On 23rdMarch 2010, I wrote a blog post entitled, ‘I have seen the future of proofreading and its name is Woman!’. The reason for that post: 80% of copies of The No-Nonsense Proofreading Course were purchased by women.
Now, over two years later, women are still the eBook’s primary audience.
I think the reasons are ostensibly the same as in 2010. Rather than have you trawl through the archives, I’ll reproduce the original post’s main points here:
“In the 20 years I’ve been proofreading and working with proof readers, it has been a largely male-dominated field. Why? I’m not quite sure, but it probably has something to do with the fact that proofreading, up until about ten years ago, was part and parcel of the print industry, and the print industry – with its typesetters, compositors and plate-makers – was something of a working man’s arena. Old habits die hard and like tends to beget like, so the proofreading ‘sub-industry’ continued to recreate itself very much in its own image. As a rule, the gender that dominates a particular profession will dig its heels in against the threat of change from its opposite number. Just ask my dad: a nurse in the NHS throughout the seventies and eighties.
So, why the gender shift in proofreading? Well, it goes without saying that there is no reason why women shouldn’t make highly-effective proof readers (and, in my experience, they frequently do). In fact, statistics suggest much greater levels of literacy amongst girls in both primary and secondary schools than boys. We must deduce, then, that it’s a matter of opportunity. Up until recently, that opportunity knocked but rarely.
And, then, along came the internet.
The ability to work from home and make money online is something that women have grasped with both hands, far more effectively than their male counterparts. You only have to look at the support structures women have created online (the working mum’s forums, for example) to see just how successfully they’ve staked their claim on the work-from-home phenomenon. Men are lagging behind in this virtual world, perhaps because we lack the natural urge to cooperate; perhaps because we still persist in our view of the internet as an online marketplace, whereas women tend to see it for what it really is: a vast conversation, with commercial opportunities available to those who are able to participate in said conversation in the most energetic and vivacious fashion. I mean, where are the work-from-home dad’s forums? Enough said. The internet really has changed things for the better, at least in terms of providing equal access when it comes to work-from-home opportunities.”
I think now, with job losses sweeping across the UK, US and Europe, the ability to switch on a laptop and generate revenue from your dining room table has become something of a vital survival skill for many. Women have a major head-start here and are clearly taking considerable advantage of this lead.
I say, Good luck to you, ladies! You’ve earned every penny, every cent, you make.
And fellas? Pull your finger out for God’s sake. You’re missing the boat!
Working from home. Being your own boss. It sounds like a dream.
But after just a few days of determined effort and sheer, unbridled enthusiasm, the concentration begins to wander. The television beckons, or the radio, or the coffee pot, or that little household task that turns into a whirl of domestic activity, and suddenly you’re asking yourself, “Where did the day go?” And you realise just how much you may have needed that pain-in-the-backside boss cracking the whip and endlessly growling about productivity and seasonal targets.
You begin to wonder if you haven’t made a terrible mistake. Maybe you’ve overestimated your determination to succeed. Maybe you just don’t have what it takes to be self-employed. Maybe it’s time to brush up your resume and begin the hunt for full time, permanent employment.
Don’t worry. You’re just going through what almost every self-employed, home-working individual goes through during the early days of their new commercial endeavour.
But what to do about it?
Well, remember that pain-in-the-backside boss cracking the whip and endlessly growling about productivity and seasonal targets? We’re going to invite him into your home. In a manner of speaking.
We’re going to create a virtual boss, a to-do list with attitude.
Now, everybody can create a to-do list. Some people can even stick to it. Unfortunately, most people tend to adhere to it for a while then begin to let it slide. And once it begins to slide a little it’s remarkable how easy it is to ignore it entirely, rather like the boss who begins to lose your respect.
That’s why our to-do list needs to have attitude. It needs to be compelling. Your to-do list doesn’t just need to tell you what to do, it needs to tell you what’s at stake. And not in a vague way, either; it needs to be specific and concrete.
For example, say you need to put together a list of all the businesses in your area that might benefit from your proofreading expertise. Put it on your to-do list. Next to it, or underneath it, write down exactly when this task needs to be done by. Don’t put ‘ASAP’, give an exact time and date, based upon how long you think the task will reasonably take, bearing in mind any other activities you might have on-going.
Now, this is the important bit. Write down what will happen if you do achieve this target. So, you might write: “If I compile this list by tomorrow lunchtime, I’ll be able to mail to potential customers the same day and commence follow-up calls in 48-hours. This means by the end of the week I should be looking at securing my first assignments.”
How exciting is that? First assignment by the end of the week? There’s something to aim for.
Now, write down what will happen if you don’t complete this task by the designated time. Be harsh. Be that pain-in-the-backside boss. Write something like: “If I don’t put myself on the radar of these businesses by the end of the week, somebody else will, and not only will I lose their business in the short-term, I could lose it indefinitely. This could seriously damage my business.”
Every task you assign yourself should be treated in exactly the same fashion. Every task should have a realistic (but maybe a little challenging) timeframe and clearly described consequences if you do or don’t complete the task on time.
That pain-in-the-backside boss was probably a pain-in-the-backside for a reason. He or she fully understood the consequences of inactivity, poor productivity and less than 100% commitment. And once you begin to reap the benefits of your ‘to-do list with attitude’, so will you, and your business will begin to grow and thrive.
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Teresa Richardson, Proofreader.
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Jeremy Meehan, Proofreader.
My name's Mike Sellars and I'm an experienced proofreader and the author of The No-Nonsense Proofreading Course. Click here to find out more about me.
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“As someone who has been proofreading for 30 years, I found Mike’s course an invaluable introduction and a very useful practical guide to many aspects of the discipline. I can wholeheartedly recommend it.” Jeremy Meehan, Proofreader.
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