Freelance translator and quiet periods

You should know that the majority of the world’s translators are self-employed, and the early stages in this adventure are often tedious.

“-Quiet periods of time? Me, never!”

This exclamation could be the sad statement about the dear freelance translation career. Indeed, you should know that the majority of the world’s translators are self-employed, and the early stages in this adventure are often tedious. The proof is in the pudding! In fact, entrepreneurial skills show at the beginning of our career as a freelance translator… or they don’t. During these periods of time of great uncertainty, forget about taking breaks! We have to do everything: prospecting potential clients; organizing our work; planning; taking care of accounting; fixing any technical issues; putting together a marketing strategy. As far as I am concerned, with an international business administration MBA in hand, it was not the biggest problem. Yet quiet periods of time are rare for those who cannot enjoy them…

Small Survey

Before beginning to write this article, curious as I am, I did of course ask some colleagues and friends who are freelance translators what they do during their quiet periods of time. Here’s a cross-section of responses to this absurd question:

  • I finish urgent translations.
  • I prepare meals for the next day, because otherwise I don’t have time to cook. I also try to do an hour or two of physical activity.
  • I prepare my invoices and pay my bills.
  • I work at a slower pace. Especially at night, so as not to be constantly interrupted by my phone and incoming emails.
  • I go to the beach! -Really?! – Yes, but only in the evening, because I have to take into account the 5 hour time difference with Paris.
  • I allow myself a break on Sunday, I can sleep late in the morning and snack while reading my newspaper. It must be said that during the week, I get up at 6 AM and I don’t even find time to have breakfast or read the newspapers.

Let’s not pretend. We, small freelance translators, often feel guilty during quiet periods of time. As we work with different clients and don’t put all our eggs in one basket, we must adapt to the demands of each client. Thus, preparing our monthly invoices takes a lot of time and it is not rare to have several accounts. You’ll understand fast enough that quiet periods of time often come in a timely fashion to do the balance sheets, the productivity statistics and other little percentages which reassure us so much. This takes time.

Put Everything in Order

Personal development is a source of well-being, and therefore also a source of productivity: we must dare to say no to the QWERTY keyboard for some pampering. This is the true key to success! So, open your window wide, step out onto the balcony and shout: “Long live the break!”.

However that is why–the state of mind–problems can arise! Before being entrepreneurs, we are first of all human beings. We are often driven by an emotion which has the power to destroy everything: Fear. This big, bad fear of not winning any contracts, then our little freelance business built brick by brick going out of business. In these unconscious times of anxiety and lexical errors, little breaks should be welcomed. So, just like me, take the opportunity to go outdoors and run a bit, or work on a small, fun and quick translation for a non-profit organization, or enjoy something that is useful and fun too, such as a game of Scrabble in one of the Scandinavian languages, it is relaxing and laughter is guaranteed!

Personal Case: Thinking About the Future

Although I recognize these behaviors in myself, and being a Marketing expert (sic!), when I started out, I had other concerns. As a French citizen with permanent residence in Argentina, most of my free time was spent almost exclusively on trying to find the best solution to get coverage in case of an accident while meeting my needs. Without being pessimistic in nature, the health coverage in my country of residence is disastrous. Moreover I’ll admit it, I have the annoying tendency to stumble and often miss a step in the stairs (rarely downstairs; don’t ask me why). So I frantically went between the different insurance companies to find one that suited me: a customizable health insurance, which would allow me to get a tax-free allowance and retire in a place where I could enjoy famous restaurants and sunny golf courses while focusing on my health. In the worst case scenario, a third party would receive the remaining amount of the allowance. In fact, this research has wiped out my breaks for more than a year!

Translation into English: Chloe Findlay

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This article has been written by Clément Beury

Clément Beury is a freelance translator, who achieved his degree in Tours (France). After having the opportunity to further his professional development in the United States, he came to La Plata (Argentina) and became a university lecturer of French as a Foreign Language.