Much has been written about the job of freelance translators, how to organize our time to work more efficiently, how to attract more clients and expand our business… However, little has been written about something as characteristic – and sometimes, problematic – as it is the isolation inherent to freelance translation. Isolation that sometimes also translates into poor time management and low productivity.
We all have this picture in mind of a freelancer: someone spending all day at home, day after day, sitting in front of their computer, not socializing, wearing worn-out clothes, working strange hours, eating in front of the computer… This kind of ‘bohemian life’ may sound appealing to a certain extent – who has never felt they would like to stay at home and avoid that annoying colleague? Or perhaps get up a little bit later… avoiding the commute to work on some gray, rainy day? However, the truth is, after a while, humans are social beings and have the need to establish meaningful connections to others in their daily life. Also, despite freeing yourself from imposed schedules may sound idyllic and the ultimate freedom achievement, incidentally this may cause you let yourself go, being unproductive and procrastinating, and trying to make up later in the evening for the wasted time… All these are issues that can certainly have a negative impact on your quality of life and on your general well-being.
Thus, in the next paragraphs we introduce some recommendations to avoid – or, at least, alleviate – the ‘isolation’ of the freelance translator while improving our time management, all drawn up from my own experience and other colleagues’ experience.
The first step is to make a clear distinction between ‘work’ and ‘home’ environment. This can be achieved through different approaches. You may devote a room at home just for your professional activity. This office must be furnished with office furniture and contain a clean desk and only work-related items. A room aimed at working and nothing else, without any distractions. A room you can physically leave and close the door when you are done with your job, until the following day.
If this is not possible, another option, which I highly recommend, is to look for a co-working space. A co-working space is a shared office among independent professionals, who carry out different activities, but still choose to gather together to work at the same place. This will definitely provide you with the separation between work and home that you need, while providing you with the opportunity to get to know other freelancers in a similar situation and benefiting from the synergies that may arise. The co-working movement is increasingly growing in every city and there are many options everywhere. This, apart from keeping you away from home, can also push you to do some physical exercise, whether you choose to walk to the co-working space or ride a bike. This is an excellent excuse to avoid sedentary life and to insert some physical activity into your daily routine (although this is a topic we’ll leave for another post!).
Lastly, a third option, connected to the first one, is to establish a fixed timetable that you religiously follow. This timetable should include some external activities that, in turn, may have a positive impact on your professional development (formal or informal networking events, get-togethers, conferences to attend…). Also, some freelancers find helpful working occasionally from cafés or bars. This offers them the anonymity they need while providing them with some distraction and entertainment.
In conclusion, these are some ideas to help improve the quality of life of freelance translators (or freelancers in general!), while enhancing their productivity and efficiency at work. We, freelance translators, are blessed with having the opportunity to work independently. The flexibility and freedom that come with it are a dream for many people. Now, we just need to find a way to avoid all the distractions that come from home, while having a balanced life at the same time.
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Maria Castellano is an official sworn English-Spanish translator. Her main field of expertise is sworn translation of visa applications, as well as sworn translation of official certificates, transcripts and other legal documents. Before being a freelance translator, she was granted with a Fulbright scholarship to carry out an MA in Linguistics at SJSU in the United States. She also holds an MA in English and BA in Translation and Interpreting by the University of Granada in Spain. She has been freelancing for four years and loves doing so. She lived in the UK, Belgium and the USA, and is currently based in the beautiful city of Granada, Spain.