How I Became a Proofreader

The president of an R&D/Engineering firm in Wilmington, North Carolina hired me to be her secretary in 1991. Typing on the IBM Selectric, filing, answering the phones, greeting visitors in the front lobby, running errands, repairing the copy machine. I automated the job to such an extent that I didn't need 40 hours per week to do it, but only 5 or 10. So, I started finding non-engineering functions that I could take away from the engineers.

Since I have an A.S. Degree in Electronics Technology, they thought I might also be able to edit and proofread their tech manuals, spec sheets, and sales literature. This is how we found out that I was meant to be an editor and proofreader. I love it and I've been doing it ever since.

I started working my first 40-hour job at age 15. In 1999, at age 36, I decided to take my first vacation. The plan was to visit Hong Kong for a month, then return to Eastern Instruments in Wilmington to keep on editing.

But while I was in Hong Kong, I met Jan, fell in love, decided to stay, quit my job in the U.S. by email, and found myself living in Hong Kong on a tourist visa. That meant I couldn't legally work in Hong Kong, so I started editing and proofreading for novelists in the U.S. by Internet.

After marrying Jan, I was no longer a tourist and thus could work as an editor for an educational magazine in Hong Kong and as a transcriptionist for Merrill Legal Solutions.

In 2002, I became an Advanced English Writing teacher at a university in mainland China. After my first year of teaching, I earned my TESL qualification, but Jan's expertise was far and away my most valuable resource.

I also continued editing and proofreading novels for U.S. publishers. It's hard to be such a book junkie in a city with no English language libraries or bookstores. Getting paid to read novels helped. Amazon and Better World Books certainly helped. Also, I wrote my fifth book. It's called Who Moved My Rice?

In 2006 I became a medical lecturer at Chiang Mai University in Thailand, explaining to the doctors and medical students how to document their findings for publication in peer-reviewed journals. I also edited those reports. And, through Elance and Guru, I built a full-time business. Most of what I edited from the U.S. and Australia were ebooks, newsletters, magazines, novels, and business manuals. I still work for some of those authors.

In Chiang Mai, Thailand, riding a bicycle with some flyers to hang on billboards in grocery stores is actually a viable business strategy. So is word of mouth. I edited dissertations for students in Bangkok who told their friends who told their friends... Some of those students have become teachers, and are now telling their students "use Michael."

At one point I had six employees. I responded by firing customers because I don't want to have employees.

In 2011, back in the US, I went absolutely nuts checking out books from the local libraries. I finally got myself a Kindle, too. Bliss.

Jan's from Australia, and we adopted our Calico cat (Picasso) from the Hong Kong SPCA in September 2000, so I sometimes tell people that I bring home the best souvenirs.

Proofreading and editing are what I was born to do, and I only needed about 40 years to figure it out.

Updated May 21, 2017
© Copyright 2000-2017, Michael LaRocca
Durham, North Carolina 27707