28 April 2013

Priorities to save the day when things get tough

I had been worrying about making everything sound too easy, because it obviously is not. Being a freelance translator is hard work, and it takes a reliance on a long list of factors, many of which are beyond one's control. So it can be quite nerve-wracking at times.

Let my past 10 days serve as a case in point! Yes, it has been one of those weeks: all Murphy's Law, all about how things that are usually good can turn bad, all at the same time.

I am usually a driven, highly motivated and generally quite successful woman who juggles two full-time jobs, a happy family life around a toddler and an eight-year-old and recently also a popular blog. This week, however, I have been a struggling wimp who felt ill and had a zillion things to do no matter what. It was daunting!

Yes, being a freelancer has that sometimes. And by Sunday night I can say I did very well in the circumstances, which is I guess what one should aspire to when things get rough!

I had a flu that kept me in bed with a temperature for two days, I had an 18-month-old with a middle ear infection who made sleep a brief luxury for four nights, I had a meeting with a chamber of commerce to present my services to potential clients, I had a major translation to do for a direct client that I absolutely wanted to impress, I had little jobs to top that off, I had lots of work in my capacity as a journalist, I had the most painful throat infection I can remember.

Being a freelancer can be tough: you don't really get to call in sick, or if you do it is all your loss. However, you do get ill sometimes, just like anyone else, and you have to deal with your share of everyday problems as well as you can.

It has been a long week. At times, I felt like curling up in bed. But of course I didn't. Well, I did while I had a temperature, and I did when I desperately felt I needed some sleep. I postponed the meeting at the chamber of commerce and did not bid on some jobs I would normally have taken. I did most of my regular journalistic work. I went to the doctor's and wound up on antibiotics. I wrote one blog post when I should have written two, and I did not even translate it into Spanish as I normally would have.

However, I certainly delivered what I think is a spotless translation to my direct client - I was so glad to have told him I needed more than double the time I actually did need!

When things go wrong and when your energy is running low, you absolutely need to set yourself priorities. Some things can wait while some cannot, some can get by with less input than you would usually devote to them, and some take all the energy that you can possibly muster.

As a freelancer, it is essential that you learn to set these priorities right, because that can save the day when you get stuck. The crucial thing in such circumstances is to take care of the personal issues that are troubling you, hopefully without losing any translation clients in the process. Other things can probably wait, and you can play catch-up when you are actually fit to do it.

Now the rough patch appears to be over: I am healthy again and so is my daughter, so hopefully I can go back to business as usual, take care of my blog in English and Spanish, meet with the chamber of commerce and bid normally on jobs in the coming days. And hopefully the one translation job that I tried to do as if it had been a regular week will lead to more such jobs in the future.

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