Monthly Archives: March 2015

7 steps in becoming a more efficient, better organized freelance translator

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Recently we have explored the advantages and disadvantages of becoming a freelancer. And let`s assume that we have taken the leap from the office job and started a solo career. No matter the domain, one of the recipes a successful freelancer will give you is to be organized.

Let`s see what that means and how it`s going to make us more efficient and happier about ourselves.

1. Keep a schedule of your daily activities

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When you have a 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily job it`s easy to set the alarm clock at 7 a.m. every morning and plan an outdoor activity with your friends for 7 p.m., let`s say. However, when you`re working from home, you can often lose yourself among projects of all sorts and find yourself in quite a pickle when you discover a whole day has passed and you`ve only taken care of 2 tasks of the 5 you had planned. Sometimes when my cats are in the mood for playing, I am tempted to take five. Or if one of my unemployed or freelance friends happens to call me, she actually doesn`t realize that I`m working (even though I`m at home). Keeping a schedule of all your jobs and project days ahead will help you be more productive and avoid the frustrations that come with having to postpone jobs and refuse clients.

2. Learn to prioritize

Even if your friends or family think you are available between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. just because you`re at home, that doesn`t mean you don`t need a clear delimitation to make them understand you are actually working. It my personal experience, there is always someone – a brother, a father, a neighbor – who needs you to run some errands `since you`re free`. You need to make yourself clear in these cases, especially because some days are just crazy. Some days, all the tasks you have are urgent, all the clients need you now and all the projects need to be delivered as soon as possible. Then how is it possible to prioritize? Well, first try to distance yourself from the situation in order to see the bigger picture. Take 5 minutes to have a cup of tea, look outside the window or play with your dog. I assure you 5 minutes won`t jeopardize your business. Then, try to identify which tasks will require less time and which will take more work. Compare your forecast against the deadlines that your clients are requesting and start with the one you are prone to be most efficient at. Don`t kid yourself into multitasking. When under pressure, you`ll learn that this practice is both inefficient and leads to the silliest mistakes you`ll ever make. Eventually and if needed, you can decide which client you have that kind of relationship with that will allow an extension of deadline. Don`t be ashamed to ask for one, you`ll discover clients are human, too!

3. Only take on the tasks you`ll be able to handle

A few years ago I was constantly struggling to joggle all the work I had taken. It was exhausted, always missing deadlines and ended up losing a few clients. In the rush to make more money or please more clients, you might easily make a pretty serious mistake – take on so much work that you couldn`t possibly handle. Moreover, you may find yourself in the situation where you need to turn down a great job because you said yes to 10 other jobs, obviously less profitable ones. You might want to consider putting aside a few days a month just in case the million dollar client comes knocking in your inbox!

4. Find a good client management system

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Sometimes we tend to rely too much on our memory to remember all the client names and contact information we need; or maybe we are sure we`re going to easily find them with a quick search in our emails. Well it`s not uncommon to lose or misplace information right when we need it the most. To avoid these situations, you may use online client management tools or a good old notebook. Personally, I like Insightly, it`s cheap and professional enough for starters.

 

5. Reply to emails as soon as possible.

You might find it useful to put this activity in your daily schedule – half an hour to one hour to reply your emails every morning, before you start any actual work. This might help you have a better view on the jobs you will work on for the day and for the next few days as well. Also, it will help you prioritize better, depending on the clients` demands. For all other emails received during the day, make it a general rule to reply in the first 10 minutes after you receive it – if only to say well hello there and thank you for the message, I`ll get back to you in a couple of hours with all the info you need. Your clients will really dig your promptness! Lately, I have explored a new work tactic – it`s called MIT, or Most Important Tasks. Basically what you need to do is identify your most important tasks for the day, start with those and don`t stop until you get them done. MIT it`s actually something I will write about soon in more detail, so keep close!

6. Keep track of your finances

And not just the week you need to hand in the papers to your accountant. You will find it useful to dedicate some weekly time to this assignment. This way you will not lose touch with whatever is going on in your account and you won`t be surprised by some huge tax bill that`s going to ruin your plans for a few good months. If you make some research, you will discover there are plenty of online programs that can help you organize your income and expenditures. For me it was really hard to get used to taking care of my own finances – it took some research and a few mistakes along the way, but I discovered that if I`m organized and focused enough, it`s not as difficult as it seems.

7. Don`t push yourself until you… break! 

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 Give yourself breaks! Between emails, deadlines and calendars, you might start to feel a bit tired if you don`t remember to take breaks and plan some well-deserved vacations. With all the available technology today, we can easily find a way to remind ourselves to take a break. Personally, I like to use a desktop application, set up to trigger a funny alarm every 2 hours and turn my screen dark so that, for 5 minutes, I got nothing else to do than get up from my chair and walk around. I also found a nice mobile app – Calm – which notifies me every day at 12.00 that it`s time to put on the headset and relax with fresh, nature sounds, such as ocean waves, birds chirping or rain falling in the tropical forest. So don`t forget to take breaks, they are essential because they will keep you calm, healthy and excited about going back to your work.

So we’ve swiftly gone through some of the steps we believe are important on our way to being better organized, better prepared, better professionals. But this is merely the start, the rest is up to you!

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FREELANCE vs. OFFICE WORK – The disadvantages of freelancing

Last week we talked about the advantages of freelancing. It is indeed something to look into, something to analyze and maybe even try on. To some, it will fit right into place, like a great hat that you never dared to wear before (and you wonder why, ’cause it’s so cool). For others, it will feel awkward and inappropriate and you’ll just know you aren’t going to wear it again (at least not so soon).

But in order to see the whole picture and make an informed decision, here are some of the disadvantages you need to consider:

1. The discipline challenge

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This is where being disciplined really pays off. Since you spend all your time in your own environment, you are prone to getting distracted – so if you aren’t very focused, you can find yourself surfing the web for new living room furniture or doing the dishes and yelling at your spouse because they didn’t do them first.

For me, this was the single most difficult thing I had to cope with in the last 2 or 3 months of freelancing. However, I learned that once you go on a daily schedule and you really respect it, almost all distractions start to fade away. There is, of course, the will power element – a very significant variable which depends on our own motivation and the resources we are ready to employ.

2. Financial management skills needed

Since you are the one to manage your finances, you will have to pay more attention to this aspect and in time really get good at it. For one who hasn’t had anything to do with this area, it may be a real challenge to keep the records straight and foresee possible issues. You have to consider the fact that your income is variable and maybe save up some money for less productive times.

What really helped with my pretty desperate case was a good financial budgeting software, like YNAB – it does come with a free trial version, so that you can see if you like it and if you decide to purchase it, the price is somewhere around EUR 30. Totally worth it, if you ask me.

3. Losing touch with your social life

2For some of us socializing may be more important than for others, but for all of us it is certainly a component of life. So working from home can make you start to feel lonely and crave human contact, since a video conference now and then cannot replace a chat with one of your coworkers over a work report or a nice piece of apple pie. As I might have mentioned, I am not an extremely social individual, but there are times when I just need to be with people, make small talk and ask for someone’s opinion face to face for a change.

So in order to stay in touch with your social life no matter how much work you got going on, you could schedule more time with your family and friends – let’s say once a week or every other week ( if you’re experiencing a very busy period).

4. You have to be your own motivation

As opposed to working within a company, where your colleagues and superiors will offer their constant support, encouragement and give you immediate feedback on your work, being a freelancer means you are supposed to make it all happen for yourself.

First of all, you have to be your own critic and an objective one. Secondly, you need to do for yourself what you imagine a good boss would do for you – give yourself breaks, free time, holidays and why not, casual bonuses. (N.B. I’m pretty great at this one! :) )

5. Where did my day go?

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When you work from home as a freelancer you spend most of your time at your desk and it might just give you the feeling that you have been there forever. Moreover, since you don’t have to go out for almost anything, your time won’t be fragmented between activities and this may become hard to manage or even infuriating, when after a day of hard work you look at your watch to discover it’s too late to meet any of your friends or do anything else. And then you work some more.

What I have discovered is that the key to this issue is to separate your work activities from your personal activities – for instance by simply taking the time to eat away from your computer or see a friend for coffee during the one hour break you have planned for the day.

6. Watch your weight

And your posture! It’s hard to remember to be active when you hardly get out of home, especially if you’re on a deadline for months in a row. So even though working from home can keep you far from the daily stress, it can get you closer to sedentary-related issues.

Keep exercising, stock your fridge will lots of vitamin-rich food and don’t forget your health comes first.

It`s up to you!

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In conclusion, if faced with the choice between these two options, one needs to evaluate their own priorities and choose wisely. It takes a bit of courage to take the leap from working in a regular office to becoming a freelance work-at-home entrepreneur. It also takes courage to acknowledge the pros and cons and make the decision that fits you best.

But at the end of the day what really matters if that you enjoy your work as much as your environment. This is the only way you can ever hope to make a difference. But what’s for sure is that it`s very important to at least try, so that later on you don’t regret missing the opportunity.

It might not work exactly like you’ve imagined it right from the start. You might need time to get used to it; you might need time to get your first clients. Eventually, it`s up to you, so go on, get your hat!