Being a freelance translator is often depicted as the type of job that offers more benefits than downfalls.  Many people associate this profession with having a conveniently flexible schedule, working from home and earning a lot of money just from decoding one language and putting it all back in another.

While all of this is definitely a part of a freelance translator’s job, there are more shades of gray to it than the general public can imagine. In fact, freelance translators experience a lot of stress.

Freelance translator: a profession too good to be true?

There’s another side of the coin in every situation. For a freelance translator, having a conveniently flexible schedule very often means working with no work-life balance to meet the tight deadline.

Working from home can become being chained to your computer and little to no social interaction. A lot of money coming from just decoding languages can boil down to tireless intellectual work including translation, copywriting, and transcreating, not to mention dealing with a variety of industry-specific tools.

And while being a freelance translator can be incredibly rewarding, this particular group experiences burnout more and more.

Approaching burnout

It’s a viable possibility that we all have faced burnout during certain times in our lives. What we all need to understand is that most of us deal with this problem internally, trying to put up a brave face for the public. However, burnout is a serious issue, and it can drain a person physically and psychologically.

After all, burnout is an indicator of the necessity to change our work style. How can freelance translators deal with this very real problem?

In the next part of this blog post, we will discuss some of the ready-to-apply solutions that can help freelance translators avoid burnout.

Some of these solutions might, however, also apply to you, regardless of your profession. Let’s dive in!

Set realistic goals

Most of us simply try to juggle too many things at the same time. We want to sleep enough, have a social life, we want to eat healthily and work out, and be good at what we do for a living (and earn a lot, if we are being honest).

Just as there is a famous turnaround time-price-quality triangle for professional translation services, there is the sleep-social life-work triangle for everyone, including freelance translators. One of these pillars will finally break, especially if your expectations for the work part are not set with an appropriate limit.

The main advice here is not to stop working at all. Simply don’t take on too many jobs at the same time, especially for longer periods of time. Doing it once every couple of months is forgivable, but continuously living as if you are trying to reach a finish line, is very exhausting for the human body and mind, especially if you’re a freelance translator, having already a stressful schedule by the very nature of the work you do.

If you never give yourself a little bit of time after you finish a task, rushing into the next one will bound you to drown in this purgatory you are setting up for yourself. Be smart and back off, especially when you feel point 2 creeping up.

Listen to your body

When we are at school, we sleep little and cram as much as possible into our lives, while still being full of energy.

We tend to stay in these patterns, even if at one point we feel that things become more difficult. Unable to face the harsh truth that we do get older, we continue with such practices even when our body cannot handle the stress anymore.

Freelance translators work intellectually and very often without an orderly schedule. This means they are more likely to develop back problems, or even sleep and weight disorders. Your mind suffers just as much, creating a spiral from which you cannot escape so easily.

Feel free to give your body a break and set better habits. We won’t encourage you to drop everything and focus to wake up at 5 am every day from now on, in order to do a daily meditation and yoga session followed by an all-vegan protein breakfast.

Start small! Drink more water. Maybe set an alarm timer to stretch every half an hour. Eat more vegetables and keep a stricter sleeping schedule. You may say that it won’t help, but do you remember this quote by C.S Lewis – ‘isn’t it funny how day by day nothing really changes but when you look back everything is different’? He was right! Trust us – smart routine is quiet, but a powerful weapon that can really help freelance translators avoid burnout.

Drop problematic clients

Theoretically, money is money, and the selection of clients does not play such a huge role in your burnout. Or does it?

There are clients who you simply don’t feel comfortable with, either because of the type of projects they are sending you, or the personal approach they have to manage the freelancers working on their projects.

Many of you will agree that the linguistic challenge is the easier part of translation jobs. What is really difficult is dealing with problematic and difficult people.

Regardless if it’s the type of projects or interpersonal situation, don’t underestimate the impact on your health and walk away from problematic clients.

Plan for the future

It’s easier said than done, but don’t let work become a goal in itself. Try to shape your freelance work so that it becomes a tool for achieving some ultimate goal.

You might want something trivial, like a trip to Bali, or something long-term, like setting up a small agency or working with an advanced translation platform, but you should still try to focus on a big picture. Define when you would like to achieve these goals, and how much you actually have to work to do so.

Of course, translation work is rewarding, but chasing jobs without any meaningful purpose can feel like pumping up the number of your tasks, in the long run. You will live for the job, always under pressure to reach the next deadline, not really enjoying your work, with the burnout approaching you slowly but effectively. Is it really worth it?

The key to avoiding burnout as freelance translators is to focus on simple, yet effective practices

Of course, we are aware that everything covered above is simply common sense; however, we often have problems reaching the simplest goals, especially when it comes to ourselves.

As a company that works with freelance translators on a daily basis, we can guarantee that setting up better habits for your everyday life, having a clear schedule, and a healthy work-life balance can help you more than radical lifestyle changes offered to you in colorful magazines.

While setting up boundaries and listening to what your body and mind are telling you, you can not only avoid burnout but improve the total quality of your life and work, which is so important for a freelance translator as these two intervene.

We encourage you to start right away!