Working remotely or from the comfort of your home is quite normal for professionals in the translation industry. Are you working as a freelance translator? You must have wondered at one point or another how to optimize your time and become more efficient and better organized. It is certainly not an easy task! As you have noticed, some days are better than others. Although there is no secret recipe, the main ingredient you could think of possibly adding to your mix of things is flawless organization. Let’s see what that means and how it`s going to make you more efficient and happier with your work.
- Keep a schedule of your daily activities
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. However, when you work from home as a freelance translator 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 out of 5 tasks you had planned. Keeping a schedule for all your jobs and project days ahead will help you be more productive and avoid the frustrations that come with having to postpone and refuse clients.
- 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 message to make them understand you are actually working. There will always be someone – a brother, a father, a neighbor – who will need you to run some errands if you`re free. You need to make yourself clear in these cases, especially because sometimes things can get a bit crazy. Some days all your tasks are urgent, all your clients need you now and all the projects must be delivered as soon as possible. So how should you prioritize? Well, first try to distance yourself from the situation in order to see the bigger picture. Take 5 minutes to be mindful: maybe 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 expectations to the deadlines that your clients are setting and start with the one you are prone to be most efficient at. Don`t trick 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 which will allow an extension of a deadline. If the case may be, don`t be ashamed to ask for one, you`ll discover clients are human, too!
- Only take on the tasks you`ll be able to handle
A few years ago, when I begun my career as a freelance translator, I was constantly struggling to juggle a lot of work. It was exhausting— I was always missing deadlines and even ended up losing a few of my clients. In the rush to make more money or please more people, you might also easily make a pretty serious mistake, such as taking on too much work than you can possibly handle. 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 at your inbox!
- Find a good client management system
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.
- 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 to your emails every morning, before you start your freelance translator 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 them – 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.
- 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.
- Don`t push yourself until you… break!
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 have no choice but to 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 bottom line is: don`t forget to take breaks, they are essential because they will keep you calm, healthy and excited about going back to your work.
And just like that we’ve swiftly gone through some of the steps we believe are important on our way to being better organized, better prepared, and ultimately, a better freelance translator. This is merely the start though; the rest is up to you!