Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A few tips on taking time off

Last week I went to Mexico on vacation, which also counted as an early birthday present. This winter has been particularly cold and snowy in Ohio and I really needed some time to thaw and get some color. While I was laying on a beautiful Mexican beach I was able to recharge my batteries and stock up on vitamin D, as well as think about goals and plans for my business.

One of the major advantages of being a freelancer is that you can work from anywhere in the world. However this could potentially be a downside if it meant that we didn't get to fully disconnect from our work duties every once in a while. Getting time off is greatly beneficial to mind, soul and body, especially for freelancers that think about work even after business hours.

My advice: make sure you take at least one week a year to recharge your batteries (possibly with limited internet access). This doesn't mean you can't use some of that time to plan and improve your next business moves.

As translators, we might be particularly concerned about going away because "What if my clients forget about me?" "What if they replace me?" "What if they never send me work again?" In order to avoid panic and uncertainty about future work, before leaving my office I made sure I took a few important steps that I want to share with you. So here are a few tips regarding freelancers going on vacation.

Before leaving I informed some of my regular clients about my absence and set up the Out Of Office automatic reply. What I included in my OOO email was:
- when I was going to be unavailable. I stated clearly when I was leaving and when I was coming back.
- why I was going to be unavailable. This is not necessary but I like to include it because it adds a personal touch. You are not being lazy or unprofessional, you are simply human and need a vacation.
- a colleague's contact information that my clients can reach in case of urgent jobs. Regarding this last point, of course you have to make sure you refer someone who not only is good enough to meet your quality standards but also someone you trust not to "steal" your clients.

My advice: when you go on holidays make sure you inform your clients, set an auto-reply email and perhaps arrange for a trusted colleague to take care of urgent requests.

Our hotel did not have free internet in the rooms, on the beach or by the pool, which meant that I was totally disconnected from my email. I have to admit the first couple of days it was very hard to not be able to check my work email regularly, however it really helped me relax and enjoy my time away. One of the books I brought with me was "The prosperous translator", an excellent collection of questions and answers about our profession compiled by Chris Durban.

This is when your time off can also be productive without the stress of actual work. In fact, being away does not mean you can't work on developing/updating your goals and business plan. This reading was inspiring and challenged my way of managing my business, providing strategies and new ideas on marketing, client acquisition, pricing and other very relevant topics.

My advice: use some of the free time to sharpen your professional skills. You will be surprised how easy that can be in a stress free environment.

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