest if I do not think you are a good fit for the courses. I am so intent on keeping the wrong people out. I don’t want unqualified “proofreaders” or lazy people leeching resources from students who are willing to work hard.

That’s why I put some serious exams in my courses. For instance, only students who pass the final exam in my General Proofreading course have access to our graduate directory. And in my Transcript Proofreading course, I changed the Module 5 Quiz into the Module 5 Midterm recently — from 10 questions and a 1-page quiz page to 100 questions and a 5-page transcript to proofread. Someone actually got mad at me for making the course more difficult. (This wasn’t the first time — that’s happened before on past improvements to the course).

The person accused me of making it harder just so fewer people can get through to marketing. I was like, “Uh, yeah, that’s exactly what I want to do — and you should want it too!” If you can’t pass the longer version of the test, you should be kept out of the marketing material. It’s only logical. You need to know the information on the test to do well in the industry. If you don’t do well on the test, then you don’t know that information… so why should I teach you how to market a skill you don’t have? 

I split my Facebook group, PA Proofreaders, into separate groups. Talk about marketing in the “big” group is off-limits because I know there are beginners in there lurking and waiting for scraps of info they can use to skirt taking the rest of the courses. I’ve seen it happen. Students have even reported getting PMs from newbies asking if they can learn from them instead of paying for the course. It’s ridiculous and sad.

Quite a few unqualified people still enroll despite my rampant warnings and matter-of-fact posts. And because of how difficult I’ve made the courses, only a much smaller number of students make it past the practice transcripts and/or exams.

Finding Clients is EASY Compared to the Work it Takes to Get That Far!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: It’s harder to pass the courses than it is to find clients. Finding clients is so easy in comparison to actually getting good at the work itself.

Many people ask the question about how successful the average student is because they want to gauge how good the courses are — do they deliver? Are they legitimate? But here’s what it boils down to, if someone cannot or does not pass the courses for some reason, that says far more about the student taking the courses than it says about the courses themselves. (Although the mere fact that the courses are difficult enough that not everyone can pass does say quite a bit about the courses’ legitimacy, methinks.)

And that’s why it makes no sense to give any kind of “ballpark” figure on the percentage of my students who are “successful.”

Difficult = Good… Easy = What’s the Point?!

Now, if you’re asking the question to try and gauge whether or not the courses themselves are of high quality, then you’re asking the wrong question. The fact that lots of people enroll and not everyone can pass is a good thing and a very positive indicator of their quality.

You may enroll in one (or both) of the courses and at the beginning hope it’s easy so you can pass quickly, find clients, and make money — Warning: almost no one passes as quickly as they expect!! — but if the courses were easy, and everyone could pass and find clients regardless of their skill level, that would really stink for the people who were really good at this work, wouldn’t it? I’d be flooding the market with tons of people who think they’re qualified — but actually aren’t.

Keeping the courses difficult and continuing to raise the bar on student quality serves the industry. I’ve got a responsibility to at least try to keep the quality of proofreaders high.

And I try very hard. I have regrets that the first versions of my courses weren’t nearly as difficult as they are now. They were laughably easy compared to today’s versions.

I know that because of me, there are some underqualified proofreaders out there that’ve made fools of themselves AND made me look bad. I’ve also publicly addressed the community about many issues and criticisms and written posts busting some ridiculous myths about me. It is important to me that only correct information is shared about me and the courses, and shedding some serious light on the incorrect information helps people sort through fact from fiction.

Again, I can only tell you that far more students enroll than graduate — if that scares you and makes you not want to enroll at all, then you need to ask yourself why you’re choosing to base your potential for success on other people. It would seem to me that the question goes a little deeper than simply trying to vet a course that’s proven itself time and time again.

Quality Over Quantity

The bottom line is that I stand for quality, and I will always choose quality over quantity. I’d rather have a small group of highly skilled graduates than an enormous group of underskilled ones. So that means if someone chooses not to enroll in the courses at all because they think the courses are too difficult for them to pass and be “successful,” then well… I’ve done my job 🙂

What’s going to make you successful isn’t some vague ballpark percentage of how many other proofreaders are successful. It’s not even a course that will make you successful. What’s going to make you successful is you. Your effort. Your skill. Your dedication. Your patience.


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  1. It is a difficult course. However a “pass one pass all” mentality will not benefit anyone in the long term. Quality is very important to maintain integrity.

  2. I was not aware of all these criticisms. It is such a shame because I’ve read articles of court reporters complaining about the shortage of good quality proofreaders they can trust.

    As far I can see, you saw a need and a gap in the market and developed a business to serve that need. Unfortunately, it’s now fashionable to criticize and denegrate anyone who has the ability and motivation to make a great success of their business.

    Only churches and charities need not concern themselves with profit. But nowadays it seems that business people are expected to have a great service or product and great customer service… but not make a lot of money for themselves. Mmm …

    I’m pleased to know that this is not a course where everyone passes once they pay the course fees. We all know there are many of those around. I can definitely vouch for the fact this is not the case. I haven’t taken the word skill midterm, but I’ve seen how hard many individuals have had to work to pass. I have also seen the amount of individuals that have failed.

    Thanks, Caitlin, for this course. I hope I will be successful.

    1. Thanks, Pauline!! You are spot on. I am glad to have you on board — it’s clear you have a very reasonable and hard-working mindset!

  3. I absolutely LOVE that the quiz has become a midterm! I want to be challenged. I need to be tested. I need to have my ego checked, for in the areas of grammar and language, I feel, perhaps, too confident. I have only just embarked upon the transcript course, but I am pleased to know that it will not be easy in any way. More than anything, I am daunted by finding clients. I appreciate your addressing this fear in your blog, as well as your assurance. I concur that my success cannot be gauged by others’ success. My mindset needs a jolt of growth hormone! I tend to be afraid to try new things and fail. Last night I read the entire Freelancers’ Tax Guide, and I was somewhat overwhelmed. However, I realize that I do not need to comprehend all of it now. I will refer back to it as needed. My success depends on me. I want to succeed. I will work hard.

  4. As a retired English teacher of thirty-three years, I am excited to delve into this course. How many times have I said in the classroom, "Quality over quantity!"? I understand where you are coming from, Caitlin. Keep your high standard, and you will always get quality!

  5. You know, I've recently started reading Ender's Game (who knew even major publications have typos…transposed words, "feet" spelled "fee," etc.). It's a book where children are constantly being pushed to their limits for the sake of improvement. And you know what? They improve (I haven't finished the book yet, so no spoilers). We adapt in the ways in which we are challenged. We either rise to meet the challenge–to meet the expectations set before us–or we don't. I find that to be true in life. Though it still freaks me out that I'm not getting perfect scores on my practice runs after considerable studying. Makes me think that clients will not want me! *SMH*

  6. This post is confirmation that I have enrolled in a top-notch course! A student’s success cannot be measured by anything other than hard work and dedication!

  7. I appreciate your standard of excellence and boldness is saying so, Caitlin. I very much want to succeed and will work hard for it! Thank you!
    I just retired last December, and this career opportunity is exactly what I'm looking for to deliver myself from a substandard level of income and do something I (eye) always find myself doing anyway (finding grammatical, spelling errors, etc.)! Double thanks!

  8. I took the first quiz on the first section the day I enrolled. After trying over — and over — to pass, I had to stop and think about what I was doing and what I read in the modules.
    I finally passed the quiz. That's when I realized there wasn't too much room for error; either you knew what you were doing or you didn't.

  9. I am so happy that you make this difficult because making it easy wound not challenge anyone and would under mind the whole proofreading and such industry. I am up for the challenge which will bring the confidence, optimism, and persistence that fosters excellence in this course and in my life. Thanks.

  10. I come from a strong customer relations background. These days, it's all about the percentages, so I can see why some would automatically ask about your success rate. However, I fully agree with you that it's not the right question for a potential student to ask. When it comes to education, the success rate of the educator really doesn't matter; the success rate of the student does.

    I thank you for your attention to the quality of your courses. I am happy to be one of your students.


  11. I want my skills to be excellent. I thank you for striving to turn out qualified professionals.

  12. Awesome! I am so glad that you made the course harder because it is giving me more confidence that I am actually being trained to do a skill that I can use to provide for my family. Thank you for quality!

  13. I enrolled in this course several days ago, and have dealt with the same concerns as most everyone else. I have to say, having read this article, that I feel much more confident in the program now. I like the idea that the course has been made more difficult! The more difficult it is, the better prepared one should be for the real world of proofreading.

    While I do have trepidation about finding clients, I have had much more trepidation about being a quality proofreader FOR my eventual clients. Now, I'm no longer worried about the quality part of the equation. I would even say that my money is well spent regardless of whether or not I pass the course. When I pass, I'll know that I'm ready for the industry. But if I didn't, I would know with certainty that it was not the career path for me.

    So thank-you, Caitlin, for making a course worthy of the industry!

  14. I love your attitude and really hope I can pass and become a great proofreader. That will be up to me. I’d rather be one of a small group of qualified people than part of a large group just floating around. Thank you, Caitlin

  15. I commend you for expressing my thoughts so well! LOL
    A teacher shoulder always strive to teach far more than what is tested, and they should also strive to make their students the best in the business. Anything dealing with the English language is guaranteed to confuse some as well.

    It's not rocket science. Anything worth having is worth working towards. I'm very excited about being turned on to this course!

  16. I enrolled in this course because it intrigued me and I wanted to see if it could turn into a future career for me. It is taking me a while to finish, but that is because I want to make sure I will be able to offer any future clients the best. I'm in it for the long run and I am not looking for any easy way. I love your bluntness and honesty, and truth be told, sometimes I need a good kick in the pants to keep me on track! Thanks for this course and all the blog posts that keep me going!

  17. This is very reassuring and answers some questions that my family had when I told them I'm doing this. Having been an RN for over 45 years and being 70, they wondered if this is OK for Mom. In the pandemic I've been nervous to go out as an RN to work. Thanks so much for putting your ad on facebook, where I found it.

  18. This is a well-written article, which makes several good points. I've just started the course material this morning and so far, I'm finding it to be well done and helpful.

    P.S.- I did find several errors in some of the downloads.


  19. As a retired high school teacher, I can relate to the idea that criticism comes when you demand quality. I just started the course, so I'm excited to feel ready to go once I've finished.

  20. Good for you for setting high standards! I just retired from teaching and many students didn't like me because I expected them to work for their grades. There is a whole generation of kids growing up thinking that things should just be handed to them. When I was getting my education degree, we were constantly told to have high expectations of what students should accomplish. That doesn't seem to be in vogue right now.

    Proofreading is a profession, not just a career. Professional standards are important.

  21. I am a perfectionist by nature, so knowing that these courses are going to be a challenge makes me even more determined to work hard, study hard, and learn from my mistakes. I personally feel that I will be well prepared to start a career as a proofreader once I have finished the course work and passed the final.

    Anyone that feels that things should be easy so they can say that they are qualified is setting themselves up for big time failure.

    Keep challenging us, Caitlin, and thank you for giving us the quality education to grow in this field!

  22. Thank you Caitlin for your dedication to excellence. I am a newbie looking forward to the challenge! Especially excited to finally learn proper comma usage.

    ( I have to be honest, I was thinking maybe I should have my comment proofread before posting it;)

  23. Bravo!
    I'm glad you're that proud of your courses and that the really dedicated people will be the ones flourishing! I'm going to be working on my confidence levels and put myself in positions of improving as I go through the courses. Well, here I go!

  24. Hi Caitlyn,

    I actually find it quite reassuring that my success depends upon myself because that means that my success is in my control. I have passed very difficult tests before and it's because I took the time to study the material. I am not rushing through this course. I am taking my time to go through every single thing step by step and I am positive that at some point, I will pass the proper exams and eventually find clients. I took some time today and yesterday to do some of the extra reading and I am feeling very inspired now. Thank you!

  25. I have always valued the rewards of hard work and I'm not afraid to put in the time it takes to achieve the end result.

    Well Said.

  26. I LOVE your statements and your perspective. Anything worth having takes hard work, practice and patience.

  27. I think this is fabulous! Does it scare me and make me incredibly nervous? Yes, yes it does! I mean, just typing this I'm wondering if everyone is checking my spelling and punctuation! (In my defense I do have a puppy sitting on my lap crawling all over me and licking me, lol) but I feel like this course has something to offer me if I take it seriously and work hard!

  28. Interesting. I actually would feel more like this course was a rip off if it was not difficult. I was worried that it would be full of fluff. I am just starting out but like what I see so far. I am willing to work hard to increase my skill. There is a feeling of satisfaction when challenges are overcome by my effort. Love it!

  29. Thank you for having integrity and demanding quality over quantity. I will work hard to be part of the "quality."

  30. Thanks for wanting us to master the knowledge you share. I feel confident of you and of future me.

  31. This is amazing content! It makes me even more excited I enrolled!

  32. I love reading and that means that, no matter if it is a book, an article or even ads, from the internet and from those places the don't yet publish things on the internet. I find errors all the time, and wonder "how on earth they could miss something so glaring." I think that is what has brought me full circle in my career and back to wanting to proofread again.

    Quality outweighs quantity every time, and it is sad that many companies don't see that. I want to help them see that having that extra set of eyes that are trained to pick up on these possible

  33. Refreshing comments and attitude. In my experience, there is way too much emphasis on gaining student passes for the sake on numbers.
    Industries are being 'dumbed down' for the sake of commercial success and gouging of public funds by private training organisations.

  34. Thank you for this invigorating information. I look forward to the challenge of becoming a great Proofreader, and I appreciate the high standards you have set for us. I will not let myself down. Here we go!

  35. I've just started the course and I'm excited to dig in.
    I *want* it to be difficult. I want to challenge myself and to grow and learn. So far I really like your balance of "you can do it" encouragement and "you're going to have to work hard" reality checks.

    Looking forward to moving ahead with the material!

  36. You have made some exceptionally good points here.

    One of the points that you make easily transfers to other careers. I have been a teacher for 40 years, including 14 as a professor turning out new teachers. If the course isn't rigorous enough, they come out with less than exceptional teaching skills.

  37. I value your dedication to wanting a group of people who are willing to put in the effort to learn how to proofread and make a client base, and not just finding a short way to create an income. I value your honesty in how you are presenting yourself in this reading material!! It gives me confidence that I can accomplish this goal and that I just need the right mindset. I really appreciate this opportunity.

  38. When I first picked up the general proofreading course, I dove in to the first six chapters and did fairly well, but realized there was still a lot to learn. Discouragement set in, and I put the work down for a while.
    I told some folks who know about my work as a freelance writer how humble I felt after starting the course.
    I came back after several months, willing to try again.

  39. I just enrolled in the Proofreading and Transcript Proofreading courses yesterday. I ran across this short article linked from a much larger one on mindset. And I'm grateful for both.

    I am pleased to find out that I will be put through rigorous testing to find out how well I have learned the information presented to me. I would want it no other way. This tells me my instinct to go out on a financial limb, in my situation and banking on my determination to make the most of my education, was well-founded in choosing Proofread Anywhere.

    I look forward to the challenge and the reward!

  40. I just completed the first module, and this blog post actually made me feel better about taking a chance on this course. I've spent a lot of time looking for a career I could do from anywhere, on my own schedule, as my own boss, without having to go back to college. It's obvious from this post that you care about the product you're offering. I'm looking forward to the challenge!

  41. I appreciate the fact that the course will be challenging. I want to be the best at what I do! Thank you for helping us get there!!!

  42. Caitlin I need this side gig because I retired two years ago hoping to work somewhere part-time to make social security actually make ends meet. Of course, life happened and my husband became diagnosed with a Parkinsonian disease and needs care full-time!

  43. I totally agree with your thinking. However, after just leaving my last job where I was constantly put down, my self-confidence and self-esteem is in the toilet. And that is making me very fearful in trying this at all. Especially after reading this article. I've always been good with English, seeing as I was raised by an English teacher, and I think I should be successful in this course. At least I pray so since I really do not have the money to be spending on it. But I'm believing this course will be good for me in many different ways, so I've gone way out of my comfort zone and spent the money and I'm choosing to believe in me!

    1. We’re here if you need us to answer any questions or concerns, Marcia! Please write to us at [email protected] and a member of our team will be happy to help you! ????

  44. This course is peanuts compared to the work and time it takes to get a college degree. I'm 64
    years old, and some of you may remember when that was the thing to do if you were going to be successful in life: get a degree. Well, let me tell you: I got my degree… finally after 22 years, 2 marriages, and raising 4 children! Do you think I made extra because of it? No.
    I' m sure that after this course I will be able to put the dollar value on my life that I need to continue my retirement comfortably.
    Let's do it!

  45. Thank you! I resent working hard to do my best in learning environments that have low expectations and don’t hold all students accountable for quality work.

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