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How do you deal with the periods without jobs?
Thread poster: Egmont Schröder

Egmont Schröder  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:17
Member (2013)
Chinese to German
+ ...
Oct 13

It always hits me, some weeks ago you are too busy on working on good paid projects to even reject the offers in your email client, and then there is suddenly the period were you simply don't get any jobs. The first few days it is very relaxing, but then it starts to get on my nerves. This is the oddest side of the translation industry, otherwise it would be a really lucrative job.

How do you deal with these periods? Does it depend on certain language pairs or fields of specialisation? Or on a certain time of the year?


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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:17
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
More Oct 13

Egmont Schröder wrote:
How do you deal with these periods? Does it depend on certain language pairs or fields of specialisation? Or on a certain time of the year?

More clients, preferably in slightly different fields, or different countries etc.
"Enough clients" by my definition means "enough clients to keep me busy at my lowest level of business", not "enough clients to keep me busy when I am at my busiest". I suggest working on adding a few more clients, preferably regular, repeat clients.

EDIT: Just to address your "How do you deal with these periods?", when I get a couple of days without work, I seize the opportunity with both hands and do things that I enjoy that are not related to work!

Dan

[Edited at 2017-10-13 14:35 GMT]


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EvaVer  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:17
Member (2012)
Czech to English
+ ...
Yes to what Dan Lucas says Oct 13

When I experienced such periods (now very rare), I used them to think about ways to get more clients: submitting offers, finding ways to promote my services... Now my clientele is wide and diversified and when this happens (very seldom), I am happy to update my accounting, clean my house, walk my dog more...

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Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Grin and bear it Oct 13

Getting more customers probably won't help much IMO - unless you manage to ration all of them to just the right amount of work that they don't give up on asking you.

One thing that can work, but I avoid, is simply *asking* your customers for work. It feels like begging, but if you've got a good relationship with the agency, more often than not they'll come up with something.

Basically it's just part and parcel of the freelance life. Like traffic, sometimes it just ebbs and flows for no apparent reason. Even without Benny Hill's intervention, the experts can't keep the traffic running smoothly the whole time.

I was thinking about this the other day and concluded that the only way of getting a minimum of 40 hours of work every single week is to routinely work 50-60 hours a week. Which is shit. So my solution is just to go out and do something fun instead.


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Olena Vasilatos  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:17
Greek to Russian
+ ...
Stay calm and positive! Oct 13

I think it happens with all of us from time to time. In the past, it hit me as well sometimes. The hardest thing for me was to control my thoughts. I understood that it was just that period of time and it was good to do some other things (finding new clients, CPD, etc) but I couldn`t help checking my email every 5 minutes and get nervous when there was nothing new there. My advice is that you should master yourself, your fears. It is more a psychological issue. Focus on something else and you will se how soon this situation will change.

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Laura Kingdon  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 04:17
Member (2015)
French to English
+ ...
Training Oct 13

Training, personally. I'm working on a two-year set of online courses to diversify into another field of expertise, and that's quite flexible and means that as long as I get a bit of a running start into the courses, I can work on them a lot when I have lots of free time and mostly ignore them when I don't. Beyond that, my Korean listening skills are far below my reading and writing skills, so I try to spend lots of downtime watching Korean TV shows or movies, especially as I'm no longer in Korea and don't naturally encounter a lot of Korean outside of my translations. These are fairly personal examples, but I'm sure everyone has some areas they feel they could improve, both for the sake of personal development and to make themselves more attractive to clients in the future.

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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:17
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Some ideas Oct 13

As others have said, some amount of "feast or famine" is to be expected when you're a freelancer - and not just a freelance translator, either. In fact, it's no different from buses arriving in threes, or a cashier in a shop having a long queue one minute and then nobody. But there are various things to do:

- Work occasionally for agencies who allocate work on a first come first served basis. Not normally great as main clients, but good for filling in spare moments.
- Take on something big, such as a book, with a very relaxed deadline, and use that as a filler. However, you need to arrange for staged payments to limit the risk of non-payment.
- Diversify. Maybe do some teaching, copywriting, thesis checking, transcription... and learn to juggle them with translation.
- Use the time to review your CV etc and market your services more actively.
- Attend a trade fair or similar place where you can meet potential new clients and become known.
- Take a training course, or do some self-study - MOOCs are popular nowadays.

Aim to be so busy doing other things - even if it's gardening, some other hobby, housework or admin - that you barely have time to check your emails (although of course you DO make time for that!). The more "needy" you are, the more that impression will come across in your dealings with clients. That isn't something that you want.


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mypark
South Korea
Member (Jun 2017)
English to Korean
Book proposal Oct 14

I used to write a book translation proposal and send it to publishers which I don`t work with.
Even if they do not accept the proposal, still it is a subtle way to introduce myself to them.

[Edited at 2017-10-14 08:20 GMT]


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Elizabeth Tamblin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:17
Member (2012)
French to English
I waste time Oct 14

For a while, I sit at my desk, checking emails, reading forums, doing puzzles, etc.

I can guarantee that the moment I psych myself up to do some creative writing, a job will come in and the great novel is put on the back burner once more.


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Laura Kingdon  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 04:17
Member (2015)
French to English
+ ...
Yeah... Oct 14

Elizabeth Tamblin wrote:

For a while, I sit at my desk, checking emails, reading forums, doing puzzles, etc.

I can guarantee that the moment I psych myself up to do some creative writing, a job will come in and the great novel is put on the back burner once more.


I have noticed that the best way to bring in work during dry periods is to plan a couple of days of travel when it will be nearly impossible for me to do any translation. It's almost guaranteed that the morning I leave will be the morning my inbox is packed.


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Morano El-Kholy  Identity Verified
Egypt
Local time: 11:17
Member (2011)
English to Arabic
+ ...
Happens all the time.... :) Oct 14

Laura Kingdon wrote:

It's almost guaranteed that the morning I leave will be the morning my inbox is packed.


Yes, It just happens all the time .....


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ckdatta
India
Local time: 14:47
Bengali to English
+ ...
How do you deal with the periods without jobs Oct 14

Really it happens in life. During my last vacation, I got a timebound online work offer from Appen which I could not attend. Further, during this time I was advised by some translation agency to show myself 'available' as soon as I was back from the vacation. I did so immediately after return on the last 2nd October but all in vain.This only ended in endless opening and checking of my mail-box day in and day out, so far.I think this is the way of life of a freelance translator. However, all the best to the community members.

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Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:17
English to Spanish
+ ...
Be patient and diversify Oct 14

Egmont Schröder wrote:

It always hits me, some weeks ago you are too busy on working on good paid projects to even reject the offers in your email client, and then there is suddenly the period were you simply don't get any jobs. The first few days it is very relaxing, but then it starts to get on my nerves. This is the oddest side of the translation industry, otherwise it would be a really lucrative job.

How do you deal with these periods? Does it depend on certain language pairs or fields of specialisation? Or on a certain time of the year?


Egmont,

You're a young translator. According to your profile, you have 3 years of experience as a translator. When I had the same amount of experience, I was living and working nonstop in New York City. But that was in the mid 1990s, when you had to pay a block of 14 hours a month to get Internet, and the Web was more a distraction or a novelty than anything else. Agencies still phoned translators and sent them assignments by fax or FedEx, not email. Word of mouth ran faster and I was pretty busy with new clients every month.

Sheila's ideas (below) are particularly smart:
- Diversify. Maybe do some teaching, copywriting, thesis checking, transcription... and learn to juggle them with translation.
- Use the time to review your CV etc and market your services more actively.
- Attend a trade fair or similar place where you can meet potential new clients and become known.

First, ours is a profession, not an industry. Whoever tells you different is trying to sell you something. You may explore other areas of translation to eventually supplement your income, as Sheila points out. Degrees are stepping stones, doors and windows, not houses.

Second, the advice given is important because it teaches to manage our time properly. Learning to compartmentalize hours for different tasks and projects is what professionals of all stripes do, not just translators but dentists, architects, doctors and therapists. But start small so as not to feel overwhelmed and discouraged. And those secondary tasks don't have all to be related to your work. While you're waiting for the phone to ring or the email client to beep with quote requests, I'm sure you have a life like the rest of us: fix that bike, put up that bookcase in your office, finish cleaning the laundry area or wash the house's rugs, all the while as you listen to music, take breaks to read a book or a magazine or call a friend.

The problem with being busy translating all the time is that we start neglecting other aspects, like leisurely reading a dictionary or a specialized book, or upgrading our computer RAM memory, or doing that much-needed file backup. By starting small, you'll find your rhythm and your way of doing different things at different times. Some people are highly methodical and go by a strict daily calendar; some don't because they hate so much the clock to go by.

Best of luck!


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MK2010  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:17
Member (Jun 2017)
French to English
+ ...
Be pro-active Oct 15

If the lack of work is problematic financially, which I'm assuming it is, use that time to aggressively pursue new work. Go after end clients you would like to work with, bid on jobs here, refresh your CV and reconnect with clients you haven't worked with in a while, etc. All of those approaches have worked for me. Basically, expand your client portfolio, as others have advised.

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Josephine Cassar  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:17
Member (2012)
Italian to English
+ ...
Clarification please Oct 15

MK2010 wrote:
reconnect with clients you haven't worked with in a while, etc.

Do you drop them a note? You say what? That you did such and such jobs for them and that it's been a while that you collaborated with them? can you clarify? I wouldn't want to sound like 'begging' but it may be an idea worth pursing. Just asking, not criticising.

[Edited at 2017-10-15 13:04 GMT]


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