Earlier this week, Get Rich Slowly had a great post on finding the balance between time and money. The author (and site owner, J.D.) relates the story of an old friend of his who radically changed his priorities in life after the death of his wife and infant daughter, and J.D. then goes on to apply this “time or money” analysis to his own rapidly expanding freelance business.
This post made me realize that one of the most important exercises in planning your freelance translation business is to firmly establish why exactly you’re doing this; what’s making you so eager to give up a steady paycheck (at least when the economy is strong!), benefits, paid vacation and an office door that closes at the end of the day? The answers to that question will be as varied as we translators are; some of us want to work extra-long hours, earn as much as possible and retire early. Some of us are heavily involved in personal projects that don’t fit well with an office schedule. Many of us want more time, or at least flexible time, to devote to our families and friends. Others want to live in a rural or remote area where in-house jobs for translators simply don’t exist. The important thing is to have your eye on your prize, and to remind yourself to get back on track when you lose sight of that goal.
My own “lightbulb moment” came when I was in the self-checkout line at the grocery store (because isn’t that where all life-changing realizations occur?) when my daughter was a few months old. At that point I was still thinking that I would translate very part time until my daughter was about a year old, at which point I would go back to teaching full time. An older woman in line behind me struck up a conversation and while she was cooing over my daughter, said “You know, I wish that when I was your age, someone had told me that everything else in life will wait for you, but your kids won’t. Everything else in life will still be there when your kids don’t need you anymore, but they’ll be off on their own.” Not that my family is my only reason for freelancing, because other issues (like living in an area where in-house jobs in my language combination are few to nonexistent) enter into it too. But many times since that day, I’ve wished I could thank that chatty woman in the supermarket line for helping me figure out my priorities. So, why do you do this?