Most beginning translators I talk to have similar goals for their nascent freelance businesses; they currently have a full-time job and they want to start freelancing part time, then gradually ramp up to full time freelancing as their work volume increases. Lately, I’ve come across a few beginning freelancers who have a different goal: they want to freelance very part time on a long-term basis. One of these individuals wants to freelance only in the summers (in combination with a teaching job), one wants to freelance only at night (in combination with being an at-home parent) and another wants to freelance only on the weekends. All of these people asked “is this possible?” and it would be interesting to get other translators’ takes on this too.
Here’s my take: I think that if you want to work on an “odd” schedule, you have to a) market to clients to whom this type of schedule would be an asset or a necessity and b) convince yourself that your unconventional schedule is a selling point, not a deficit. For example, it seems to me that many translation buyers (be they agencies or direct clients) struggle to find translators during the summer months, when many of their regulars are on vacation. Particularly in the month of August, when it can seem that every person who lives in or is originally from Europe is out on a beach chair somewhere, the translator pickings can be slim, which could open the door to a summer-only translator. However, I think that the challenge lies in reminding clients that you, the summer-only translator, exist between September and May so that come June, they’ll send you work. At a large agency, a significant portion of the project management staff could have turned over during this time, and even a small client will have handled reams of work during the winter months. So, I think that the summer-only translator has to keep up a steady flow of contact, even if he or she really only wants to work in June, July and August.
I think that people who work off-hours have it a little easier. For starters, these people can use time zones to their advantage and mount a “the end of your day is the beginning of mine” or “send me your documents on Friday afternoon and the translations will be in your in-box on Monday morning” marketing campaign. Translators who work off-hours might also do well, once they have some experience, to market themselves as “pinch hitters” for translators who work with direct clients. In my experience, translators are much more reluctant to turn down work from a regular direct client than from a regular agency client, because the direct client may find another option and stick with it. So, an off-hours translator could be a lifesaver when a translator needs some work done at the last minute; of course this involves a high degree of trust between the regular translator and the pinch hitter!
Any other ideas/experiences out there for translators who want to work while the rest of us are sleeping or playing?