5 lessons I’ve learned during my first year of freelancing

Quote by Samuel Beckett.

The summer is here and by the end of those sunny days, I will hit my one-year anniversary mark of going freelance. Many changes happened in this short yet exciting period of my life and I feel very grateful for where I am now. However, it hasn’t been a happy-go-lucky ride all the way and I thought it could be beneficial to share a few lessons these 12 months have taught me. Here we go!

1. Check, check and check again

There is nothing more annoying than realizing that your client sent you a PO with an inaccurate word count. Or worse, the client has sent you the wrong source file. My advice? Always double-check everything, and triple-check it if you have to! It will save you the hassle of exchanging unnecessary emails with the client and losing precious time. This mantra can be applied to so many other things in our professional lives too!

2. Negotiation is an art

Yes, some clients might definitely not have the budget to afford your services. But there are clients out there who have absolutely NO idea what translation costs. And this happened to me this year: a client asked me for a quote, which I sent back a couple of minutes later. Needless to say the client asked for a favor… which I wasn’t willing to give. After clarifying what the quote involved and setting the records straight, the client finally agreed to the mentioned quote. This goes to show that sometimes being a little persistent can work. Don’t just take “no” for an answer!

3. Famines don’t have to be depressing

You know, when it’s your first year of freelancing, you’re willing to work day and night to make ends meet because you’re taking a big risk by setting up your own business. So when the famine kicks in and no job request has arrived since last Monday, you start panicking, right? Well, that’s perfectly normal. But think about it this way: if you’ve worked so much (day and night, remember?), isn’t it time you get some rest? Or if you don’t feel like resting, these quiet times can be used to your benefit, e.g. thinking about where you want to take your business and how well you are doing on the goals you set yourself for this period of time. The list of things you can do when work is slow goes on and on, and my colleague Carol Bidwell has a few tips to share on the topic too. Who knows, maybe it will inspire you to do something new?

4. Colleagues are the greatest support

Of course, your other half will be all ears when you complain about non-payment issues but nothing compares to the support you can receive from your colleagues. Why? Because they might have been there too and they might have a few tips to share with you. Networking with colleagues is a great way to beat the isolation feeling that you can get while working from home. I can’t even count the number of amazing people I have met in just one year of freelancing!

5. There is a right time for everything

To me, this is the most important lesson that can be learnt when you’re a newbie. The topics of specialization and of getting direct clients have never been more popular in the industry and it is thus understandable that you might want to specialize from day 1. And that’s perfectly fine if you have experience in a particular field or a niche (thanks to your studies or previous in-house work). But is there really something wrong with trying out (carefully, mind you) a few fields before deciding which one fits your skills best? Not if that prevents you from major chaos (read: mistranslations, wrong tone or style, no understanding of the bigger picture, etc.) It’s great to want to have it all, but really, Rome wasn’t built in one day.

What about you? Has freelancing taught you a thing or two too? I’d be happy to read what you’ve learned in the comments!

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