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Translating too much! Work suffering! Help!
Thread poster: Christopher Lewis

Christopher Lewis  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:58
German to English
Sep 1, 2011

I'm not really sure where this post belongs or what kind of responses I'm looking for. I guess I'm just flailing for some advice.

Over the past month and a half (August) I have had a sharp influx of work from both regular agencies and people I know. At first I was relieved to know that I had 'job security' for the next month and would be earning maybe enough to see me through the months following. I imagine the influx is due to the majority of freelancers going on holidays, but that's just a guess, and at the time I thought, what a great opportunity to prove the quality of my work and win some new clients.

It has been about five or six weeks since this little streak began and I haven't had a weekend off yet. One weekend, two weekends, that's okay. But at a certain point my translations have started to suffer and, what's worse, I've had several complaints from clients/agencies. And I can't blame them. I've noticed it too. I just get in the routine of going line by line (literally, using Wordfast) and often I get hung up on single words. It's gotten to the point that I can no longer see the forest through the trees and my language skills and reputation are suffering as a result!!


 

Gudrun Wolfrath  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:58
English to German
+ ...
Christopher Sep 1, 2011

Cut back on the work load and learn to say "no".

Gudrun


 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 17:58
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Cut back Sep 1, 2011

In the long run, working too many hours is counterproductive. Many translators become overloaded with too much work because they say yes when they really should be saying “no”. Taking on too much work is dangerous. If the quality of your work is suffering, you need to cut back! Reputation is a very fragile thing…

 

Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:58
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
As Gudrun says... Sep 1, 2011

...given that your work is suffering, you have to learn to set limits. Producing shoddy work will in the end result in your losing rather than earning money, and will obviously damage your reputation.

Perhaps over time, you will learn to develop your "translation stamina" to handle long stretches of 10-12 hour days in which you produce good work.

It also sounds like you need to learn certain "tips and tricks" to avoid getting hung up on individual words and phrases. When you have to translate, say, a 20,000-word contract that has been poorly written, obsessing over the *mot juste* really doesn't work. With that kind of mentality, two things are likely to happen: 1.) You will quickly get burned out (it sounds like this has happened to you already); and 2.) You will find that you are working at such a slow rate, that you are making no more than $10 or so an hour (I'm sure you don't want that either).

In short, set limits while at the same time trying to increase your productive capacity. These would seem to be the keys to your future success.

Good luck!

[Edited at 2011-09-01 17:09 GMT]


 

Richard Foulkes (X)  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:58
German to English
+ ...
I'm sure plenty of people can identify with your situation... Sep 1, 2011

The best solution I've found to not knowing when to stop accepting work is to become a bit more businesslike in terms of monitoring your income (if you don't already do this).

e.g. Set an annual income / profit target and monitor your monthly income / profit against it. If you're on / ahead of target, you can afford to turn work away. If you're working at full capacity and you're still behind, you either need to up your rates or stop leading such an extravagant lifestyleicon_smile.gif.


 

Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 18:58
German to Serbian
+ ...
So easy or so hard Sep 1, 2011

Christopher Lewis wrote:
I just get in the routine of going line by line (literally, using Wordfast)


It just won't work mechanically will it, it constantly requires cognition and cognitive exhaustion in order to be accurate and correct? Many clients don't realize it, it seems like you also took a slower and harder way to realize it.


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 01:58
Chinese to English
Have children! Sep 1, 2011

I'm only half joking... There's more pressure to make money, but you also have to take time to spend with them, so you get some hours away from the screen.

OK, maybe that's a bit extreme.

I get the same thing, when I've had a run of intensive work, and I can't get out of the habit. Even when I finally get through it, and could take a break, I just sit manically refreshing the Proz front page...

Give yourself a day. You probably won't take the whole day, but plan to take a whole day off, and don't feel too bad if you end up doing some work in the evening. Read something that isn't work, to try to remember what it feels like to appreciate a whole text.

And give up on Wordfast. I know some people like CAT, but it couldn't hurt to change your routine once in a while. Try putting a text into one column and translating into the other. Hell, print it out and translate by hand! You can go back later, but if your CAT is contributing to your text myopia, then mix it up.


 

Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 18:58
Italian to English
You are not alone Sep 1, 2011

When the work piles up, as it will do now and again, you can always pass some of it on to colleagues whom you know to be competent. They will probably do the same for you when they are up to their eyes.

The more you and your colleagues specialise, the better this arrangement works and of course clients appreciate a solution much more than a refusal icon_wink.gif


 

Romina Eva Pérez Escorihuela
Argentina
Local time: 14:58
Member (2010)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Delegate some work to a colleague Sep 1, 2011

Dear Christopher,

I fully understand and comprehend your situation.
Let me give you some tips... Once, I spent two weeks on a row, non-stop, but only two weeks, translating... and I know how it feels... then, I learnt something I would like to share with you:

1) You can always delegate some work to your trusted colleagues... I do it myself when I receive a project I cannot handle because of a lack of time or specialization... there must be at least one colleague of yours belonging to your "circle of trust". This method will help you to keep your clients happy: since you cannot handle the project, you find sb else who can do the job with the same quality as you do... your client will be very happy, he will really appreciate you trying to find sb else, and this does not mean they will call your colleague instead the next time... I always delegate work and I keep on receiving projects from the very same clients...

2) I had to reject projects in the past and my clients called me again after some time, in spite of having rejected a project

don't worry!! You will get sick instead, have you ever heard about "somatization"?

ALL THE BEST!!!
Romi


 

Sorana_M.
Romania
Local time: 19:58
English to Romanian
Me too Sep 1, 2011

Christopher Lewis wrote:

I'm not really sure where this post belongs or what kind of responses I'm looking for. I guess I'm just flailing for some advice.

Over the past month and a half (August) I have had a sharp influx of work from both regular agencies and people I know. At first I was relieved to know that I had 'job security' for the next month and would be earning maybe enough to see me through the months following. I imagine the influx is due to the majority of freelancers going on holidays, but that's just a guess, and at the time I thought, what a great opportunity to prove the quality of my work and win some new clients.

It has been about five or six weeks since this little streak began and I haven't had a weekend off yet. One weekend, two weekends, that's okay. But at a certain point my translations have started to suffer and, what's worse, I've had several complaints from clients/agencies. And I can't blame them. I've noticed it too. I just get in the routine of going line by line (literally, using Wordfast) and often I get hung up on single words. It's gotten to the point that I can no longer see the forest through the trees and my language skills and reputation are suffering as a result!!


I haven't translated so much in a row for quite a while, yet this happened to me as well. I started making mistakes, overlooking typos, using wrong terms...

I even thought it was some sort of medical problem, since it was sometimes associated with strong headaches and stingy eyes... I saw/read the words right, yet they were spelled wrong...

It's certainly fatigue, but a strange type of fatigue.

Children are great, I have a little daughter myself, but try translating when they are taking your hand off the mouse or even shutting down the PC in the middle of your translation... It will only add more stress...


 

Armorel Young  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:58
German to English
Put your prices up Sep 1, 2011

You don't say what you're charging, but is it too little? If you've got too much work, do less of it but charge more for it - that way you can maintain the same income but have more time to produce work of high quality. You are much more likely to keep clients long-term if they really like the quality of what you do.

 

Kaiya J. Diannen  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2008)
German to English
What she said, only American-style Sep 1, 2011

Armorel Young wrote:

You don't say what you're charging, but is it too little? If you've got too much work, do less of it but charge more for it - that way you can maintain the same income but have more time to produce work of high quality. You are much more likely to keep clients long-term if they really like the quality of what you do.


It's a good time to raise your rates!


 

Jenn Mercer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:58
Member (2009)
French to English
Take a break! Sep 2, 2011

After working the past few weekends in a row, I will be taking this one off. If any clients ask, I am "booked" and it is true. I have a special "quality improvement" project, a self-paced seminar if you like.

Of course, I am not the first to tell you this and I know you are looking for more immediate relief. Believe me, I have been there. First, take a short break. Take a walk for ten minutes. Take care of a chore that you have been putting off until after you're done. When you are back at your keyboard, try skipping around. Once you have a solution for one linguistic puzzle, skip around in text until you find all the examples. Find some easy passages and knock them out real quick to gain momentum. Oh, and turn up your music really loudicon_wink.gif. It helps.


 

Marina Steinbach  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:58
Member
English to German
I would like to help you. Sep 2, 2011

Christopher Lewis wrote:

It has been about five or six weeks since this little streak began and I haven't had a weekend off yet. (...) It's gotten to the point that I can no longer see the forest through the trees and my language skills and reputation are suffering as a result!!


Hi Lewis,

I'm looking for work, so I could help you.
Please let me know if you are still searching.

Sincerely,

Marina

http://www.marina-steinbach.com


[Edited at 2011-09-02 02:26 GMT]


 

Gillian Searl  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:58
Member (2004)
German to English
Always work August and December Sep 2, 2011

That's why I tell everyone to work August and December when everybody else is on holiday - if they can. It's a question of supply and demand - in these two months demand exceeds supply so the freelancer benefits.

On the other hand, "no" is an important word to learn in this business and I recommend imposing strict limits on your weekends from now on. Eventually you'll get the balance right.


 
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