When you tell others that you work as a freelance interpreter or translator, you often get the “lucky you!” look. Many people associate the term “freelancer” with the word “free”. They see a freelancer as a lucky person who has a lot of freedom. To work as much or as little as they like. To pick and choose the best and most exciting projects. To be their own boss and be free from stress.
Of course, while in theory some of the above statements are accurate, in practice the freelancers’ life is far from being stress-free. Freelancing can be very rewarding; but we need to be aware that freelancers have specific sources of stress. And, because they often work without support structures around them, they have to deal with stress by themselves.
What can make freelancers’ life stressful? And what can freelancers do to alleviate this stress? Let us consider just a few examples.
Stress trigger # 1: Distorted work-life balance
The fact that freelancers’ work is often not confined to any particular workplace or specific hours means that they find themselves working anywhere and anytime. Working flexible hours, moving around and working in different places is one of the perks of freelancing. However, this can lead to the blurring of the boundaries between work hours and leisure hours, between working space and relaxing space, bringing on stress.
What can you do to help yourself?
- Do your best to separate your leisure space from your work space. Aim to create a specific workplace (a room or just a corner) with all your work paraphernalia. Try not to work in your bedroom, however tempting this seems sometimes!
- Separate your work time from your rest time. This requires a lot of self-discipline, I know. Try to block out specific days or times as “work-free” and use this time to relax and recharge your batteries.
- Work on your time-management skills and avoid resting in the working hours and working in resting hours.
Stress trigger # 2: Social Isolation
In Ireland, freelances are classed as “sole traders”. Ironic, considering that synonyms of “sole” include “solitary” and “lonesome”. Indeed, being a freelance translator or interpreter can be quite isolating. Translators communicate with clients mostly over email, to keep everything recorded; a phone call is a rarity these days. Interpreters used to fare better, travelling and meeting people. Recent events put a stop to that, with many interpreters now working remotely from home.
Humans are social creatures, and we need meaningful social connections and regular social interaction to be able to cope with whatever life throws at us. Freelancers do not get a chance to gossip in the office, hang out with co-workers, bounce their ideas off their colleagues. But these things are very important for our wellbeing.
What can freelancers do to reduce social isolation?
- Agree with a friendly colleague to become accountability buddies. Have a regular chat to discuss work issues, particularly those that you find difficult or not interested in. For example, tell them to keep asking you about your promotional activities, if this is where you find your interest or effort is lacking.
- Stay in touch with the professional bodies of which you are a member; attend their online and offline events to feel connected.
- Join (or start) a club/group for your local freelancers; meet regularly for a coffee and a chat. You will probably find new friends in this group – people with similar interests. And the upside is that you can share business contacts around and benefit from each other’s experience.
Stress trigger #3: Uncertainty
You know that freelancing is not for everyone. Freelance interpreters and translators learn to cope with the rollercoaster of ups and downs in their work. They develop a high level of risk tolerance. For a freelancer, the only certainty is that there is going to be a lot of uncertainty. They work hard to make hay while the sun shines. But they also encounter times when there is little or no work – something that many freelancers have been experiencing in the past few months, unfortunately.
Too much insecurity and uncertainty can cause additional stress. What can you do to ease this stress?
Here are a few tips.
- Remember why you are in the game. What was your dream when you chose to freelance? More flexibility? Chance to spend more time with your family? Wanting to follow a unique path? Remember your “big why”, and you will be better able to cope with the uncertainty.
- Plan for a rainy day. Get financial advice on how to do your best with whatever flow of money you have, and how to solve the “feast or famine” dilemma. In the unprecedented times like now, make sure to investigate and use any State supports that may be available to you.
- Work continuously to develop and promote your translation/interpreting services. Register with more agencies, get in touch with old and new clients; be proactive in seeking new business. You may not see an immediate result, but your positive actions will reduce stress and will pave the way for new business opportunities.
Being a freelancer is exciting and challenging. Freelancers enjoy all the positive aspects of being in charge of their own work life. However, we need to be aware that contrary to a widespread opinion, stress is part and parcel of a freelancer’s life. You can learn various ways of recognising and managing stress at TRANSLIT’s FREE webinar “Stress Management for Freelancers”. Find more information on our training page.