Managing yourself is a key life skill to learn regardless of your job. However, for the freelance translator, self-management is an even more important skill to master than for traditional employees. After all, you don’t have a boss breathing down your neck to keep you on track, and your clients will quickly look elsewhere if you can’t keep on top of their translations!
This Hub post will look at four common self-management challenges people face, and offer some advice on how to navigate them well. This article is primarily aimed at new freelance translators, but veteran translators are welcome to share their advice in the comments too!
When you’re new to the field of freelance translation, knowing how much time you need to assign to a document is a critical skill to acquire quickly. Factors that dictate how long a document will take to translate include elements such as its length, the difficulty of the source language or the complexity of the subject matter. And allowing time for other unforeseen distractions is advisable too.
Whilst estimating an accurate timeframe is largely an ability you acquire with practice, taking some simple precautions when you’re starting out are a good idea. For example, perhaps accept fewer translations at first, as this will give you a ‘time buffer’ should you overlook a factor that will extend the amount of time required to work on one of your transaltions.
When working as a freelancer, it’s important to set clear work and personal boundaries, especially if you work from your home. If you don’t, then you’ll find that the two realms blur into each other, and you’ll feel guilty when you’re not working and overloaded when you are! Further, it’s hard on other family members if they don’t know when your available to spend time with. By designating specific time periods in your calendar as freelancing time, you’ll hopefully be able to keep a distinction between work and home.
Email is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand it enables you to easily converse with clients from all over the globe, but on the other hand it can be very intrusive and distracting if you allow it. For example, many translators like to keep their email client open at all times or enable push notifications on their mobile devices. Although this allows you to impress clients with your lightning-fast response time, certain emails might prove to be especially distracting when they arrive, pulling you away from your translation work and making it take longer then expected (see above). Thus, it’s probably a good idea to only check your work email at specific times of day (perhaps morning and evening), and your clients will appreciate the consistency of your communication.
As you’re working on a translation, it’s likely that other thoughts and distractions will surface in your mind. Although it’s good to learn to dismiss trivial matters, often these thoughts are important too (such as remembering you only have 24 hours left to file your taxes for the previous year!). If you try and dismiss the more important thoughts, then your subconscious will continue to nag you about them and prove to be a constant source of distraction! To combat this, make a quick note of anything that pops into your head — you’d be surprised by how effective writing down random thoughts can at increasing your overall productivity!
Do you struggle with self-management? If you’re starting out as a freelance translator, were these tips helpful? And if you’re a productivity pro, what other useful advice would you give?