Last year I was studying in Singapore and was constantly asked to proofread fellow student's assignments and this is where the idea spawned. Australia has a large number of international students studying at our universities so I saw this as the perfect opportunity to make some easy cash.
Firstly, I purchased a $14 HTML theme from themeforest and paid a computer science student $20 to make a custom PHP file upload form. Once the site design was completed, I hosted it and stuck flyers around campus and off-campus accommodation promoting my service, specifically targeting international students.
At first orders came in pretty slowly, maybe 1-2 every 2 weeks. The standard rate for a 2000 word essay is $80, which is $10 less than all of my local competitors. I also offered a 10% discount if people refer friends and provide a lifetime 25% discount on all orders if they use the service 3 times. For the past 9 months I have been averaging $980-$1200 per month.
I basically check their essay for spelling, grammar, syntax, structure, referencing, flow and run-on sentences. The standard turnaround time is 48 hours but I always strive to return the edited essay after 36 hours. I also provide a 24 hour turnaround time (for a higher fee) and an express option (12 hours) for nearly double the 48 hour rate.
I have 1 employee, a friend, who I pay 50% of the selling price to complete the actual editing. So effectively I make, on average, $40 per essay for doing nothing but putting up flyers and checking my email.
If you're a college student or know someone who is, this type of work can be quite lucrative. It takes me about 1.5 hours to edit a 2000 word essay, making my hourly wage over $40. However the major downside is that you only get orders during the semesters. Your income becomes $0 during the summer holidays (such as now in Australia). This also works for native English speaking article writers who wish to diversify their services/income.
Next year I hope to expand my business by promoting it to the 2 other universities in my city and hope to sell the business by the end of 2012.
I haven't seen many people providing this type of service to make an income online and if anyone has any questions about starting a service like this, feel free to ask and I'll do my best to answer.
How To Start Your Own Essay Editing Service
1 - Research your competition. Identify what services they provide and their prices.
2 - Decide how to differentiate yourself from your competitors (undercut them, provide different services, target a specific market, focus on local campuses etc)
3 - Design and host your site.
4 - Promote your service. I've found sticking pull-tab flyers around campus to be the most effective. If you're not allowed on college campuses, hire a student from craiglist to do it, making sure they take photos as evidence of work done. You can also do traditional online marketing such as article marketing etc. A competitor of mine provides a free report on how to write the perfect essay in return for the person's email address and sells that way (classic list building).
5 - Edit the essays yourself or hire someone to do it for you. 30% of the selling price is a reasonable amount to pay someone.
6 - Rinse and repeat.