Have you ever wondered if remote proofreading jobs were legitimate work from home opportunities? Can you actually make anything? Or is it just like all those typing and data entry programs that make alluring promises, but rarely pay off?
Meet Caitlin Pyle – she has spent the last few years streamlining and perfecting a method to do this. In this interview, she explains how stay-at-home moms can make a real career out of a remote proofreading job like court transcript proofreading.
1. Caitlin, Could you give us a little history and tell us how you ended up proofreading court transcripts, of all things?
I used to work in a court reporting office as a receptionist, and eventually the manager got wind of my eagle eye, and she gave me a transcript to proofread. I did really well on it, so I ended up taking on a few clients on the side, along with spot-checking transcripts leaving the office (as part of my hourly duties). At that time, I had no idea how lucrative it would be if I dedicated my time to just proofreading and charging per page, instead of earning $14-$16 per hour.
I eventually parted ways with that office, and went to school for personal training, but I still had a few clients on the side. Personal training is a really tough market and quite over-saturated in my hometown of Orlando, so I kept proofreading transcripts. Over time, I took on more and more clients until I found myself making more money than I'd made at my old office job (with less hours!) and more money than I could hope to make with personal training. Plus it was all online, so I had a lot of freedom during the day to do what I needed to do.
2. What exactly is “proofreading court transcripts”?
Transcripts are the verbatim record of legal proceedings, such as depositions, hearings, trials, jury selection, and any other proceeding that could take place within a lawsuit or before one is filed. Court reporters, also called stenographers, attend the proceeding to “report” the job in shorthand using a steno-graph machine. After the proceeding, they transcribe the job and a good majority of reporters, especially the ones who really want to ensure quality work, send their transcripts to a proofreader — that's where I come in!
I go through and make sure they didn't leave words out, didn't use incorrect words, didn't leave out necessary punctuation, make mistakes in the speakers' names, et cetera. It's a lot more than just checking for spelling and grammar errors. In fact, there is very little to do by way of spelling and grammar — reporters use spell check and because they take down spoken word, usually any incorrect grammar has to stay!
3. Is there a reason you are sticking with court transcripts over other types of proofreading?
Yes! Court reporters are a lot busier than say an author, journalist, or even a blogger. They also pay by the page, not an hourly rate, and tend to be very loyal, especially if you are good at what you do. They see the errors you find in their work and know they're better off sending all their work to you!
4. Is this something that a stay-at-home mom can do in her limited amount of time? Is it a flexible job?
It is flexible to an extent. You can generally work on the transcripts on your own schedule, but reporters are busy in “waves” — sometimes they have work, sometimes they don't. So there can be times when you're busier and times when you're slower. Non rush work is usually expected to be turned around within 48 to 72 hours, so chances are high you'll be able to fit in the work sometime in that time frame, as long as you don't procrastinate.
5. Realistically, what is the minimum amount of time you would need to devote to this on a daily basis? What if you can only work on it late at night or early in the morning?
A few hours a day, at least. At first, you'll need to spend some time looking for clients, sending out e-mails and watching for requests from reporters in order to build a client base. But like I mentioned earlier, you'll need to keep in mind that the work can come in waves, so some days you'll get a lot of work, other days not as much. That doesn't mean you have to finish everything the same day, though.
If you only have a single hour at the same time every day to do this kind of work, it may be a bit difficult to take on more than one or two clients — the length of the transcripts may require more than an hour's worth of work.
6. Is this a real career or is it more like those typing or data entry work-from-home jobs that pay a pittance?
It's a real career. You generally work one-on-one with court reporters and/or court reporting agencies — you're not just a number working with a company. That said, there is also quite a bit of skill involved in doing this kind of work, and in order to do it well, it takes time and training.
7. Can you make a decent income doing this part time?
Yes. I have amassed a client base of around 20 reporters each month (it fluctuates) and have made over $43,000 a year for the last two years. I proofread 20-25 hours a week. Fair warning — it does take time to build up the speed and stamina to proofread like I do. Someone just starting out may not get as much work done in the same amount of time as someone who's been doing it as long as I have. With time and practice, though, this improves — along with your bottom line.
Some jobs also take longer to read than others. Hearings, for example, can take me up to twice as long to read as a workers' compensation deposition, and I'm usually paid the same page rate for both. It all evens out in the end … my next job may be really easy and I'll zoom right through it.
8. Is this a job that a stay-at-home mom could make into a full time job once the kids are older and she has more time on her hands?
Absolutely! The more time you have, the more available you can be for reporters to send you work, and you can start accepting more clients.
More clients = more work = more money over time
9. Is it hard to get clients and have a steady work flow?
It can sometimes be hard to get the momentum going with a handful of clients, but reporters love to refer their friends, and it's never a problem to ask for referrals. And some times of the year, like around the holidays, are simply slower than others. As I mentioned earlier, it is not always steady. One week you may work twice as hard as you do the next week. I've learned to enjoy the “spontaneous days off” when I get them, though, because you never know when the next wave of “crazy” will roll in. 🙂
If I get a lot of work one day, I try to work really hard to get it done as quickly and efficiently as possible, instead of spacing it out or procrastinating, because it lessens the chances that the work will pile up. Staying focused and getting the transcripts done sooner rather than later increases my overall free time during the day — time I can spend however I want.
10. Do you ever have to go meet clients or can you do everything from home?
I've never met any of my clients face-to-face. I've talked to a couple on the phone, but all the work is done on my iPad/via e-mail from wherever I am: the couch, the airport, a plane, or my favorite… my bed!
11. What kind of skills do you need? Do you need to have previous proofreading experience?
Two things are critical if you want to make it as a transcript proofreader: you need to have an “eagle eye” for spotting errors, and dedication.
If you read things and errors do not pop off the page at you, you most likely don't have an innate eagle eye and you would probably not be a good fit for this type of work. If you expect to take a course and then have work land in your lap without actually taking any further action, you would not be a good fit for this type of work.
On the other hand, though, if you've always had a great eye for detail, see errors in print everywhere, and have no problem applying yourself to gain new skills and taking action with those new skills, you may have found your new dream job!
Previous proofreading experience is an asset, for sure, but it's not required. When I got started, I'd only ever proofread some college essays and résumés for my friends.
12. Do you need any office equipment besides a laptop and an internet connection?
You can do the work with a laptop, but I much prefer an iPad. It's fast, efficient, and makes the work a breeze — not to mention even more portable. I teach my students to use an iOS app called iAnnotate, which streamlines so many of the tasks that are quite a bit more tedious when using a laptop — things like looking words up, separating corrected pages from clean pages, et cetera.
13. What is the best part of the job for you?
I absolutely love how flexible it is. Yes, it can get crazy when my clients get busy, but I love how I can pack up my iPad, grab a snack and head to the park or the beach to do my work if I want. I love how I can work on a long flight or in a waiting room. I also love being able to read at night before bed. It helps wind me down!
14. Any advice for moms who want to give it a go?
Head over to ProofreadAnywhere.com and sign up for my free 7-day course — you'll get a nice intro into proofreading for profit, learn some do's and don'ts, marketing strategies, and get a feel for whether or not proofreading for court reporters is something you'd like to pursue.
If it is, you can enroll in my full course, Transcript Proofreading: Theory & Practice, in which you will learn everything I know (literally, everything): from how a transcript becomes a transcript, to marketing and getting your first client. The course covers all of it!
Thank you, Caitlin!
If you are interested getting more of an idea about Caitlin's full course, check out this review of Review of Transcript Proofreading: Theory & Practice.
Caitlin has since developed a general proofreading course as well. She has free introductory courses for both of her proofreading courses. You can check out her free workshop to know more about the general proofreading course or sign up for her email course to know more about the transcript proofreading course.
Have you ever proofread transcripts? Or do you have any experiences with any other remote proofreading jobs? If you do, we'd love to hear about them. Feel free to leave any questions or comments below.