BlogBusiness School for Translators
Lesson 37: Working holidays, a.k.a translation as the best profession in the world
You’ve had a long break from me, haven’t you? A couple of weeks with no posts and almost no Twitter and Facebook presence. How is that possible? Well, for the first time in my life I went on working holidays, which in total lasted just over a month. Imagine translating from a sunny terrace over a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice served by friendly staff. For days. Isn’t translation the best profession in the world? It surely can be something to be envious about, but it’s not impossible. It’s also not as carefree as it sounds.
In general, I enjoyed my working holidays. I went to see some places I always wanted to visit, spent time with friends and consumed masses of delicious food. I also learned that Finnish is extremely difficult, and that my poor German is better than non-existent. I rested, I got a new perspective on my life, I found new sources of inspiration. I also received a valuable business lesson: how not to manage your business on working holidays. So here come some notes to remember for the next time.
You can’t work without a laptop, can you? I recommend checking it up, updating and running scans before taking off. Believe me, realising that your battery is permanently dead on board of a plane is not too nice, especially if you assumed you will spend these three hours translating to deliver the file on time. And if you use Trados, just run it once before departing, as it has the annoying habit of breaking down just like that. Anti-virus scans are needed, the same as anti-virus software. Another point to remember: if you’re used to your two 22 inch screens, wrist foam and sensitive mouse pad, you will be much slower on a 13 inch laptop with a touchpad.
Make sure to upload your essentials to a cloud storage system. USB keys or flash drives get lost or damaged, or yeah you took the wrong one. This year I used my mobile as an emergency drive, but stored all my files on Dropbox. Convenient, but see below.
If a hotel in Wales states they have wi-fi, expect it in the lounge only. If the connection breaks down for no reason and you ask the staff where free wi-fi is available, you will surely get a difficult explanation how to get to a place with free wi-fi that’s only 20 minutes by bus from here. Oh but it’s Sunday evening, there are no busses there today. Don’t expect even the most globalised places to have wi-fi. Berlin train station doesn’t, or am I just so unlucky? I recommend using wi-fi wherever possible, but also check data roaming packages with your mobile operator. Mine had a cheap and convenient package covering whole Europe. If only there was signal in Wales…
It is very useful to decide how much time a day you are going to spend on working. Because I’m an early bird, I didn’t mind waking up at my usual 6 a.m. and working until 9 a.m. in peace. I had it all planned and knew how many words I had to translate each day to deliver on time. I had no mercy for myself and I really did work when I was supposed to, even if it meant missing out on a dinner, or an early morning walk. You also have to realise that holiday time is different from office time. Every minute spent translating runs either two times faster (when you’re really close to the deadline) or ten times slower (when you just want to be done and stroll down the beach). I was dreadfully slower in just about anything during my working holidays.
Most of you are freelancers as well, so you can understand me. I can’t just go away for 3 or 4 weeks without doing any work, checking my email or answering calls. I’m a business, I can’t casually disappear from the translation horizon and then rebuild my professional connections. But try explaining that to your partner, who conveniently left his business phone behind, or your friends and family, who are all in the holiday mood. Be ready to repeat and educate.
Because of the reduced working hours, you have to be very selective about what you’re going to spend your time on. I call it a survival mode. It explains no blog posts and scarce updates online. At some point you have to make a decision what is essential for you to carry on with your business (accounting, invoicing, replying to enquiries, emailing, translating), and what can wait. You should also have a plan for your return, in order to be able to cope with all these things that were put on hold for so long.
You would be amazed by the variety of settings and situations you can use your business cards on working holidays. For example, you can meet a Polish family near the Snowdon summit, or realise that your acquaintance wife’s friend is doing some business in Poland and struggles to communicate with his business partners.
I’ve always been rather a 3-days-away-holiday fan, and I think I’ll stick to this model. The amount of issues to deal with after my return was overwhelming. And I simply missed WantWords. Have you?