The Hardside of Freelancing

We all dream about this, don’t we? Working in bed, or spending more time at home (maybe in bed as well). But there’s more to freelancing than most people think.

The major upside of freelancing is the obvious – you are your own boss. And you’re also your own personal assistant. Of course this only works if you have the self-discipline to carry out all the tasks that need to be done, which is tough. In my first year freelancing, I missed a few deadlines because I could not meet my original plan of working much and going out little, and ended up losing a client because of this. Enough to learn the self-discipline thing, right?
Another trait you must have is organization. For large projects, you need to have a plan, something like: how many words do you have to translate per day in order to leave some time for a final editing and proofreading, and be able to meet the deadline agreed? Have in mind that you’ll probably have more than one project at hand, so you still need a “plan” for small projects. How do you know when each project is to be delivered? You need to right down date and time – and client, so you don’t get confused.
Organization is also required for you not to starve, because if you’re not keeping track of payments, how are you going to pay your bills? And if a client doesn’t pay, how will you know?
You already know this, but keep in mind you are responsible for your clients – maintaining the current ones satisfied, acquiring new ones, letting go of lousy ones. So marketing skills are required to get new clients. I always save some time in my day to send a few messages to new clients, review current strategies of work and develop new ones (such as my website and this blog). Your business will grow proportionally to the effort you put to it. And yes, you have to think business.
Besides having the necessary skills to undertake a freelance business, which I mentioned in an earlier post, let’s talk about the downside of freelancing. The fact that you don’t know how much you’re going to make is a major bummer. How do you cope with that? Well, you can start by saving money. After a couple of years, you can analyze your finances (of course, you need to keep track of what’s coming in to do that) and you can “predict” the good and bad months for your work. At the end of the year, I usually analyze how things went on, and also check who paid me what, who delayed how much for how long, and elect in a notebook the best and worst clients I had during the year. Then, at the next year, I keep this list very close by, and this helps me make decisions like taking on new clients, letting a client go, and other stuff. This is the feast and famine problem, and you have to prepare yourself for famine most of the time, so when there’s feast, you’ll waste it with important things.
Another downside that comes to mind is work load, especially in the feast season. I myself love working, and my husband has a hard time with this. Although I have my working hours set, they tend to vary along the week, and also according to my classes. I used to spend the entire day at the university on Mondays this semester, so I needed to compensate working a couple of hours at night. On Friday I was free, so I would work from 10 am to 10 pm. In past times, I would take every project I was offered, and had to work every day from 10 am to God-knows-when. Eventually, I became a workaholic. And I have to admit – I don’t see much of a problem here. Of course, you have to take care of your health, because you can only work if healthy – think about tendinitis and other “itis” that can keep you out of work.
That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy my free time, and this important to get fully recharged. I enjoy other aspects of translation (such as my MA research and other blogs) and also the nice places Portugal has to offer. Being a freelancer, I can work wherever I am, as long as I have a Wi-Fi connection. This is an upside I take advantage of, and if you have the chance, go for it. It’s really nice working after getting to know a new country or city, and you have time zone on your side (I can’t help it but coming back to the upside of freelancing, it’s really that good).
Well, it’s also not so good to see everyone offline in Skype while I have 5k words to deliver today, but this won’t happen very often if you’re careful and organized, so don’t worry about it. I’m not going to complain about solitude, because this is a fallacy – you won’t be isolated if you’re a good professional. You have other translators to talk to, you have classes to attend in order to improve your skills and keep up-to-date with your career, you decide your own schedule, so you can take a 10 minute break and phone your family or friends. No, phoning is not the same, but you can also meet them, it’s up to you.
Bear in mind that I think freelancing is that good because it suits my personality. But this might change. And this may not be the case for you. How well can you handle uncertainty? How self-disciplined and organized are you? Do you prefer to deal only with the projects, or are you willing to do other things besides translating (and what I mean is negotiating terms, requesting deadline changes, etc.)? These are crucial aspects to see freelancing in a good or bad light.
There is a good blog post on this article as well here. Check it and let me know – is freelancing good or bad for you, and why?
 (comic from here)

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