Monday, January 2, 2023

Time and remembrance – the time limit of freelance work and its significance


[3 sand hourglasses*]

The one element in life influencing all work environments is the fact that a day is only 24 hours long. For freelancers of all kinds, including translators, that limitation effectively caps the potential amount of work that can be accomplished in any given period of time without outsourcing. Moreover, understanding this framework allows freelancers to create a long-term work strategy, market more intelligently and cooperate productively with colleagues.

A sustainable work day, one that will not cause extreme exhaustion and/or burn out, ranges from 6-10 hours a day. The actual working time depends on the specific assignment, with some tasks requiring more concentration and energy than others, individual capacity, which involves age, lifestyle choices,  health, manner of brain functioning and motivation, as well as outside demands, notably children, running a household and possible holding another job. Actual productivity also varies for similar reasons. As a result, there is a finite and generally predictable limit to how much any single entrepreneur can accomplish on any given day.

Given this limit, it is advisable to plan carefully, seek the most profitable work and avoid being greedy. Far too many freelancers promise the moon in terms of deadlines. Some knowingly lie but many simply are overoptimistic. The fast way to lose business in the service industry is to miss deadlines. Disappointed customers rarely offer a second chance. It is better to try negotiate the deadline as, more often than not, deadlines are not as firm as indicated.  For example, Friday afternoon is actually Monday morning is most cases. As a result, freelancers need to properly estimate the time required to deliver a finished product both in terms of hours and days and allow a sufficient margin for unpleasant surprises. Given this timetable rigidity, it is generally better to seek and take on projects involving high productivity either due to specialization or experience, thus maximizing the quantity as well as the quality of the work. Quite often, short jobs, sometimes less than an hour, are quite profitable in terms of hourly income if they can be completed with sufficient efficiency. The worst strategy is to take on any project without realistically considering scheduling issues and end up overloading the day. The results tend to suffer from many errors often accompanied by late delivery, the express route to customer dissatisfaction. Therefore, effective freelancers consider their schedule carefully before taking on any project.

Given that a sole entrepreneur cannot handle a huge volume of project, marketing become more directed, straightforward and sometimes even less expensive. A sole individual generally cannot and should not take on a massive service contract from a large company, On the other hand, a given department or geographical area may requires certain services on an more infrequent basis, which may be relevant for the individual entrepreneur. An example is medical translation where material must appear in a host of languages, far beyond the capacity of any single translator. In this case, medical translators work the specialized language agencies that manage such projects. In short, freelancers need to direct their marketing to specific niches that create a balanced situation: attainable demands by the service buyer and sustained capacity by the provider. Since freelancers can narrowly focus their marketing, the actual expense often decreases as the goals become more realistic. It is far less demanding in both money and time to reach a focused audience than aim for a wide client profile. In this way, the work limitation makes it possibly to economically and efficiently market services.

Finally, since work capacity of a freelancer is by definition finite, there is enough work of all colleagues in a given niche to work. It is not a zero-sum word, i.e., my colleague receiving a project does not mean I will not receive work. This approach allows colleagues to cooperate and help each other in terms of knowledge, encouragement and work. A productive approach is that sharing knowledge and techniques is not helping the enemy but building a community. As it is impossible to be expert in all aspect of a business, it is very useful, even vital, to have expert sources. Because giving and receiving are closely linked, it is important to establish that community before the hour of need arrives. This community not only provides knowledge but meets the emotional need of understanding. Too many freelancers are alone, socially and/or professionally. Given that every business has its ups and downs, it is calming to have people to whom to complain that not only understand the situation but maybe can offer a positive vision. Colleagues may not be close friends but they often comprehend the entrepreneur situation better than life partners. Finally, since the nature of freelancing is too often feast and famine, it can be mutually benefit to pass on extra work to a colleague. Not only are clients grateful that they don’t have to locate another service provider, the colleague may be suffering a down period. Since no one is immune from such occurrences, we do get by with a little help from our friends. There is generally enough work for everybody, making it possible and profitable to cooperate with colleagues.

A sole freelancer is not a company. There is a limit to what can be done in any given day or week. It is vital to remember that since time is limited, schedule carefully, market wisely and share generously. A working day is finite in terms of time, a fact that should be remembered.

* Pictures helps the blind fully access the Internet.

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