Freelancing while travelling

One of the key benefits of being a freelance translator is that you have full control over your working schedule.  Well, sort of.  Yes, you may take as much holiday as you want, but then again you have to keep your clients, and keep your clients satisfied.

While others may imagine a freelancer idling away his time in a hammock on a white sandy beach, the reality is different.  First of all, you MUST take your notebook with you. When you search for accommodation, the most important factor is a reliable and fast internet connection, before anything else such as good location or a view over the sea.  Personally, the last time I travelled without my notebook was almost 10 years ago (but then I managed to be offline for two months – and my clients still came back to me after I returned…).

A conscientious freelance translator advises his clients several weeks in advance of any holiday.  I usually send out such alerts about two weeks before I leave: if any client has any  job that’s just waiting to be dispatched, they can send it earlier so that I can finish as much work as possible before I even leave for the much deserved holiday.

Now, for some unknown reason, if you have, say, eight regular clients that provide you with a steady supply of work, all eight are somehow mysteriously connected. They all send you the triple of their regular weekly workload just three days before you take your plane. Just when you need to dedicate more time to travel preparations (buying insurance, printing out boarding passes, packing, buying presents for your hosts, etc.), you’re suddenly flooded with last-minute work.  OK, not all of them is due before you leave, but certainly you don’t want to spend the first few days of travel typing away on your notebook.

You send out another e-mail to all clients 12 hours before you need to go to the airport (obviously placing all email addresses in the BCC field). If your flight is on a weekday afternoon, you find an urge to check your emails one last time before boarding, even if you only have 5 minutes left after a tedious process of clearing security.

On the first week of your holiday, your clients still pretty much remember that you have sent them an email about your absence – and they send you only small jobs that you readily accept, just to keep them happy. (And not to give them any chance to try other translators in your language pair…)

On the second week clients seem to have forgotten your being on holiday, or there’s simply a global conspiracy against you… the point is they start to have increasing demands that you cannot simply placate by working 2 hours every night after the kids are finally put to bed.

Last Tuesday, just as I was walking among beautifully preserved Roman mosaics in Northern Morocco, I received a phone call. First it seemed strange as my phone displayed a Moroccan number. I answered the phone all the same, and it turned out to be my Swiss client, asking me a bit unpatiently why I hadn’t replied their email that had been sent just an hour earlier.  I told them about my holiday and the email alerts, but obviously they forgot.  Anyway, I asked about the word count and the deadline – and I happily accepted the job that has a dealine later this week. In fact, as soon as I post this on my blog, I’ll start working on this 10k job.  I’ll receive payment for this some time in April – and it will retrospectively cover most of the expenses we had during two weeks of budget travel in Morocco 🙂

And the last time I checked my emails before taking the plane back home – a US client sent me a massive job of some 60k words: this will surely keep me busy till Easter… when I take another week of holiday (strictly in a place with good wifi coverage).


About bancsaba

Discovering the world, step by step, word by word
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