The Pros & Cons of Being a Self-Employed Professional Translator [Update March 2020]

The Pros & Cons of Being a Self-Employed Professional Translator [Update March 2020]

Given the current worldwide situation, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are forced to change their lifestyle and adapt to a work from home situation. As such, we decided to share our experience and highlight that work from home is possible for most of us. 

With the development of communication technologies, more and more people turn away from their 9-to-5 jobs and seek out jobs and opportunities that offer flexibility when it comes to time and availability. For many, this means being self-employed and looking for various collaborations.

As such, in 2017, there were 4.8 million (15.1% of the labour force) self-employed people in the UK alone!

So, what does this have to do with being a professional translator?

Well, as a translator you can basically work from anywhere, as long as you have a phone and a steady Internet connection. In fact, many of our collaborators are self-employed or freelance professional translators who decided to make the switch and make better use of their time and resources.

But before you take the plunge, let’s first have a look at both the challenges and the benefits of being an entrepreneur in the translation niche.

Time Management vs. Organisational Skills

When you’re not at a job with a fixed schedule, you can create your own timetable. This means you can juggle with raising kids, having a fulfilling family life, and taking care of errands in your own time. Even more, you can take full advantage of your natural rhythm, and work during those hours when you’re most creative or most motivated.

On the other hand, if you’re not used to creating your own schedule and you need someone to manage your projects and time, the change may be too much.

Your Own Collaborations vs. Finding Customers

When you’re employed, you don’t have to worry about finding customers. Also, as a translator, the company provides (or it should) resources and support, in order to make your job easier.

When you’re on your own, you’re also the one to promote your skills and find new customers. This means learning how to calculate costs and set up prices for the services you provide, making sales pitches, and sending offers. Of course, the process is more complex than this, but if you’re already anxious, we recommend taking a better look at this decision.

On the upside, once you go over the initial panic attack and learn how and where to find customers, you’ll have the opportunity to work on a wide range of interesting projects. Even more, many companies work with self-employed collaborators, once they manage to establish a level of trust.

This also means you have the opportunity to collaborate with several companies and have individual customers as well.

No Pressure vs. Job Security

Many people say they stay in a 9-to-5 job they dread because it provides job security and a steady source of income. While this is true, as a professional translator, you may be pressured by managers to cover a certain amount of words on a daily basis, which can be tedious and gets exhausting really fast.

Also, the job security concept is an illusion. In the case of a market drop or a company downsize, no job is secure!

On the other hand, as a self-employed translator, you can have several sources of income, from different projects. True, income as a total may vary from one month to another, but when you sum it up, the result may be better.

Not to mention that you’ll get to love working on projects that you care about. This means you will no longer feel pressured to cover a certain workload and, even though you’ll be exhausted by the end of each day, you’ll have fun with it.

Adapting to Social Distancing [2020 Update]

Many specialists recommend social distancing as a measure to keep the spread of the virus at bay, but most remote workers experience it in normal situations as well. This can hit pretty hard if you’re used to life in the office, surrounded by coworkers and close to decision-makers. In addition, many people who enjoy working in an office put a lot of value in discussing face-to-face – whether it’s a project meeting with the team, a chat with the customer, or just planning with the manager, it feels more realistic if you can talk in person.

However, we must consider the fact that nowadays the technology is advanced enough to emulate reality. Due to the latest video-conferencing software and hardware, you can now have meetings with a large number of people without lags in communication, interruptions caused to buffering, and more. Furthermore, the image is in high-definition, the sound is clear and loud, and there are plenty of work platforms geared towards collaboration. You can even talk and support your arguments (aka give a presentation) using smart devices.

So, when it comes to meetings and chats, office life is completely unaffected – the only thing that changes is your location. As a bonus, you get to work from the comfort of your home, you don’t have to go through morning and afternoon traffic, and you get to manage your time according to your needs.

Given the current situation, it helps to keep your distance from other people. But, this lifestyle (working from home) can become a bit lonely in time. That’s why specialists recommend you create and maintain strong friendship relationships, go out with friends and family, and basically, get out of the house. The promise of a job where you don’t have a manager constantly peeking over your shoulder has its perks, but if you’re not careful, you may end up missing the supervisor.

Learn to Unplug

If you’re new to working remotely, you run the risk of making yourself constantly available. Whether it’s via phone or you’re always ready to drop everything and reply to an email that’s work-related, you never get the chance to relax and enjoy the small pleasures of life.

This stems from a fear of missing out (or FOMO), a constant worry that, if you’re not present, you might miss out on valuable opportunities or maybe your manager will think you’re slacking. It’s the same emotion that drives people to constantly check social media and the news, to make sure the world doesn’t change without them. But when it comes to work, it is crucial to set boundaries (especially when home and work share the same space!). For this, make sure to specify your available time and set a rule where you’ll only consider high-grade emergencies outside that time interval. This doesn’t make you unapproachable and it helps you unplug from work and technology and retreat in activities you enjoy such as reading, watching TV, or spending time with the family.

Given the current wave of misinformation running around the world and the media’s love for the sensational regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more than recommended to take a break from being online (for your own peace of mind). It also helps to filter out the news on TV and only get your information from reliable sources.

The Silverlining

In the end, whether you’re forced by the circumstances or you’re looking to pursue a life as a self-employed professional (translator or otherwise) working from home can be a blessing. True, it’s not a good fit for everyone, but you now have the chance of trying. Sadly, not everyone can afford to work from home, which makes us appreciate the ‘pro’ side of being a work-from-home translator more than ever.