You’re at a friend’s birthday party. An acquaintance finds out what you do for a living and squeals, “You work for yourself? Lucky!” – And you wince.
Freelances know that the most attractive aspect of their profession coincides with the most daunting: being your own manager. Freelancing turns the translator into a corporation. From one minute to the next, you have to change into customer service, secretarial, accounting, and marketing hats – while getting paid only for translation!
In a forum about the pressures of freelance translation, ProZ participants suggested some good management ideas to minimize frustrations and maximize efficiency in The Individual Freelancer Corp. (the smallest SMB there is):
Set reasonable boundaries. Turn off your phone, limit your business hours, don’t blindly accept last-minute jobs. Appearing constantly available might please clients momentarily, but it will drive you crazy later.
Take care of yourself. Plan vacations – for your own sake and your clients’. Take some time for lunch every day and a getaway for a long weekend every once in a while.
Subcontract reliable colleagues. Having a trustworthy backup to help share sudden workloads or cover in emergencies will pay off.
Outsource your customer service, secretarial, and accounting roles. Spouses, parents, and retired friends are good candidates for the job.
Remember that your services are valuable. Good clients won’t drop you for failing to be a 24/7 translation machine.
Work smarter, not harder. Develop your strengths and specialties to gain a competitive edge. If you find yourself more in demand than you can handle, instead of taking on more work, increase your rates.
Protect your love of translating. Don’t burn yourself out and risk forgetting why you got into the industry in the first place.
Now it’s time to evaluate your boss. How are you managing yourself well and what could you do better? Give this some serious thought. After all, your sole employee’s productivity, health and happiness rest on how you answer!