One of the most common questions we get about the proofreading course I offer here on PA is “What percentage of your students are successful?”
People want to estimate their own probability for 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 course. I don’t even sell the entire course in one piece anymore because I am so intent on keeping the wrong people out. I don’t want unqualified “proofreaders” or lazy people leeching resources from the students who are willing to work hard.
So I place a serious exam in between each of the three major sections of the course. How it works is simple: You don’t pass the test, you don’t get access to the next section until you do. Sometimes I elect to make those tests harder.
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. (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 two separate groups. Talk about marketing in the “big” group is off limits because I know there are Level 1 people in there lurking and waiting for scraps of info they can use to skirt taking the rest of the course. 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 in the first level of the course despite my rampant warnings and matter-of-fact posts. And because of how difficult I’ve made the course, only a much smaller number of students make it past the practice transcripts.
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 course 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 course is — does it deliver? Is it legitimate? But here’s what it boils down to: If someone cannot or does not pass the course for some reason, that says far more about the student taking the course than it says about the course itself. (Although the mere fact that the course is difficult enough that not everyone can pass does say quite a bit about the course’s 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 course itself is 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 its quality.
You may enroll and at the beginning hope the course is easy so you can pass quickly, find clients, and make money — Warning: almost no one passes as quickly as they expect!! — but if the course was 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 course 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 version of my course wasn’t nearly as difficult as it is now. It was laughably easy compared to today’s version.
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 course, 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 course at all because they think the course is 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.