Top 10 Time Sucks for Freelance Translators and Simple Ways to Overcome Them

I’ve got five boys.

They’re all still in school and like any other parent with kids, I’m always trying to get them to stay focused and on task.

Typically, every weekday afternoon plays out the same way, with me reminding them that they have school homework to finish, chores to do, and instruments to practice, while they do all they can to drag those things out as long as possible.

Then 9:00 comes around, it’s time for bed, and all of a sudden they start complaining about how much homework they still have to do and how they’ve been working on it non-stop since they got home.

Then I do my evil laugh and send them to bed anyway.

But you know what’s really funny when you stop and think about it?

Most grown adults behave exactly like this!

How Freelancers are no Different Than Kids

The reason that many adults behave exactly like my kids is that they’ve never learned how to focus.

And with more and more distractions vying for our personal attention, it’s no wonder that adults as well as kids have a hard time finishing what they start.

Freelance translators do this just as much as kids do. Because translators spend most of their time online, the nearest distraction is only a single click away.

At least my kids have to physically get up and start reading their favorite Harry Potter book or migrate over to the Lego bins to get fully distracted.

With freelancers, reading the news or latest celebrity gossip is only a tab over on the browser and once you get sucked in, it can be impossible almost to find your way out.

So in that voice of warning, I want to provide you with the top 10 time sucks for freelance translators. Stay away from these black holes at all costs and you’ll save yourself tons of time and even dignity.

Translator Time Suck #1
Social Media – I don’t care if it’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Myspace or anything else that you’ve got installed on your computer, if you’re not careful, these will suck every single ounce of your time.

These sites are at best a distraction and at worst a complete and utter time suck. Start looking at them and you’ll be in a black hole for at least a couple of hours. And when you finally come out, you’ll be pulled right back in to look at all the updates from your friends or people you follow.

Solution: If you must keep up with people on these social media sites, set up a specific time and time period as to when and how long you’ll look. And this should not be during dedicated work time.

Translator Time Suck #2
Smartphone Apps – Let’s be honest. Here I’m really talking about those games you have installed on your phone. These things can be majorly addictive. I’ve known people who’ve gone into the bathroom with their phone, started playing a game, and didn’t make it out for another three hours, crawling on the floor because their legs fell asleep.

If this is you, it’s time for an intervention.

Solution: If games are interfering with your work, it’s time to go drastic and delete those suckers from your phone. You’ll still instinctively grab for your phone but when the game apps aren’t on their, you’ll slowly start weaning yourself off of them and hopefully use that time for more productive pursuits, like improving your freelance translation business.

Translator Time Suck #3
Sleep – One of the myths that a lot of wannabe freelancers buy into is the idea that you need to have 8 to 10 hours a sleep every night. Funny, though, that this excuse only seems to come up when the person doesn’t want to do any actual, you know, work.

If you want to be successful as a freelancer, you have to sacrifice sleep. That’s it. That’s the truth. You’re lying to yourself if you say that you can still be successful while working a full-time job while trying to get your freelance business off the ground.

Solution: You’ve got two choices. You can either wake up a couple of hours before you normally do and work on establishing your freelance career, or you can go to bed later. I’ve tried both. Both have worked at different times in my life. Right now, I find it’s easier to stay up late after the kids go to bed and get my all my writing done. Who knows, though. That could change.

Translator Time Suck #4
Unsocial Media – I’m looking at you, TV and movies. If you want success, stay away from these guys. I’ve never really been hooked on any TV show and I could go months without watching anything on the boob tube. But if you’re addicted like some people I know, TV can literally steal months and years of your life.

Solution: Don’t start watching any new sitcoms or TV series. I don’t care if the whole office is talking about the newest science fiction romantic comedy, under no circumstances are you allowed to even start watching it.

Keep the TV turned off. If other members of your family are watching TV, find somewhere else in the house or somewhere outside where you can work. If you’re anything like my kids (which we’ve determined that you are) the distraction will be too overwhelming for you to overcome on your own.

Translator Time Suck #5
Forums – Translation-related forums are the devil. No, they really are. There is nothing in this world (besides Candy Crush) that has as much time-sucking power over translators as do forums.

Check out this screen capture I just did on a random Proz.com forum I pulled up.

Translation forums are a time suck.
Translation forums are a time suck.

In three days, this particular thread was viewed over 2,300 times with 30 people actually taking time out and working on their translation business.

And this is a thread about the joys of translating which offers no insight or help for people wanting to improve their translation business. Instead, it’s a bunch of people whining about the translation industry.

This will not help you.

Solution: Stay away from forums at all costs.

Translator Time Suck #6
Anything else online that does not help you either 1) translate or 2) find more words to translate. Translators try to justify their online actions, saying that the reason they’re doing what they’re doing is for their business.

Yeah, right.

Reading the news does not help with either of the two criteria above. Neither does most emailing, or browsing on Amazon, or looking through Goodreads, or reading blogposts (except mine).

Solution: Close all your browsers while you’re engaged in translating. If you get stumped for a translation, mark it as such, and then move on. When you’re all done, or are stopped for the day, then you can go back, do some research, and find the right translation.

Translator Time Suck #7
Reading about translation – Translating and reading about translation (or marketing, or copywriting, or web design) are two different things. While reading and understanding business-related concepts is very important, it should not take the place of actual work.

Working is where you’ll actually get to understand your business better and be able to implement the things that you read about. If you just read about them and never implement them, those books will end up not having served any useful purpose.

Solution: Set time aside to learn about your craft separate from the time you spend actually doing your craft. For example, Saturdays are the days I spend learning from books, blogs, mentors, etc. During the week, I focus strictly on production. If I run across something during the week that I want to learn more about, I bookmark it and save it for Saturday.

Translator Time Suck #8
Friends, family, and acquaintances – I love my family. I really do. I love being a husband. I love being a dad to five boys. However, I know that if I’m not careful, they could easily suck up all my time.

Luckily, they all know that I have work I’m doing and we’ve set ground rules to make sure that I have the time I need to work on my work.

In terms of friends, I don’t have any which makes that part easy.

Solution: Establish boundaries and set rules. Make sure that your family knows that when you’re working, you’re working. It’s the same as if you were in some job somewhere else where you had to dedicate your time to a boss.

Except this time for your freelance translation career, you are your own boss. And this boss does not tolerate interruptions.

Translator Time Suck #9
Hobbies – As a freelance translator trying to make a full-time or even part-time gig out of your ninja language skills, you don’t have time to engage in any hobbies. Hobbies take time and time (all you can get) is what you need, especially when you’re just starting out.

Solution: It’s time to give up golf. Forget going to the movies. Quit that neighborhood book club. If what you’re doing is not positively impacting your ability to succeed as a freelance translator, it’s time to give it up.

Translator Time Suck #10
Inconsistency – The single characteristic that will allow you to succeed as a freelance translator is consistency. Are you constantly either translating or finding clients to pay you for translating?

If you’re not doing one of those two things on a daily basis, you’re not going to succeed.

Solution: Consistency is key. Set up the same time every day to work on your business. I do my work at night from 9:00 to midnight when the kids are in bed and my wife is reading. And I do that every weeknight without fail. Saturdays are my day to learn new strategies, implement ideas, and tweak things with either my books or my websites. Sundays are a rest day for me where I focus on doing charity work.

And this is what I do every single week. Consistency is what has allowed me to have the successes I’ve had. It’ll give you yours as well.

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