The ultimate work-from-home checklist

This post originally appeared on the Freelancers Union blog and it is republished with permission.

Before COVID-19, I had the opportunity to switch my environment every time I needed to boost my creativity. Cozy cafes and beach bars were my go-to place of work.

This helped me set clear boundaries between work time and personal time, which consequently helped me balance my life.

If you liked getting out of the house every day like I did, being forced to work from home might be a nightmare for you. And for many of us, the blurring lines between work life and personal life can cause havoc and stress.

It helps to have work-from-home strategies in place, and the best way to approach this is with checklists.

Work-From-Home 101

Before we get to everyday best practices, we have to look at some prerequisites.

  1. Sort out that internet connection: Having fast and reliable internet at home is now non-negotiable. In the past, you might have put up with crappy internet, but now, it’s a matter of earning your living.
  2. Invest in the right gadgets/software: With the right headphones, mic, and camera, you will see your productivity soar. But you also need some feature-packed remote work software that allows screen sharing and control. Cutting off a call when you hit the time limit because you are using free services is not good for your brand. And being able to see, hear, and be heard clearly is critical.
  3. Set up a workspace: It might be tempting to laze around the house, kick back, and get on with your daily goals, but there are several reasons why you should not work where you relax. Set up a quiet place that is dedicated solely to work. This is the simplest way to create a distinction between your work life and your personal life. Make sure you have a laptop stand, ergonomic chair, etc. to stay comfortable if you are pulling off a full workday, and alternate between sitting and standing while you work.
  4. Set up a communication protocol: Communicating with your clients or team when you are working from home is significantly different from being in a shared office space. You might find that getting in sync with each other is a major issue. There are many tools to improve communication while working from home and create a communication protocol.
  5. Set boundaries with your family/friends: Your family/roommates might not be used to seeing you working from home. They might come to talk to you or ask you to do chores, disturbing your workflow. Set up clear boundaries with the people you live with — like, if you are sitting at your desk or have headphones on, you’re not available to them — so they know not to disturb you when you are working.

Once the above are taken care of, you are ready to maximize your work-from-home mode.

Daily Checklist for Maximum Productivity While Working From Home

#1: Dress as if you are actually going to the office (in a comfy way)

#2: Create and follow a daily schedule (for tomorrow)

#3: Use both text and video communication. Every day!

#4: Keep distractions at bay

#5: Spend time on lead generation/collaboration

#6: Power naps are your best friend

#7: Stay hydrated and keep munchies around

#8: Ensure that your workspace and documents are organized

#9: Physical activity. Yes! It exists.

#10: Engage in team-building activities outside of work

#1: Dress as if you are actually going to the office (in a comfy way)

Your brain has made certain associations with productivity over the years, and the primary association is how your body feels when you wear your work clothes.

To put it simply, work clothes equal productivity in your head. In addition, home clothes equal relaxation and family time.

When you dress up, you tell your brain that it is working time. This also acts as a signal for those at home that you are now in work mode, meaning you are not to be disturbed.

#2: Create and follow a daily schedule (for tomorrow)

When you are working from home, the boundaries between work life and home life can easily blur and you might find yourself overworking.

This is why it is best to stick to your former schedule as much as possible and plan your day accordingly.

This also applies to taking lunch breaks and coffee breaks — don’t skip them. There are break and stretch extensions that you can add to your browser that will remind you when to take a pause. They have helped me tremendously, mentally and physically!

At the end of the day, get up and walk away from your workstation and avoid using the space till the next morning.

#3: Use both text and video communication. Every day!

We communicate a lot through our facial expressions and body language, which is all lost when you only ever speak with clients or colleagues via email/Slack/text.

When you set up a communication protocol, make sure you combine text updates and video conferences, or you can start feel lost or distracted and get out of sync with your team.

#4: Keep distractions at bay

At home, you are on your own and it is up to you to actually be productive. This is where certain apps and systems can come in handy.

Social media is one of the biggest distractions, but there are both Android and iOS apps that help you avoid social media or restrict the amount of time you can spend on social media.

#5: Spend time on lead generation/collaboration

The economy has fallen, but it is not going to be down forever. Make sure you’re ready to take advantage when clients do have cash to spend again. Begin by sending cold emails, and be sure to verify the email address before you start writing your pitch.

You can also focus on pitching your existing clients a bigger package or retainer. Try a ready-to-use proposal format that has been proven to be effective.

I would suggest looking at bulking your efforts with media and email campaigns. If you send a thousand emails, at least one will convert.

#6: Power naps are your best friend

Now that you are working from home, there really is no shame in taking a power nap when you need it.

Don’t feel guilty about it. Remember that a power nap can boost your energy levels and make you more productive. (As long as you fulfill your everyday checklist!)

NASA has conducted research that pointed out that these “power naps” could improve memory and cognitive functions, among other things.

Breathing exercises can help you sleep at times when you have too much going on to focus on sleeping.

#7: Stay hydrated and keep munchies around

The idea is to not have to think about food or water during the day. The moment you feel hungry or thirsty, you can reach out for the bottle of water or snacks, satiate your needs, and get straight back to work. No distractions!

Avoid sugary and greasy foods, as they will make you feel lethargic.

#8: Ensure that your workspace and documents are organized

A tidy workspace will ensure that you have a clear and focused mind. And when you are in need of something, you’ll know where to find it immediately.

Arrange everything neatly at the end of your workday so that when you return to work the next morning, you have a neat and clean workspace ready to greet you.

#9: Physical activity. Yes! It exists.

Get your daily dose of exercises at a time convenient to you. You do not need equipment and a large space to churn those calories into energy.

High intensity interval training (HIIT) has helped me a lot. Especially after sitting on a chair and working long hours, your back and glutes do tend to get sore.

Following a system like the Pomodoro Technique, where you work for 25 minutes using a timer and then take a 5-minute break, can help you boost productivity by ensuring your mind does not get too stressed out.

I make sure to move around and stretch during these breaks.

#10: Engage in team-building activities (outside of work)

Along with the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an epidemic of loneliness and depression taking over the world.

As social beings, it is difficult to be confined. How much is social media going to fill the void, anyway?

Take time to connect with your colleagues. Be there for them even for 10 minutes a day instead of getting lost in your own world and you will find your own spirits soaring.

Author bio

Himaan Chatterji is a B2B SaaS content writer and a full-time digital nomad working with SaaS brands around the world to create a web of interconnected long-form actionable resources.

Book Review: Never Split the Difference

Never Split the Difference is a book by former police officer and FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss that offers “a new, field-tested approach to high-stakes negotiations—whether in the boardroom or at home.” Well, it may be your home office, but the book has some helpful ideas and skills of great use to freelance translators and interpreters. These tactics are not always easy to implement in email or phone conversations, which tend to form the majority of a freelance translator’s conversations since we don’t often have face-to-face interaction with our clients, but they are absolutely worth considering when contacting new clients, negotiating rates and terms, or dealing with conflicts that may arise in a business relationship. Below I’ve compiled some thoughts about the author’s most salient points and some examples of how his tips could be used in our professions.

  • Use “no” to evoke more explanation.

When interacting with clients, we generally want to come across as knowledgeable. It may feel counter-intuitive to ask a question to which you know the answer will be “no,” but Voss suggests that we use questions like this to get more information. For instance, if you reach out to a potential direct client by email, you’ll probably research the company online and get an idea of what they do first. But instead of regurgitating what you’ve learned about the company from their website when you write to them, instead ask a question to draw out more information about their company or how they work. This will evoke further conversation and show you are interested in learning more about them. Voss says “no” can help the client feel more secure in their response and will allow them to clarify their position. “No” is not a failure, he says; it’s an opportunity. Here’s an example:

Translator: Hello, client. I read about your company in Article Y and am interested in connecting with you as an independent Spanish translator. Do you often work with companies in other countries?

 

Client: Yes, we do.

Translator: Hello, client. I read about your company in Article Y and am interested in connecting with you as an independent Spanish translator. Are your current translation solutions fulfilling your needs and meeting your expectations?

 

Client: No, we’ve struggled to complete all the translations we need in-house with our own bilingual employees and are finding that they don’t have the know-how to translate accurately and consistently. We’re also not sure how to manage translation projects and keep files organized. Is this something you can help us with?

Here’s another example of how I use “no” on a regular basis:

Translator: Hello, client. I’m checking in about the project you inquired about last week. Is this project still on hold?

 

Client: Yes, it is.

Translator: Hello, client. I’m checking in about the project you inquired about last week. Has this project been cancelled?

 

Client: No, we are actually waiting on another department to finalize the documents and expect to get back to you tomorrow with approval.

  • Listen and mirror the last few words the other person said. Empathize by labeling the other person’s emotions (or pain points).

When communicating with a client or colleague by phone or email, we aren’t able to see the other person’s emotions or reactions but can listen for cues to learn what they are thinking and feeling instead. Voss’s recommendation to mirror the last few words the other person said is emotionally resounding when used in person (“I’ve been feeling really sad lately.” “You’ve been feeling sad lately? Why is that?”), and it can also be very effective in writing. Everyone wants to know they are being heard, so repeating back what the other person has said can reaffirm to them that you’ve understood what they said and aren’t simply thinking about your own response. Voss calls this “tactical empathy.” Here’s an example of how this could work while speaking with a client over the phone:

Client: I have a project for you and it’s a bit urgent. The client just sent over three files and they want them back by tomorrow. We’re really short-staffed here and I didn’t have time to wait for an email response so I thought I’d call and see if you’re available. Can you take this job?

 

Translator: What’s the rate, and can you pay a rush fee?

Client: I have a project for you and it’s a bit urgent. The client just sent over three files and they want them back by tomorrow. We’re really short-staffed here and I didn’t have time to wait for an email response so I thought I’d call and see if you’re available. Can you take this job?

 

Translator: It sounds like you’ve got a lot on your plate right now! Those three urgent files for tomorrow sound doable to me but I’d like to take a look before confirming. I’m at my computer now, so can you send over the files and I’ll reply right away to confirm availability and rates?

  • Don’t be afraid of silence.

Many of us are naturally uncomfortable in situations of silence when face-to-face with another person, and this can happen in writing too. When a client doesn’t get back to you about a project for several days and the project sits in your inbox as “pending approval,” does that make you a little uneasy? Voss says not to be afraid of silence; it can serve as an opportunity to put pressure on the person you’re speaking with, or it may allow them a chance to think harder on what you’ve discussed. Pestering your client more than once about a pending project won’t make them any more likely to approve it; it may just have the opposite effect! Give people time to think by scheduling your communications carefully.

  • Affirm the worst things they could say about you first.

I’ve saved this idea for last because I haven’t tried it yet but am intrigued by the concept! One of Voss’s recommendations is to confront your fellow negotiator head-on by affirming the worst right at the onset. He says that in business negotiations he will often come out of the gate saying, “My price is higher than the next guy’s,” and “We don’t skimp on quality for the sake of saving money,” so that the negotiator can only affirm what has already been said and can’t attack him with new criticism. For me, to open a negotiation with a new client by saying, “I know my rate isn’t cheap” would be very uncomfortable… but may be worth a try!

—–

Lots of other great advice from this book can be used in all kinds of scenarios that are common for professional translators and interpreters; I hope from this small taste of the author’s expertise and out-of-the-box thinking you get an idea of what you could learn from this book and are encouraged to pick up a copy. Whether or not my negotiations ever involve another person’s life hanging in the balance (I sure hope not), you can bet I’ll be taking a page out of this book to use in my own business communications.

Purchase Orders Revisited

This post originally appeared on the blog My Words for a Change and it is republished with permission.

Way back in 2015, I asked my blog readers whether the purchase order I’d produced was merely a pipe dream or a document I could actually use with my clients. The general consensus was that my overly long PO would prove daunting for direct clients and unnecessary for agencies. After tweaking it a bit based on the many suggestions I received, I instead came up with a purchase order checklist. The idea was to fill it in ourselves using the information we gleaned in negotiations with clients and for it to be a handy reminder of what questions we should be asking.

However, I have to admit this hasn’t always been my approach as I have given it to direct clients for two main reasons. Firstly, it serves as a more formal record of the provision of services than an email exchange, especially as I’ve included a link to my privacy notice and to the ITI terms and conditions. And secondly, clients can also provide me with the details I need to perform that service better.

I always fill in as much of the document as I can before giving it to clients and, before today’s brainwave, I put “N/A” where possible because some of the lines were irrelevant for the requested service. Then it occurred to me that it would be far better to create separate model purchase orders for every service I provide. (It’s only taken me nearly five years to think of this. Better late than never I suppose!)

Consequently, I now have four slightly different versions of the original purchase order. They are for: translation; revision; editing; and localisation into UK English. I’ve differentiated between revision and editing as I do a lot of editing of academic papers that have been written by non-native speakers directly into English (or so the client tells me, which is why I have included a question on whether MT has been used).

As before, I’d be grateful for your comments. You can download the files from the following links:

Purchase Order for Translation

Purchase Order for Revision

Purchase Order for Editing

Purchase Order for Localisation into UK English

If you decide to use the files with your own clients, don’t forget that you can’t link to the ITI (Institute of Translation and Interpreting) terms and conditions unless you’re a member. And you’ll also have to change the link to your own privacy notice (although please feel free to copy any parts of mine you wish).

Author bio:

Nikki Graham is a Spanish-to-English translator and reviser specialising in leisure, tourism, hospitality andacademic articles (social sciences and humanities). She also does editingand localisation work. After passing the ITI exam in the subject of leisure and tourism in 2015, she became a qualified member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (MITI). In 2018 she attained the ‘Qualified’ status for ISO 17100:2015, the internationally recognised standard for translation services. Nikki is also a member of Mediterranean Editors and Translators (MET) and ProCopywriters. You can find her blog, My Words for a Change, at https://nikkigrahamtranix.com/blog.

Starting out in translation? Find a mentor!

This post originally appeared on sciword and it is republished with permission.

I was reading one of Kevin Lossner’s blog posts from 2010, titled “No Monkeys!”. He gives 12 pieces of advice—a twelve-step program, as he calls it—for those getting started in the translation business. All of it is great advice and I think everyone should follow it, newbie or not; however, there is one point on which I’d like to expand to impress upon any new translator coming across this blog how important it is to follow.

“Find a mentor. This one is not optional. Most twelve-step programs involve a sponsor, usually one who has struggled with the same issues in the past. In our movement we offer more latitude: you don’t have to seek out a recovering monkey as your mentor. You can also work under the watchful eye of someone who got things right the first or second time.”

When I did my traineeship at the European Commission’s Translation Service fourteen years ago I had a mentor. “The Godfather”, they called him (I still laugh at this). All trainees had a godfather. Mine was a walking encyclopedia, a Greek translator from Alexandria, Egypt, who taught me a lot; though it would be fair to say that most Greek translators in the technical/scientific translation unit of the DGT (Directorate-General for Translation) went out of their way to teach me translation methods as applied in the EU. Business practices I learned on my own and from other freelancers later on; it is difficult to learn the tricks of the trade and how to handle your own projects, do your own marketing, and interact with clients from non-freelancers.

Finding a mentor “is not optional,” says Kevin Lossner. It really shouldn’t be. Having a mentor will make your life so much easier. It will save you time and mistakes. Sure, after hours of looking for good online FR-EN dictionaries you may come across Termium and proudly celebrate your discovery when you realize what a gem it is; or you can skip to celebrating a FR-EN job well done after your mentor saved you those hours by telling you from the start “Make sure to use Termium, it’s an excellent resource, here’s the link.” Or he can save you the embarrassment (and perhaps the legal trouble) of finding out that Google Translate is not reliable and could not care less about the confidentiality of the document you need to translate by explaining to you how it is being developed and how it works. (I am assuming that all seasoned translators know about the dangers of using Google Translate. If not, please read on this topic, e.g. article Confidentiality and Google Translate.)

What should you not expect to learn from a mentor? How to translate! You should already know how to do that. Comparative stylistics and translation techniques should be well engraved on your brain by now. Expect to learn things you’re not exposed to in your translation studies. Use your traineeship to learn how to run your own business.

So what should you learn from a mentor?

Research

How to do research on the topic of the text you’re translating, what resources to use. Resources include paper and/or online dictionaries in your language pair(s) and field(s), online encyclopedias (Wikipedia is the most popular one but please use it with caution—some colleagues and I had a blast with some outrageous errors in several Greek Wikipedia articles, and then didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the Greek entries machine-translated from the English ones.

Your mentor will tell you which resources are reliable, which ones should be used with caution, and which ones should be avoided), journals with articles in your field(s), websites on the subject matter of your texts (could be a section of the Airbus website if you’re translating about airplanes, or the online Health Library of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute if you’re translating the medical records of cancer patients and need to know more about cancer).

Proofreading

I wrote previously that you shouldn’t expect to learn how to translate because you should already know that before starting your traineeship. Proofreading, on the other hand, is a different story. How many of us who formally studied translation were taught how to proofread a text? How many learned how to edit a translation? And how many of us learned in our studies the difference between proofreading and editing?

Sure, we knew how to use the Track Changes feature in Word, but were we shown what to change and what not to touch, what constitutes an error and what is simply a matter of personal preference and style? Were we taught how to charge for proofreading and editing and how to determine our rate? These are all things that your mentor can help you with.

CAT tools

There are several: MemoQ, OmegaT, Wordfast, SDL Trados, among others. Should you use any of these? Which one is more user-friendly? Would the tool of your choice work on your MAC? Are the more expensive ones better? How do you answer to a client that might ask for a discount due to repeated terms as calculated by the CAT tool? These are questions your mentor can help you answer.

See which tool he uses, if any. Watch him use it. Get your hands on it (don’t get nervous if your mentor is standing right over your head while you use it; many of us are very picky about what goes into our translation memories), or perhaps you can just use a trial version. How about voice-recognition software? Perhaps you’ve heard of Dragon Naturally Speaking. Is it available in your language? If your mentor uses it, take a shot at it and see whether it increases your productivity or not.

Project lifecycle

A good mentor will give you exposure to the entire lifecycle of a project, including a translation request, a PO (purchase order), acceptance or rejection of a project in the beginning, and delivery of a project in the end. Look at a request with your mentor: sometimes (quite often, actually) requests are incomplete and make it impossible to judge whether we can take on the project or not.

Sometimes a client will ask me if I can translate a text of X thousand words by such and such date, without telling me the subject field and sometimes without even telling me the language pair! Your mentor will tell you what to look for in a request before you jump into accepting it. He will also tell you when to say no. Look at some POs. What information do they contain? Does the client need the translator to sign an NDA? What is an NDA? Should you always sign it?

E-mails

All projects involve some correspondence between the translator and the client. Sometimes communication takes place over the phone but most often it is done by e-mail. The speed and convenience of e-mail communication does not mean that your e-mails can be sloppy. Shadow your mentor when she replies to a client: watch how she addresses the client, how careful she is with punctuation, what register she uses (which of course may vary from one client to the next, but not by much, a client is a client, and even if you’ve worked with him for a while and are on friendly terms, you wouldn’t use the same register as with your nephew), how she re-reads her e-mail before hitting Send to make sure it is linguistically and semantically correct, knowing the bad impression a message with errors written by a language professional would make. I’m stating the obvious, I know, but unfortunately I’ve seen too many e-mails full of spelling and grammar errors, even some e-mails starting with “Hey there,…”, to omit this point.

Invoices

At the end of a project or at the end of the month you’ll have to send an invoice in order to get paid for your work. It is surprising how many posts we see in online forums by new translators asking how to write an invoice. I don’t know why so many university translation programs don’t dedicate a lesson or two to this. Ask your mentor to show you a couple of old invoices. Make a note of the information they include. Ask her to let you write the next invoice. Ask her also to tell you about different payment methods.

Project-management tools

By this I don’t mean any complex software that a full-time PM might use. But whether you like project management or not, you’ll have to manage your own projects, so you’ll have to find a way to organize your work. There is software you can buy or you may opt for an Excel file or plain old paper and pencil. I use a weekly planner—which is always open in front of me—to write project names and deadlines, and an Excel sheet to write all my project details such as client, project number and/or PO number, project name, number of words, rate, total price, assignment date, and delivery date.

These details come in very handy when it’s time to write invoices, that way I don’t have to look for this information in POs and e-mails. After I send my invoice for a project I write the date on that sheet, as well as the payment due date. After I receive payment, I mark the date of payment and move that project (that Excel line) to another sheet of the Excel file. You may use one or a combination of these and/or other tools. See what your mentor uses and ask for her advice on how to organize your first projects.

Translation portals

You don’t have to ask your mentor which translation portal/site to join (I wouldn’t recommend them, except for Stridonium if you work with German and qualify to join) but do ask her to tell you everything she knows about them (hopefully she will know about them), including which ones to avoid—or at least which sections of them to avoid. You may have heard of ProZ.com, translatorscafe.com, peopleperhour.com (this last one is not just for translators but for freelancers in general, and I would stay away from it unless you want to work for a month to make enough to buy a sandwich).

ProZ.com used to be a great resource for the first few years after it was launched—which happened to coincide with my first years in the business and I cannot deny that it helped me immensely. Unfortunately it has changed focus from serving the interests of translators to serving the interests of big translation companies that seek lower prices and treat translation as a commodity. So this site should be used with caution, if used at all. I would avoid the jobs section like the plague. The forum archives can be very useful, though for any new questions you might want to ask, I would opt for translators’ groups on LinkedIn and Facebook. Ask your mentor to recommend some translators’ groups; they can be general or language-specific or domain-specific.

For example, I am a member of the following groups on LinkedIn: International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters, Applied Linguistics, Polyglot-Multilingual Professionals, Aviation Network, International Aviation Professionals, Aircraft Maintenance and Manufacturing, Boston Interpreters, IMIA – International Medical Interpreters Association, and Translation & Localization Professionals Worldwide, among others; and the following groups/pages on Facebook: International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters, Certified Medical and Healthcare Interpreters UNITE!, The League of Extraordinary Translators, South Florida Business Owners Networking Group, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Interpreting and translation forum, ESA – European Space Agency, Translation Journal, Interpreting the World, etc.

Of course some of these may not apply to you (I have aerospace engineering background and translate for aircraft manufacturers, hence the aviation-related groups); your mentor, who is working in the same language pair(s) and probably also in the same field(s) will be the best person to recommend the most helpful groups for you.

Associations

It is a very good idea to join a professional association. Look into local associations (e.g. NETA if you live in New England in the USA, Société française des traducteurs (SFT) if you live in France, etc.) and domain-specific ones (e.g. IMIA if you are a medical interpreter and/or translator). Ask your mentor which associations she is a member of, what she has gained from her membership, what the mission of those associations is and how they are contributing to the profession.

Where to find a mentor

There are plenty of translators’ groups on LinkedIn and Facebook. I mentioned some above but there are many others. Join some. Actually join many; later on you can unsubscribe from the ones you don’t find interesting or useful. Browse some old discussions, learn from them, start participating, make connections. Introduce yourself, say that you’re a new translator and that you’re looking for a mentor. Try to find a mentor that lives in your area so that you can work at her office (even if it is a home office and even if you do so only once or twice a week) and so that you can practice all the points mentioned above, i.e. shadowing her while she e-mails a client to accept/reject a project, see in person how she uses a CAT tool so you can learn quickly, have her watch you write an invoice, etc. If that is not possible, you can still take advantage of a traineeship by finding a mentor willing to spend some time explaining things to you over the phone, by e-mail, skype, etc., guiding you as you take your first steps as a freelance translator.

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Author bio

Maria Karra is an aerospace engineer and technical translator. After years of testing spacecraft instruments, she discovered that translation was more fun, so she established her technical translation business and never looked back. Maria was born in Greece and spent the better part of her life in Boston, Massachusetts. Having lived and worked in France, Belgium, and the USA, she now calls Miami, Florida her home. Feel free to connect with her on LinkedIn.

What professors don’t teach you about translating professionally

During my undergraduate degree in translation, I felt like I was very prepared for a career in translation. I excelled in my language classes and the translation classes prepared me to thoroughly read a translation brief and identify tone, audience, and purpose so that I could carefully craft a beautiful translation. What more is there to know?

Oh, how unprepared was I… While translation programs are great when it comes to language mediation and translation theory, they seem to be lacking in the areas of client acquisition, marketing, payment practices, and starting a freelance business. (This is my personal experience; however, I have heard similar thoughts from other newly graduated translators.)

As a recent graduate and newbie freelance translator, I felt lost when it came to anything outside the realm of language. So, through lots of research in forums, books, blogs, and translators’ websites, I learned the fundamentals of being a professional translator. I am still learning, but here are some of the concepts that I wish I had known before I graduated:

You will not be translating for 40 hours a week

When I imagined working as a freelancer, I thought of myself translating away for eight hours a day. Little did I know that a lot of my time would actually be spent talking with clients, managing invoices, surfing translation job boards, updating/creating my website, and much more. I really only spend about half my time translating.

You will be an entrepreneur

Freelancing sounds amazing; you don’t have a boss and you work the hours you want. In that same regard though, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. Learning to manage my time took a while and motivating myself to get up early to work even if I don’t have a project to do that day is hard.

Success doesn’t happen overnight

Getting established as a freelancer takes time. Sometimes you will work for a client that has a tight deadline and you will stay up late and wake up early to finish the project. Yet other times, you will not have any paid work in the pipeline. I learned that putting myself out there often was absolutely necessary if I wanted to find more agencies to work with. Patience is a trait I have been learning to lean on.

You should file as a business and pay taxes

As an entrepreneur, you will have to organize your own business. Whether you decide to create an LLC, a corporation, or a sole proprietorship, you must establish your business in the state that you do business in. Make sure that you do your research to figure out which business filing is best for you. Being a business owner was something I never even thought about during my studies.

You will also have to do your own taxes for the business and pay yearly, quarterly, etc. This can seem very daunting, so hiring a professional accountant to help might not be such a bad idea.

You have to find your own clients

As I said before, you have to keep putting yourself out there, because otherwise no one will know that you even exist. I cannot count the number of agencies I have contacted asking if they need translators in my language pair and then heard nothing back. Researching prospects takes a lot of time but will be worth it.

This also means that having a website and an online presence is essential so that potential clients can find you. Even just having an updated and professional LinkedIn profile is important.

Money matters

I didn’t have one class that talked about what we were all wondering about: money. In the translation industry, it is almost taboo to talk about what to charge because of price fixing. Yet this means that when I started out I didn’t know if I should be charging 2 cookies a word or 20 cookies a word, or if I should charge by the hour. How could I calculate that? Through more research and the help of Corinne McKay’s ‘Deciding what to charge’ worksheet I was able to realistically get an idea of what I can charge and still pay rent.

Accepting payments is also something I never thought about. I’d do the project, the client would send the money, and that’s it. Not so simple. Some agencies only send payments through PayPal or TransferWise, but others will pay you through bank wire transfer. Figure out which option works best for you and your clients. Sometimes wire transfers are too expensive, and PayPal doesn’t accept all currencies. In the end, it takes money to make money, so finding a completely free option might be hard or unsafe.

In reality, the argument for why translation programs don’t teach about the business side of translation is that they are teaching you how to translate, not how to run a business, which I understand as well. So, to the translators who are still pursuing a degree in translation: ask your professors questions about the profession while you still have the time. I sat down with one of my advisors and asked a lot of questions at the end of my last semester, which helped immensely. Read through the great resources for translators out there (The Savvy Newcomer!) and start networking with established translators who may be able to guide you in your first year.

About the author

Olivia Albrecht is a French and Spanish to English translator and copywriter specialized in marketing and tourism. She has a B.S. from Kent State University in translation studies and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in digital marketing. She splits her time between living in Canton, Ohio, US and Cali, Colombia. You can find out more about Olivia on her website at www.oneglobetranslation.com or on Twitter at @OneGlobeTR.