English class was always Colleen’s favorite class, and she loved reading and being analytical. She went to college for a degree in Literature and even taught English abroad for a couple years in Europe.

When she returned home, she entered the traditional workforce, setting her passion for English aside. She soon found though that she struggled with a 40-hour work week and felt guilty when she needed time off. Her mental and physical health — and her life! — were all taking a back seat to her work.

Now in her early 30s, Colleen felt stuck and restless. She knew this wasn’t the life she wanted, and she went looking for something better.

She tried different jobs, but none were what she was looking for…until she found transcript proofreading.

At first, she felt nervous about being a business owner. That hadn’t been on her radar!

But she decided to give it a try…and just six months later, she had built up all the clientele she needed and had created a life where she could feel respected and give respect, be in charge of her schedule, take back control of her health, and live life on her terms.

Listen as Colleen shares her story leading up to becoming a transcript proofreader, how she approached learning a new skill, and what her life looks like now. She also gives invaluable tips to current transcript proofreading students and those thinking about this new side hustle. If you want to learn from someone who has successfully built their own business, this episode is for you!

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Thank you for taking the time to invest in yourself by listening to this episode! Please hit subscribe so you catch every episode — and share with anyone needing encouragement or curious about starting their proofreading side hustle too.

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Intro: This is The Proofreading Business Podcast with Elizabeth Wiegner. For more, visit TheProofreadingBusinessCoach.com

Elizabeth Wiegner: All right, today I have a grad guest on today, and for those of you who are inside of the community, you are instantly going to recognize her. It is Colleen Hayes. For those who aren’t in the grad community and the student community, Colleen is -- she’s not only a grad, but she’s also one of our moderators inside the community. And that’s kind of a weird term, moderator, because you are more -- you do literally everything for the students inside the community.

But I am so excited to have you on because we have so much good stuff to talk about, not only tips that you have to help people thinking about proofreading, current students, but I also feel like you and I are very similar in our reasons for why we proof. We are both -- we don’t have kids. We are in -- we like to do this for the freedom of it, for being able to choose yourself, your goals, and stretch yourself, further challenge yourself, be your own person, and I’m excited to get to talk about that today. So all that to say, welcome Colleen.

Colleen Hayes: Thank you so much, Elizabeth. I’m really excited to be here, and for all of you who know, this is Colleen Hayes, the proofreader, and not Colleen Hayes, the reporter. So keep that in mind.

Elizabeth Wiegner: It’s so funny. They are literally same name, same spelling, court reporter and proofreader, and it might cause some confusion sometimes, but we always get it cleared up.

Colleen Hayes: I’m so excited to be a guest today and talk a little bit about my proofreading journey, so lay it on me.

Elizabeth Wiegner: All right. Well, let’s kick it off then. Tell me about your background. What were you doing before proofreading? Kind of like lay the stage for what eventually got you here.

Colleen Hayes: Sure. So I am -- I’d say probably on the lower average age of our proofreaders. I’m in my mid 30s. I actually just turned 34 on Friday, dropping that little nugget.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Happy birthday.

Colleen Hayes: Thank you. And I grew up in New Jersey. I went to New Jersey Public Schools. I was always one of those kids who got relatively good grades, especially in English and history. But I always got that note on my report cards. “Colleen is a joy to have in class, but she needs to finish her homework.” Kindergarten all the way up through senior year, it was a recurring theme.

Elizabeth Wiegner: That’s so funny. I would not have pictured that of you.

Colleen Hayes: Yeah. And I found science and math relatively interesting, but I always struggled with them. So I always knew I wanted to go -- English class was always my favorite class. I knew I loved reading, literature, and analyzing and all of that. So when I went to college, I went to Guilford College down in North Carolina. It’s a small Quaker school.

I ended up majoring in English literature and German. I absolutely fell in love with my German professor. Shout to Dave Limburg. He was just such an engaging instructor, and I had had kind of -- I had to take a language requirement, but I wasn’t sure what to do. So I took German my first semester, and I ended up studying abroad in Munich. And then after I graduated from college, I went and taught English abroad for two years in Austrian high schools.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Wow.

Colleen Hayes: Yeah. It was an amazing adventure, and I mean in terms of work-life balance, my -- I was required to do 13 hours of instruction per week, and then I had the rest of the time to myself.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Nice.

Colleen Hayes: Yeah. I got to travel. I got to meet other English and German speakers nearby. I think I ended up getting about a dozen countries in my passport during that time abroad, so that was an incredible adventure, and I learned so much about, I mean, obviously German. My German got very good.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes.

Colleen Hayes: I learned a lot about problem solving. When you’re traveling in a new place, you need to be able to be on your toes and navigate cultural differences, all of that. And I just -- it reinforced my love of adventure. So I got back from Austria, and I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do next. Teaching was fun, but I also knew it was a lot more work than what I had been doing.

So I thought, okay, I’m not going to go to the traditional teaching route, but what else can I do? I ended up moving to Philly. I moved into this gigantic house with six roommates, and we all tried to split food. It was -- and one set of washer/dryers. It was a disaster.

Elizabeth Wiegner: That sounds awful.

Colleen Hayes: Yeah.

Elizabeth Wiegner: In a good way. A good, awful, great learning experience.

Colleen Hayes: Yeah. I mean it wasn’t all bad, but it was tough too. We had a beautiful house. It was a -- Philly was a -- again, a wonderful adventure. Thankfully I didn’t have anybody else -- I had my own room to myself at least.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Okay good. Okay good. That’s good.

Colleen Hayes: But I was -- so I was living in Philly. Similar to you, I was working three jobs, three part-time jobs to make ends meet. One of them -- a few of them were part-time administrative assistant jobs for nonprofits or HR departments, things like that. And I liked that work, but there wasn’t a lot of room to expand and grow in where I was. I also -- I was waiting tables, and I worked on the weekends as a youth group facilitator for the Quakers of Southeastern Pennsylvania. So I got a lot of different experiences under my belt, but I was also, as I said, a bit limited in what I could do next.

So a couple other things happened, and during lockdown I ended up deciding to move back in with my parents in New Jersey. It was just easier for the family, and at that point, I wasn’t working. I was looking for other remote opportunities or to pivot in some way. And I just allowed myself a little bit of space to explore, which was really important. As you can imagine, all of those jobs, all of those roommates, it was just -- it was a lot, and I needed a little bit of space.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes, yes.

Colleen Hayes: So I ended up researching a couple different things. I looked into getting into technical writing. I did a short gig as a recruiter, and I also did a little bit of ghost writing too for different photography articles, things like that.

And I was really intrigued by the idea of technical writing, which is producing manuals for different machinery or your technical documentation for software. And then I realized that you really needed to know coding to be able to get a job in technical writing. And I got the GitHub account. I started learning all this stuff, and my brain just wasn’t absorbing it. So I decided -- I just kept looking, and eventually I found your program, and it seemed like it was a great fit.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Wow. What a journey to get there. When you said you were HR and an admin assistant in nonprofit, I was like -- while working three jobs, that was literally what I was doing. Are we the same person, just in different states?

Colleen Hayes: Basically yeah.

Elizabeth Wiegner: So -- and I also -- you focused on you had limited upward movement, which is also something that -- I mean even -- I mean you have a college degree, and you have an amazing background with everything that you’ve done, and yet it’s still -- I mean I think that’s a common thing to feel is even with a college degree, feeling like you’re limited and don’t have a lot of options, or you have options, but is that really where you want to spend your life or what you want to spend your time doing?

Colleen Hayes: Absolutely, and I think there are many things that contributed to this kind of route, and some of it is I’m realizing 10 years out from my degree how much an alumni network, a strong alumni network is crucial to college graduate successes. You can have all the skills that you want. It’s knowing people who can get you in the room to have a good conversation. And I didn’t necessarily get a great benefit from that.

And there’s -- I love -- for example, I worked at a nonprofit called The German Society of Pennsylvania, and we had a lot of fun. I helped them with their membership database. I also helped them organize, staff events. We put on some really great parties, but it was a small nonprofit. They only have a limited budget, and they hired me for a very specific reason. So at some point you have to ask yourself when it’s time to move on, and that’s what it came down to.

Elizabeth Wiegner: So what attracted you after -- I love that you tried a lot of different things too because I feel like it can kind of be frowned upon -- used to. It’s getting more common to have multiple jobs and not feel like you’re job hopping or are not a stable person. That’s what I’ve done. I’ve done a lot of different jobs like you trying to find what I loved.

And like you said, you’ve learned so much from it and also learned what you don’t like or what your brain just doesn’t wrap around. So tell me when you got to transcript proofreading what was kind of like, oh, this could work. And then kind of tell me your journey through learning transcripts.

Colleen Hayes: Sure. And to your point earlier, my parents were in the same careers their entire lives. My dad worked for the same pharmaceutical research company for 45 years. My mom switched jobs, but she stayed in the early childhood field.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yeah, it’s common. It’s like the generation before us that’s what’s really common, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Colleen Hayes: No. It’s just a whole new world to navigate.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Exactly.

Colleen Hayes: Different rules and tips apply.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes.

Colleen Hayes: What led me to transcript proofreading was, like many of the people you’ve interviewed, I was served up one of your ads on Instagram. I actually -- one of my dearest friends is a disability advocate, and she especially works with chronically ill folks trying to navigate all of these systems. And they have a bunch of -- they follow a bunch of hashtags about fully remote work, accessible work, things like that, and they’re actually the person who sent me your ad initially.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Very neat.

Colleen Hayes: Yeah. And they know that I’m really into grammar and that I’m good at these things. I’ve looked over all of our friends’ resumes and blurbs and short bios many times. So I sat on the ad for a week or two, and then I thought to myself, you know what? I’m in a good space where I can take this risk, and I think this will really play to my strengths. So I decided to try it out, and I’m very glad. I haven’t looked back since. It’s really been a great fit.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Absolutely. I mean not even just from transcript proofreading but now getting to support the students too. It’s just -- it’s amazing. So tell me, like when you got started, was there anything you were worried about starting your business or things that you particularly struggled with or what was -- because some people, they go all in, and it’s positive all the way. They love it even if it is challenging. And then some you have a lot of doubts or concerns along the way. What was kind of your thought process journey while you were learning?

Colleen Hayes: Well, some of the things that were a challenge for me, I had never imagined myself to be a business owner before enrolling in this class. It was -- I don’t know a lot of people who have started their own business and kept with it for awhile. It’s not necessarily something that’s modeled to me.

So I had had a couple of harebrained schemes about, oh, it would be fun to open this kind of a shop or do that. But I’d never actually opened -- cracked a book to see what the process would be like. So that was one of my concerns is being able to do all of the backend kind of business administration and management portions, which you go over very thoroughly in phase 3 of your course. So that certainly helped.

And I think the more that I got assurances with my proofreading skills, the more I was able to remember: You already have a lot of these administrative skills that you’ve used for other people and being able to ramp up my business at my own pace is a big part of that. I didn’t have to hit the ground running and manage 20 clients all at once and deadlines and all of these things. I could slowly build my way up to accepting more and more pages as I got more comfortable.

Elizabeth Wiegner: That’s huge because I know, like when you go into transcript proofreading, the big goal is -- I mean you have your big, giant goal of this is what I want my business to look like, and this is how much money I want to have, and this is how much -- how busy I want to be.

And when you have -- like please have those. If you don’t have big goals, you’re never going to achieve it because, I mean, if you don’t have something to shoot for. But, and, you have to -- you can get overwhelmed thinking about, oh, I’ve got to graduate and instantly have everything I need. And yes, that’s what we want because we want instant gratification, but it’s not really good for you either.

Colleen Hayes: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve often struggled with being able to do a 40-hour work week and then take care of the rest of life as well. I would get home and be totally exhausted after my job. And so the vacuuming never happened. Doing my laundry never happened. I rarely got to see my friends. And that’s one of the joys that has turned out that I’ve had from this job is I’m able to schedule doctor’s appointments, schedule a trip to see friends, move around my schedule in a way that works better for my brain and my energy levels in a way that was quite distressing that I wasn’t able to do when I was trying to meet my 40-hour work week minimum.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes. I cannot “yes” that enough. By the time -- especially if -- being around a lot of people, like I enjoy that, but it’s also very draining, very limited amount of time that I can manage a lot of people or just having your brain sitting at a desk doing admin work or working with youth or being a server. There is only so much time in your day. Your brain has to go all in if you wanted to do a good job. And then what’s left when you get home for you?

Colleen Hayes: Yeah, exactly. It wasn’t much.

Elizabeth Wiegner: And yes, the vacuuming, yes. I feel that completely. It might get done. So what are your -- I guess that kind of goes into what are your favorite parts about having your business now? You kind of highlighted on some of it, but if you really hone in on what you would say are your favorites.

Colleen Hayes: Well, I think probably some of the people listening to this podcast will understand it’s very freeing not feeling like I have to fit into someone else’s workplace culture. I set the tone for how my business operates. I -- workplace conflict is really hard like you were saying. Just the day-to-day interactions can be draining and then also navigating the politics of who are -- who’s on your team, who’s your manager. Are conflicts being handled in a professional way?

A lot of times that’s what would bring about the end of the decision for me. It wasn’t necessarily the tasks. It was the environment around it. And so like I said, I set the tone for how I handle my business as well as how I speak to my clients or potential clients. I expect a certain amount of respect, and I will give it back in due course, and that’s really nice, being able to say if you aren’t meeting my standards for respectful communication, that’s fine. We can part ways. That’s been -- I haven’t run into that issue much, but I know I have it in my back pocket if I need to.

I also -- I love that I get to start my day when I’m ready. Usually I’m not that great at rolling out of bed and getting to work. It’s less of a problem these days, although sometimes I do roll over and check my phone and my partner rolls his eyes at me a little bit.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes, Jonathan too.

Colleen Hayes: I usually try to not actually reply to an email until I’m fully awake, but I know I have an email waiting for me.

Elizabeth Wiegner: It’s probably good. That’s probably a good plan to wait until your brain can function before you hit reply. Good call.

Colleen Hayes: Yeah. It doesn’t look great if a professional proofreader sends a typo-ridden email. So it’s good to take a beat, take a breath.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes. But you have that option too. If you want to check it, you can. And if you don’t want to, you don’t have to. Or you don’t have to get to it until later. That is nice, yes.

Colleen Hayes: Absolutely. I also -- I was -- I’m sure if you’re in the communities, you know I have three cats. I have three tuxedo cats.

Elizabeth Wiegner: They’re the best.

Colleen Hayes: They’re so cute. They’re absolute menaces, but I love them. And we get to hang out all day long. I get to take breaks from my work to play with them, to -- we were watching some birds at the birdfeeder yesterday.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Oh my gosh. That is the cutest.

Colleen Hayes: We just have a good time, and they definitely -- they follow me around like puppies, so it’s perfect. It works out for all of us.

Elizabeth Wiegner: You know, I think probably a lot of people have experienced this since 2020. Our pets, now that we’re home a lot, it’s like I don’t know what they would do. If I had to go to a 9-to-5 again, they would be devastated.

Colleen Hayes: Yeah, they’d be so bored.

Elizabeth Wiegner: They don’t have a human to boss around.

Colleen Hayes: And then the last point I’ll make, and this is one of the really important things that’s come out of owning my own business is I’ve been able to take charge of my health goals in a way that I wasn’t able to in a traditional workplace.

If you’re someone like me who struggles to get to the six-month point or the one-year mark at a job when benefits kick in, it can be really hard to then subsequently set up your doctor’s and dentist’s and therapist appointments. I would always feel really guilty about taking an afternoon off to go and see my doctor or go get my tires checked or whatever it is. Going and doing those things that you have to do during business hours was always a struggle for me.

And in this past year and a half, I’ve been able to -- I qualify for my state’s Medicaid program, and that has reduced so many barriers to care that I’ve had before. I’ve been able to reestablish relationships with doctors, get some things checked out, and I’ve been pursuing a mental health assessment as well, which has been something I’ve been meaning to do for years and years but just didn’t have the time.

So I’m really grateful to be able to take care of those things, and maybe that means I’ll be able to work my way up to a 40-hour work week if I have the right accommodations and support to be able to do that. And before, I was just caught in this catch-22 of, I have to work to be able to get to the doctor, but I can’t get to the doctor because I’m working. So it’s been such a breath of fresh air to be able to take care of myself, and I’ve mentioned to you I’ve started going to the gym.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes.

Colleen Hayes: I go to the gym at, like, 2 p.m. where nobody else is there. It’s amazing. I love it.

Elizabeth Wiegner: It’s so nice having an empty gym, yes. You know, I don’t talk about that enough. I mean, I talk about freedom in your schedule, and you can set your own day. But I don’t emphasize enough that the difference it can make for your health, not just your physical health but your mental health too. It’s huge when you can take time for things, for being a human, that you can’t take when you’re just in the grind all the time, the corporate life, or even nonprofit life can insist that you have.

Colleen Hayes: When you’re really worried about -- I am not very good at clocking in on time, and that produces a lot of anxiety for me. And I don’t have to worry about that anymore, and just taking that level of that layer of anxiety out of my planning is so freeing. It allows so much extra mental space, and it’s also helped me develop my confidence and my self-esteem in a way that the corporate schedule was not working for me, so yeah, absolutely.

Elizabeth Wiegner: No, that’s another really good point about clocking in, that stress of you know you need to be there at a certain time, and if you’re not, you’re probably going to get an email or a phone call or called into the boss’ office. And it’s not like you don’t do a good job or you don’t get your work done, but hey, if you’re consistently clocking in at 8:05 instead of 8 o’clock, then you must be an awful employee when no.

Colleen Hayes: Right.

Elizabeth Wiegner: And that’s such a good -- once you take -- when you start taking layers of anxiety out of your life, it’s amazing. Not only your physical health is better too, but also you just -- you have space in your brain for more things, absolutely, such a good point.

So as a team member on The Proofreading Business Coach team, and you are so involved with students. You help give feedback sessions. You’re in the community with them. You’re working with the team and myself to make sure they’re supported.

I was going to say I would love for you to speak directly to students about some ways that you’ve gone through your business that you wish -- that you would love to share with them. I mean you do already inside the community, but like bullet point or things for people who aren’t even students yet.

Maybe they’re thinking about it and they’re wondering is this is a good fit for me. Is this something that I can do? You always have a million questions running through your head. I’d love to give the floor to you to share what you’d like to say if you could put everything with a bow and hand it to them. If you did this, this will really help you.

Colleen Hayes: Sure. I can share a few nuggets. I would say especially if you’re already signed up and inside the course and inside the learning community, utilize that search function. It’s incredible. We have at this point three years of discussions going back about all of our processes as proofreaders, going through the transcripts, asking questions about specific, whether it’s grammar or business issues.

We have so much packed into that Facebook group. And feel free to comment on a post that was made 17 months ago and bump it back up and get the discussion going again. We love to see that. It shows that you’re engaged and that you’re flexing your research skills. I think that’s -- the research is a huge part of being a good proofreader.

Sometimes you have to be able to fill in gaps whether that’s in a Facebook group or on a Google search or even looking back at previous transcripts. Flexing your research skills is important at this stage so that you can confidently handle whatever your clients throw at you.

Don’t be afraid of being wrong. If somebody asks a question and you have an idea about what the answer should be, don’t worry about whether it’s right or wrong. We’re just glad to see you’re thinking about it. Something that I think all of us have said before is each proofreader is going to work slightly differently or see something different. If you can justify the decisions that you’re making, that’s great.

We spend a lot of time, I would say hemming and hawing over small details as proofreaders. Does a comma go here? Does a comma not go here? Well, at the end of the day, it’s your client’s work, and we want to respect their style. But if you have a good reason to put a comma in there, then that’s good enough while you’re practicing.

I think I said this to somebody who was concerned about proofreading the spoken word. I think there should be more words added in here, or I don’t really understand this phrasing. Does this mean I’m a bad proofreader? No, absolutely not. It means that you are picking up on patterns and issues with the spoken word. You’re laying the foundation to be a good proofreader. Right now you’re a good proofreader. To really knock it out of the park, to be a stellar proofreader is to be able to see those sorts of things and then say is this what someone could have actually said?

If I was in a hot courtroom with a bunch of people staring at me and I was trying to remember something that happened five years ago or I’m trying to perfectly word this question that I only get one shot at asking, can I imagine that someone would stumble over their words this way? Is it possible that someone added this extra repetitive word in? Maybe. And that just -- it takes time. It takes practice.

It gets becoming more familiar with legal jargon and kind of the spoken shortcuts that people use when they’re speaking off the cuff. Nobody speaks like a textbook. Even the most articulate person that you know doesn’t speak perfectly every single time. And it’s just -- it’s important to have grace for people.

The people who show up on our transcripts, they’re from diverse places, diverse experiences. Their voices and ways of speaking are different. That might be regional. It might be cultural. It might have something to do with their education. But it’s important to teach -- or it’s important to approach all of these people with respect and dignity regardless of -- throw out your judgments of how people speak. It doesn’t matter whether you think they’re a good speaker or a poor speaker. It’s about respecting them and their testimony.

And we all get flustered. We all get tongue-tied especially, let’s be honest, if people are in a courtroom, especially for a criminal case, it’s because something really horrible happened, and they’re reliving what’s happened to them. And I would not expect someone to speak perfectly in that instance. And I think it’s just important to keep that in mind. I would --

Elizabeth Wiegner: That -- no, go ahead.

Colleen Hayes: Oh no. I was going to change topics.

Elizabeth Wiegner: That’s -- you have put so much in there. I’m like, man, where do I start to unpack this? That’s so good. It’s -- I love where you’re talking about getting used to the spoken word and understanding one part about what you’re saying about understanding people don’t speak perfectly even if they have a perfectly rehearsed speech and standing up in front of people that are going to make mistakes.

You make mistakes when you have one-on-one conversations, and you definitely are going to make mistakes when you’re in a stressful situation and have an attorney -- or the attorneys will even make -- they’re in a stressful position too. So giving grace because the grace that you give people is the grace that you’ll receive back, and I’m assuming you would like to have grace as you’re learning something new. And when you make mistakes and when you have the mindset of giving grace to other people, it really helps to come back to you too.

Colleen Hayes: Yeah, absolutely. And it might be indirect. Obviously, we don’t get to speak to a deponent, but if you send an over-annotated transcript back to a court reporter because of the way that someone speaks, they might not come back to you as clients because the spoken word doesn’t seem to be coming through.

Something that our students and I still struggle with is regional dialects, the different ways that people speak whether they’re born English speakers or they’re second language speakers. Especially people who are really into grammar can struggle with regional dialects, and the only way you’re going to get more familiar with those things is listening to real people talk. So my advice, if you’re struggling with the spoken word or with regional dialects is honestly start eavesdropping on people. And I know that sounds --

Elizabeth Wiegner: That’s actually a fun project.

Colleen Hayes: Yeah. I know this might sound creepy, but if you’re in the grocery aisle or you even have the opportunity to go and sit in the gallery of an open courtroom. Just start opening your ears to how the people around you speak, and I think you’ll be really surprised at what you can glean from that. Start thinking, if I was a court reporter and I had to write what these people were saying, what would it look like on the page? How would I punctuate the sentence that person just said if I couldn’t go in and copy edit it? That’s why Margie calls her book Bad Grammar, Good Punctuation.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes.

Colleen Hayes: Because we’ve got to work with what we’ve got. So eavesdropping on the people around you, listening to conversational podcasts, things like The Moth or other storytelling podcasts where it’s not scripted. People are just speaking off of the cuff.

If you approach the conversations happening around you with a transcript proofreader’s lens, I think you’ll be surprised at how it helps with your practicing and getting a handle on the spoken word because that’s really -- the only way to get better at it is exposure whether that’s inside the practice transcripts or in real life. That’s -- and I know everybody hates that advice, but it’s practice. So you can do it. You just need to approach the subject with open ears and an open mind.

Elizabeth Wiegner: 100 -- 1000%, yes.

Colleen Hayes: Another point that I wanted to -- and this is speaking of clients, I think it’s important to keep in mind that court reporters are certified professionals. They know what they’re doing. Sometimes you’ll get a client who’s fresh out of school or really struggles with commas or quotes or something like that, but the majority of court reporters have been doing this for a long time. They passed their certifications, and they have a writing style.

It’s -- and I try, when I initially approach a new client, I try and make this point very clear is that I respect their knowledge and I respect their writing style. It’s important to trust your client and to trust their notes. They’re the ones in the room hearing what is being said, the pacing and inflection and all of that. They take very -- I mean, that’s their whole job.

So trust them and trust their notes, and just keep in mind this isn’t like grading a high school paper. We’re not -- and it’s not like copyediting. We’re not refining what’s being said. We’re just honing and polishing something that a respected professional has produced. And I know that has gotten me a few jobs because I make it very clear to potential clients that I’m not there to be their English teacher.

Elizabeth Wiegner: They don’t want that.

Colleen Hayes: No, they don’t. They want me to be on their team and to make their life easier, and they don’t want to feel like every time they’re getting a transcript back from me that I’m judging them.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes.

Colleen Hayes: So I keep it short and to the point and let them know that I respect their hard work.

Elizabeth Wiegner: That ties in what you said earlier about you can work with clients who respect you and also that you respect them. It’s a mutual thing when you both respect each other’s skills and talents that you’re bringing to the table.

Colleen Hayes: I’m sure we’ve all been talked down to by a coworker or a boss before, and it makes you not want to go to work. So why -- I’m not trying to bring that energy into my own business.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes. I mean, because as proofreaders, it’s really common. Like if you do any #proofreader or something like that, a search on Instagram, instantly you’re going to find stuff about being a grammar snob or grammar police or other just very unpleasant terminologies to associate with it. And it’s like, why would anybody want to work with somebody who’s going to make you feel disrespected and unintelligent and incapable? It’s -- that’s not how you do it.

Colleen Hayes: Right. And it actually -- it ties back into my experiences learning German and teaching English abroad. And I don’t get to talk about those much in the group because it’s kind of tangential, but my German was not that great when I first showed up to Austria, and I very much had an immersion experience where I had enough German to be conversational.

But when things started getting technical or a little deeper, I started getting a little lost. And there was a time I was a couple of months in, and one of my Austrian co-teachers was in the breakroom, and she asked to the assembled teachers: I’m going over to the convenience store. Does anybody want me to grab anything for them? And I responded “Auf Deutsche” with a little bit of an Austrian accent saying, oh no, I don’t need anything. And everyone in the room turned around, and they were like, look at you. Wow. You sound like a real Austrian.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes.

Colleen Hayes: Well, thanks. But that -- even at my most fluent and fluid of German speaking, I knew I wasn’t speaking like a textbook, especially in Austria. Austrians don’t speak perfect German, so I had a kind of a double-fold -- double-fold issues to get through.

And that’s also part of what’s allowed me to give grace to our speakers in transcripts as well whether it’s English as a second language or not. There are so many weird and wonderful ways that we can put sentences together. And if -- and they say this in the deaf community as well, just make communication happen, however you can.

Just keep trying, and switch things up, and you’ll get your point across. And I just try and keep that in mind when I’m reading a transcript as well is those mechanics of learning a second language and knowing that you’re not getting it right, but you’re getting it close enough. The verb tenses aren’t always going to agree, but whatever. It’s fine.

Elizabeth Wiegner: That’s a perfect example with the verb tenses because when you speak -- I mean, I’ve tried to learn Spanish and, hot mess. But when -- speaking English, I have so much respect for people who come in trying to learn English as a second language or a third or a fourth because even as natural-born English speakers, it can be a struggle sometimes.

And sometimes I even think when I’m sitting there writing and can see the words on the page, is this verb tense the correct word? What kind -- is this word singular? Is it plural depending on what it is? And -- but when you’re speaking and you’re in transcripts, you can’t change that. You have to leave it alone.

And our tendency as people who like to make things perfect and we’re grammarians is to make everything perfect, whereas your point is to understand that people don’t speak perfectly. We’re actually -- it’s like we’re -- it’s imperfectly perfect or perfectly imperfect, whichever way you want to put it and to just leave it alone, which is so hard to do when you’re getting -- I think that’s probably the hardest thing with transcript proofreading.

Colleen Hayes: Absolutely. It really is, yeah. It’s incredible how often judges, lawyers, doctors, mechanics, whoever it is, they will not say the right verb tenses. I do it too. Sometimes I’ll be writing an email, and it should be “there are” and I’ll write “there is” and I’ll have to go back and change it.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes.

Colleen Hayes: And it’s okay. Language is here to evolve and adapt and change and fit outside boxes, and it’s all going to be okay. I promise.

Elizabeth Wiegner: That, to me, is what’s so fun about transcript proofreading is it’s not black and white. It’s not perfect. It’s part of learning to just go with the flow, which is so -- really takes a weight off my shoulders. Instead of having to be so perfect, it’s -- I can just let it be.

Colleen Hayes: Yeah. And I also completely understand the perspective of people who are still going through the course or people who are thinking of joining the course who -- this sort of work appeals to those people for whom typos jump out of the page, people who are very passionate about grammar and punctuation and getting it right. And like you said, there’s a certain amount of letting go that needs to happen to really be successful.

Elizabeth Wiegner: That’s why there are so many practice pages --

Colleen Hayes: Yes.

Elizabeth Wiegner: -- inside the course. And the community where you can ask questions or you’re like, you know, I think I understand this but I don’t. I’m not 100% sure. This is my thought process. Can you help me know if I’m on the right track or what I need to adjust? So it’s -- and you have personalized feedback sessions, which you also help with, Colleen.

So it’s not like you’re left on your own to figure it out, and you’re not judged for not being able to be perfect on day one because none of us are perfect, or even day 100 because, I mean, you’ve been proofing -- has it been two -- I think it’s two years, right, with your business?

Colleen Hayes: It is a year and a half.

Elizabeth Wiegner: A year and a half, okay.

Colleen Hayes: So I joined your course in October of ‘22. I launched in January of ‘23, and I got my first client about a month after I started marketing. So yeah, a year and a half.

Elizabeth Wiegner: So you started October 2022, and then you had a client in February of 2023.

Colleen Hayes: Yes. Um-hmm.

Elizabeth Wiegner: That is awesome. You were booking it.

Colleen Hayes: Yeah, I was.

Elizabeth Wiegner: But you took it seriously.

Colleen Hayes: Yes.

Elizabeth Wiegner: You did. That’s -- like I say, I don’t care about your speed through the course. You can take two years if you want, or you could take a couple months if you want. But the important thing is you’re taking it seriously and working at a pace that goes for you, and that’s what you did. I mean, obviously by the point in February, you were ready to go.

Colleen Hayes: Yeah, and it definitely -- I -- making that first couple marketing posts really felt like jumping off of a cliff. I double-checked those posts about 14 times for typos, and I haven’t had to market in at least a year. So it was fine. It all worked out. I caught myself on the way down, and it’s been a success.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Isn’t that the best feeling to just get work in and not have to -- I mean, yes. You market -- like you -- if you’ve been doing it a year and a half, you have to market for about six months to get the clients you wanted. But now, it’s like -- which I think if you could speak to that a little bit because I know sometimes this can be a struggle and us with grads, like when you graduate, you instant -- I mean, understandably. I wanted clients the day after I decided I wanted to be a transcript proofreader. And you know, you can get your first client. You, it took a month. Some people it takes -- sometimes like a couple days later they’re like, I’ve got my first transcript, and I’m like, wow.

Colleen Hayes: So impressive.

Elizabeth Wiegner: I know. And it’s not something where you just snap your fingers and you have it. So maybe you could talk to kind of your mindset that you had during the six months that you were building up the clientele to where you’re happy where you’re at now.

Colleen Hayes: Sure. Well, to be honest, I spent a lot of time refreshing the various resources and pages that you direct us towards. In phase 3, I spent a lot of time obsessively checking my Facebook page and my email. Perhaps I should have put the phone down a little bit more.

Elizabeth Wiegner: It happens to the best of us.

Colleen Hayes: So if you’re in that place, you are not alone, very understandable. But I started trying [indiscernible] when I really got serious about building better work habits. I’m sure I pulled up some practice transcripts and did a little bit of work in my downtime. I probably cleaned my house a little too vigorously.

So there’s a little bit of waiting, and there’s a little bit of patience that comes in. And I’m just actually going to speak to this just in general. It’s -- part of -- it’s really important to take care of yourself when you’re going through this course and when you’re getting your first clients and when you’re working through 700 pages that are all due Saturday.

At all of the stages of this journey, you need to be able to put pressure on yourself when you need to and then back off and give -- this word keeps coming up: giving yourself grace. You don’t have the -- well, since I don’t have another job on top of this, I don’t have the guardrails of a work schedule to kind of keep me in check, to keep me on schedule.

It’s really easy to get distracted or to bury yourself in kind of a small, mindless task and get distracted from the bigger goal. So it’s important to keep coming back to your business, reviewing some of the bonus materials in phase 3. A lot of the bonus content that you put in is so packed full of information that’s worth reviewing.

But it’s also -- it’s simple stuff. It’s practicing good posture and making sure you stretch and you drink lots of water and have snacks nearby so you don’t get grumpy after three hours. You -- and being frustrated and impatient is a good way to practice mindfulness and feeling through your emotions.

Going back to my mental health journey, my therapist calls it urge surfing. When you get a feeling that you can’t quite shake, we know, physiologically speaking, that it only takes a few minutes to be able to move through that emotion and to go through the rise and fall of it. So surf the urge. Get curious about it. Feel your breathing. Where’s this frustration coming from? And is there something that I can do about it right now, or is there nothing that I can do about it and I can let go of it a little bit?

Those are -- as much as your grammar and punctuation skills, those skills are going to help you surf the waves of freelance work, which it can be feast or famine sometimes. You have to be able to -- whether it’s dealing with the frustration of not getting work in or sitting with a really difficult, maybe triggering topic in the deposition or the trial that you just worked through. Taking care of yourself in that way is really important.

To go back to what I was saying earlier, sometimes you read really disturbing content, and there’s not much that you can do for those people, but you can take care of yourself. And you need to be prepared to do that for yourself and have tools in your toolbox to be able to take care of yourself. Take a walk. Get yourself a treat. Talk to a professional or a friend that you trust, whatever it is. We need those things to be able to keep moving and keep our lives going.

Elizabeth Wiegner: That’s a good reminder because it’s really easy when you’re focused on your business to make your business everything and to kind of sacrifice yourself or your business, and I’m totally talking to myself right here. But if you don’t take care of yourself, then you don’t have a business.

And your whole point -- I love to say that you have -- you’re building your proofreading business to have the life that you want to have, not for your life to run your proofreading business kind of thing, or your proofreading business to run your life. You want it to be the other way around. And so -- because you -- like if you’re in the rat race or you’re working three jobs at once or you don’t want to just jump from the -- what is the term, jump from the frying pan into the fire kind of thing where you’re --

Colleen Hayes: Yeah.

Elizabeth Wiegner: But also, like you said, giving yourself grace and being patient because you can’t -- you have all these things you need to be doing and you should be doing them, and also just being patient. I feel like so many people give up just a couple weeks in or a month in when, if they just kept going -- like six months, and you were there.

And that’s -- everybody’s story is different. Some people have it much faster. Some people take much longer. And the important thing is that each person kept going and didn’t let themselves -- this is my favorite word -- wallow in what am I doing. Everything is going wrong, instead of actually taking care of themselves and their mental health and physical health, absolutely.

Colleen Hayes: And it’s especially we -- I certainly sympathize with everybody who’s stretching to make ends meet right now. We’re all in a really tough spot right now with prices, with being able to keep roofs over our head. I am very glad that I have the space to be able to build up my business at my own pace.

And I know not everybody is in that same scenario. And so that’s why I also don’t -- if you’re worried about anything like that, don’t quit your job, move, and become unfindable. It’s take your time, pace yourself, and you will get there. You will build your skills, your business, your confidence to be able to make the moves that make sense for you and for your family. There’s no rush.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Yes, absolutely. And when you give yourself that grace to take that time, it tends to come sooner than you think it will. I know it seems weird how that works, and I can’t say there’s a scientific reason for it that I know of. But it really does when you just do what you need to do and you’ll get there. You really will.

And you think about it, six months, even a year working on your business compared to the years that you have ahead of you is -- or even like a college degree that can take a long time and put you massively in debt compared to a little bit of time. I mean, it’s all in perspective but that you can spend working on your transcript proofreading business is everything.

Colleen Hayes: I just paid off my student loans 12 years after graduating --

Elizabeth Wiegner: Nice.

Colleen Hayes: -- earlier this month.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Congrats! That’s huge.

Colleen Hayes: Thank you. It’s huge. It’s such a weight off of my shoulders. Compared to your course, which I think it took eight months after enrolling in the course to make my money back, and that includes the time spent working on the course. I -- the return on investment is incredible for this class. I really have no complaints there.

Elizabeth Wiegner: That makes me so happy to hear.

Colleen Hayes: You’re really -- what you say about -- if you qualify for phase 3, you’re going to be able to hit the ground running with clients is true. This course has rigorous standards because we want you to succeed. It reflects well -- obviously we want you to succeed, and your success reflects well on The Proofreading Business Coach program as well as the grads inside of it. When all of us are prepared, it’s better for the rest of us as well.

Elizabeth Wiegner: You may not feel like it’s very fun and that it’s rigorous in the middle of it, but I promise when you graduate you’re going to be like, I did it. I can do anything now.

Colleen Hayes: Yeah, really.

Elizabeth Wiegner: So if you could leave with one last -- you have given so much -- I feel almost bad asking for one last piece of advice from you, Colleen, because you’ve dropped so many gold -- I mean, I have -- my notebook -- I went on to my next page. I was writing stuff down. But if you could leave with one last thing that you really wish students and non-students alike would know, what would that be?

Colleen Hayes: I would say my last and kind of culminating piece of advice would be to be open to learning. Yes, in terms of punctuation and grammar, but also this course teaches you so much more than just punctuation and grammar and how to be a good proofreader.

There are lessons about confidence and abilities, about goal-setting, getting back up and dusting yourself off. Be open to those experiences and know that we’re here to help give you a cheer or a kick in the butt, whatever you need in the moment. But you’ve got a safe place to make some of those mistakes and to do some of that learning here. It’s so satisfying.

Like I said, I was so intimidated when I first started with the idea of starting a business from scratch, but going through the course, being able to look back 18 months later, it really is one step in front of the other. And slowly you’ll build your way up to the top and you’ll look back and you’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come.

So it takes some time. It’s a challenge. Be patient with yourself but know that you’ve got the tools laid out in front of you. Just stay the course, and if you do, you’re going to have a new and exciting challenge. I get to read something totally new every single day. Variety is definitely the spice of life. And I get to work with words. There’s really nothing more that I could ask for, so keep at it.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Colleen, thank you so much. I feel like I’m going to have to just take that snippet right there and put it on repeat because that was good. Thank you so much for your time to share not just your story, which was fascinating, but also the -- all the advice ranging from taking care of yourself to how to go through the course to -- I mean, it was so good. Thank you so much for this. I absolutely loved it.

Colleen Hayes: Well, thank you for having me. I had a lot of fun, and I will see you all around in the community.

Elizabeth Wiegner: Y’all will love Colleen in there, so yes, absolutely. All right, thank you, Colleen.

Outro: Want to learn more about transcript proofreading? Then check out my free workshop: “Is Transcript Proofreading the Right Money-Making Business for Me?” It’s less than an hour, and it answers lots of FAQs around transcript proofreading so you can decide if this is the perfect side hustle for you. You can check it out on TheProofreadingBusinessCoach.com/workshopregistration.

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Meet Elizabeth

Elizabeth Wiegner is a work-from-home proofreader and business coach who teaches other readers and typo fixers how to build a life of freedom as a proofreader. Her energy, love, and personalized support are second to none in the proofreading world.