Like most things in life, freelancing as a translator is about more than the joy of being able to wear your pajamas all day.
It’s an opportunity to thrive in your career and life. As a translator, you are providing a foundational part of how business is conducted, ideas are conveyed, and how society is able to connect seamlessly. In short, your job is important.
So are you. If you want to build a business that is able to sustain the ups and downs of the market and the curve balls that life will inevitably throw at you, you are going to need more than a passion for language. You are going to need survival skills!
If you want to thrive in the freelance translation business, here’s 9 survival skills to get you there (Pajamas optional).
1. Get used to variety
A love of variety is a beautiful thing. Especially when your work requires you to go from one topic to another, day after day. Nurture your curious mind and embrace each new job as an opportunity to switch gears. You might even learn something new for yourself in the process – such as how to disassemble the entire boiler system of a high-rise in case of emergency. (It’s a great conversation starter!)
2. Enjoy and embrace a career that requires a great deal of solitude
As a professional translator, your work environment looks different from many others. Embrace it and appreciate it for what it is. When you are working, work. But when work is done, get out there and build relationships and connect. Read some tips from a fellow freelance translator to deal with loneliness.
3. She/He who is a self-learner rules the world of productivity (of freelance translation, at least!)
It’s a changing world out there, kid. Discover it, engage with it and most of all, use it to your advantage. Make it part of your regular routine to keep yourself updated on technology and learning how to use it to your advantage. This serves two purposes: it keeps you sharp and it will help you to continue to be more efficient and informed.
4. Remember that the title of “Freelancer” is another term for “Professional Juggler”
Maybe you’re not wearing neon lycra pants while you are balancing daily life, but make no mistake: you are a professional juggler. On any given day or hour, you are an accountant, professional researcher, project manager, customer service representative and executive in charge of coffee distribution. It’s messy and awesome all at the same time. Get over it.
5. Embrace the power of self-discipline
The buck stops here. Being disciplined means different things to different personality mixes. It comes easier to some of us than others. But the bottom line is that the only way the work gets done is if, well, you actually do it. You’re the boss, so act like one.
6. Blessed are the flexible freelancers, for they shall surely flex
Your business success depends largely on customers being happy with what you provide. However, how they define that depends on different factors each time. The time has to be accounted for and the product has to be delivered. Weekends happen, but so do deadlines. Sometimes late nights or working when the world is sleeping is the only way you can get it done. However, remember that a big dose of Point #3 will help keep you focused and to work with time instead of against it.
7. Money management skills
Huge projects are great. So are smaller ones when they are all that you have at that moment. Life requires fixed costs, but the nature of any business is that incomes will vary. This is just as much a matter of money management as it is of headspace management. Prepare yourself for the future by doing your due diligence in the present. A great accounting program such as Wave or Freshbooks helps you create peace of mind while you continue to build your business (you will find a comprehensive list of accounting tools on this page). On this page, you will find other skills needed to become a freelance translator in the USA.
8. Find ways to be you, outside of what you do
Tight deadlines, long working hours, and a healthy dose of the caffeine shakes can catch up with you after a while. Do yourself a favor: Invest time in the things that make this lifestyle worth pursuing and building. Time is your traveling companion, but you have the choice of how you want to spend time with time.
9. Explaining what you do
The world may not understand the value of what you are providing, so get clear on what you offer, why it’s important and how they can make use of those services. For an example of how to do that, check out how we offer French translations at BeTranslated. Now, get out there and get back to work!