[What up what up! Got another side hustle to share with you today, this time from a personal friend of mine, Lenny Bron, who has helped me on MANY occasions with my own blog here… Which would basically bankrupt me if I hired him full-time for, lol ;) Such a great avenue though for those who love words!! Congrats on all your success, man!]
Do you like reading? Do you enjoy correcting other people’s mistakes? Are you well-versed in English grammar? Do you dream of semicolons and ellipses chasing you in your nightmares?
Well, if three of those four questions sound like you, then you might be good at proofreading/editing online content as a side hustle!
Hi, my name is Lenny Bron and I’ve been proofreading/editing blogs, content marketing, e-books, and a slew of other content for roughly 3 years now. You can find me at theblogproofreader.com (it’s a landing page, best way to reach me is through email or through the “contact me” form on my site). I’ve flirted with writing this post for some time now, and I’ve had J$’s blessing for a while, so I’m finally giving this a shot.
First, I’ll tell you my little story about how I got into this business. Then, I’ll go into some ways people might be able to do something similar to what I’ve done starting from zero experience. Finally, I’ll bare it all financially and give you the details about how much money I’ve made in the last few years. Strap in, this is going to be a semi-exciting ride!
How I Got Started Proofreading
I knew nothing about personal finance 6 years ago. Well, almost nothing, I knew I could max out one credit card and then transfer the balance to another card with a 0% balance transfer for 18 months and then try (usually unsuccessfully) to pay that balance off before transferring to yet another card! Let’s call it “Frogger-ing” my credit card debt. I was also making ~$40,000 per year while living in NYC. (Hence the credit card debt, that yearly salary does not work in a high cost of living area.) Plus I needed to take semi-regular vacations I couldn’t afford, go out to bars every weekend, and have fancy dinners with my friends. In a nutshell, financially delusional!!!
But then I got lucky. I met an amazing woman and decided I needed to find a new job and get my life in order around 2014. So I did! This new job came with some great perks too, and one of them is a sweet 401k matching program. Good thing I knew absolutely nothing about investing, the numbers on the screen might as well have been differential calculus. My friend at work took mercy on my soul and gave me a little advice by telling me to pick funds with the smallest expense ratios (good advice!), but nothing explaining allocation (makes the expense ratio advice moot!). I even attended the company 401k seminar to try to get some actual knowledge. This was not helpful, they can only talk about the plan, not how to use it properly (pretty weak).
I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands and learn about personal finance/investing. This, of course, opened my world up to many personal finance books, blogs, and podcasts. (I have too many favorites to list, although you’re reading one of them right now!) It took some time, but after a year or two I thought I finally had a pretty good grasp on things. And something I kept seeing pop up was that people should have multiple sources of income (i.e. side hustles), so I began searching for something to sink my teeth into outside of my 9-5 job. I flirted with an Amazon FBA business shortly, before deciding it wasn’t worth the possible hassles.
I also kept reading all of these different personal finance blogs and seeing more and more spelling errors, grammar mistakes, missed words, and even double-wording. It was all over the place! I even had a massive running list of grammar mistakes from a bunch of different blogs. Anyway, what I didn’t like about these mistakes was they slowed down my reading. I like to read relatively quickly, but if there’s something wrong in the text, I’m stopping and auto-correcting inside my head. This was definitely a time suck. So I thought maybe there are bloggers out there who would pay me to proofread/edit their blog posts so they could provide a more enjoyable reading experience for their readers.
Testing the Waters
After reading yet another blog post with grammar issues I could fix, I decided it was finally time to give my idea a shot. I emailed the blogger, first introducing myself, then highlighting the errors with my fixes, and then offering my services as an editor/proofreader. Fortunately for me, the blogger did not need the services of a proofreader. I say fortunately because she told me it was a good idea, and that I should definitely keep trying because there will be people out there who need my services. That was absolutely a catalyst for me. I’m not sure I would have kept going had I not been given that little push.
I sent out many emails throughout those first few months to bloggers who I kept noticing had writing errors. One person in particular is basically responsible for the success of this venture. And you’re reading his blog right now! After contacting J$, he told me he didn’t have a budget for my service, but he did run a different site at the time (Rockstar Finance) which was an aggregator for all things personal finance. He had a directory of personal finance freelancers on the site and wanted to start a “Proofreaders & Editors” section, and offered to put me in as the first one on the list! I still can’t thank the man, the myth, the legend that is J. Money enough for this!
After a few more months and a few more failed attempts at working with bloggers, I was contacted by a fintech startup who had a blog full of personal finance material which they were continually adding content to. They actually found me through the Rockstar Finance freelancer directory! I went from making no money for about 7-8 months, to suddenly working about 10 hours per week making ~$1,200 a month with the fintech company. This just goes to show, if you can nail down a niche and get in touch with the right people in that niche, you have a much better shot of succeeding (no matter the industry).
Gaining New Clients
To make a long story short, my large fintech client told me they were hiring a full-time editor in February 2018. I was told they no longer needed me but might bring me back for more freelancing work in the future. That was a majority of my Proofreading/Editing income disappearing overnight. That also might have been just the thing I needed to kick my side hustle into gear.
There were now several factors that played into me gaining three regular clients within a 2-month period. First, the fintech client was kind enough to offer to post about me on a message board for other fintechs. This yielded a client I still work with today. I emailed a content creator whose newsletter I subscribe to about helping proofread his material, and I was hired by him shortly thereafter. Finally, I applied for a freelance position with a larger content creator and was hired because of all the experience I accrued within the previous two years. Three months later, the original client asked me to come back because there was already too much work for their new full-time editor!
None of those things would have happened if I didn’t get let go, but it also shows that, sometimes, it’s good to mix things up. I’d gotten complacent at the time, and that situation motivated me to pursue new clients again, which opened up many new opportunities because I now had a resume full of work I could use to attract new clients.
Today, I have four clients I work with on a regular basis, and they give me plenty of material to keep busy. But I also have enough time to do the work, maintain my day job, and spend quality time with my amazing wife and beautiful baby daughter. This is currently my ideal situation!
The Dirty (Financial) Details
Did you scroll down to read this section first? I really can’t blame you if you did, the numbers are always the most interesting part! (A phrase that could only be uttered in a personal finance blog!)
Not too shabby for almost 3 years of side hustle work. Notice how everything declined in February of 2018 when my client left and how it came back within 2 months and surpassed all my previous other months just 4 months later. That’s the one I’m really proud of.
If I’m going to be completely honest, this side hustle isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. To begin with, this is not a way to earn passive income. You’re not sitting back while somebody else packages and ships a product for you. Editing and proofreading takes time. And you need enough time in your day to actually do it. I’m lucky enough to have the time for now, but family and friends always come first, followed by my 9-5. The side hustle will always be third banana in that regard.
Another real drawback is the one you always hear about when freelancing: You’re not really your own boss, you now have many bosses… we just call them clients! And every client wants things done their own way and you have to adjust to their wishes.
Remember, the goal of a proofreader/editor is to make the client look good by making sure the writing is clear, concise, and grammatically correct. Flexibility is the name of the game here. You have to be able to adjust on the fly and meet every client’s expectations. Ever gotten an angry email because you missed a punctuation mark? I have, and let me tell you, it ain’t fun. But still, I enjoy working with all of my clients very much and am happy with the relationships I’ve formed with them and all the other fantastic people I’ve run across while doing this hustle.
Resources I Find Helpful
Lastly, here are a few resources for anyone who goes down this path.
The-efa.org/rates — a great starting point for how to price your services
CapitalizeMyTitle.com — for making sure you have the correct title capitalization (which can be tricky!)
ThePunctuationGuide.com — for a quick resource on punctuation
Best of luck!
Lenny is a proud dad of a baby girl, and based out of the New York City area. He enjoys helping writers provide the best content to their fans and can be reached at theblogproofreader.com, or via email at Lenny[at]theblogproofreader[dot]com
Past hustles from our series:
- Selling “Printables” on Etsy ($250+/mo)
- Researching Patents ($100-$1,000+ each)
- Writing Standardized Test Questions ($20-$30/question)
- Running a Christmas Tree Stand! ($7,500/season (5 weeks))
Full list of 70+ hustles: Side Hustle Series