Six Survival Techniques for Translators during a Slump

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Since freelance translation came into existence, there has been no recurring topic than surviving during a “slump” or a “dry spell” in the life of a freelance translator. Since the beginning of my career, I have been challenged by many people to find a suitable way to escape from this problem, and I have always said that “you have to go through this throughout your career.” I have always read translators having more than 15-20 years of experience going through this too. It doesn’t mean they are any less efficient or effective than others. Neither it means they are poor in business skills or are unable to attract new clients.

Like any other businessman or self-employed professional, a translator also has his “highs” and “lows”. The idea is to change your paradigm. I have always seen this period as an opportunity to make the best use of my time by following some simple techniques:

  1. Keep learning: Having fewer projects means lesser confidence in yourself. As the period extends, you may also feel bored and may resort to idleness like unnecessary TV watching or unwanted sleep or never ending useless phone calls. This is the way most of us deal with the stress of having no work. Instead of doing this, you could learn a new software which could help you later in your business (like software related to DTP which is a value add skill for a translator) or any other skill which could add into your existing repertoire and help in attracting new clients and retaining the old ones. The idea is to always be a student.
  2. Feed the mind: If we want our bodies to remain healthy, we have to eat good food. Similarly, if we want our minds to remain alert, healthy and active, we have to feed it with “good thoughts”. A dry spell could really affect the nutrition of your mind. You may feel “no longer required” in this industry. This is the right time to feed your mind with some inspiring literature like reading biographies or people who have gone from “rags to riches” in their life such as Michael Jordan, Walt Disney, Harrison Ford, etc. Though these people were not in the same profession, but you will observe that they have also faced many hardships to reach to the top.
  3. Revisit your mission statement: At the start of the career, everyone develops a mission statement or goal statement which defines the self-made path of a translator to achieve success. But in the midst of generating leads, landing on potential clients, adhering to client’s deadlines, doing projects continuously for months, one may tend to forget to think long-run and just gobbles up the opportunity right in front. Having some time off projects provides you the opportunity to revisit your mission, your goals and measure up your success so far. Furthermore, it may give you some great ideas to take your career further, to diversify yourself, to challenge yourself, etc.
  4. Spending time with your loved ones: When we are feeling low about ourselves, opening up to someone who loves you, who believes in you not only helps but also makes the bond stronger. I always discuss with my brother during these times because I know he always believes in me, even when I do not. It’s time to have a friend or a family member by your side to help you stay on track.
  5. Diverse your interests/income streams – Although freelancing is quite an enjoyable and lucrative business in itself, but in order to make the most out of your slump period, it is good to develop diverse interests. I personally teach French language at some institutes near my place at a very reasonable price and I blog too. Not only these activities are useful alternatives to mindless activities, these also develop your language skills and give an opportunity to meet new people.
  6. Go on a vacation: May be this slump period is here to remind you that it has been a long time since you have gone for a vacation. Go to a nice place with family and friends and rejuvenate your mind and body.
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