People usually think of translators as cool digital nomads working from the beach or to be constantly home wearing their pajamas. I think this very much depends on our habits, personal life, and attitude. But what we surely have in common, unless we team up with other colleagues, is the feeling of isolation.
We usually work alone, and even when we are working on a project that requires us to cooperate with other people, it all happens before a computer screen. The covid-19 pandemic has led many people to experience what to us is a standard. Now of course it’s time to set the health of our communities as our top priority. I have come up with a list of 10 ways to avoid isolation and distress that I hope can help you improve the quality of your work life. Please note that sections 7, 8, 9, and 10 should be followed after the pandemic.
- Spend some quality time for yourself. Read a book, go for a walk, go dancing, take a course, write poems, whatever. I’m a freelancer myself, so I know well that there are lots of things to do even when you’re not translating. Take marketing yourself, which is an actual side job. But remember: you have undertaken this journey because you want full control of your time.
- Learn new things, just for the fun of it. We constantly feel the pressure of keeping updated with new tools, market trends, and courses to be as much skilled as possible. It’s all so tiring, and when we look at our social media contacts, we often get the wrong impression of being lagging compared to others. It’s perfectly normal to lag when you have just begun, and even when you haven’t, it’s fine, maybe you didn’t have the time as you had work to do, and that’s a good thing! Learning new things without 'ulterior motives' can benefit your mood, and it can get new positive people in your life as well. You never know, it can also become an asset for your future job opportunities.
- Don’t be afraid to show who you are and what you can do. I am glad that often people get in touch with me because they feel they can find something positive in me–advice, support, experiences to share. Guess what? I’m not super extroverted, I’m shy at first, but I’m always happy to have a chatter with my colleagues. You don’t have to be like a superstar of language or an entertainer. People don’t expect all of this from you!
- Don’t make too many sacrifices. Especially at the beginning of your career, you want to save money as much as possible. Saving it’s a good thing, and I’m sure it will pay you off in the end. But be careful not to become too paranoid and try to find a balance between your work and personal costs.
5. Be patient. One of my favorite sayings is “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. I’m Italian, so I’m biased, but apart from that, this saying is something you should repeat yourself like a mantra. Nobody expects extraordinary things from you. Do your best, but don’t set goals that are way beyond your reach.
6. See other language experts as your allies, not your enemies! That’s something I have been facing all the time. We’re not in a competition where the one getting more clients gets a prize. We all face the same issues, we all have bills to pay, we all send hundreds of applications without getting a reply. We should support each other.
7. Keep in touch with fellow translators and set up meetings with them, to work together or to catch up on how things are going. I’m not saying that you have to force yourself into socializing with everyone, but you can pick a bunch of colleagues and start your own small community of mutual supporters (or mentors.)
8. Spend some quality time with your beloved. Being a freelancer means you don’t have to follow an 8-hour schedule. It’s up to you to find your balance. You can work 3 hours a day, or there can be times when you start work at 8 a.m. and you end up falling asleep on your computer at 10 p.m. Try to schedule appointments with them during the week, even just for a coffee. It can really help your mood.
9. Attend events, not only translation events. Look for events tailored for freelancers or for people working or interested in the fields you specialized in or aim to include among your specialization. New interesting opportunities can arise from that.
10. Go to the library. Spending hours and hours every day in your studio (if you’re lucky) or in your room will slowly bring you to avoid going out as much as possible. I’m not saying that you can find new friends there to discuss the last Star Wars movie with. But just the fact of being surrounded by people in a cultural environment can be way more inspiring than holding your stare outside a window to see parked cars.