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5 Tips to Be an Efficient Freelance Translator

More and more people are leaving their 9-5 jobs to become freelancers. The freedom, flexible hours, being their own boss, etc. are some of the reasons they’re making this decision.

While being a freelancer has a lot of benefits, how you go about it will determine whether you succeed, or fail and end up going back to working 9-5.

With no boss to hold you accountable, as a freelancer, you may get very little or no work done. Your newfound freedom and flexible hours may be spent binge-watching Netflix, browsing social media, hanging out with friends and so on. That’s if you don’t properly manage yourself to ensure you stay focused and productive.

I don’t want you to fail as you begin your journey to set up a professional translation company. That’s why in this article, I will share tips on how to be an efficient, high-achieving freelance translator. If you apply these tips I guarantee you’ll be productive on most days if not every day.

1. Create a Schedule

When I started as a freelancer I never used to have a plan on how my day went. Most of the time I would wake up then decided what I was going to do. Often I found myself spending a whole day on my couch watching tv, lucky for me I quickly realized that wasn’t going to work. So, I started planning my days, and that’s one of the best decisions I made for my freelance career because now I’m always aware of what I should be doing throughout the day or week. 

You too should schedule your day in advance if you want to be more focused and productive. The plan will ensure you don’t miss deadlines, avoid burnout or have unproductive days as a freelance translator.

Creating a daily schedule doesn’t take long. You can be done with it in minutes, an example of a daily schedule looks something like this:

  • 5:30 am: Wake up
  • 5:30-7:00 am: Exercise, breakfast, catching up on news
  • 7:00-8:00 am: Emails
  • 8:00 – 12:00 pm: Work
  • 12:00 – 2:00 pm: Business calls, lunch, social media, emails
  • 2:00 – 7:00 pm: Work
  • 7:00 – 10:00 pm: Time with family/friends
  • 10:00 pm: Bedtime

When making your schedule ensure at least 60% of your time is spent working. Also, ensure you come up with a plan that you’ll be able to comfortably stick to. Don’t, for example, allocate 8 straight hours of work, that may be impossible to do every day.

2. Avoid Distractions

For you to be efficient as a professional translator you must be good at managing distractions. Distractions come in many forms, it could be your family or roommates if you’re working from home, your phone, work-related emails, YouTube videos, to mention a few. These distractions make focusing hard because your brain is forced to be at two or more places at the same time, which interferes with your productivity.

So, when you get down to work ensure your environment is free of distractions. This could mean putting your phone on silent, telling your family not to disturb you while working, putting off your email and social media notifications, etc. Without getting distracted you’ll notice that you’ll get more work done.

If you find it hard to keep of web-based distractions such as Facebook, you can use software such as Cold Turkey, Self Control or Stay Focused to manage distractions.

3. Take Regular Breaks

I have met many freelance translators who have told me they often sit at their desks for long hours working on projects. I often try and discourage them against this habit because sitting for long hours has been found to cause health problems like obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, back and neck pain, etc.

Working continuously for long periods also leads to fatigue and loss of concentration, which increases your chances of making errors as you work. Therefore, I recommend that you take frequent breaks while working. Regular work breaks will increase your productivity and reduce stress. During your breaks, you can take a short walk, make yourself a cup of tea, call a friend, etc.

To help you know when to take breaks, try using the Pomodoro Technique, which will help you plan breaks to reset and refresh your mind. 

4. Make Exercising Part Of Your Daily Routine

I’m sure you already know the many benefits of engaging in physical activity regularly. Apart from keeping you physically fit, working out helps increase your brain power and enhances your problem-solving skills. So if you don’t already exercise start to do so today, and you’ll see how sharp and clear your mind will be as you carry out your tasks.

You don’t have to pay for a gym membership you can look for a physical activity you enjoy and get started on it. That could be outdoor running or walking, cycling, yoga, pilates, the options are many.

5. Work With Computer Assisted Translation Tools.

Your goal as a professional translator should always be to offer the best translation services in the fastest time possible and with the least amount of effort. One way you can do this is by using translation tools such as memoQ, SDL Trados Studio or Déjà Vu. The tools will enable you to have a higher turnaround on projects without jeopardizing the quality of the translations.

If you don’t use tools you’ll be limiting yourself, and I’m certain there is no way you can compete with other translators who work with tools to improve their efficiency.

The above are some of the key things you can do as a professional translator to help you work better. I will quickly mention a few more tips you can use to improve your efficiency.

  • Have a workspace. Your bed or couch can be extremely comfortable but these are not the best places to work from. At a minimum, you should have a desk and chair where you can perform your tasks. Your workspace should also be organized and decluttered to create the perfect working environment.
  • Always start with the most important tasks. When you begin your day you should work on the high priority projects first. This could be a project with an upcoming deadline or projects from your biggest client. This way you can get these tasks done when you’re still fresh, and avoid the stress of having to rush through projects hours before the deadline.
  • Take time to review your day. Before you log off from your computer at the end of your workday I recommend you always assess how you did. Ask yourself if you accomplished what you planned to do? If you didn’t, do you know  what prevented you from accomplishing your plan? When you do this you’ll learn how you’re performing and if you’re not happy with the output you can look for ways to improve. 
  • Reward yourself. Many companies reward their employees when they do outstanding work. As a freelancer, you should also reward yourself when you get the work done. For example, if you do three translations in a day you could reward yourself with a chocolate bar. A good reward system will help motivate you because you have something to look forward to after a long day of work.

What do you do to keep yourself efficient as a freelance translator? Let us know in the comment section below.

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