Unless you had the opportunity to work from home before, switching from working at a workplace to working from home requires some adjustments and discipline. Working from home is not for everybody. Some people feel less productive when they work from home and have a hard time not being distracted while others enjoy being in charge of their work, not having to commute every day or having a flexible schedule.
At this stage of my career, working from home as a freelance translator works best for me. In my case, the advantages (flexible schedule, more time with kids, less in commute, etc.) are far greater than the disadvantages (i.e. no steady paychecks, etc.). But I have also learned that there are some important rules to keep in mind if we want to maintain a healthy translation business from home.
Rule 1: Have your own workspace
It is very tempting to work on your computer from the comfort of your bed or your sofa but working from an actual office or specific space dedicated to your business is best. If you leave in an apartment, you need an extra room where you can quietly do your work. If you live in a house, you can turn the basement, the attic or another room into an office. Having your own space is not only important to help set the mood and act like a business but also smart tax-wise because it is deductible!
Rule 2: Know when to disconnect
Social media is everywhere and hard to avoid. As a freelance translator, I realized that staying connected is essential because clients usually use emails or Skype to contact me for potential assignments. Being responsive and quick to respond is key in this profession…Fail to respond on time and you may lose a potential project! However, when you are swamped, the last thing you need is sound alerts or messages popping up every single time when you need to stay focused. Finding the right balance can be difficult but staying away from social media is best. You can check your emails every 20 minutes and respond to the most urgent ones. This will give you a break from a long translation assignment but that break should be brief.
Rule 3: Family and friends not welcome
As much as we love our family and friends, they can be quite some distraction. Just because you work from home does not mean you are available anytime…you are WORKING from home not staying home. Family and/or friends will try to stop by or get you on social media to chat, kids staying home will run around or require your attention. Know your priorities! Make sure someone babysits your kids if they stay home. Even if you decide to take a break from translating, as much as possible avoid starting a chat over the phone or on social media – as tempting as it may be. You can always catch up with them when you are done with your priorities and deadlines for the day.
Rule 4:Take a break
If you are a busy translator working on short deadlines and a large amount of projects, you know it can be hard to take a break. However, spending some time away from the office and the computer is very important for our health. Have several short breaks of 10 mn or at least half-an-hour break to walk outside or exercise. It is good for our overall health and can help us better focus on our work.
Rule 5: Stop procrastinating
When you have a flexible schedule and long deadlines, it is very easy to forget how fast time goes. You may have a translation due in 3 weeks but won’t feel like starting the first week because you have enough time. However, you receive several other projects the week after with short deadlines. Now you have wasted a whole week not working on your translation and thinking that you could start the week after. The sooner you can work on a project and complete it, the better.
Rule 6: Make good use of “downtimes”
Any freelancer knows this: there are times when we have too much work at once and others when we have no work at all. When we are swamped with work, we barely have time for anything else, which is why we should appreciate and make good use of “downtimes”. Those periods of slow activities offer the opportunity to track our invoices and expenses; catch up with emails and medical appointments; spend more time with family and friends; do networking; take classes for professional development; attend seminars/webminars; review your resume and look for new clients, etc.
Rule 7: Avoid household chores
Ladies, we know we cannot stand a messy house, dirty dishes and dirty laundry. However, working from home does not mean spending hours cleaning the house or going shopping. If you really have to, I would suggest you do it preferably early in the morning or late in the evening (light cleaning and light shopping). While you have a lot of flexibility working from home, use that flexibility wisely!