Just as any other profession that relies on individual projects from various clients rather than a steady flow of repeat work, translation is prone to periods of feast and famine. Famine is too unpleasant to even think about—much less write about—so let’s discuss feast 🙂 Here are a few ideas for getting the most out of those periods when we as translators have a lot of work.
- Learn to switch to the “work now, rest later” mode—work like crazy when you have work and take your time off when you have none. The days when competition was so low that you could set your deadlines freely are over. I believe that a translator’s schedule, including time off, should be as flexible as possible. If a good project comes on Friday evening, and I have to work through the weekend as a result, do I accept it? My answer is yes. I choose to work through the weekend and then take the same one or more days off during the slow weekdays. I prefer this to refusing a good project only to take a weekend off and then sit around doing nothing next week.
- In the “famine mode,” your motivation and self-esteem tend to decrease. As a result, it might be difficult to remain productive in other challenging activities such as marketing. But feast actually boosts motivation. You’re more confident and can concentrate better since you know you don’t have much free time. So make sure to capitalize on those moments when you’re at your best. For example, do the sales calls that you’ve been putting off.
- Be careful about outsourcing work. When you have more projects than you can handle, the idea of outsourcing might seem tempting—who doesn’t want to make money while he or she sleeps! But you can’t outsource work to just anyone who raises their hand unless you’re sure this person can deliver on your expectations. Choose only suppliers or colleagues that you trust. And whenever you outsource, remember that every hour you waste afterwards actually means lost profits because during that lost hour, you could’ve done the outsourced work yourself instead of paying someone else out of your pocket.
- Your confidence is high, and so are your rates. Imagine that you haven’t worked for days. Finally, a project comes, but it clearly requires a high rate because it’ll take more time per word than normal. Is it easy to do the right thing—quote the right rate? No! Oftentimes, you want the job so badly that you’re ready to accept it at your standard rate and maybe even lower. But in the “feast mode,” you don’t need to worry about your next “paycheck” since you already have a cushion of earned money. In fact, you won’t even feel sorry if the project goes to someone else since you’re already longing for some time off. As a result, you feel it’s safe to quote a high rate.
And what are your ideas for surviving and thriving in the “feast mode”?