Author Archives: Manuela Ilioiu

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!

FREELANCE vs. OFFICE WORK

For some, the office routine, along with an annoying boss and all the hours spent in traffic has slowly and painfully become unbearable. So they took chances and dared to take on a challenging adventure – freelancing. Risky? Maybe. But if don`t try, you`ll never know, right?

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There was a time, not long ago, when working as a freelancer looked and sounded suspicious to most of us. On an ever-changing market though, one needs to keep up with the pace, so we have come to learn that more and more people are trying to make it on their own. Everywhere you turn there’s someone who has chosen to work as a freelancer.

But what does working as a freelancer really mean? And what are its advantages and disadvantages? Is it really the best idea for everyone or are there still some who prefer the good old going to the office style?

Today, we feel positive and will have a look at what we think that are the advantages of freelancing.

1. Feeling like your own boss

You are in fact your own boss – you decide who your clients are, you decide when and where you want to work from, you can organize your own time and have all the free time you want (at least in theory, we’ll get back to this one when speaking about disadvantages). Personally, I find this first advantage quite awesome, but be careful – it’s highly addictive and if what you’re looking for it just the feeling of owning the place, you should reconsider your decision.

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2. Greater financial potential

You earn the exact money you work for. This might be quite the revelation as you can really get the chance to work more, to do more and provided you put in a hard work, your finances will improve significantly. However, the perks of getting yours comes with a price – it entails that you have a constant number of clients, which will ensure a constant income, from where you can go up if you want to.

I must admit that when I started off I struggled a bit, but once I got the hang of things I was amazed of the good money I was able to make off quite the same amount of work as when I was a regular employee.

3. Less stress

You are basically stress-free – avoiding the office drama, gossip, useless team meetings or hours spent explaining to your boss why you chose to do this or that. Your time is your own, meaning that you can work without interruptions and at the end of the day really feel like you have achieved something, rather than just sit around and hope for a moment of quiet.

Personally, I’m not quite the chatter, but with a birthday party every week, my desk colleague getting married or my boss coming in every hour to check on whatever we were doing, I had days when I could just as well have been sleeping in my car, in the parking lot.  Word, I am not antisocial, but rather need my work to be my work and not a constant clatter and chirping.

4. Time saved = more personal time

You can save time – just think about all the time spent in traffic, whether if you have your own car or if you go to work by bus. The daily commute can be both time-consuming and stressful, so skipping it can feel really rewarding.

I have to say I am quite lucky to live nearby the office so I can walk or get on my bicycle to work often. But when I need to switch, for various reasons, to motorized commute, it really feels like a total waste of time – a couple of hours in traffic to and from work can actually be put to better use, I`m sure you agree!

5. Money saved = more for your hobbies.

You save money as well – money which would usually have gone to the daily commute, new clothes and footwear or lunch money. Instead, you will be able to offer yourself a treat from time to time and really use the money you are saving on whatever you need to.

Now this one is tricky, ’cause if you don’t have the discipline to save and organize your money, you won’t get it overnight just by working from home. What you do get instantly is fewer occasions to spend your money – and that alone can be quite an achievement for some of us.

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6. More comfort, less noise.

Except for the one you want to have – maybe you feel like playing your favorite song as loud as you can. But other than that, your home is the most comfortable environment there is – starting from being able to wear a casual outfit rather than stiff, office clothes and all the way to working from your bed with your pets keeping you company. Or, if you feel like it, you can move your desk to a cozy café. Personally, I think it is amazing to be able to work from the park or from my parents’ garden whenever I feel like it.

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So here we are, closing up on what I tried to be a summary of all the advantages of freelancing. Psychology studies say that optimists tend to start with the good parts. But so do well trained business professionals in their relationships with the clients. However, everyone knows that there`s two sides of every story.

Stay tuned for the second part of this story – I`ll get back to you in a week with the disadvantages of working as a freelancer.

Until then, If you’re looking for some inspiration or a little bit of fun, check this out: – http://37signals.com/remote/.

TIPS AND TRICKS – HOW TO MASTER THE ART OF CLIENT COMMUNICATION

Keeping a good relationship with your clients is the key to a successful business – everyone will tell you this and they will be right. But how should we approach our clients in order to build a strong, long lasting, trusty relationship? Some of my thoughts on this topic are gathered in the present article.

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1. Don’t talk about what you can’t do, but rather about what you can do.

If you cannot do it, the other company can. When engaged in a discussion with a client we often tend to explain ourselves and linger too much on the negatives rather than the positives. Next time you are in this situation, talk about what you can do, give relevant details, but be honest, and admit what you can’t offer. For instance, instead of: We cannot send you the product today. We need more time to prepare it, but you will get the best quality at the best price on the market, you could tell your client: We can offer you the best quality on the market at the best price, and we can prove it, but in order to be able to give you that, we will need a short deadline extension. Will you be willing to wait another day to get the best there is or settle for what you can get today?.

2. Don’t start your sentence with an apology.

When we work, we make mistakes. It’s only natural to happen and when It does, you have to be able to admit it. However, the way in which you chose to do it can influence your future relationship with your client.

Although it may be tempting to open with First of all, let me apologize for the …, try to avoid it and rephrase so that your first sentence is one with a positive message, such as: Thank you for allowing us the time to process your request. Your business is appreciated and we are doing our best to fulfill your requirements. However, we have encountered a small difficulty, which has led to a delay but your project is in good hands and right now we are working on it.

And another thing – avoid saying if that has caused any inconvenience – it’s redundant and actually kind of annoying. Of course it has caused inconvenience, how would you have felt if one of your providers was 3 days late in sending you the product you needed? Instead, give your client a reassurance and show them some real comfort by offering something real, something they can put their finger on, like a discount on that project or the next one, or a great offer on one of your own products that you know they need. You’ll figure something out for sure!
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3. Put yourself into his/her shoes.

They say you shouldn’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes. Which brings us to our next point – try to really understand your clients by putting yourself in their place. What would you want? How would you like your collaborators to treat you, to talk to you?

You will notice that half of your frustrations and half of your anger will start to dissipate as you get in the head of the person standing in front of you. But you won’t be able to do that before learning about the business, about its particularities. During the past years, specialists have pointed out that Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is actually more significant that IQ and could produce major results in business communication.
Anyhow, if you really get into character, it works like a charm!

4. Be human.

Remember that you’re not a robot, but a human being. And your client knows that. So make small talk, ask them about their kids, about the weather, or anything you know they would enjoy talking about.

Making a connection with your client will ensure a faster reaction from their side, they will become more malleable and it will also be more fun working with them.

5. You don’t have to be friends with the client.

However, don’t cross the line with too much small talk or else you could slide to inappropriate behavior. You don’t need to ask your clients to go out for a beer or for a family holiday or a fun double date, unless your relationship has dramatically crossed the lines of professional collaboration.

Otherwise, keep it simple and do your best to please your client through your work and through great quality results exclusively – this will gain their respect and confidence and in the end, it’s really all you need to accomplish.

6. Be honest.

Don’t set up expectations you aren’t ready to accomplish. In a highly competitive environment, sometimes we tend to promise the Moon so that a good client will pick us. Don’t trick yourself into that! All you will accomplish is to get a bad review from an unsatisfied customer. Honesty is the best policy – tell your client exactly what you will offer and at what cost, so that they know what to expect at any time.
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7. Pick up the phone every now and then.

I know you’re busy, we all are, but once in a while, picking up the phone and calling your client will actually prove fruitful.

We are all too hooked on emails and they are so impersonal. So good for information exchange, but so bad for human relations. Emails are too easy – it takes almost no time and very little effort to write an email. But calling a person or even meeting with them for 30 minutes will make a difference.

So next time you get an email from your customer asking you what you thought of their recent idea, just call them. Tell them over the phone what you thought of it and wish them all the best with their future work. You’ll be there to support it and they will certainly come to you for it!

8. Don’t take it personally.

This is a very important rule of the game and if you fail to learn it, it will most probably be no fun for you. Don’t make it about yourself! Don’t take it personally when a client is shouting at you over the phone (or over the email, via 10 question marks at the end of a sentence that doesn’t end with thanks). Don’t make it about yourself when they are disappointed or they’re acting superior. Try to detach yourself from the matter and handle it with calm. Maybe they’re having a bad day or maybe the service you have offered them was really below their expectations – either way, you need to find a solution, not cry in the bathroom and wonder why they hate you so much. It’s just business and there’s a fine line between caring for what you do and taking it too far!

9. Remember that in the end you’re not supposed to sell a product in itself, but create a human reaction.

This one is easy – think about a child’s reaction to a present in a box – it’s almost impossible to fake! This is what you have to get from your clients – the honest, spontaneous, positive reaction to your product. Think about that for your next project!

10. And finally, do your job well.

Because if everything else is great, but you don’t have much idea of what’s really going on with your business, it’s just all in vain.
Learn how to do what you do at your best, put a lot of passion into it and all the above will just come natural.