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  • Writer's pictureCelise Downs

My Journey to Becoming An Editorial VA

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Happy National Small Business Day to all you GoddessBoss’s out there! Today is the official day when small biz owners celebrate being a, well, small biz owner. I thought it would be the perfect time to tell my story and talk about my journey to becoming an Editorial VA. It took me a while to realize that my calling would be in the editing field. I just wish the light bulb moment had gone off a lot sooner.

My Mom used to read to my older sister and I when we were younger, so I’ve always been a reader and have always loved books. I had a pretty overactive imagination, so it seemed inevitable that I needed to do something creative with it.

And so I did.

I got bit by the Writing Bug in the 7th grade. My life was pretty boring, so I lived vicariously through my friends. Any and all things were fair game and some of those things kinda-might’ve-possibly ended up in the stories I wrote. By the time I hit high school,I knew I wanted to write YA and be traditionally published.

But, after doing a ton of research, I decided that the traditional route wasn’t for me. I wanted to have complete control over the publishing process, from cover to marketing.

Long story short, my first YA romance, Undercover Love, was indie published in 2002.

My ex-hubby drew this by hand!

And my second YA romance, Dance Jam Productions, was published in 2004

My ex-hubby drew this one, too, then used Illustrator

I re-released Dance Jam Productions in 2009, along with updated covers, along with Undercover Love, but this one got a new title.

Even though I was writing YA, I wasn’t reading that genre. To me, it was too boring. LOL This was mid to late 80’s, mind you, so I know the YA genre has evolved quite a bit since then. I don’t remember the name of the author or the title of the book, but it was the typical bodice ripper cover that drew me in. The next thing I knew, I was drowning in the deep end of the Adult Romance Pool.

And I didn’t want to be saved. #fucktheliferaft

I was at the library every weekend, swiping the hell out of my card.

I was cutting my teeth on Loveswept and Silhouette Desire, reading two books a day (sometimes three on the weekends, if I stayed up late). The shelf in my closet was starting to resemble a romance book end cap at a grocery store. I barely graduated from high school because I read so much.

Romance books, ICYMI, not my homework.

By the time I’d graduated from high school, I’d discovered the Harlequin line (Desire, Blaze, Supperromance, etc.). I was going to college to get a degree in English. My parents—FINALLY—let me get a part-time job while I was in school, and I was spending my own money at Barnes and Noble on the monthly buying the latest titles.

After two years of community college and two years at university (which Mommy and Daddy were paying for) in the early 90’s, I dropped out and entered the Corporate World full time.

And as we all know, the corporate world has a tendency to wear you down. Especially when you’re not doing what you love, what you want, what makes you happy.

Reading and writing was my passion.

And it would take me many, many years to do something about it.

All The Pretty Shiny SideHustles

Fast forward to 2009.

I was still writing YA and had come across 826National. After attending a couple of their Behind-The-Scenes workshops, I'd wanted to start a similar model here in my hometown. Once I’d made that decision, I was all in.

And by all in, I mean…

I went back to college (after being out of school for 17 fucking years!) and got a BA in Nonprofit Management with a Concentration in Writing and Literature in 2012. I paid for that myself (and am still paying for it) with no help from Mommy and Daddy.

I'd come up with a name (Page One Literary Center, tag line: “Because all stories begin on page one”. Clever, I know).

I’d found people to become my board members.

I’d found another nonprofit organization that I could receive donations under until we could do it on our own.

I’d filled out the application to get my 501c3 status—and received it within a few months. Let me tell you, that shit was NOT easy and the application fee was kinda hefty (Thanks Mom’n’Dad for ponying up the Benjamins for my dream-at-the-time).

The next step was to start fundraising, but then--PLOT TWIST—a year after getting my degree, I put the whole Nonprofit Dream aside. For personal reasons.

I'm just gonna leave that there.

Don’t ever ask me about that application fee. I still cringe at the investment my parents made in my dream-that-never-happened. #painfulkicktothehoohah #epicfail But I’m forever grateful to have the kind of parents who invest in their children’s dreams.

Jump forward to 2018….

The Corporate World still had me under its thumb, I was going through a divorce after 12 years of marriage (no kids and I left the furbaby with him) and living with my older sister.

Best. Decision. Ever. Made.

We were both still trying to get a toehold on our passion, when I discovered AWAI (American Writers & Artists Institute) aaaand promptly fall down their rabbit hole of courses.

Let’s see, there was that time I thought I wanted to be an Internet Research Specialist, a case study writer, a catalog copywriter, and have a 10-Minute Workday Email Business.

I know what you’re thinking, “Did she really shell out money to take all those courses?”

Fuck, yeah, I did. Although I had a moment of Buyer’s Remorse the minute I'd bought that 10-Minute Workday course and immediately requested a refund.

Utter. Craziness.

But I was starting to narrow things down

Prior to all that mess I mentioned above, around 2016-2017 I remember when I coughed up $897 to become a transcript proofreader for court reporters (too technical)…

Or that time I shelled out £99.00 for the course on how to Start Fiction Editing: How to Become a Freelance Book Editor (Who’s Worth Hiring). It’s evolved into something else now (not interested in copyediting) ….

And that time when I went back to Caitlin and hocked up another $497 for her General Proofreading course (got nervous around the practice sessions and talked myself out of not doing the final exam. #selfdoubtisafuckingbitch).

I think my Gemini nature was kicking in, making me jump in time after time and not really thinking things through. We’re known for our spontaneity.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

So, how did I become a proofreader?

Even though I hadn’t finished that other certification program, I'd decided to go ahead and launch Proofreading Biz 1.0 on my birthday in June 2019. The goal was to leave the Corporate World and be doing the proofreading gig full-time by age 50.

I kept tweaking the services I offered.

I kept tweaking the pricing.

I got laid off from my corporate job a few weeks before Thanksgiving and with two months’ severance thought that would be the perfect time to focus on the biz.

But six months later, I had yet to garner any clients. Was I doing something wrong?

Enter Phon Bailie and Edit Republic

I had checked out her Masterclass and contacted her with some questions. After a few days of thinking it over, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try another proofreading course that also offered copyediting elements. I got through her High-Level Proofreading Pro course pretty quickly and earned a certificate December 2019.

2020 rolls in and I’m back in the Corporate World via a temp agency. I’m still working on the biz, but seeds of doubt are starting to grow because I’m not making the progress I thought I would be at this point.

An incident within the forum of an editing association causes a bit of discouragement.

Barely a week later, another incident in an editors' FB Group causes additional frustration. (Honest to God, what happened to lifting up gender?)

By the end of February 2020—PLOT TWIST AGAIN—I decide to ditch Proofreading Biz 1.0.

And then the pandemic hit, and it was all over but the ugly-crying. Metaphorically speaking. The first week of March, I was voluntarily working from home. By the second week, it was required. At the end of March, my parents became COVID positive, and my sister and I decided to quarantine with them for 14 days. Which turned into a month when my father ended up in the hospital due to his symptoms.

I didn’t think about the proofreading biz for months, but it was thinking about me. I would get the occasional reminder that proofreading was not giving up on me.

I decided to heed the call.

I had gotten accepted into the Editor-in-Training Mentorship Program through Tessera Editorial. Hosted by Christa Desir, an acquiring editor for Sourcebooks Publishing, the mentorship was for BIPOC interested in becoming editors/learning about editing. Jan-Apr 2021, I'd completed assignments focused on producing reader reports, copyediting, and developmental editing. It was a wonderful experience, to be honest, and I got a chance to see what it was like acquiring books from a traditional standpoint.

In October 2021, I'd decided to go through the Edit Republic's HLPP course again as a refresher and, in doing so, was reminded that I just want to stick with proofreading. I want to focus on just one service and be really good at the one service.

Or so I’d thought.

Yet another fucking PLOT TWIST

In early 2021, 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.” So instead of quitting, this time I just pivoted.

I decided my business model was going to be virtual assistance. I had paid for Abbey Ashley’s The Virtual Savvy program but had never gone through it (shocker). I started from scratch and rebuilt my biz, including coming up with a new name (Like A GoddessBoss VA), new services (proofreading and copyediting), and a new title (Editorial VA).

I officially relaunched my business in February 2022.

I am a fempreneur and a solopreneur. Like a GoddessBoss VA is a one-woman show and I don’t have plans to scale into an agency.

So, the journey begins…and continues…


If you're a female entrepreneur or independent romance author who dreams of publishing content—without the fear of being called out publicly for all the mistakes you've made--click the button below.

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