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Taking 3+ months' leave - seeking advice
Thread poster: Wendy Cummings

Wendy Cummings  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:12
Member (2006)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Sep 19, 2011

I am seeking advice from people who have taken 3+ months' leave from their translation business.

I am freelance, working primarily for agencies, and I am considering taking 3-6 months' leave next year. I would be really grateful to receive comments/advice from others who have also done so (e.g. for maternity leave, or personal reasons like myself).

Were clients accepting of your absence?
How easy was it to resume work when you returned?
Did you return to the same clients or have to find new ones?
How long did it take to return to the same level of income/productivity?
Did you encounter any unexpected problems?

Many thanks.


 

Lori Cirefice  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 12:12
French to English
maternity leave Sep 19, 2011

- Clients were totally accepting, I had explained to most that I was going on maternity leave
- Difficult, it took a good month or two to get back into the "swing" of things and see jobs coming in regularly
- Same clients for the most part, I didn't lose any
- I'm still not back to my previous level of income/productivity - and the baby is 17 months old!


 

Stephanie Mitchel  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:12
French to English
My experience Sep 19, 2011

Hi Wendy (and Lori),
I took two months off after my son was born. It was about a year before I returned to previous earning levels, and even then it was spotty - but that was more about my 'new normal' than about demand. Once the scion started preschool, things stabilized a bit.
Hope it helps.
Stephanie


 

Sonia Hill
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:12
Italian to English
Maternity leave Sep 19, 2011

Hi Wendy, I have taken maternity leave twice over the last four years. The first time I took about six months off before returning to work part-time and the second time I took about four months off, again returning to work part-time.

All my clients were very accepting of my decision. I think I lost one client while on leave, but this was due to other reasons (internal financial problems which had nothing to do with me).
It was very easy to get work again when I returned. Several of my clients actually said how relieved they were that I was working again, which was flattering. I advised my clients a few weeks before I started work again, so that they knew I would be available again soon and would remember to send me work.
I returned to the same clients and also acquired some new ones.
I returned to work part-time, so it is difficult to make comparisons. However, within a week or so of returning to work all my working hours were solidly booked. I am still working fewer hours than before I had children, but my income now is higher.
I didn't encounter any unexpected problems.

I hope that helps a bit.


 

Gretel Schoukens  Identity Verified
Slovenia
Local time: 12:12
Member (2008)
German to Dutch
+ ...
4 months maternity leave Sep 19, 2011

Hello,

After the birth of our 3th child, I was on maternity leave for about 4 months. I'm working more than 7 years now. I was hoping to start again 'slowly', few days a week, so that I could still take care of our daughter. But I didn't manage, I'm working now for 3 months again, and I have plenty of work - partially from the same translation offices, partially from new ones. My clients didn't make any problems about my maternity leave and were appearantly waiting to contact me again.


 

Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:12
German to English
+ ...
3 mos. maternity leave Sep 19, 2011

Clients were understanding. No unexpected problems. Slow going at first coming back, but it only took a couple of months to get back up to speed. Client list didn't change much (but it does change over time anyway).

 

Jean-Pierre Artigau (X)
Canada
Local time: 06:12
English to French
+ ...
How I proceed Sep 19, 2011

Hello

As a semiretired freelancer, I sometimes leave business for up to a month or two at a time, with absolutely no access to Internet or e-mail or telephone (who would want that while canoeing in the great Canadian wilderness anyway). So this is how I proceed:
- One week before leaving, I send a message to all my regular clients saying "please note that I will be unavailable from... to ...". You don't have to mention the reason why you are unavailable, and nobody will ask. They will suppose you are a very busy person working somewhere else for a while, and that's fine.
- On my return to civilization, I send another message saying "Please note that I am available again to accept any new work". If you are not in the middle of some remote forest or desert, and if you have access to a computer, you might as well send your second message a few days before your return.

I usually work for large organizations (governments) that deal with several translators, and it doesn't bother them if one of them disappears for some time. However if you work for individuals or small organizations (i.e. you are their only translator), I suggest you recommend them to contact one of your trusted colleagues for any urgent translation services during your absence.

My clients tend to forget about my first message ("I'm leaving for a while") and keep sending me work. So if you can't answer them directly during that time, you should program your e-mail program to send an automated response to those clients saying "Please be reminded that I'm unavailable until...". But you should avoid sending that automatic response to all the messages you receive. Some thieves, hackers and the like would be very happy to learn that you are away from home.

Hope this will answer your questions.

Jean-Pierre


 

Noni Gilbert  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:12
Spanish to English
+ ...
Be firm Sep 20, 2011

Hi Wendy,

I notice that quite a few of us who are replying are doing so from a maternity leave point of view. My experience is from there too, although sixteen years ago I did also try to take some time of work for other reasons.

On all three occasions (that's two children!), I got sucked back into work far earlier than I should have been. Doesn't help that I am running a business, but I did have people in place who should have been protecting me from this. I am also largely to blame for not being able to resist the temptation to put my nose into things.

It will take a huge amount of forward planning, but once you're told everyone you are not going to be available, and tried to organize some work to be waiting for you on return, make yourself really and truly unavailable! A couple of drastic measures that occur to me are getting a new phone number and switching off the old one, opening a new e-mail account and not opening the other one ... Physical distance also helps. When I'm abroad I do keep tabs on things, but people seem more likely not to bother me if they know I'm away, and I feel more relaxed about not dealing with things immediately (having set my out of office message in place).

The very best of luck with this project.

Noni


 

Wendy Cummings  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:12
Member (2006)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks to all so far Sep 20, 2011

Thanks to all so far for your advice and comments; they have helped reassure me somewhat.

My particular project involves travelling/volunteering in Africa. I will be in a very rural community with no power, so there is no risk of not being able to escape from work (last time I was there a family had a microwave oven but used it as a cupboard! Goodness knows what they'd do with a laptop. Chopping board?!!). But that is perhaps my concern - i won't even be able to respond should a client urgently need something (e.g. problems with past jobs). I do of course have an out-of-office reply.

I have been away for one month before, and the only real problems it caused was the lack of income for the month after I came back (hadn't planned ahead!). But this time it would be a 3-6 month project, and it won't be for the "accepted" reason of maternity leave.

It also means that when I come back, I will be able to work full-time (i.e. I won't have a child to care for), but as Noni points out - this is my business, and I do not want to jeopardise 5 years' hard work at building it up to a stage where I am extremely happy with my situation.

Does anyone have non-maternity experience?


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:12
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
unacceptable? Sep 20, 2011

Wendy Leech wrote:
But this time it would be a 3-6 month project, and it won't be for the "accepted" reason of maternity leave.


I would have thought that your clients will see a sabbatical as a very positive reason for a break and will go out of their way to accommodate it.


 

Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:12
German to English
+ ...
"Unavailable" Sep 21, 2011

Much like the poster above, I often take shorter periods of time off and simply tell my clients that I am "unavailable for new work from X to Y." It could be because I am working on a large project for another client that leaves me with little extra time for other work, or it could be because I am taking some time off at home or on vacation. There's no real need to explain the reason you will be away unless you have a particularly friendly relationship with a PM or something.

 

Angela Dickson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:12
French to English
+ ...
Experience Sep 21, 2011

Wendy Leech wrote:

Does anyone have non-maternity experience?


Yes! I ended up taking three months off unexpectedly when I had been in the business for about 5 years, because of a period in hospital and subsequent recovery from surgery. My experience was much as everyone else describes - the difference between my situation and yours, though, is that as I got better I was more able to send off quick replies to emails saying "I'm still off work but hope to be back soon". But a carefully set up out-of-office reply system, coupled with prior warning for your main clients, should take care of that.

In general, I used to be scared of taking time off, but now I've been in this game for a while I am confident that I can go away for a few weeks and find that work doesn't dry up in the meantime.

I wouldn't for a second advise you to consider cancelling your trip. It sounds fantastic and I hope it goes well for you.


 

David Jessop  Identity Verified
Spain
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
Did it without problems Nov 11, 2011

Wendy Leech wrote:

I am seeking advice from people who have taken 3+ months' leave from their translation business.

I am freelance, working primarily for agencies, and I am considering taking 3-6 months' leave next year. I would be really grateful to receive comments/advice from others who have also done so (e.g. for maternity leave, or personal reasons like myself).

Were clients accepting of your absence?
How easy was it to resume work when you returned?
Did you return to the same clients or have to find new ones?
How long did it take to return to the same level of income/productivity?
Did you encounter any unexpected problems?

Many thanks.


Hi Wendy,

I have done precisely that, taken 4.5 months off. I was concerned, thinking that it might take six months to rebuild my business upon return. Guess what? The first month I got back I had my busiest month ever! I'm not exaggerating (it was the busy season anyway but the extra push for marketing I did when I returned made the difference).

Did I lose any clients? Yes, one, and she was my least favorite client for a number of reasons. I picked up several clients right when I returned.

Do it! It's the great freedom we have; let's make the most of being a freelancer.

David
P.S. I asked in the forums as well prior to the trip: http://www.proz.com/forum/being_independent/136961-taking_mini_retirements_can_i_do_it_and_continue_successfully.html#1140803


 

Wendy Cummings  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:12
Member (2006)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Update Nov 11, 2011

Many thanks to everyone who has given advice. As a brief update, my trip is now confirmed and I will be away for 3 months as of 1 Jan.

Having read everyone's posts, I then contacted two of my most trusted clients and put the question to them directly. One replied, very succinctly, "sure, just let us know when you go and when you come back". The other gave a longer response, saying it would not matter at all to them since it happens often with other translators, and was even kind enough to add that they would miss my services and would be waiting for me when I came back.

It doesn't make the prospect any less daunting, but I am reassured that it is not an unusual request, and that I will be able to do it without suffering too much afterwards.

I will try to remember to post again 3-months post return, to see whether my predictions came true!


 

Sonia Hill
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:12
Italian to English
Great news Nov 11, 2011

That's great news Wendy. Good luck with your trip and I'm sure everything will be fine upon your returnicon_smile.gif

 
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