Everyone needs a break once in a while. It’s an easy thing to forget when you’re in the freelancing mindset: always focused on the next deadline, conscious of the need to be responsive and attentive to your customers. And, of course, if you’re self-employed then there’s no such thing as a paid holiday. But none of this changes the fact that even a short break can be good for the soul – and, for that matter, it can be good for your work as well.
Hear me out on this one. If you’re working day in and day out on the same translation jobs, it can be all too easy to get stuck in a rut. Translation is a creative task, and it’s entirely possible for the creative battery to run out of juice. Taking time off, spending a few days to a fortnight doing something different, can help you to recharge. And then, on top of that, there are the benefits to your continuing professional development as a translator. If you pay a visit to the country of your source language, the immersion will help you keep up with the latest linguistic trends.
“But I can’t afford a holiday!”, I hear you cry. Freelancers’ budgets can be tight, it’s true. The price we pay for our independence comes in the form of financial uncertainty. Where exactly is the next payment coming from? Will our customers pay on time? But holidays don’t necessarily have to break the bank. Shop around, book well in advance, find the best deals. There are plenty of bargains out there, from short local breaks to cheap flights to interesting and unusual places.
Then there’s the practical side: working out what will happen to the business while you’re away. This is a perfectly manageable question, as long as you properly plan for it. In all cases, the first step is to give your customers plenty of advance notice that you’ll be away, particularly if you’ll be gone for more than a couple of days. If you mostly work for translation agencies, then that may be all you need to do: odds are, they’ll have other freelancers in their databases who can cover for you while you’re away. Just send an email once you come back home, to remind them that you’re ready to take on new jobs again.
On the other hand, you might have a lot of direct customers – in which case, you might need to make a few extra arrangements. If you’re the only translator they know, then you have a few options. The first is to ask them to delay all translation work until you come back, which might be possible depending on the kinds of documents they produce, their schedules and deadlines, and how much advance notice you’re able to give them. The drawback is that it doesn’t offer a lot of flexibility, and if the customer tends to give you a lot of work on a regular basis, they may not be able to delay their projects for several weeks – or you may struggle to get back on top of it after you come home.
The second option, then, is to take a working holiday. In principle, all a translator needs these days is a reliable internet connection, which should be readily available unless you’re going somewhere really remote. Admittedly, this kind of holiday won’t be quite as relaxing as cutting yourself off from work entirely, but it does demonstrate your dedication to customer satisfaction – and people do say that a change is as good as a rest, so you’ll still be able to enjoy some new scenery and at least a slight change of pace from the usual. Even if not all of all of your customers can wait until you get back, many will be able to delay at least some of their projects – so you might be able to work out a compromise whereby only the most urgent jobs get done while you’re away.
The third option is simply to ask a trusted fellow translator to take care of your customers until you get back. You can make it a reciprocal arrangement – they take on your work while you’re away, then you do the same for them when it’s their turn. Finding someone you can rely on needn’t be difficult, even if you work from home and don’t personally know many other specialists in your field. There are professional events hosted all the time for translators which serve as networking and CPD opportunities: you could well find someone there who can help. Alternatively, if you’re a member of a professional translation association, it should be entirely possible to look for someone through the group’s official or unofficial channels. And, of course, you don’t have to look too far to find our final option: there are sites like ProZ.com which exist to help people find professional translators. With all of these options available to you, there’s bound to be someone who can help.
In short: don’t panic. These things can be done. Ask yourself when you last took a holiday - and if you can’t remember, well, maybe you deserve one.