"How did it get so late so soon? Its night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?".
Motivation, self-discipline and willpower. The three things all freelancers want and need, but sometimes just seem to escape us. Going from a structured 9-5 office job, working to someone else’s schedule, to working from the comfort of your own home and own timeframe can be tough. Incredibly rewarding, but tough. Something I never really prepared myself for was that as a freelance translator, you don’t spend every hour of the working day translating. In fact, whole days can go by and not many words will come and go, however there are then the inevitable days and nights spent running on adrenaline and copious amounts of tea when it all comes flooding in at once. For me, this is all just part of the fun, never really knowing how a week will start and end, however it does mean that time management can sometimes be tricky. Below, I’ve put together a few tips that I have picked up over the last year or so…
1. Use the days when business is sparse to do all the mundane things you can’t be bothered to do.
I’m not just talking about invoicing, emails, marketing etc. I mean the really boring things that are completely unrelated to work. I’ve found that it is easy to feel guilty for spending time on washing, cleaning, food shopping, getting a haircut etc. (actually I quite enjoy going to the hairdressers… but you get the idea) during ‘working hours’, however the fact is that these things need doing, and you’ve sometimes got to be prepared to work outside of ‘working hours’ when the work does come in.
2. Always allow more time than you think you need for a project
We’ve all done it. You’ve almost finished a project – just the final check to go, along with making any format changes, oh and researching those few terms you still aren’t quite sure of. But it’s basically finished. WRONG. This part of the process always, always, always takes about double the amount of time I think it’s going to take. Which is why now, if I have multiple projects on the go for a similar-ish deadline, I try to get them all to the same stage and dedicate a whole day if I can to adding all those final touches on all projects.
3. Keep up with your invoicing as you go
Last Monday morning was not an enjoyable morning. Why? The week before had been crazy busy with work, and I found myself in a situation where I didn’t know which invoices I had sent off, which ones I had even drawn up, and whether any needed chasing up. Okay, so it didn’t take all that long to sort out in the end, maybe an hour, but this definitely would have been a fair more painless activity had I just been more organized the week before. I learnt my lesson.
4. Use a CAT tool
I’m sure many of you reading this do use CAT tools, but it took me a while to be converted. For a long time, I was of the opinion that CAT tools are expensive and a bit of a faff, but Trados has saved me huge amounts of time, probably whole days, for which I shall be forever grateful. So, if you are still unsure, it’s worth it, I promise.
5. Work on the move
I take my laptop everywhere with me, even if I don’t think I’m going to have any time to sit down properly and do whatever I need to do. Because, reality is that people cancel or are late. Or both. I have learnt that you can really get a lot done in 10 minutes, whether it’s doing some background research for a new translation project just come in, getting my invoices in order or even giving a finished project a final proofread.
6. Have a holiday
When I say holiday, I mean a real holiday. With no work. I mean it. I’ve taken a few ‘holidays’ this year, on which I brought my laptop and told myself I would use the time away as a refreshing break from London, but that I would still translate. After all, this is the beauty of the freelancing lifestyle. However, I think everyone needs some time to fully shut off from work, in order to give yourself a chance to rejuvenate and come back more energetic, proactive and efficient than ever.
I’d love to hear any other tips you may have – let me know, I’ve still got a lot to learn!