Posted by: tierratemplada | April 13, 2013

Thou Art NOT the Boss of Me

One of the myths about the life of a freelancer is that you have no boss; no one to order you about, tell you what to do and how to do it. Sadly, that’s a bunch of hooey. You do have a boss. In fact, you have potentially a dozen or a hundred bosses – the customers/clients/agencies/publishers. So what if they don’t have an employment contract to blackmail you with. They have the money. They get to pull the strings.

In a sense, it’s even worse than having one boss. At least with him/her, you know where you stand. For me, each new client is a potential source of unreasonable, or just plain silly, demands. I can’t even count the number of times a guy with kindergarten-level English simply insisted, time and again, that I change a word in my translation, no matter how hard I tried to convince him that Google Translate is not always right (a huge euphemism, obviously). Often I end up spending hours on pointless conversations with people who have no idea about translation or a given language – hours of my life I will never get paid for.

In fact, here’s a tip to all you bosses out there – cut your workers some slack. I find it baffling how so many employers fail to realize the fundamental truths about human psychology – in the long term, positive reinforcement is more effective than negative reinforcement. Or, plainly speaking, the carrot is better than the whip. I work for a guy who thinks running a business is all about being tough and ruthless and strict. He’s always pouncing on people, beating them to death with his words, handing out arsenic invectives and acid threats like they are candy. The result: he loses employees. I only do occasional assignments for him, but my friend, who had worked at his company in-house, told me she quit last month because she simply couldn’t stand being treated this way. It was too much for her. She is a really skillful translator and has already found a great job. Thanks to his slave-driving methods, that man lost a good employee.

It isn’t all that bad, though. The good thing about working for multiple clients is that you are not exactly indentured to any one of them. You are not a slave. “I don’t need your money”, you can say to the tyrant. “There’s more where it came from.” Good old Capitalism.

Professional life isn’t that different from romance. It’s actually good to play hard to get sometimes. Make it known that you are sought after, that you are hot stuff. Pull those jealousy strings. Demand higher rates. If you are really good at what you do, they will bow before you. You are in the stronger position. You can afford to resign. The more clients you have, the more aggressive you can be. And if they refuse to meet your reasonable demands, if they blow you off, it’s their loss – they don’t deserve you. And hey, they aren’t dumping you. You are dumping them.

So no, being a freelancer doesn’t automatically entail you are free. There will always be tyrants looking to bully you into thralldom. But as a freelancer, it’s your job to have the cojones to stand up for yourself, to take control of your life and, for once, be your own boss



  1. […] and a Story of Hope What is the Best Language to Learn? An attorney’s view of translation Thou Art NOT the Boss of Me Λέξεις που προφέρουμε λάθος Which language is “the best”? […]

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