When my son was young, I was very fortunate to be able to stay home and prioritize my family since I was a freelance proofreader and editor (I still am, btw).
Being able to choose your own hours and create a schedule around life and not the other way around is one of the best things about working at home.
I reached out to Erin Kelley, a student of mine, about how she manages her personal and professional life. Erin balances her roles as proofreader for a non-fiction publishing house and copy editor for romance novels with raising her young daughter.
Read on to find out what Erin’s typical day is like, how she maintains her boundaries, and her advice for parents who want to work at home.
Hey, I’m Erin. I have always loved the written word and have dreamt of being involved in publishing since elementary school!
Before I had my daughter, I worked as an admin at a global consulting firm in their communication department. That job really elevated what was just a love of words and proofreading into a sharply honed skill!
I also learned to write content for business to consumer (B2C) communication and quickly became the go-to proofreader for everyone on our floor…even those in other departments.
How do you juggle working at home while raising a family?
My daughter is almost three, and stays home with me all day! I mostly work in the mornings while she eats breakfast, during her nap/quiet time, and after she goes to bed.
What made you choose proofreading and copyediting to do from home?
I’ve always been the proofreader and editor for family and close friends, and after seeing my natural talent honed in the workforce (and wanting to avoid going back to a 9-5 job), I decided to give freelancing a try.
If you want to learn how YOU can take your love of words and make money from it, I have a FREE masterclass on proofreading, copyediting, and marketing.
What kind of projects do you work on?
I mostly proofread business non-fiction and romance novels. Very different worlds, but I enjoy them both!
Can you tell us what your typical day is like juggling work and family?
We get up and I make my daughter something for breakfast and she eats at the kitchen table while I catch up on administrative stuff on the laptop. (This was way easier when she still ate in the highchair!)
Then we spend our mornings doing something active, come home and eat lunch, then she goes down for a nap (though she rarely sleeps anymore, but has quiet time). This is my first big chunk of time to concentrate! I try to make sure I have two hours to dedicate during this time, to make sure I can really get in the editing groove.
After she gets up from quiet time, we run errands, then eat dinner. Truthfully, I don’t even try to work in the late afternoons anymore. It never worked. =)
After she goes down for bed, I either spend time with my husband first, or make sure I set a timer to stop working so we can hang out after I get some words in. If it’s a tight turnaround, I may end up working until an hour before bedtime.
This is just a season of life where work takes second place to family. After my girl starts a preschool program, I will have more time to dedicate to working.
Being able to set my own pace and accept and decline projects is perfect.
How do you achieve work-life balance?
I try to only work when my daughter is sleeping. It does take away from some of my own time, but I’d rather have this time with her before she goes to school. And like I mentioned in the last question, I have been known to set a timer to make sure I don’t get too caught up and forget to hang with my husband. I also just don’t accept projects near times when I know we’re going on vacation or will have house guests.
What advice do you have for parents who want to proofread and/or copyedit from home?
One, take Phon’s course! It will really help you understand some of the things you need to be a businessperson, not just someone who loves to proofread — and probably does it for free just because you like it, or was that just me?
Two, if you love to read, you can do this! You don’t need to have worked as a proofreader before, but you do need to love reading. Reading to proof and reading for enjoyment are different.
Three, knowing where to look for answers is just as important as “having a good eye,” and Phon’s course has some great tip sheets that I reference frequently.
Four, invest in a subscription to The Chicago Manual of Style.
Five, you will get better and faster the more you do it.
Can you tell us about how you found work through the link in module 8 of the course?
In the final module of the course, Phon lists several places that use proofreaders and copyeditors regularly. One of these places is a ghost-writing company that publishes business non-fiction. When I finished my course, I went to their website and they had a job opening for a manuscript proofreader.
I applied, took their proofreading test, and was hired as one of their proofreaders, the last set of eyes on a manuscript before it goes to print. This has been a great job and I highly recommend using Phon’s resources. She takes some of the scary “where do I start?” out of starting your freelance proofreading career!
What does your family think of your new career and you working from home?
They all agree this is the PERFECT job for me and so glad I have found a great new career.
Is proofreading/copyediting from home what you thought it’d be?
Yes! It might be a little more difficult if I were the sole provider for my family, but I am supplementing my husband’s income and so have the freedom to work when I want and how much I want. It also helps that I can take my work anywhere…like hanging out in the backyard while my daughter plays in the mud!
Thank you, Erin, for answering my questions. When my son was young and at home all day, my days were very similar to Erin’s, and I’m grateful I was able to drop everything and go to the park on a whim. If you’re looking for more freedom and flexibility in your life — or just want to spend your days working with words, I encourage you to take the first step and join our free masterclass.
About Erin Kelley
Word girl. Grammar nerd. More books than shelves. A deep and abiding love of the red — or blue or whatever’s handy — pen. In 2016 I left my familiar cube in the Communication department of a global consulting firm for the great unknown of motherhood. Let me tell you, all those skills you think are “just for work” totally apply — time management and adhering to a schedule, just to name a few. But I found myself wincing over typos in blog posts and shaking my head at what seemed to be an exponential rise in misused apostrophes. Have you ever found yourself explaining grammar and syntax to a tiny human who can’t even speak? Yeah. That’s when I started seriously considering using my hawk eye in the freelance world. You can learn more at my site, Hawkeye Proofing, or say Hi on LinkedIn.