It's personal

As a freelancer, it’s always difficult to decide how much personal information your clients need or want to know about you. In one sense, Americans in general are relatively disinclined to share personal information with employers. Unlike in much of Europe, where it’s customary to include your birth date, marital status and a photograph on your resumé, standard practice in the US is to omit almost all personal information, even down to the dates you graduated from college or held a certain job. On the other hand, we all want to appear “real” and approachable to our clients, and part of this involves allowing our clients to know a bit about us.

As translators, we have some specific considerations. For example, we have to decide whether to mention (overtly or casually) that our spouse is a native speaker of our source language, or our sister-in-law is an intellectual property attorney and occasionally proofreads our translations.

Recently, I’ve talked to a couple of new translators who are faced with a dilemma; say nothing about their personal lives and let the client guess what they’ve been up to for the past 10 years, or risk providing too much information. For example, if a freelancer has been technically unemployed for the past decade but in reality has been raising a disabled child, running a homeowners association, serving as the general contractor for large-scale home renovations etc., does this show the person’s dedication, energy and ability to multi-task, or provide information that the client really doesn’t need to know?

I’ll admit that I normally err on the side of saying too little. Although I’ve combined freelancing and parenting since my daughter was an infant, I take on a standard volume of work and have never missed a deadline, so I feel that my family situation really isn’t the client’s concern. However, I’ve heard other freelancers be a lot more open, even telling clients that they are typically not in the office from 3-8 because they’re getting the kids at school, having dinner and putting the kids to bed.

Readers, what do you think? Is personal information relevant or irrelevant to a freelancer’s clients?

7 Responses to “It's personal”
  1. MT July 1, 2009
  2. MT July 1, 2009
  3. Fabio July 1, 2009
  4. Justine July 3, 2009
  5. Nichim July 9, 2009
  6. Ellen August 14, 2009
  7. Resume Format August 30, 2010

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