Posted by: tierratemplada | April 8, 2013

The Joys (and Sorrows) of Freelancing

So it’s Sunday – finally I get to relax, chill out, forget about work. WRONG. For me, and countless of other poor souls out there, Sunday is a day like any other. These are the joys of being a freelancer.

I’ve always wanted to be a freelance translator. Somehow, as a teenager I was never forced into a real job (i.e. hamburger flipping or leaflet delivery), so the thought of taking one up, of getting up at 7 AM and sitting in a dusty office or greasy kitchen, was enough to make me wet my bed. Truth is, I was never meant for a day job. I get up at 12 PM and stay up till 3-4 at night. It’s in my nature. I’m an owl. I’m also a sloth – I’m determined in what I do, but I do it slowly….very slowly.

So the idea of freelancing, working at home, being the boss of myself, really appealed to me. It seemed like the way to live. It was difficult to establish myself as a freelance translator, but after some time and effort I am now more or less established and able to support myself without leaving my apartment.

Frankly, it’s a love-hate relationship. I adore the free in freelancing. But also I yearn for stability. Humans are lovers of routine. We like to plan ahead, to always know where we stand.

In freelancing, every day is terra incognita. Bold explorers, we march into the dark, knowing not whether to expect glory or misery. Tip: usually, a little bit of both.

Each morning I wake up with a gnawing sense of anxiety. Will I get a new job? Will I receive a complaint? Will my debtors finally pay me? Let’s put it his way – freelancers cannot complain of boredom.

Most of my friends have regular jobs with regular working days and hours. They know exactly when and where they will have to work. I have no such comfort. I never know when I will receive a job offer I can’t refuse, often with a deadline “for yesteday”. When I schedule a friendly beer or an evening at cinema, I face the risk of having to cancel, or else jeopardize my career. After all, clients don’t care about your personal life. To them, you are just a machine, a tool. If you refuse, they will go elsewhere. Business is business.

Paying is another issue. When you have an employment contract, you can expect to be paid on a semi-regular basis. Not so much in freelancing. Many of my regular translation agencies have now owed me big money for several months. Sure, they’ve paid before and they will pay eventually, provided they don’t go bankrupt. But in business there is a general consensus that “payment deadline” does not exist. Go on, point out to a big company that their payment is overdue. Well, duh! We’re working on it, we’re going to pay, they will promise. Right. I’m  currently in the proccess of preparing a lawsuit against a client who has completely ignored my requests and pleas and queries for the past few months. In fact, when I finally did reach him lately, he claimed he’d been in England for 8 weeks. I was speechless. With sound excuses like that, you simply cannot argue.

But then there are the good times. When, having worked my head off day and night, I finally finish a project and have enough savings to afford lazing around for weeks or months to come – then I begin to appreciate my profession. And pull punches at my day job friends. Sadly, sometimes these moments are far too rare. Especially since translation rates are going down and down due to students who offer services for laughingly low fees. Why pay X, if I can pay less to that bloke? Some clients simply do not understand that price = quality. I’ve recently lost a big account this way. This is especially pronounced in Poland, which my university lecturer once called the China of Translation. No offense to the Chinese.

So is it worth being a freelancer? There is no easy answer. As everything, it has its pros and cons. Still, as I find myself entering legal feuds and hunting debtors 24/7 simply to receive pay for my hard work, I begin to consider taking up a stationary job. Perhaps then I will see what it’s like to have the Sunday off.

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Responses

  1. […] 7 Strategies for Growing Community on Your Blog 10+ Tips to Help You Close the Freelancing Deal The Joys (and Sorrows) of Freelancing 4 Strategies for Freelancer Retirement Freelance translator workspace Keep it simple, keep it […]

  2. I think freelancing definitely has its upsides, but you’re absolutely right – there should be no delusions about this – it’s very hard work. It is associated with a whole host of risks that you don’t really understand or think about until you’re in the thick of it, and spacing out and coasting through life becomes a thing of the past (well, for those of us who worked elsewhere before). There is very little time off, although having flexible hours does make up for that in some small way – and when you do choose to take time off, it usually has a detrimental effect on the flow of work. Having said all that, I love the freelance lifestyle, and wouldn’t change it, but give me another 5 years and I might feel differently.


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