How freelance translators can beat the working-from-home January blues

Ah, January. The most depressing time of the year? In Europe, at least, it’s got to be a contender. The weather’s cold, the days are short and the sky can sometimes stay flat and grey for weeks on end. It’s an in-between sort of time: on one hand, the Christmas festivities are over, the decorations have come down, and it’s time to go back to work. On the other, there are still months to go before the first signs of Spring.

So although many freelance translators would agree that we have the best job in the world, it can nevertheless be a bit of a downer to sit at home alone on days like these as we get back to the daily grind. But if you’re feeling the slump as you settle back into the working routine, fear not – help is at hand! We at Translators Family have compiled some tips just for you on how to beat those January blues.

#1. Get out of the house for the afternoon

Feeling cooped up? Got a bad case of cabin fever? Need to walk off the hangover on New Year’s Day before you can even bear to look at the sudden rush job you’ve just been sent by That One Customer we all have? Why not down tools, so to speak – but then put those tools in a bag, and go somewhere new with them? If you work on a laptop, the world’s your oyster – all you need is a local café or other similar friendly place with a Wi-Fi connection, and those are ten a penny these days. You probably won’t be able to claim the drink back on expenses (if only…), but between the caffeine and a brisk walk through that fresh January air, we bet it’ll perk you right up. And a change of scenery might do you a world of good all on its own.

#2. Rent a desk in a local office

Feeling lonely indoors on your own? Sure, it’s great to be able to work without distractions, but everyone needs to talk to someone once in a while. Or maybe the problem is that you’re not alone in the house – quite the opposite. If you’ve got family distracting you, perhaps kids who haven’t gone back to school yet or a well-meaning spouse trying to strike up a conversation while you’re rephrasing a particularly truculent idiom, maybe you’d do better in a space where everyone else is working, too.

Thankfully, there’s a solution to both of these problems. These days, many offices will rent out desks to freelancers, sole traders and entrepreneurs who prefer a proper group-office environment even if they like working for themselves. Rates are often pretty reasonable, and you’ll get power, an Internet connection and hopefully even a decent kettle and coffee machine. Some people find it’s a much more appealing working environment than a home office, and it’s also a great opportunity to develop contacts and network with people. Depending on who else is there, you could potentially even win more work from the other people in the office. If the idea of working with other like-minded people seems interesting, why not ask around your local area, or look online – you never know what kinds of deals you may find.

#3. Seek out some new customers

You at the back, stop groaning. Yes, you. I can hear you, you know. “But I don’t want to go through all that hassle, I’m a translator, not a recruitment consultant, and anyway, it’s really boring”. Well, I’ve got news for you, sunshine – new customers aren’t just going to start queuing up at your door. You’ve got to go and chase that business for yourself, which means doing your research and investing the time to find the work. And yes, all right, it’s not much fun sending off CVs and speculative letters to dozens of agencies, knowing most of them will probably never respond – but the ones that are worth working for?

They probably will respond. And we all know there are few things in this job more encouraging than winning over a satisfied new customer. So go on – get out there and impress someone. You never know where it might lead.

#4. Chocolate biscuits

Some say January is the ideal time to go on a diet and sign up for that gym membership, to work off all those excess calories from eating all that turkey (or whatever your local Christmas dinner happens to be). While we’ll admit that there is a certain logic in that, we’d also say from personal experience that sweet treats make an excellent motivator to get us through the working day. Reward yourself at appropriate intervals – perhaps one biscuit per page translated, or per thousand words. Or per hundred. We’re not the boss of you. Do whatever it takes. Those biscuits aren’t going to eat themselves.

#5. Look on the bright side

No, seriously. You’re a freelance translator – we weren’t kidding when we said it was the best job in the world. You’ve got your independence, you set your own hours, and you get to solve interesting problems for a range of customers. And best of all, you don’t have to commute to work every morning!

There’s no rush-hour traffic for those of us who work from home. Basically, take a moment to appreciate the good things about your line of work. Running a one-person business is an exercise for the brave and foolhardy, but you’re doing it and you’re making it happen. Well done, you. Have another biscuit.

There you go. You see? It’s not so bad really. Keep reminding yourself that the days are getting longer and the weather will be warming up before you know it. And if all else fails, we’ve heard that a stiff drink is a great way to warm up on cold winter nights. Try a local tipple from the country of your source language and call it essential research for your continuing professional development.

How about you? Any tips for beating the winter blues? We’d love to hear your advice, as well. Why not continue the conversation in the comments thread below?

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