Are you taking some time off?
When I first came to live in Catalonia I was amazed to find half the country shutting down in August. Never before had I seen shops with notices up saying “We’re on holiday for three weeks. Back in September.” Considering the heat and the fact that there were so few people around anyway, because most of them were on holiday too, it shouldn’t have been surprising. But something in my English soul told me that something wasn’t right about this, especially when I had to scour the town to find somewhere to buy a stamp or a packet of plasters.
Now I’m completely converted. When you think about it, everyone has the right to take whatever holidays they like, and freelancers and self-employed people should be no exception. Holidays are actually good for us, whether they simply recharge our batteries as we spend time relaxing with our families or whether they broaden our horizons with travel and the discovery of new cultures and languages.
The northern European obsession with permanent availability is really an over-reaction. Nothing matters enough that it can’t wait a week or two in the summer. And if it really is that urgent there’s always someone working who will be happy to take a job on. In fact one really positive effect of the holiday season is the opportunities it provides for customers to try new translators when their regular suppliers are away and for the translators who are on duty to work with new customers. As I know from experience, there’s less work around in August, but there are fewer translators working too, so if you are working there’s normally plenty to do. And if you can pick up one or two new customers, some of them come back for more.
There are, of course, certain things you can do to make it easier for your customers when you’re away. It’s advisable to send them a warning message before you go, giving the dates of your absence. It’s also a good idea to set up an automatic reply on your e-mail account explaining that you’re away. If you work closely with other translators and know they’re going to be available you could include their contact details in your automatic message. And, however much you want to take a complete break, it does pay to keep an eye on your e-mails every now and again while you’re away, even if you have got an automatic reply. On a recent week away I did just that and managed to secure some interesting work for my return simply by sending a quick message explaining that although I was away at the moment I’d be back soon, ready to take on new work.
The main purpose of getting away is just that: living at a different pace, enjoying a change of scene and a new routine, and returning after your break with a fresh view of your life and where you want it to go. I certainly much prefer to take things like that than to try to follow some sort of half-hearted working regime advocated by some. Whenever I’ve tried that, the result has always been a mess: customers didn’t understand whether or I was really available and I felt guilty because I was having to repeatedly turn work down so that I could get to the beach in the afternoon. Far better just to tell them I’m going to be away and I’ll be back in September. Which is exactly what I’m going to do at the end of this week, so the blog will be taking a rest for a little while. I’ll be back at the end of the summer. Have a good one!