From Avid Reader To Romance Proofreader: Celise’s Side Hustle Journey

Celise Downs has a passion for love stories, which has led to her becoming a professional romance proofreader and copy editor. Working with words has always been part of her journey. She is also a published writer (she wrote her first novels in seventh grade)! It’s no surprise that she now has a fulfilling editorial business working with romance writers and women entrepreneurs.

Read our interview with Celise to learn when she realized, “Man, I’d love to do this as a job.”, and how she turned her lifelong love of romance novels into money-making skills. She also shares her tips for aspiring proofreaders and copy editors, and gives us a peek at her day as she balances her side hustle with her day job. Celise’s passion and energy shines through, and it is clear she has found a career that brings her joy.

romance proofreader interview

Hi Celise! We’d love to know more about you. 

I’m a divorcée (no kids) in my early 50s, born and raised (for the most part) in Arizona. I currently live with my parents to help my dad care for my mom. I’m a HUGE fan of James Bond, Betty Boop, and Linkin Park.

Can you tell us about your editorial business?  Do you have a niche or niches you focus on? 

Like A GoddessBoss VA offers proofreading and copyediting services to female entrepreneurs and independent romance authors. I actually consider myself to be an Editorial VA. The content I work on is indie romance short stories and/or serials up to 15k words max, emails, newsletters, blog posts, social media captions, website content, product descriptions, etc. 

I’m open to working with all adult romance authors—no matter their publishing journey—but my preference is indie authors since I was one myself. And while I’m open to working with all fempreneurs, I’d love to work with women (a.k.a. dream clients) in the living abroad, natural healing, sustainable lifestyle, tiny home living, and plant-based diet industries as these are areas of personal interest for me.

What made you get into proofreading and copyediting?

I started writing YA fiction in seventh grade and in the early 2000s, I independently published two YA books. So I was proofreading/copyediting my own stories at that time. Additionally, I always seemed to be proofreading or copyediting something in my corporate jobs. Right around the time I was indie publishing my stories, I came across 826 National and wanted to start a similar model here in my hometown. I’d wanted to leave the corporate world for a while and thought this was the way to do it. 

I went back to school in 2009 (after being out for seventeen years! Gah!) and got a BA degree in Nonprofit Management with a Concentration in Writing and Literature. I got as far as obtaining 501(c)(3) status before setting that idea aside. 

I love to read and have been reading adult romance since I was a freshman in high school. When I thought about what else I wanted to do, I thought, “Man, I’d love to do this as a job.” I didn’t think that was possible, but lo and behold…

How did our course, High-Level Proofreading And Copyediting Pro, prepare you for starting your own editorial business?

“You know nothing, Jon Snow.” That’s the first thought that popped into my head when I read that question. LOL Turns out he knew a lot, but I digress. Basically, I got schooled when I signed up for High-Level Proofreading And Copyediting Pro. It was a more formal training environment than the informal one I was used to when editing corporate documents and my own stories. Not only did I learn about editing, but I learned about the business of editing, which I found to be incredibly valuable.

How long have you been running your editorial biz for?

I relaunched my business in Feb 2022. Let me explain. My journey began in 2019, when the first version of my business (An Eye for Romance) was proofreading for only indie romance authors. I bailed a year later. I wasn’t where I wanted to be business-wise, got frustrated and quit. But I would get little reminders here and there that I should pick it back up. So, I did. 

The second version of my business, Romance Society Editing, was born in late 2020, early 2021, and I was offering proofreading and manuscript assessments. But the females in my life (friends and family alike) were starting or actually doing their own side business thing and I started to think, “Well, maybe authors aren’t the only ones who may need editing assistance.” But I didn’t quit this time; just pivoted.

I decided my business model was going to be virtual assistance, whose primary focus was editing, hence the Editorial VA title. 

What is it like to be a romance proofreader?

I love everything about it! I subscribe to a lot of author newsletters. In August 2022, two authors announced—in their respective newsletters—that they were starting an indie romance publishing company. After chewing on that for a few days, I finally got up the nerve to contact them. I told them I’ve read all their books, subscribed to their newsletters, how long I’ve been reading romance, and about starting my business. I then proposed a free trial of my services during the month of September and they accepted! 

During that time, I proofread two novellas, one of which was published in Nov 2022. That connection turned into my first paying client. I proofread four novellas in December 2022 and have copyedited one so far in the New Year (but there’ll be more to come). That one will be released toward the end of January and the rest have release dates in February. Best. F**king. Job. Ever!

Celise Downs is a proofreader and copy editor who works with romance fiction writers, publishing houses, and women entrepreneurs.

What do you like best about working in editorial?

Not only reading the genre I love, but editing the books of authors whom I read for pleasure. Honestly, I’m still pinching myself. I’m editing books by Brynn Hale and Lana Dash (and other authors as well), and I’ve been reading their books for a couple years now?! What the what?!!! LOL Sur-real.

The fact that I get to be another set of eyes for female entrepreneurs and authors makes me want to do the Snoopy Dance.


To learn how you can start a proofreading and copyediting business, we have a free masterclass to get you started. Click here to watch it now.

Did you experience Imposter Syndrome when starting out? How did (or do) you deal with it?

Oh my God, yasssss! Which is why, when I launched last year, I didn’t really put myself out there marketing-wise. I copyedited content for friends and family in exchange for testimonials. There was a lot of hemming and hawing, fussing with the website, figuring out the services I wanted to offer, figuring out pricing, changing things around, and having second thoughts about my business model… the doubt seemed never-ending. Seeing that announcement in the authors’ newsletters was a wake-up call for me. 

I feel that 2023 is going to be the “Growth Year” for me. Currently, the indie publishing company is my only client. They took a chance on me and I will always be so, so grateful for that. I want to work with more authors and see more book covers on the GoddessBoss Bookshelf. I want to start working with fempreneurs and bring them into the GoddessBoss Gang.

Last year reinforced for me that I want to do this full time (really badly!), that I can do this full-time. For me, I think doing the work helps me get past Imposter Syndrome.

How has your editorial business impacted your life?

Gained confidence in my skills. The more I do, the better I become. I found myself stepping outside the boundaries of the chosen service; over delivering when I shouldn’t be and inserting my personal thoughts when I needed to be objective. It was a great Lesson Learned moment that forced me to reel myself in and kick that behavior to the curb.

What advice do you have for people who are considering getting into proofreading and editing?

Two things:

  1. Don’t be a Jon Snow (or maybe be a Jon Snow, depending on how you look at it?). LOL If you want to edit books, understand that a love of reading isn’t going to be enough. It’ll help, yes, but that’s just the prologue. And that English degree may help, too, but again, it’s page one, baby. Having that specialized training makes all the difference—not only for your clients, but for yourself as well.
  2. I hate to pull out that “riches in the niches” cliché, but people say it for a reason. You can only throw spaghetti at the wall for so long before it slides to the floor. Or become a rubbery mess on the wall. If there’s something you’re passionate about, it’s going to be easier to market that to the public. You’ll get the clients you want rather than, well, John/Jane Q Public.

Can you give us a peek at what your typical day is like?

Real Life: Corporate Job from 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m., come home, take a shower, work on LAGBVA stuff until around 7 p.m. (dinner break), then go back to work until 9:30 p.m. Because I work a full-time job, I didn’t want to burn myself out. So, I made sure my hours of operation were Monday-Thursday, 5:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m., MST. The hours will change once I’ve screwed the cubicle, but the days probably won’t. 

As I mentioned earlier, I feel that 2023 will be a growth year for me. Which means learning to be better to myself and really make time for self-care (a.k.a. exercise, eating healthier, etc.).

Dream Life (where I’m doing this full-time): I get up at 10 a.m., meditate for fifteen mins, work out for thirty mins, enjoy my plant-based breakfast on the balcony of my home as I let the breeze wash over me (because I’m now an expat living in Costa Rica). I start work at noon and work till 4 p.m. (but I do this inside because being out on that balcony would definitely be a distraction). Log off and relax.

About Celise Downs

Celise Downs is the owner of Like A GoddessBoss VA, where she kicks errors to the curb for female entrepreneurs and independent romance authors. When she’s not reading for work or for fun…. oh, who the hell is she kidding? She reads all the damn time. But she manages to peel her eyes off her iPad mini to watch TV shows or movies on Netflix, Prime, or in the movie theater, visit her honey/veggie/coffee people at the farmers’ market (yes, she has “people” at the farmers’ market. Don’t you?), or go on Girl’s Day adventures with her sister and her friends. Holla at her on Instagram.

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4 thoughts on “From Avid Reader To Romance Proofreader: Celise’s Side Hustle Journey”

  1. Congratulations on your success in the proofreading and copyediting business, Celise! You are a wise and savvy businesswoman to reach out to authors via their newsletters. And I love that you offer other related services to writers. Best of luck to you in 2023 and beyond!

  2. I love romance books and have been reading them my whole life, since I was a teenager. I think I’d really enjoy working with them. Your story is very inspiring, and I hope I can do what you do one day!

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