Google defines a job as ‘a paid position of regular employment’ and ‘a task or piece of work, especially one that is paid’.
And yes, proofreading conforms to each of these definitions. People get paid to do it, they do it regularly and it is usually given in tasks or pieces. But here’s the thing – it is much more than that. Put yourself in the shoes of a proofreader for a minute. You don’t sit at your desk and get tasks done at your schedule – you wait for people to finish their own tasks because your task is basically to make sure that their tasks are actually presentable to clients, readers etc. That means you never truly know what to expect every day you go into your work. Besides never really knowing what your respected colleague will present to you and therefore never really knowing what it is you’re looking for, you don’t even get the decency of knowing when it is you have to do your work, how long it will take or how necessary it will truly be for that specific project.
Let’s go it into the actual work. How many documents have you sent or submitted and realised right afterward that there’s an embarrassing error in them? It could be a spelling error, a grammatical error or just a random missing letter or word…? You have that awful moment when you see it and you feel that creeping, growing regret in the deepest part of your being and you take a moment to beat yourself up about missing a silly error like that. But then at some point (depending on your level of your anal-ness), you have to actively decide that there’s nothing you can do about it now and you have to move on because it’s only an error and you’re probably freaking out about nothing. You might even hope that no one will notice. And a lot of times you’re right – most people don’t even notice and if they do, it’s probably not a huge deal. Except for that one idiot that does notice and points it out to you, preferably in front of a large number of people you are trying to impress with your ‘impecable attention to detail’. This idiot will probably pretend to laugh off this error but will also continue to bring it up at every opportunity possible, no matter how far they have to reach for that opportunity.
Well, if you’re a proofreader, that one idiot is pretty much everyone you know and work with. Because the title of ‘proofreader’ is automatically equated with perfection, accuracy, and precision. And every mistake you make will be discerned, amplified, and repeatedly communicated to anyone with ears.
That leads me to the final and most agonising part of being a proofreader – It leaves you in a perpetual state of anxiety and depression on a constant basis. You have this title that basically connotes perfection hanging over your head, you have past mistakes hanging over your head and you also have your own anxieties plaguing you through it all. Most people who get into a profession like proofreading are excellent at nit-picking and ensuring perfection in everything they do which means they instinctively have the anxious nature which makes them double and triple check things anyway. Add to that the dependence of their livelihood on their ability to be as anal as possible and you have yourself a walking ball of nerves and anxiousness.
So no, proofreading is not a job, especially for a person like me – it is my worst living nightmare.
*please excuse any spelling errors in this post, it was written in an angry, impulsive rush. Also please feel free to get in touch with any work you need proofread 😉