Jessica Hagy calls this one The Suit Subsidy (aka The Pajamas Tariff):
I’m a loyal reader of Jessica’s blog and am always pleased when I see something appear that is especially relevant to freelancers!
Shawn Wood over on Dumb Little Man* has some great ideas on how to say no without ever actually saying the word no. As a freelancer, saying no can be hard because you never know where your next job is going to come from, or indeed, whether it will come along at all. Shawn reckons that his way of saying no ensures you still come across with a positive and all-important can-do attitude, while still asserting yourself and controlling the situation. This round-about way of saying things may not suit everyone (it reminds me of my management consultancy days), but whether you chose to deploy it or not, it’s an increasingly important skill to master in today’s marketplace. Excellent advice for all freelance translators, newly established and long practising:
Five ways to say yes and never say no:
- Yes. I can do this in your timeframe and in your budget.
- Yes. I can do this in your budget but I am going to have to change the timeframe.
- Yes. I can do this, but not in your timeframe or your budget. Let’s negotiate.
- Yes. I can do this, but I do not think it is the best way. May I make suggestions?
- Yes, I can have someone else do this for you.
* hat tip to Fortify Your Oasis – thanks Rowan
Laura Vanderkam’s Grindhopping: Building A Rewarding Vareer Without Paying Your Dues is an interesting read if you’re considering moving into a freelance career to create the role that no one seems prepared to offer you.
Laura defines a grindhopper as someone who uses self-employment as way to bypass the years of slogwork that is often required to climb even a step up the ladder of many careers. She uses real life case studies, anecdotes, and labour statistics to turns the traditional school of thought upside down – the one that says you should put your time in when you’re young and wait until you’re established before striking out on your own. Most of these examples relate to more entrepreneurial style start-ups, but they contain many valuable lessons for anyone considering whether they should start out on their own as a freelance translator regardless of how many years of work experience you have behind you.
I guess what makes this different from any other book on entrepreneurs or self-employment is that it starts with the assumption that you have relatively few years of work experience under your belt. It also assumes that you are prepared to work hard for not very much money, and that like most Millenials, you’re looking for a bit more than a cubicle career and so are not setting out to conquer the world.
But the key distinguishing feature is that grindhoppers do not chose a route of self-employment simply for the sake of it. In fact, many of them re-enter the corporate world once they’ve spent a few years working in postions of their own creation. And as a result of working in a role with plenty of autonomy and real chances to stretch themselves, they usually re-enter at a higher level than if they’d stuck to the grind.
I was pretty relieved to read this as I’ve often wondered whether going freelance too young would spoil me forever, and I’d love to have read a bit more about how these grindhoppers cope with re-entering a workplace of someone else’s creation.
The book also offers some refreshing and genuinely useful advice on things like:
Most of all, I like the assertion that you need to be prepared to be judged 100% on results and how you deliver them. I subscribe to the idea that by allowing yourself to be distinguished in this way, you’ll never need to worry about being outsourced as you know you can deliver something no-one else can.
Of course, there are bits I don’t agree with too. For example, Vanderkam’s assertion that you should think about what you love so much that you’d do it for free, and then turn that into a career. Hmm. Maybe I’m revealing too much about myself when I say this, but there is nothing, and I mean NOTHING that I love so much I’d do it for free, every day of the week, 365 days of the year. So I’m not sure where that piece of advice leaves people like me.
There are also areas where I think she borders on the naïve. For example, her claims that the internet has abolished “all barriers” to self-employment just seem silly, and there is no discussion of the challenges created by this new, free-for-all style work culture, e.g. more competition, less face to face contact, etc.
But all in all, this is a great book. It makes an exciting and informative read for grindhoppers of all ages, or anyone interested in the motivations behind this new wave of freelancers.
The Olympic Games may be a leading international sporting event with representatives from over 200 nations, but contrary to popular belief, they do not usually offer many opportunities for professional translators.
I once attended a very informative talk by the president of the Hellenic Association of Translation Companies who offered invaluable advice for translation companies following the Athens Games, but she also painted a cautionary tale. Equally, a talk I attended prior to the London Olympic Games supposedly outlined opportunities for linguists, but was long on inspirational facts about international relations and the like, but very short on talk of cold, hard business.
Given the large team of volunteers that are generally roped in to help run these events, much language service provision tends to be ad hoc and carried out by non-professionals. (Only 150 people were actually employed in language services for the Sydney Games, for example.) This is great for language students or those with a general interest in language who are motivated by being part of such a historic event, but it’s hardly going to pay the bills for your average jobbing translator.
If I were looking for paid projects in this area in the run-up to a Games, I would target translation agencies who may be supplying services to two kinds of businesses: those in the host country who are bidding to work as contractors or suppliers during the Games, and those based in countries where my source languages are spoken, who might be supplying products or services to their country’s contingencies.
But I suspect I’d eventually decide to just chalk it up as a bit of fun, make the most of the unique multilingual atmosphere and volunteer. Play it right, and it could be a great source of professional development.
I’m really excited. I’ve recently had a couple of jobs in from the kind of client I’ve dreamed of having for a long time now – a direct client, an organisation I admire, interesting work, extremely pleasant to deal with so far. It’s early days yet and I won’t make my millions just yet, but it feels great. How did I find them? I got chatting to one of their directors at a networking event and I asked whether they had any use for someone with my skills 🙂 I’d done pro bono work for a similar organisation before and I think that’s what prompted this contact to offer to put me in touch with the right person.
How timely. Penelope Trunk has just posted some tips on how NOT to starve as a freelancer over on Brazen Careerist. Check it out – she’s talking about her experiences as a freelance writer, but I reckon every one of her points applies to freelance translators too.
(And any aspiring Lynne Truss’s out there will enjoy the discussion taking place in the comments section)
Another cracker from Jed Schmidt – this time a presentation called LifeHacks for Mobile Translators. I love the freedom of being freelance, but Jed has taken it to a whole new level. He explains how he’s managed his translation career so he’s not tied down to any particular office, town or indeed country. Even if you decide being this footloose and fancy free is not for you, his tips and advice are invaluable for any freelance translator planning their office setup (or indeed any kind of knowledge-cum-teleworker).
In summary, Jed explains:
Excellent stuff, but it should come with a health warning: You WILL want to follow your itchy feet after reading this! Now if only it was as easy to virtualise, synchronise and minimise my personal life in this way… 🙂
There’s a couple of great podcasts I subscribe to – I may not have a long commute to work (!) but there are plenty of other times in my days when I can squeeze in a bit of easy listening 🙂 Here’s one I’m especially enjoying at the moment, it’s from Escape from Cubicle Nation‘s Pamela Slim.
Pamela’s podcasts are usually under 10 minutes long (a few are much longer) and are broadcast every 2 weeks. They address different topics related to the challenges of breaking out of the safe mould of regular employment to work for yourself. Her podcasts are always informative and packed with practical advice in the form of interviews, cases studies, and other useful resources. Worth a listen if you’re already self employed and in need of a bit of inspiration, or if you’re employed and want to take practical steps towards making your dream of self-employment a reality.
It looks like the translation industry will feel the effects of Gordon Brown’s so-called “neutral budget“. As an sector largely made up of small companies and sole traders – the biggest losers in last week’s budget – the effects of a rise in the rate of corporation tax from 19% to 22% will be sorely felt. (More comment here, here and here if you’re interested in the details). And where is this money going? Supporting entrepreuneurship in other ways, perhaps? Advancing the cause of the knowledge economy?? Of course not, silly, it will help fund the reduced tax burden on big businesses!! (but that discussion I’ll save for another blog 🙂 )
So what does this mean for the self-employed? The Chancellor has claimed that any hike in tax rates have been balanced out by generous tax credits, but the fact remains that not only are these credits extremely difficult to apply for, but they don’t actually apply to the majority of small businesses anyway. (And certainly not to the average translator whose operating tools mainly consist of a PC and broadband connection).
What annoys me most about this kind of smoke and mirrors approach to taxation is that it really does nothing to help the average sole trader understand their tax position. HMRC (the agency formerly know as Inland Revenue) have tried very hard to convince us that “tax doesn’t have to be taxing”. Anyone who has ever submitted a self assessment form knows this is utter rubbish, of course, but is it too much to ask to be able to complete my self assessment form myself??
I consider myself to be well educated and more than financially literate, yet I’ve been obliged to hire an accountant to submit my tax returns since registering as self employed. Believe me when I say there is nothing especially complex about my financial affairs – I stay on top of my day to day business accounts, keep very careful records and produce mini profit and loss statements every year (ambitious, I know, but I do have a special interest in finance 🙂 ). Despite this, the process of completing my self assessment forms was such a headache that I figured I was better off paying an accountant and putting the time and energy into developing my business. That’s a very difficult decision to make when you’re a newly established translator and not at all sure how you’re going to pay your bills, but I really felt stuck.
So if you are considering going freelance, before registering with HMRC, invest serious time and energy into planning how you will manage your tax situation. Do you have the option to register in another country for tax purposes? (we are a globe trotting bunch, after all) Is self-employment really something you are ready to commit to? Registering is easy once you decide to do it, but you can be sure that de-registering will be a lot harder should you change your mind. Weigh it all up – it may well save you a lot of time, grief and money down the track.
PS Just in case it’s not too late to claw back some of your hard-earned cash, here‘s some pretty generic advice from The Times on how to beat the budget.
Oh grrrr-eat. Memo to self: write a blog on how rubbish and potentially self-serving these quizzes are 🙂
|You Aren’t a Natural Entrepreneur|
But you could be an entrepreneur with some work.
You’ve got the vision and guts to make it happen.
You just need a little more practice in the business world.
Find out what you truly love to do, and the money will follow.
|You Are a Natural Employee|
You definitely aren’t cut out for running your own business.
For you, a paycheck is just a means to an end.
You rather punch a clock and not think about what you’re doing.
Risking everything for more money is not worth it to you.