Although freelancers are usually perceived by full-time employees as those happy individuals who work 3 hours a day sipping drinks on a beach (check out stereotypes about translators), we are as prone to get frustrated as any other worker. I would even argue that the frustration risk is much higher in our case, since many of us perform several functions in our businesses. We do our job (be it translation, taking and editing pictures, copywriting, etc.), perform marketing tasks, keep the books, clean the office, make tea/coffee, receive calls, etc. And while doing all these things, we struggle to meet the deadlines. Well then, check out my 5 tips on how not to get frustrated (at least that often):
Keep a calendar
I would certainly have gone bankrupt several times without my calendar. By keeping your calendar up-to-date (and checking it every day!) you will surely avoid missing any deadlines. I prefer paper calendars to electronic ones, because I like crossing off all finished tasks from my to-do lists. I usually have several types of such lists – daily tasks, weekly tasks, monthly tasks, around-the-home tasks, business tasks, marketing tasks, etc. By the end of each year, I buy a new calendar from the same producer with one page for each weekday and one page for the whole weekend. In this way, I have a plenty of space to write down everything that is important.
If you prefer electronic calendars, you may try Evernote or Google Calendar. In my opinion, the greatest advantage of keeping an electronic calendar is its mobility. You can access it from your mobile phone, computer or any other device with internet access. I can’t say that about my traditional calendar, as it is too big to carry it in some of my bags. However, as I mainly work from home it is not a big disadvantage for me. Apart from that, electronic calendars can remind you of the most important events by sending you an e-mail, SMS or ringing an alarm.
Know your limits
Generally, in life, I stick to the saying that “sky is the limit”, but when you plan your daily schedule, you’ve got to keep in mind that translating 5000 words, picking up kids from the school, cleaning the house, taking your puppy to the vet and finally preparing a romantic dinner for your husband within 24 hours is practically infeasible. It is better to plan fewer things to do and if everything is done to add some tasks to the list, than to plan too many things and to hectically try to do all of them or (even worse) get frustrated because of the overload, sit down and do nothing.
Try outsourcing at least a part of your business tasks, especially those in which you are not good at. At the beginning of running my own business, I kept my own books, but as Polish tax law is really complex and you have to constantly follow what they have recently changed in the legislation I decided to outsource it as soon as I have moved to a new place. Now, the only thing I have to do is to issue invoices and print them out after the end of each month. Then, the documents are picked up from me and I receive information how high my monthly tribute to the State is.
When you are a translator and receive an uneditable document (especially in PDF), it is also worth outsourcing its conversion to an external company. Of course, you will have to share your profits with them, but you can use the time you have saved to do another translation.
If you are particularly pressed for time, why not delegate some household chores to other people? I am not particularly keen on shopping, so whenever I don’t have time I buy food in Internet grocery stores with delivery right to my doors. In this way, I can save up to 1,5 hours, especially when I use my default shopping list and I am not getting frustrated when standing in a line to the checkout. To avoid frustration from being hungry, you can order something from a nearby restaurant from time to time. A cheaper and healthier option is to cook more when you have more time and freeze some meals to be able to defrost them quickly and eat something delicious when your deadline is close.
Use professional software
I know that it is very popular nowadays to be against huge corporations, use open-source software, etc. However, I believe that when most of our potential clients use MS Office, Trados Studio or any other software that is considered a standard in your field there is no point in going against the tide in defence of your principles. The only thing you will achieve will be frustration due to problems with formatting, different file extensions, wasted time for conversion and so on. You even risk losing a client! For me personally, a freelancer who doesn’t invest in professional software and still uses freeware applications for his/her main tasks doesn’t look very trustworthy or experienced. It seems to me rather that he/she is a beginner who doesn’t want to invest in tools because he/she is not really sure whether it is a good idea to pursue this specific career. Of course, I don’t argue against all freeware apps (there are many that are really useful for freelancers), but I think that they should not be the main pillars of our business. Apart from that, when we buy a licence for particular software, we can usually count on getting help quickly in case of technical problems.
There is nothing worse than loosing an almost complete project due to power cut or a computer failure. Save your work as often as possible and after the end of each day make a backup copy of the important files on an external carrier. Even if your computer refuses to cooperate with you the next day, you will be able to continue work somewhere else. It is better to backup to external hard drives or pen drives than in the cloud because there might be situations in which you will not be able to access the Internet or it will not work with enough speed to download the file back. Apart from that, clouds are not 100% protected against hackers, ask Jennifer Lawrence if you doubt it ;). Remember to backup not only your work files but also the whole stuff that you use to keep running your business. I mean your e-mail address book, financial documents (it is good and sometimes even required by law to have a hard copy of the most important files and archive them for several years), website files, leaflets, price lists, forms, etc.
And one final piece of advice when the ultimate Armageddon day has come and any tips won’t work:
Image courtesy of iosphere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net