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How I Went from Cubicle to Reading Romances from Home for A Living

How I went from cubicle to reading romances from home for a living (and how you can too -- bon, bons optional)I proofread romance books from home, and yes, sometimes I eat chocolate or bonbons while I do it. I’ve been doing this for over 10 years now, have read almost 1000 love stories, and haven’t once gotten tired of it. The material is fun, sexy, exciting, heartfelt, and full of strong women. I’ve learned so much about the romance genre that sometimes I joke I’ll write a story of my own.

When people hear what I do for a living they usually get taken aback because it’s not every day you meet someone who reads romance novels and gets paid for it. Usually the surprise is followed by questions from both men and women like “How did you get into that?” or “How can I do that, too?” How I got here required me to be the heroine in my own story.

Damsel in Distress

I used to be an in-house proofreader for a global publisher where I worked on various fiction novels, mostly romance. It was what you’d imagine a romance publishing house to be like: pink cubicles, a never-ending stream of treats, and Valentine’s Day was the biggest holiday. I loved my company, boss, coworkers, and my work, but after a while I started to feel stifled and stagnant. I wanted to be free, and to me that meant setting my own schedule, choosing my work location, and being able to spend time pursuing my goals and interests.

When I received my post-graduate certificate in book and magazine publishing, I had dreams of being a remote worker, but ended up going for a secure office job instead. Six days of the week were defined by my job. I had 11-hour days that included a one-and-a-half hour commute each way. By the time I got home I was exhausted, and only had a couple hours to relax and spend time with my husband before I had to go to bed and do it all over again. I didn’t like living for the weekends, and most of Sundays were a write-off since I was basically the poster child for the Sunday night blues.

My unhappiness grew and grew and it started to affect my attitude at work. I so badly wanted out of the cubicle that I started to write down my ideal day on Post-it notes. Whenever I felt down I cheered myself up by writing what I could’ve been doing instead. I wrote down simple things like what I’d do from the moment I woke up (no alarm going off, grab a latte, take my dog for a long walk) to the end of the day (work on novel, watch a movie).

In hindsight, I realize that back then I was doing a form of visualization. By writing those Post-it notes, I was actually putting into motion the next course of my life. I remember one day reading my Post-it life and thinking I can’t spend the rest of my days planning and yearning for a life that never happens. I had become like some of the women in the stories I read, who dreamed of a way out.

How I Rescued Myself

I went online and started to pick up freelance proofreading and writing jobs that were flexible. I did these side hustles in the evenings after work and on the weekends. Before I quit my job I needed to see what was available for me out there. I had a mortgage to pay, and my husband was starting a new business so it was important there was no change in my finances.

I also wanted to see where my skills would take me in the remote-working world. I applied to everything that utilized my skills, even if just a portion of them, and I looked outside of the publishing industry. There weren’t as many telecommuting jobs back then as there are now, so my choices were limited and competition was fierce.

I worked my full-time office job and juggled side hustles for about a year until I felt confident that I could make a successful go of freelancing. I had just secured a freelance managing editor position for a lifestyle website and was picking up more writing jobs. My decision was also bolstered by a former coworker who had left the company to work from home, and she raved about how wonderful it was.

After discussing everything with my husband, who was fully supportive, I knew it was time to break free. I had goals I wanted to accomplish like learn marketing, help my husband with his business, grow my writing career, and take my editorial skills beyond proofreading.

I had a great relationship with my boss, who I suspect knew I was unhappy. I was also a valued employee and had been trusted with training new proofreaders, and I was hoping, based on my performance and solid relationships, that I’d be offered freelance work.

When I told my boss I was leaving she was sad to see me go, but was very understanding. And like I had hoped, I was offered freelance proofreading work. I can honestly say that one of my biggest fears was not having romance books in my life—you can’t imagine how much I grew to love them—and it was a relief to not only get the extra source of income, but to also have that joy in my life.

A Happy Ending, And What My Days Are Like Now

I’m now a freelance proofreader and editor who works on all kinds of content for various clients, but one of my consistent streams of income is proofreading romance fiction. I’m grateful that every day I get to read love stories; I really get drawn into the story lines and characters and have even shed some tears.

I think I’ve worked in every romance subgenre imaginable such as Western, Thriller, Supernatural, Religious, Fantasy, and Historical, to name a few. And, yes, many of my days are happily spent reading stories featuring sheikhs, firemen, Navy SEALS, and billionaires.

Every time I receive a new book I feel a little anticipation. Will it be a Regency romance with brooding rakes and fiery duchesses? Or a sweet Western with a sexy rancher falling for a single mom? Or maybe it’s something totally hot and steamy, even a little on the naughty side? Currently I’m working on a unique feminist romance set in the early 1900s in Eastern Europe, and I’m loving it.

My ideal day has always been about being flexible, which was why I so badly wanted to freelance. I’ve been able to accommodate my job around my life. I can travel when I want (all I need to work is my laptop), act as tour guide for visiting friends and family, go to appointments, run errands, volunteer, and drop off and pick my son up from school.

I don’t have a set routine; every day is different. While my son’s at school I’ll tidy up a bit and do a few hours of work. I also make sure to put in time toward other activities like exercising, meditating, and developing my tech skills. Recently I started a website, Art of Proofreading, to teach people how to proofread all kinds of content. Usually I stay at home and work in my sweats, but I’ll also go to my local library or coffee shops to change things up. Occasionally I’ll treat myself and watch a movie, nap, or bake instead of work. While it’s important to me to work hard, I also value having the ability to enjoy my life.

What I’ve Learned

I’ve learned how important it is to set goals and to have an image of your future life and self. How do you want to live? How do you see yourself changing? I inadvertently learned this in my little cubicle when I was writing my ideal days down on Post-its. Little did I know that I was showing my subconscious, which influences your actions and feelings, what I truly desired. The subconscious doesn’t know the difference between what’s real and what’s imagined, so I’ve started a habit of writing down what I want to achieve. It’s a trick that’s helped me overcome obstacles and go for what I want. I even ask students in my free proofreading ecourse to do this because it can position you in the right direction toward your goals.

I also discovered that I had the potential to do more with my skills. By being self-employed, I pushed myself to explore other opportunities that I wouldn’t have before. I wasn’t limited by my job title, which tends to happen when you work for a company. I approached my job search creatively and found positions that weren’t in my field, but required some of the skills I had. As a result, I’ve ventured into new industries and now do higher level editing.

I’ve also learned the power of a network, and how reaching out opens up new opportunities. If you’re serious about working remotely, let your network know you’re available for freelance work. I recently reached out to mine to update them on my new online business, what I’ve been up to, and to remind them that I’m still a freelance editor who welcomes new opportunities.

People are always willing to help. Networking is a different way to approach a job search than clicking “Apply” on a website and submitting your resume. Also, maintain good professional relationships (even if you’re unhappy) and never, ever burn your bridges. You never know when you’ll have to use them.

Do You Want To Proofread Romance Novels, Too?

Romance fiction is a billion-dollar-a-year industry and one of Amazon’s best-selling ebook genres. If you’re interested in proofreading romance books I recommend you learn how to proofread properly. Working on books is more than just correcting spelling and fixing commas, and requires some knowledge of copyediting skills.

Many people think you need a degree or certificate to work as a proofreader, but the truth is you don’t. You do need to have an eye for detail because proofreading is the last step of the publishing process, and you have to be able to catch all the mistakes. If you want to learn more and see if you have what it takes, I suggest you try my free online course, Intro to Proofreading. It’s designed to give you a strong understanding of proofreading and teach you practical skills.

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About Carol St. Amand

Carol St. Amand

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