Learning About Yourself Through Translating
Updated: Oct 16, 2019
Below are a few things I learned about myself since becoming a freelance translator.
Taking the time to notice these things about myself has given me the power to become a more productive and efficient freelance translator. I am hoping that maybe some of you might see these traits in yourself as well and that my quick fixes can help you find a way to become and even better YOU!
1. I am extremely restless
Inevitably, as a freelance translator, you aren't going to be focusing 8 hours a day, everyday on translating. There will be days when you have time to twiddle your thumbs. These times of less chaos can be used to catch up on marketing, invoicing, professional development... you name it. It was these quiet times were really hard for me at first. I would get extremely restless, worried and anxious that I would never get asked to do another translation EVER. During these down times, I would double down on my marketing efforts and go into overdrive searching for new opportunities. I felt tense, impatient and uneasy. Upon recognizing the turmoil my restlessness was causing me, I knew I needed a fix. Upon reflection, I found out that blogging was something that I really enjoyed and that could be done during these slow times. It was a kind of win-win revelation. Blogging is something that keeps my mind from going haywire and begin doubting myself. My blog posts not only help me gain a little bit more visibility as a translator, but they *hopefully* offer some help to those who read them. If you were like me and just don't know what to do with yourself when left to your own devices, take a breath and then reflect on why you are feeling so restless. Look into blogging or creating content to help other translators... maybe just take the time to relax and take a break. Burnout is a very real thing. Stepping back and teaching myself to just breathe, helped me discover a new hobby and opened up a new dimension of my business.
2. I take things way too personally
When I first started translating, I thought I was prepared for rejection, feedback and criticism. Boy was I wrong! Every time I would receive feedback, was politely rejected or thoughtfully questioned, I would take it to heart. I immediately felt as though I was being personally attacked and felt really bummed out. Even if the feedback or criticism wasn't necessarily negative, my heart would immediately sink. I would instantly think that I did something wrong, or feel as though I was not good enough. Taking things personally is emotionally draining! As translators, it can be hard to hear criticism to your work. Translating is, in and of itself, a kind of reflection of your personality. It was really hard for me to teach myself not to overthink each situation and understand that any criticism or feedback I received was strictly professional and should be taken constructively. It's not like the person who was offering their interpretation of my work, knew me personally. The work I do and who I am as a person ARE separate entities. Keep your head up and just know that you can't control anyone else's feelings or reactions but your own.
3. I am hooked on social media
Nothing taught me more about my "addictive personality" than social media. In this day and age, social media is, dare I say, necessary for every freelance translator. As soon as I started my journey, I immediately set up business profiles on all the major social media outlets. Soon after, I began compulsively checking my Twitter to see if I had gained any new followers. I checked my Facebook page every hour to see how many people my posts reached and I would scour my website analytics to see how I could be getting more hits. Before starting my freelance journey, I barely used social media and I never thought I would be one of those people glued to their screen in hopes of gaining more followers or getting more "likes". That being said, there is nothing wrong with diligently and enthusiastically using social media. It really is a great marketing tool for freelance translators. For me, the trouble hit when I started noticing productivity issues. I was wasting so much time just scrolling through social media and not really achieving anything. That's when I knew I had to do something. I decided to actively schedule "social media time" into my daily routine, remove all social media apps from my phone and told myself that every weekend was a social media free zone. These quick fixes helped me reduce my screen time dramatically. If you struggle with social media distractions like I did, as a starting point, I recommend tracking how long you are spending online and and turning off social media notifications. Social media is great, but it should be used with purpose.
4. I crave human interaction
I'm sure many translators agree with me when I say that, in general, we are categorized as introverts, lone wolves if you will. I never really jived with loud office environments or romanticized the idea of working in a crowded café. I thought I would love working at home everyday, in a quiet space with no interruptions. Don't get me wrong, I do love the quiet that my home office offers, however, it can become deafening. After a couple weeks of unending silence, I thought I might go mad. This led to the realization of just how important human interaction is for me. I found that being home alone for so long drained my creativity and motivation. Who knew I would crave social interaction and the comforting murmur of unrecognizable voices? I think as freelance translators, it is really important to build our own group of colleagues that we can either see face-to-face in real life, on Skype video or call over the phone. If you identify with this feeling, you might want to consider signing up to use a shared workspace in your city, or make a pact with yourself to work outside of the home twice a week. You will not only get out and explore new things, but I think you will see a boost in your productivity and overall well-being.
5. I am a morning person
I never thought of myself as a morning person when I used to have to wake up to go to my 9 to 5. I hated getting out of bed every morning and I just couldn't shake the tiredness until I arrived at the office. If I would have had the option to start my day at 11, I would have taken it. However, since becoming a freelance translator, I am the complete opposite. I have noticed that I get my best work done in the mornings. I much prefer starting my workday at 7 AM. At first, I didn't want to believe that it was true. Whenever I would attempt to start my day at 9, as I used to, I just found myself getting sluggish and becoming unproductive within a few hours. I knew there had to be a better way. I began letting myself just start work when it felt right and I slowly settled into a comfortable 7 AM start time... and I don't even drink coffee! I guess I am just so excited to get to doing what I love. It took me a while to really find the right schedule for me and to discover when I had the most energy to complete my daily tasks. If you feel like you are struggling to get through you work day, you might want to experiment with your working hours. Don't just force yourself to work 9-5 because it seems like the right thing to do. Maybe you like to work 6 hours straight, maybe you need to work in 30 minute increments, or maybe you like working through the evening. Test the waters. As freelancers, we have the freedom to switch things up!
6. I am disorganized
Don't underestimate the amount of organization a freelance translator has to master. Between keeping track of project files, glossaries, term bases, invoices, quotes, business costs, marketing plans and more, I was not able to keep up. I couldn't make heads or tails of everything I needed to do. I would spend way too long looking for where I saved project files, I wasn't effectively keeping track of my business earnings and expenses, I was struggling to manage translation work and other business related tasks... talk about disorganized! I felt like I was drowning under so many responsibilities and I doubted myself for making the switch to freelancing. I always thought it seemed so effortless! If this sounds familiar, I recommend reading Tess Whitty's article on the ATA's blog, "The Savvy Newcomer". Her post really helped me put things into perspective and implement some solid new practices. Since becoming a freelance translator, I have really upped my organization skills. Staying organized is now actually pretty easy and I'm kind of obsessive about it.
What have you learned about yourself during your translation journey?
Let me know in the comments below!