Mrs H Translates

The Tale of a Freelance Translator


February 2017

Freelancing frenzy

Ok, so barring a post that I wrote eight months ago and then posted around ten minutes ago, I have become delinquent with my blog. I have been cheating on creativity with productivity, and focussing all my energy on my—pause for dramatic effect—work.

Before I started freelancing, and in those first few months when I was, at best, scraping by, the old pros assured me that it would take six months to get established. I held on to that number like a beacon of hope. “Sure, things are rubbish now, but I am only three months in. Of course they are! Why would I expect anything else?” Then, “OK, so now I’m five months and 25 days in. But that still isn’t six months. At six months I’ll be turning down work left, right and centre! Maybe I should hire an assistant now…”

Obviously, six months is not a concrete timeframe. As this imaginary deadline approached, I became nervous. I know a lot of translators and, in my experience, we’re a delicate breed. We pore over every carefully crafted sentence for hours and tie ourselves up in knots about the two possible, and near identical, translations of an almost irrelevant word. Add to that a complete lack of external validation and you have, in my case, a disaster theorist. What if I was the exception to the rule? What if it took me 12 months to get established? What if it took 18? What if no one ever contacted me to offer me any work ever again and I never made a penny? Or what if I actually just wasn’t very good at my job?

On Judgement Day (1st July) I received no new work. Fortunately, I was preoccupied with a job I’d started on 28 June and otherwise too distracted to notice that I didn’t actually receive any further new work until *over* six months after my initial freelancing start date.

But then, something wonderful happened. Things actually did start to pick up. OK, I might have been in the slower freelancing group and it might have taken me slightly over this magical six-month mark to get going. But things did get going.

Don’t get me wrong, every time I take a job I fear it will be my last. One day, I only had an hour’s work and immediately took to Monster to search for employment opportunities in the surrounding area. In an attempt to stash away enough money for an unknown quantity of rainy days, I worked all last weekend and have consequently thought every day since then has been Thursday. I haven’t perfected my methods yet, but I feel grateful that at least I have something to work with now.

The new plan is learning to become a more well-rounded, better organised freelancer,  who doesn’t take absolutely everything that’s offered to her and turn into a reclusive crazy person.

So cheers to that and cheers to Friday! Oh wait…

Mrs H





Hello, this is Freelancing

The other day, Mr H said to me, “if freelancing were a relationship, you’d still only be dating”.

I laughed at the comparison, but then realised he actually had a point. Freelancing and I are not quite comfortable with each other yet. We haven’t really got into a routine or found our rhythm. Finances are still a bit of a taboo subject and, quite frankly, I’m not really sure where it’s all going.

Now, don’t get me wrong: this is definitely not a relationship that I plan to give up on anytime soon. Sure, we have our ups and downs and, if we’re being honest, Freelancing can be a little unforthcoming sometimes, but I am willing to work on our issues. After all, Freelancing is being completely true to who it is, it’s me who has the problem.

Over the past few weeks, it has started to dawn on me just how much of my identity is linked to my career. When I worked in house, I would put in nine- or ten-hour days pretty much every day. As a result, I could never make any concrete weekday plans with Mr H, or indeed my friends. My weekends would then be crammed with visits, chores and wedmin. The fact that I had to be booked months in advance became a bit of a running joke and, let’s get something straight here, I am hardly the social butterfly that that comment would suggest. I loved translating, but as I climbed the ranks in my agency, I ended up instead spending most of my time checking the work of more junior staff members or freelancers.

Every time a particularly horrible text landed on my desk that had been rejected by all of our freelancers, I dreamed of freelancing. Every time I was invited out for drinks at 5 but then had to work until 7, I dreamed of freelancing. Every time I missed the post and had to rearrange collection of a parcel from the depot, I dreamed of freelancing. Every time I had to drag myself out in the dark and pouring rain to get to the office, I dreamed of freelancing.

The reality of freelancing has been somewhat different. In less than six months, I have gone from 200 mph to 0. Now, if you asked December Mrs H whether she fancied a few months of only working a few days a week and spending the rest of her time as a lady of leisure, she would almost certainly bite your hand off. Just think how much trashy TV she could get through with Mr H out of the house! She would get her hair cut and her nails done in the middle of the day and go to the supermarket when no one else was there. She could make plans every evening and always be on time.

Of course, with no work coming in, that means no money for beauty treatments or dinner plans. No one else is home during the day, so you can’t even suggest a walk in the park to get you out of the house. And eight hours is actually a really long time to fill with trashy TV shows. Plus, if you spend all your time relaxing but are not actually doing anything to warrant all that relaxation then you start to feel a bit, well, worthless really.

For a few weeks, I was genuinely concerned that I might go full-on crazy. Would I forget how to talk to people? Would I continue my new disturbing habit of talking to myself? Would my brain just start to shrivel up and die as a result of all the “Married by Mum and Dad” it had been subjected to?

The fact is, when I have translation work in, I couldn’t be happier. I am occupied all day and, more often than not, have plans in the evening that I’d made in case I didn’t have any work in and feared doing nothing other than sloping around the house for 24 hours. Those days, I am living the freelancing dream. It’s the days without any work that are taking some adjusting to.

No matter what, I make myself get out of bed and into the shower. I get dressed and have breakfast and generally just pretend that I am off to work. Sometimes, I treat myself to a bit of housework before I start (or indeed instead of) working. Sometimes, I am fired up and eager to find new agencies to apply to. Sometimes, I just don’t know what to do with myself and end up curled up on the sofa reading Harry Potter and wishing I lived at Hogwarts.

Today, I went for a run. The sun was out, the park was quiet and when I got back I felt wonderful. Perhaps all it really takes is a few things that I can control (running every morning, eating lunch at 1pm) and the rest will fall into place. Maybe the traditional 9-5 isn’t really for me anyway. Maybe I need to sit down with Freelancing and talk about what I really want from this relationship. Then maybe, just maybe, Freelancing and I will be OK.

Mrs H



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