How I Built A $200K/Month Business Selling Proofreading Courses
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello! My name is Caitlin Pyle, and I start Proofread Anywhere back in 2014. I help proofreaders earn extra income from anywhere in the world… even if you’re starting from scratch! I have two different courses: Transcript Proofreading, which teaches students how to proofread legal transcripts for court reporters. My second course is General Proofreading.
I started it when I realized there were those who wanted to learn how to proofread, but not necessarily only transcripts. My customers range from college students, stay-at-home moms, retirees, to men and women who are looking for the freedom to work while traveling.
Before I started Proofread Anywhere, I was making $4,000 a month as a proofreader and I was convinced that was the most money I would ever make. Today I make an average of $200K a month! I wasn’t looking to just “make more money.” I simply focused on my passion of helping others find work-at-home freedom. Find a way to help others and your own business will grow also!
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I started out proofreading by helping fellow students when I was studying abroad in Germany. I had no idea I could make money without having to go to a physical building or have an actual boss. I was able to be my own boss and I loved it! But I didn’t know at the time that I could make a full-time income with it. So when I came back home to the states, I got back into my usual routine of finding a job, hating it, and finding something new until that job wore off. I have a lot of respect for those who can work desk jobs because it’s not for me!
The turning point for me was when I was working for a company and I was fired. Not only was I fired, but they personally attacked me and my character. I was done with working for people and wasting away for 8 hours a day to work for a company I wasn’t passionate about.
I paid for less than two years on my domain because I was so certain it wouldn’t take off.
In 2012, I started proofreading transcripts for court reporters from home. One client became two, two became even more! As a proofreader, I made up to $4,000 a month. Soon enough, people started asking me how I was able to proofread from home and be successful, so I wrote a little eBook to lead people through the process. I no longer have the full book that I originally wrote, but in case you wanted to see how simple that book was, here’s a screenshot of the cover. I had no idea what I was doing!
Even still, the popularity of it grew and people wanted even more detail, so in 2014 I started proofreadanywhere.com as a blog, which eventually became what it is today! When people keep asking you for more knowledge on the subject, you know you’re going in the right direction and you have found your ideal market.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
ProofreadAnywhere began as an eBook. That’s where my multimillion-dollar business started.
I thought that would be it, really. And then… people started asking me questions.
And as question after question came in, I realized that more people wanted more information.
That’s how the Proofread Anywhere courses were birthed -- I was finding a solution to the problems people had and the questions they were asking.
My startup costs weren’t much either because initially, I was doing all the work myself -- the creation of the course, eBook, even a lot of designs were originally mine.
I spent nearly 16 hours a day working on my business at the beginning. It wasn’t easy but I’m so glad I spent that time building the foundation that has impacted so many people today.
Describe the process of launching the business.
The process that I would take now is different than what I did when I first started.
When it’s a brand new business and you don’t have a lot of capital, you can either spend time or money, but normally not both. So I spent a lot of time creating my course (because people kept asking more questions after I wrote my book). I launched my course to about nine people -- that’s all that was on my email list at the time.
I was originally nervous to launch my business because I had quit so many things in the past -- I figured this wouldn’t be any different.
Turns out I was wrong. ;)
When I first launched, I was the one creating my website, the copy, the blog posts… everything. I spent nearly 16 hours a day every day to create my business.
So many people want to wait until everything is perfect to start but it’s much better to just start and continually improve -- what you’re working on is never going to be perfect!
As far as financing my business… because it was all online, I paid for software and my blog hosting, but that was about it. In fact, I paid for less than two years on my domain because I was so certain it wouldn’t take off.
The biggest lesson I learned is that you never know exactly what will take off -- and it’s always a good idea to take a chance on yourself. :)
If I was starting from scratch all over again, I would still work just as hard, but I would do a few things a little bit differently. I’d start the day with some kind of work out so I start with a positive trajectory.
I would work with a team so I don’t burn out. I would set up standard operating procedures for everything at the beginning so there is less bottlenecking. I would also hire Julie Stoian more quickly.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
There are three strategies I use to attract and retain customers.
First, I actually care about them. I want them to succeed. I want them to use my courses as a way out. But I’m very clear before they purchase that my course is going to be challenging and they’re going to have to work hard for it. But I tell them that because I actually care about them. A lot of energy goes into emailing my students and future students, responding to their comments, and responding to their emails.
Second, we run ads. Because we’re profitable, we can run ads on Pinterest, Facebook, and a few other places. This helps us to reach new customers that might not know about us otherwise.
Third, I email them pretty frequently with helpful information. I touched on it earlier but reaching out to our soon-to-be new students is so important in attracting and retaining our customers. It gives us a chance to bond with them and let them know we care about them.
We have a good amount of traffic that comes from the Proofread Anywhere blog. It’s been up for a few years now and we’ve worked really hard to make sure it has quality content that will help our readers.
Finally, we use affiliates to get the word out there about Proofread Anywhere and how it’s helping people succeed.
Most of our traffic comes through paid ads and our affiliates.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
This is an interesting question. So much has changed in my personal and business life over the past year that it’s difficult to know what the future will look like.
I can say this, though:
Because I built an excellent product that focuses on helping people, my profit margins are pretty high, we are constantly gaining new customers, and we have systems in place. Now it’s just a matter of tweaking what we already have.
My business started with me working 16-hour days on my blog and today I’m semi-retired while my team of 8 runs much of the day-to-day. I love having the freedom to still help people without having to work all the time. In fact, I now work because I want to, not because I have to.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I’ve learned that the things you can do are limited only by what you believe is possible and choose to take action on.
It’s vital to take action -- so many people want to wait until everything is perfect to start but it’s much better to just start and continually improve -- what you’re working on is never going to be perfect!
One lesson I’ve learned is the importance of systems -- setting up the evergreen webinars, for example, helped us to automate while still providing value and help to those who want to proofread for a living.
I also want to reiterate the importance of caring for the people you’re serving. That means not just throwing offers at them, but asking what they are interested in and figuring out how you can serve them best through that.
The focus is on helping them, not on you.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
I use a number of tools but here are the ones that either I or my team use each week:
- ConvertKit: We use this for one email list. For the other email list, we use Infusionsoft.
- Clickfunnels: We use this for our funnels (of course) and the affiliate program for my General Proofreading course.
- WordPress: This is where my blog is hosted.
I picked these three because they’ve each been vital to my business along the way. I started with my blog on WordPress and built my email list -- using something like ConvertKit, AWeber, or MailChimp are so useful when building your email list.
Clickfunnelshas allowed me to easily build my evergreen funnel so that I can be selling on autopilot.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Wow, there are so many here but some of the top ones include:
- The Big Leap: this helped me break past my barriers.
- Launch by Jeff Walker: This book is one I look back at every time I’m preparing to launch. His explanation of the Launch process is really smart.
- Success Principles: If you want to run a successful business, this is a must-read!
There are so many other great books that have impacted me but these three are the most significant ones (and a great place to start!)
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
The biggest thing I could share is to get out of your own head and focus on who you are helping instead of your own problems. I know it’s kind of difficult if you’re drowning, so the first thing would be to stop drowning and then focus on solving problems.
You can read more about my journey from working for someone else to building my own company in my book Work At Home.
I’m actually giving it away for free -- I just ask you cover shipping and handling.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I am lucky to have a number of virtual assistants who help me keep my business running! It couldn’t be done without them! Right now I am not looking for any additional help. But, like I tell my students, your next client could be right around the corner! You never know who could be looking for a trained proofreader. :-)
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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