Low activity periods & holiday times!
Thread poster: Alvaro Morales

Alvaro Morales  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:38
Member (2006)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Jul 18, 2006

Hi everybody!

Congratulations for your great work!

In this post, I wanted to make some statements and present several questions I've always had. Let me expose firstly my background data.

My name is Alvaro Morales, and I've been working as a sporadic translator since 1999 (proz platinum since current month), but it has been this last year when I wanted to take de big step and dedicate to translation business on a "full time" basis. The answer of my old customers and some new ones gathered through this year has been impressive. I haven't had any blank time since Aug 2005 (nor even on weekends).

I decided two months ago to take a little holidays of 6 days on late July, going out for a while to take a deserved rest.

The thing is, since mid July the jobs level have fallen drastically. I work with about 10 agencies in a continuous basis (more sporadic customers as well), and the relationship with them haven't changed (we still keep a great business relationship). I still have job to do everyday, but just for one or two hours/day.

You know, after a non-stop working year, this situation is extremely strange for me.

I want to think that in these dates the market slow down its rythm due to holidays and low activities, but I wanted to contrast it with you, who will probably have been working in this in industry more time than me, and I'm sure you're all great translators.

And one final question: How do you decide when to take holidays and for how much time? I feel a bit guilty for letting my customers alone (a little afraid they would not continue working with me).

Any help / comment / consolationicon_smile.gif will be greatly appreciated.

[Edited at 2006-07-18 07:30]

[Edited at 2006-07-18 07:45]


Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:38
Dutch to English
+ ...
Peaks and holidays Jul 18, 2006

Well done Alvaro!

It is quite normal to have slow times. It will depend on the agencies you work with. If they shut shop, then you will not have work. I work with around 12 regular customers and the last two years have been hectic. I tend to take a long holiday at Christmas because my customers do too and it is easier (plus I don't like the whole Christmas thing so I go to a country where it is not celebrated). During the summer it is especially hectic but that is because in my main language pair (Dutch/English), most in-house translators go on holiday and there are few translators around. I used to not go on holiday in the summer but I have decided to go this year. Mainly because I've been working 70 hours a week since January and I need time out. When I go on holiday, I inform all my regular customers 2 weeks beforehand. This allows them to plan ahead and know when I am available again. I could of course find my customers gone when I come back, but this has not happened yet. They seem to understand you need a break so now and again (just like they do). If you are worried, you can always call them and discuss it with your customers. The personal touch is always appreciated. You will also stick in their minds for future jobs.


Natasa Grubor  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 22:38
English to Serbian
+ ...
holiday times Jul 18, 2006


I just came back from holiday. I informed my regular clients and had no problem. However, some not urgent jobs were sent to me and were awaiting. I think you should not worry - as we like to have regular costumers they like to have regular and trusted translators.
Also, while on vacation I would recomend you to forget about e-mails, phone calls and other stuff related to work ... just enjoy..it is short time anyway ....:(


Laura Gentili  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:38
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
Don't worry about slow periods Jul 18, 2006

That's the way it works: some weeks you have too much on your plate, and some weeks you start worrying because work has slowed down. Then you are overbooked again and you wish you had enjoyed the slow weeks...
As for holidays, I tend to work a lot during summer months (July-August), so I tend to take short vacations. However, I have noticed that things really slow down at Christmas time, so may be it's a good idea to take 2 weeks during that time of the year.


[Edited at 2006-07-18 08:55]


Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:38
English to French
Take it easy Jul 18, 2006

Marijke Singer wrote:

(...) most in-house translators go on holiday and there are few translators around.

During this period indeed, I feel there is less "workforce" available, so I choose not to go on holiday during July/August (too crowded and busy and stressful anyway). I gained a few customers during this "low" period, because agencies with projects have to seek unknown translators if their usual ones are off.
But then it may be just the other way around in other situations, ie end customers/agencies go on holiday and the business plummets.
Anyway, once you've established a trustful and varied customer base (which seems to be your case), there is no reason that you experience long periods without full time work. Your business should pick up again soon. It may just be a coincidence that all your customers don't have work at the present time. If it lasts too long, then one of them may be struggling to get work and you may want to prospect elsewhere.
Since it's your first slow period, you may ask yourself a lot of questions, but after a few years of full time work, slow periods are more than welcome!

As for my holidays, I have them whenever I want, usually 3 weeks in a row (100% unreachable, I don't even connect to my email a single time) and a few days here and there throughout the year.
Decent customers understand that you need a rest now and then. Those who don't simply don't deserve that you work for them!

Have a good rest,


Gillian Searl  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:38
Member (2004)
German to English
January Jul 18, 2006

I find I work like crazy up to 24th December and then January is often very quiet so I tend to take my holidays in January. At this time of year you can often pick up work because so many are on holiday so the agencies are desperate. I avoid taking holidays at this time - but this year I will not be available for a week or two.

On the other issue, those quiet days. Yes I get nervous and worry about who I offended. But after 6 years now I have learned to be grateful for those days. So if it suddenly goes quiet I don't worry. If it lasts more than a few days I often email my regulars and say "I'm free". Sometimes they are delighted and at other times they say "It's gone dead". Learn to enjoy them - go for a walk, paint the house, exercise, visit friends or family - and as I say if all else fails do the cleaning! Don't worry the work will come backicon_smile.gif

[Edited at 2006-07-18 13:17]


Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:38
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Holidays... Jul 18, 2006

are essential if you have to work so intensively so often. I personally have busy periods of usually several weeks together when I have to work (almost) round the clock, i.e. translate till 2.30 a.m, get up to start proofreading at 5 a.m....., including the weekends, several weekends in a row, until I get really desperate about the whole situation. Then suddenly a day comes when I have finished the last word of the last translation in the series and do not have a new one. When this great day comes, I experience the "freedom" of the freelancer. I go by bus and train into the city, 35 km away. I spend a whole day going round the shops, I travel the 35 km back, and on arrival back I have a migraine. That is that day finished.

The next day I start adding up how much I have earned in those past few weeks, and it never seems as much as it ought to be for the intensity of the work involved. Then I bring the book-keeping up to date and catch up on all the administrative work. After that everything goes normal for a while, 8 hours' work per day, normal breaks for eating and sleeping, until....

a day comes when all the customers go on strike! I do not hear from any of them. This persists for a whole week, until I get seriously worried...

... and then, suddenly, one little translation project comes in, followed by another bigger one, directly followed by a massive one, and....lo and behold! - we are back into the several-week intensive phase again!

Holidays I publish in my profile some months beforehand. And I try to find colleagues with the right type of experience to cover for my regular end customers. My sporadic customers simply receive the automatic return e-mail saying when I will be back at my desk. During my holidays I am entirely unavailable.



Setti Mulari  Identity Verified
New Zealand
Local time: 10:38
Finnish to English
Outsourcers point of view Jul 18, 2006


Some people drop me a line saying they'll be on holiday, which is good practise. The best tool, however, that I've found is the Out of Office Assistant.

I tend to e-mail translators with details of the project at hand, but if I get a return e-mail saying "I'm out of office between this and that time" I can find an alternative translator straight away.

If you're a good translator, you're unlikely to lose your position in an agency just because you take a holiday. There are lots of translators around... the really good ones are worth their weight in gold though.

...saying that - it's been dead with Spanish for the last couple of weeks. French seems to be the popular one at the moment (at least in our shop).


Alicia Casal  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:38
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Dropping a line s the best way Jul 18, 2006

So I guess.

At least, i prefer that practise; if not, i start worrying during my vacations, connecting to the web, etc etc.


Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:38
Italian to English
+ ...
Agency and end client employees go on holiday too... Jul 20, 2006

so they understand that you'll need a break every now and then. Let your regulars know a few weeks beforehand and remind them just before you leave, check your emails (if you can and if you want to) while you're away, and let your regulars (and anyone else who's been in touch) when you're back at work.

and enjoy your holiday.


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