People unfamiliar with the freelance translation industry often think that freelance translators have more freedom in terms of working hours, and that they can work when they need to! People seem to think that working from home without a boss is a wonderful existence!
Time and time management are the keywords for freelancers
Now let’s assume that a translator’s career is going well with an established client base. Time management is now the key to the freelance work life. If time is not managed properly, a freelancer’s life can turn into hell on earth.
Working as a freelancer does not mean that you do not respect normal working hours. Instead, it takes more discipline to organize the workday. If not, it could mean a messy work schedule and no personal life.
It’s certainly reasonable that freelancers often start their careers with too much emphasis on the amount of work they have to do. Well, they chose this career to do what they love without going to the office, depending on others, working elsewhere, etc. But by introducing a specific freedom of employment, this freedom of employment must have limits, restrictions and working hours rules which must be strictly adhered to. Here are some time management tips:
What are the peaks and troughs of your day?
In general, freelancers work better at certain times of the day. For example, translators can be more productive between 9 a.m. and noon, which is why we call this period peak hours. After lunch, say between 2 and 4, we were lethargic and less energetic. How do we structure our working hours around these physical peaks and troughs? There are many workarounds, but the suggestion is to do more mental tasks such as translation during peak hours, and then other less mental tasks such as management and email between 2pm and 4pm! This is just a suggestion, everyone works differently, but it’s important to find your own rhythm to be more productive!
How often should we check our email?
It’s important to review your emails regularly, especially if you may miss important deadlines or urgent texts that need translation, but one difficult human habit to avoid is reading a message every time an email conversation pops up . If we were to review the emails we receive regularly, say every two hours, it could be time consuming and time management would be better. This avoids interruptions in attention and allows translators to go into “email mode”, which is essentially a different thought process than translation. I say two hours as a general rule of thumb, which I think is an acceptable time to respond to customers. Or, if old habits are hard to break, why not set your inbox to “send/receive” every two hours.
Use a different area?
Given the nature of freelance translation work, many clients or translation service companies are located in different time zones around the world: it is important to establish this at the beginning of the working relationship with the client. It can work to our advantage, but in other cases, such as Spanish translations for Asian clients, the freelancer needs to be very clear about deadlines at the start of the project and take jet lag losses into account when setting up. Another suggestion is to let freelancers program email messengers to automatically respond to customers or prospects with their work hours and expected response times. This makes the customer aware that there is a time zone problem.
Try not to work on weekends?
I know this is easier said than done as most translation deadlines are as of yesterday and always tight, but taking a break from work is imperative to refresh our minds and bodies, and motivated and nurturing to go back to work Monday morning. Admittedly, sometimes we don’t plan well or the urgency of the deadline is unavoidable and we have to work on Sundays. But if that’s the case, it’s important to rebalance the work-play barometer and take Monday morning off.
It is important to manage our time correctly and to devote the right amount of time to all aspects of a translation freelancer’s life, such as translation, administration, attending seminars, marketing, learning the latest tools, etc… Keeping a diary of assignments can help Just sit down on Sunday evening and plan tasks for the week, taking into account peak and off-peak times. Make sure that the mission plan is not too ambitious and realistic, so that enough time is left for a healthy personal life.
The workload can also affect the work schedule, e.g. translation work can be very busy with tight deadlines
When there is no time for self-study or workshops. Taking advantage of less busy work periods is important, and of course managing them effectively will lead to more satisfaction, more opportunities and better career development. In the meantime, we can revise the glossary, do more marketing or study for the exam. It is important not to sit still in less busy times and to maintain the momentum and good work habits that we are now building. In addition to our basic translation and administrative work, we also need to set professional goals and adjust our weekly assignments to achieve them!
Manage administration and time
As a freelancer, the organization of management tasks is very important. An operational agreement must be drawn up, which includes delivery dates, invoices, archiving, procedures, application files, software maintenance, etc.
In general, a rule of thumb is to send translation invoices at the end of each month so that you can group small and large projects and avoid minimal costs that could jeopardize customer relationships. But this is less common because it can depend on each client and their requirements: some require an invoice at the end of each project, some at the end of the month, some when a certain amount is reached, and so on. .If you’re just starting out, try our translation invoice template here. Just fill in your details and you are fully covered. It includes the customer’s contact and financial information, your information (such as address, financial information and bank account information) and project information (such as invoice date and due date, word count, language combination, taxes, etc.). you are processing an international wire transfer, don’t forget to provide your IBAN number and Swift code!
Since invoices are so important, it is important to simplify the process as much as possible. We often recommend that you request a purchase order from your customer. This is an important overview of the project details agreed between the freelancer and the client before the translation starts, such as agreed rates, language combinations, delivery dates, number of words in the translation memory and translation rates, etc… If the project budget matches it best to notify the client and request an update from the PO during the project to ensure that both parties are in full agreement on the extra work and that the client is not hit hard when they receive the final bill.
Sometimes management such as translation quotes can be boring because it is not a creative process, but it is necessary. People need to invest time in making management processes more efficient to save time and build trust in customers!
I hope this advice is helpful and at least saves you some time and allows you to have a more active personal life. Of course your comments are welcome!