The utopia of “free” in freelance




  • Greater than 3 minutes, my friend!

    Translators and other freelancers are often regarded with jealousy when they say that they are freelancers. For many people “freelance” means to be free and enjoy ultimate freedom at work. Yet for people thinking about starting as a freelancer there are some things to consider when it comes to working as a freelance translator.

    Working as a freelance translator

    Last month it was about ten years since I started out as a freelance professional. Since then I have loved my work as a freelance translator, enjoying so many benefits that people who are mere employees do not have. To me, one of the most important aspects of being a freelance translator is the chance to do what I love and to avoid things I do not love (although I am the first to admit that we should not live only to do the things we like; it is important to do things you do not like as well, and sometimes they are even more rewarding in the end). Apart from that I have had the chance to work for hundreds of different clients and end clients alike, from start-up companies to the biggest technology companies out there (although that landscape has changed a lot in the last decade).
    Many people working as employees are dreaming of these aspects of being a freelancer. They imagine the ultimate freedom to work whenever they want to, earn the money they need and take a long trip afterwards, and choose their own workplace. Not being bound to any organizational conventions and not being required by a higher level to complete jobs within a particular time frame should be a relief, not to mention being freed from the dreadful “Scrum” and “Agile” methods of working.

    And indeed, working as a freelancer is amazing and rewarding. I know many colleagues who start working when they want to, make trips to all possible countries while working on the go to earn some money or simply rejecting jobs because they want a day off. They enjoy their work as much as I do and are living examples of people being freed from various job constraints. These are the ambassadors of the freelance professions, inspiring people to leave the office for good and start out on their own.

    The downside of freelancing

    What many people aspiring to freedom in their jobs forget however, is that life as a freelance translator has its constraints as well. Everybody working as a freelancer, having a home and serving a family knows that there will come a day on which invoices should be paid and food should be bought. Apart from that, while travelling is utterly rewarding, people crave structure in their lives – and work can bring that.
    And sometimes, when business is going very well, people become such an asset to companies that they start claiming them and overwhelming them with loads of jobs – sometimes with very tight deadlines.
    Being a freelancer then can be as much of a burden as it initially seemed to set people free.

    For those people imagining life as a translator I have one piece of advice: consider whether you are able to live as a freelancer – coping with the stress of acquiring new jobs, paying invoices on time and getting paid for the work you’ve done. Look ahead to the endless skylines of exotic countries and focus on the jobs (and money) you need to gain to realise them. Be aware that in many cases you cannot leave for three months, because in many cases your end client is gone by then – leaving you to start all over to win a new client.
    On the other hand, enjoy all the free time you will have – sometimes as a result of a dry spell, sometimes because you deserve some time off after a huge and challenging project. Once you’re absorbed in another challenging project, you will be glad you took some time to recharge.

    I will do the same now. I hope to be back with a new blog post in the first week of August. Happy holidays!

    Pieter Beens

    About Pieter Beens

    Freelance translator English-Dutch. Works for high-profile clients worldwide. Professional. Punctual. Passionate.

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