If you follow this blog or if you know anything about me, you may know that approximately seven months ago I quit my job as project manager and in-house translator and started my own business as a freelance translator and subtitler. At first, as anyone, I guess, I wasn’t expecting to get much work, actually in my mind it would have been great if I managed to pay for my bills and keep the lifestyle that I had when I was working as an employee. However, somehow, the response that I got from starting this new adventure was very positive : thanks to ex-colleagues, friends and acquaintances, I managed to be busy every day of the week, getting a lot satisfaction.
As I said, I have been lucky enough to start working right away and, as anyone does, I was accepting every job I felt comfortable with because my schedule was pretty much empty. However, after a month or so, projects started piling up and I was getting a bit overwhelmed because even though my planning skills were (and are) pretty good, I was getting the feeling that I didn’t know exactly how long a task would take me and therefore estimating a precise delivery deadline for anything that wasn’t translation or revision was a bit tricky. So, the first suggestion that I could give to the seven-months-ago me would be to stop for a second and actually work out how long a task would take, obtaining in this way a realistic delivery deadline. This method does not only give myself some peace of mind, but it also shows my client that I will not let them down with a project because I haven’t been able to estimate the turnaround time.
As you may have understood from this second paragraph, to me, time has become super precious. There have been days when I stayed at my desk for way too many hours without even standing up and days in which I felt that I needed a 50 hours working day. But every cloud has a silver lining and from this I have learnt to take the time to really think about deadlines that will make my clients happy, that will allow enough time to be able to work on ongoing projects and open orders and finally to keep me sane. This has also led me to set, and stick to, some working hours which can vary, but do not exceed 8 to 9 working hours per day, also because it affects deeply my productivity level. And if I work more than that during a day, I will make sure to take an afternoon off or finish a bit earlier the next day to balance things out.
Differentiation has also been a big part of my path so far: I have learnt that translation only can be a bit monotonous for my taste (this can change depending on people’s tastes), so I decided to start working with subtitling agencies too, as I am very passionate about this area of the translation industry and I find it more dynamic. Also, in terms of clients, having more than one or two clients is very important, not only because it’s nice to ‘talk’ to different people, but also because not all agencies may have work for you every month. For this reason, having four or even five clients will provide some balance and a steady income.
Talking about clients, feedback has also been one of the main characters of this story. The feedback that a translator may receive comes from direct clients, agencies, colleagues, friends and may not always be super polite and educated in terms of translation choices. What I found is important in this matter is to not take it too personally: I understand that a that text is your work and you put a lot of effort into it, but try to avoid letting your ego play the drama queen. A pair of fresh eyes or an opinion coming from someone who may not know much about translation, but who will finally be the public reading your text, may have a positive influence on your final product making it more effective.
Finally, just regarding the ‘professional sphere’ (the wellbeing bit will be touched in another article), I have found that keeping my language skills up to scratch and being always up to date are key in this job. To do that, I have used two pretty simple methods: attending CPD workshops and reading, listening and speaking in my native language as much as I can. The first suggestion, to me, has only positive aspects because you get out of the house, you talk to colleagues and you learn something new in every session. The last one that I attended was only a few days ago and was carried out by David García Ruiz from Trust Your Brand. On top of being super interesting and out of my comfort zone, it taught me something that I had no real clue about, i.e. SEO searches for my own website. On the other hand, the second suggestion may seem very simple, but you’ll be surprise by how much your brain changes by only living in another country. That is why I try so hard to read and speak Italian every day, as well as going to Italy as often as I can (also because I love my hometown but that’s another story).
Although this blog may seem like a diary page, I hope it gave an idea of what’s been going on for me in the last months and I would really appreciate to receive any suggestions on how to work better, but also on other translators’ experiences.