Taking long break from work
Thread poster: Ben Harrison

Ben Harrison  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:24
Member (2013)
German to English
Dec 22, 2014

I'm wondering if anybody has ever taken a long break from translation (say 1-3 months, e.g. for an extended trip) and how easy it was to get back to their regular workflow afterwards. The most continuous time I've taken off since I started was only ten days, and then when I got back things were a little too quiet for comfort for a few weeks.

Do you think this is feasible without crippling your career, (assuming the cost of the trip and loss of 1-3 months of earnings while away wasn't the issue), or am I just daydreaming here?

Any experiences would be most welcome!


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Rachel Waddington  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:24
Member (2014)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Yes Dec 22, 2014

I took around 3 months off this year to be a full-time student for a while (I've been studying part-time towards an engineering degree for a while now). I just told my customers what I was doing and when I would be back at work and they were fine with that and just made a note in their databases. One or two are quieter now than before, but overall I'm as busy as I've ever been.

Of course, it will depend on who your customers are. I work mostly for agencies, and they are used to translators not being available. If you work for direct clients I can imagine that this will be much less feasible and you could risk permanently losing some of your hard-won client base.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:24
Member (2008)
Italian to English
It depends Dec 22, 2014

It depends on your own language pair, and the subjects in which you specialise. In my language pair (Italian to English) and the subject areas in which I mainly specialise, there tends to be an avalanche of work in the month of July: this is the Italians preparing for the long summer holiday, and trying to get everything out of the way before they go. July, for me is a real killer of a working month.

Then quite suddenly, there's never anything at all during the month of August and for at least the first half of September, as they gradually get back to work and start producing documents that need to be translated.

If I wanted to, I could easily disappear from the beginning of August until September (although what I prefer is to be given something very big and meaty to translate slowly over the summer, such as a book).

[Edited at 2014-12-22 16:58 GMT]


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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:24
German to English
Vacation time plus loss of work afterward Dec 22, 2014

In my experience, vacations tend to be followed by fallow periods of approximately the same length as the absence. That is, if I take 3 weeks off, then the following two or three weeks tend to be slow. I've not had the opportunity to take an extended vacation or otherwise be away from my desk, so it would be hard to predict what effect it would have on my workflow. I can't imagine that 3 months away would result in the same period without work.

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Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 00:24
Member
Italian to English
Four-year break Dec 22, 2014

I really doubt you risk "crippling" your career in three months! As the others have said, much may depend on your language pair and/or the time of year you decide to go away.

Another important consideration may be what you intend to do with the time, and whether it has any positive professional benefits. I am just coming back to translation after four years off, in which I completed my nursing degree here in Italy. In my case, the theoretical and practical knowledge I've gained will prove invaluable for the field I intend to specialise in, i.e. medical translations.

So I don't think you run any particular risks, it's more about choosing wisely. There is also more to life than working (although it is necessary for most of us!!) - if you are considering taking a lengthy break I'm sure you have a good reason, and therefore it is something you should pursue. Life is short, after all.

Best of luck in your choice.


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Ben Harrison  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:24
Member (2013)
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
A bit of clarification Dec 22, 2014

Actually this question was more of a hypothetical one in my case, maybe brought on by too many days looking out of the window at gloomy grey skies. I'm not planning on taking a break myself, I just know somebody working in construction who takes January and February off every year to go to SE Asia and wondered if anybody on here does a similar thing without their clients finding somebody to replace them in the meantime.

Whenever I talk to people with regular 9-5 jobs working to somebody else's schedule I always feel so lucky to be self-employed and the master of my own destiny. Whenever I tell people that I could do my job just the same from anywhere in the world too I often get the reply "Well, why don't you?" Good question!

[Edited at 2014-12-22 21:47 GMT]

[Edited at 2014-12-22 21:47 GMT]


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Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 00:24
Member
Italian to English
I think Dec 22, 2014

there is a certain IT>EN translator active here on Proz who does so. I think it's Thailand in his case!

I think it can be done. "To want is to can", as a certain Italian singer famously said (or her "interpreter" did). I think the intended phrase was "where there's a will there's a way".



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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:24
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
All you need is a laptop Dec 23, 2014

Ben Harrison wrote:
I just know somebody working in construction who takes January and February off every year to go to SE Asia and wondered if anybody on here does a similar thing without their clients finding somebody to replace them in the meantime.

Makes sense. Construction is heavily affected by the weather - can't do much in rain or high winds and Jan/Feb are wet months in the UK.

If you are single - ie not dependent on partner's work schedule - why not just configure a notebook with your software tools and trot off to a series of modestly priced hotels in holiday destinations? You don't have to completely stop work. Work half a day then play. Could be skiing, could be a beach, could be a cultural destination. Nice way to spend the winter!

Dan


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TransLangues  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 00:24
English to French
+ ...
I took a 6 month maternity leave... Dec 24, 2014

... and my business survived it! I was a bit anxious at the start but it all went very well. For my direct clients, I had arranged for a few trusted translators to be point of contact (I had done the same for them in a similar situation) and did check my mails once a day to see if anything else was pending. For agencies, I just told them I was away (and why I got a big contract just the week I started again so it worked out perfect. The second month was a bit quiet but I heard afterwards it was for most translators. On the whole I was positively surprised by the nice reactions I got when coming back. I'd definitely do it again!

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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 07:24
Chinese to English
I've just come back after 6 months off the market Dec 24, 2014

Not on holiday, but doing a book, so I took virtually nothing from agencies during the middle part of this year. Started back a while ago, and it took a few weeks for things to pick up, but I'm pretty much going strong now.

I agree with Dan, though - the whole point of our job is that you can go and do it wherever.

One possibility is that you don't have to tell your clients you're going on holiday. After all, you don't take every job from a client even when you're at home. If you don't want to work on the beach in Thailand, at least take your laptop and do a bit of emailing every day - "Sorry, can't take this job, I'm snowed under this week..." It's a bit cheeky, and I don't know how long you can keep it up, but the point is you can retain contact with clients even when you're not actually taking their jobs.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:24
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Yes you can Dec 24, 2014

Construction is heavily affected by the weather - can't do much in rain or high winds and Jan/Feb are wet months in the UK.


Not so. Any well-organised construction project will be programmed so that the roof is on, and if possible the external walls have been built, before the bad weather comes so that work can carry on inside. I'm an architect, so I happen to know these things. If we all stopped building just because the weather is bad, we would all be out of business!


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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:24
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
An excellent point Dec 24, 2014

Tom in London wrote:
Construction is heavily affected by the weather - can't do much in rain or high winds and Jan/Feb are wet months in the UK.

Not so. Any well-organised construction project will be programmed so that the roof is on, and if possible the external walls have been built, before the bad weather comes so that work can carry on inside. I'm an architect, so I happen to know these things. If we all stopped building just because the weather is bad, we would all be out of business!

You're absolutely right - I have just built a house and we did of course time it for the good weather. However, people get it wrong, and projects get delayed. Our house was set back two months because one pre-fabbed part was destroyed by fire before it even arrived on site.

Somebody else locally has run out of money, at least for now, and thus has a half-built house without a proper roof for the winter, just tarpaulins.

Still, this is a very rural area where most construction is domestic housing (and not much new build either) and I'm pretty sure my observations/experience does not extrapolate well to large-scale commercial construction in urban areas. As you say, there must be ways round the weather.

Dan


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Alison Watt  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:24
Member (2014)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Yes! Jan 10, 2015

Hi Ben,

I notice we work in the same language pairs and I've done just this. I think others posting here are right, one of the positives to our job is the flexibility. If you choose your month(s) wisely depending on your workload, I'm sure you can go for it. I took a month off in October last year to travel round Asia and worked for a week while away (I also took odd small projects during the rest of the time). It definitely took a week or two for things to get back to full speed once I returned but this was almost helpful given the jetlag

I found the time difference with Asia actually works in your favour too, as being ahead of GMT, you can pretty much take the morning off while Europe sleeps and then work the afternoon/evening if you so choose to!

Happy globetrotting!
Alison


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Preston Decker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:24
Member (2013)
Chinese to English
Go long or go short Jan 10, 2015

Ben, I've taken vacations the past couple of summers in Asia, in 2013 for three weeks in July (highlighted by 16 days in Thailand), and last year for two weeks in August (Hong Kong and Macau). Summer is usually my down time translation-wise, but I do feel there was still a 'shadow' period after the vacations before work started coming in again even at normal summer levels. I've found the same thing even for shorter breaks--if I tell my clients I'm taking 5 days off for a trip home to the US, it seems to take about an extra week or two before work comes in steadily again. Then again, all of this admittedly comes from a small sample size, so perhaps things will work out differently for you.

Both of these 'short' vacations were almost entirely translation-free (except for checking emails), and it was great to get away from work . On the other hand, and if you're worried that a longer absence will affect your business, you could go 'long' and travel and translate for 3 months or even more, and perhaps come out even or ahead monetarily. If you're doing this, SE Asia would be a great place, as costs are cheap, and you should be able to find internet connections in most touristy areas (at least that was our experience in Thailand--you can always post a question about internet connections in SE Asia on lonelyplanet.com). I'd also agree with Phil that there is nothing wrong with sending a message like "My apologies, but I'm swamped for the next couple of days" to clients offering projects if you'll be riding buses or simply want a few days off.

Corinne McKay also has some great posts about taking vacations as a translator in the archives of her blog (translatewrite.com).

Have a great trip!


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