Today we have Caitlin Pyle, Founder of ProofreadAnywhere, stopping by to introduce us to the unique work at home opportunity of court transcript proofreading. Caitlin has been working from home proofreading for court reporters since 2012. Today she is sharing how she got started and you can too.
What was your motivation to work from home?
I crave autonomy when it comes to work and how I go about my day. I’ve known since I was in high school that I didn’t want to have to work for someone else. When I worked in an office after college, I absolutely hated the fact that I had to be there right at 8:00am and could not leave before 5:00pm for any reason without making arrangements two weeks ahead of time. It felt like a prison to me! We’d actually get in trouble if we clocked in at 8:03, or clocked out at 4:59. I like to be able to decide for myself when I want to work, when I want/need to take a nap, when I do my chores — it was so hard getting it all done before 8:00am or after 5:00pm, or squeezing it in during my lunch hour. And we only got 10 paid days off a year. If we needed more than that, it was an issue. Honestly, I don’t know how I did it for so long! I am also an avid traveler. Being able to work from anywhere allows me to pick up and go whenever I want. My husband and I are heading to Ecuador for a 12-month stay this summer — just because we can! We’re both beyond excited and I am so grateful I’ll be able to keep earning an income even while abroad.
Tell us a little about your home business and how it came about.
I have been working from home as a professional transcript proofreader for court reporters since 2012. I do all of my work on an iPad — although I started out using a printer, paper, and a pen! I used to work in a court reporting agency. I started out answering phones, moved to transcript production, then ended up in marketing. Aside from the proofreading/content writing, I hated marketing… the management thought that marketing was the same thing as sales (it’s not!), so they sent me out to make sales calls a lot and I was miserable! The office knew I had eagle eyes, and any advertisement or content to be distributed had to go through me so I could check it for errors. In a business that prides itself on accuracy, typos just make you look bad! I took on a couple court reporters as clients while I was there, and when I departed (which, while not a happy story… it’s a juicy one!), I kept reading for them. Then, one of them told me that I wouldn’t be able to read for her anymore because her agency required her to use one of “their” quality assurance proofreaders. I got the hunch to ask that client for the contact info of the person who’d told her that. She gave it to me, and I sent off a request to “audition” as a quality assurance proofreader for her agency. I didn’t even have to audition! They needed proofreaders badly, and started sending me work the very next week. I started getting a few new clients here and there, then a few more — people were passing my name along! I kept accepting work and, even when it got stressful, kept plowing through it. My speed and stamina increased over time and before I knew it, I was proofreading 20-25 hours a week and earning double what I’d been making as a marketing manager at my old office. I couldn’t believe it. I always say that me becoming a transcript proofreader was a total accident, because it was. I still think back and get chills. Even though I left that court reporting office on really bad terms, I would not be where I am today without that miserable job — so I actually have a strange sense of gratitude toward my former boss.
What was your first step in getting started?
Well, funny story — my former boss (the one who hates me now) actually gave me my first transcript to proofread! She wanted to see if I was any good. I was very good. That was when I was still working as a receptionist. After I read that first transcript, I can still remember the gut feeling I had that I was going to end up doing much more than answer phones for the rest of my working life!
Is there any special equipment or skills required?
You must have patience and a very strong eye for detail. Your eyes don’t pass over errors easily. Transcript proofreading is quite a bit different than traditional proofreading, too, so it’s important to be willing to learn the ropes and not think just because you can spot errors that transcript proofreading will be a piece of cake. It’s so much more than just spelling and grammar. In fact, most of the time, you can’t fix bad grammar in a transcript. We can’t change the record if a witness misspeaks. The court reporter records everything word-for-word.
As for special equipment, you just need a computer and access to the internet/e-mail. You can print transcripts out and mark them up by hand, or use a computer to do it. My personal preference is an iPad mini! I paid $10 for an app that has streamlined my process to be what I feel is the most efficient way to proofread in existence. I don’t recommend the printer/paper method, especially if you really want to make a living. Some people think an iPad is too expensive, but it’s a one-time cost! Ink, paper, printers, and scanners will end up costing much more than an iPad over time, plus scanning every page you correct back to your client is an incredibly slow and tedious task.
To this day, it still blows my mind how few people know that a career like this exists. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me, though, ’cause I had no idea, either! But there’s never been a time when I’ve met someone new that, when they ask me what I do for a living, had any idea it was possible to earn a decent income using just e-mail and an iPad.
If there is one thing you could go back and do over, what would it be?
I would’ve started sharing my knowledge a lot sooner. I proofread for three years before I developed a user-friendly, practical way to share my method with others.
Where do you recommend others getting started in your industry turn for help?
Because I found myself getting asked “How can I get started?” so often by so many people, in 2014 I decided it was (finally!) time to give them a good answer and develop a solid way to teach people my craft. I founded my website, ProofreadAnywhere.com, and after many months of planning, drafting, filming, formatting, writing, rewriting, proofreading, and editing, in early 2015 I launched a self-paced online course called Transcript Proofreading: Theory and Practice. It is a step-by-step, turn-by-turn roadmap for anyone who wants to break into the industry. Nothing else like it exists — before now, anyone who wanted to proofread transcripts just had to, well, wing it! In the course, we start students out with the very basic stuff, such as what a transcript is and how a court reporter creates a transcript. After we lay a foundation, we move into the harder topics like the many types of errors you’re looking for, and then the fun, hands-on stuff like practice transcripts and how to get clients.
What’s one online business tool you happily pay for month after month?
I use FreshBooks Cloud Accounting. I pay for it yearly, and at over $200 a year, it’s not cheap, but it has been an indispensable tool for my business! Whenever I get a transcript, I immediately open FreshBooks on my iPad and input the new job into my client’s invoice. That way it’s there and it’ll get billed. I proofread for 20-30 court reporters each month, so keeping track of everything can get crazy!! FreshBooks helps me stay organized — and creating the invoices is almost laughably easy! The customer service team is also super responsive and helpful.
Visit ProofreadAnywhere to learn more about Caitlin’s story and her proofreading from home program.