Two years ago, Riccardo Schiaffino summarized the contents of a Colorado Translations Association seminar on About Translation and included this line:
NEVER sound desperate
(especially when you are).
This is why I work two days a week as an English teacher in Parisian companies.
For the first eleven months of my freelance career, translation provided my only source of income. Underemployment almost turned me into a monkey. I spent more time filling out agency forms and doing unpaid tests than actually translating.
I was starting to grow a tail when I came across this blog post on Intercultural Zone. Patricia Lane gives this advice to a struggling freelancer:
What I suggest […] is to split your time between getting yourself established as a translator (your career) and taking on any ol’ part-time job (unrelated to your career) to keep afloat financially.
I took this advice to heart. Why was it the right move for my freelance career?
Because it was liberating.
I do not need to be assigned every job I quote for.
I can count on two full days of work every week. If I have no translations one week, that makes no dent in my grocery budget.
My head is screwed on tighter when I submit quotes. My time has become even more valuable. I am not racing to the bottom.
If I land an interesting project, I am thrilled! If I don’t, I’m disappointed about not taking part, not about missing out on the income.
Other perks of having a day job
Not only am I less needy for work but
- I get out of the house. I talk to humans using my voice, not my keyboard.
- I brush my hair. My shoes gets shined, my face gets powdered, my shirt gets ironed.
- I march. Few can keep up with my rapid pace as I head to and from the train station. My brain doesn’t get this much oxygen at home.
- I part from my computer. This gives my arms, back and eyes a rest. Anyone else translate using a font size of 20?
- I network. I got my current translation project, which is very exciting, after being referred by a fellow English teacher.
- I learn. I’ve given lessons to people in publishing, oil and gas, electricity, finance, in the automotive industry… I hold a backstage pass into the corporate world. This awareness of company challenges helps me translate business documents.
Having a part-time job is useful for me at this point in my career. What do you recommend for freelancers who are still building up their clientele? To take a walk on the wild side and put all their energy into freelancing? Or to make the transition into freelancing less financially stressful by keeping a day job?