translation fears

Why Your Fears Are Holding You Back

My son wanted to bring in his iPad that he had purchased with his own money.

This was the conversation:

“Dad, can I take my iPad to school today?”

“I already told you, ‘no.'”

“But, Dad, it’s my iPad.”

“True, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to leave your iPad around in your backpack while you go to lunch. I’ll let you take  my iPod if you want, and then you can keep it in your pocket.”

[Crying commenced.]

“Why do you want to take your iPad?”

“Because everyone else always takes their smartphones to school.”

“Ah, so you feel left out?”


And that was the crux of the whole thing. He was afraid of feeling left out. However, he didn’t come right out and say that. His fear was buried under a bunch of other excuses.

It made me think.

How many excuses do we have that are covering up our own fears.

I think we all have fears and we spend most of our lives trying to come up with excuses to cover up those fears. This makes it easier to deal with ourselves when we fall short or fail to give our full effort to something.

Freelancing Fears

And freelancers aren’t exempt from being fearful. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to become a more successful freelance translator, or if you want to become a published author, or if you want to even just build a freelance translation website. We all have fears that are preventing us from moving forward.

But these fears are always initially manifest in excuses. Ever hear (or use) any of these?

  • “I don’t have time.” (probably the most used excuse in the history of mankind, followed closely by…)
  • “I don’t have money.”
  • “I don’t know how to market my services.”
  • “Nobody wants to hire a Spanish [or other language] translator.”
  • “I’m not very good.”
  • “I need the right [equipment, software, whatever] before I can really start.”

Do you recognize any of these? I do. I’ve used one or more of them myself over the years.

And I always thought that they represented the truth.

But they don’t.

Just like my son who had levels of excuses to protect his fears from being revealed, we too have excuses.

Maybe it’s to keep people from knowing what our fears are and appearing vulnerable.

Maybe it’s to keep up from committing any meaningful actions.

Maybe it’s a way to protect our egos from being bruised and battered.

But, until we recognize what our fears really are, we won’t move forward. We won’t be successful because our fear will paralyze us.

You might think that your excuse is a valid one, and that it is the sole reason you haven’t had the success you want.

But it’s not.

It’s the fear you have hidden under that excuse. And if you don’t understand what that fear is, you’ll be stuck.

Uncovering Your Fears

When I started as a translator about ten years ago, I struggled. I didn’t devote the time or energy to the profession that I needed to in order to make it successful. And I used all the classic excuses.

  • “I don’t have as much time as other translators.”
  • “I’m too tired.”
  • “Nobody is hiring me because I’m not a native Spanish speaker.”

But it wasn’t until I really took stock of what was keeping me from being a successful translator that I figured out what was really holding me back.

I was afraid that people would see me as an impostor.

Sure, I had graduated from college with a degree in Spanish translation, had spent considerable time overseas in Latin America perfecting my Spanish, and had even successfully done some contract translation work for some initial clients while in school.

But I was always afraid that (potential) clients would “call me out” and claim I had no right to be translating.

I had that same fear when I started this website.

I give out advice on how to become a successful translator.

And when I started the site, I was afraid that those reading the site would  call me out.

“You’re not successful. What can you teach me about freelance translating?! Who are you to tell me how to be a translator?”

And you know what, I did get those emails from people.

This one is from Luis on February 9:


But then I got other emails, like this:

“Thank you for running this site for people like me.”

And I realized something.

There will always be haters, but if I remained true to my principles of helping people become better, there would always be those that would recognize the efforts and be grateful.

Working In Spite of Fears

So once you recognize your fears, the next step is to work in spite of them.

Notice I didn’t say you need to overcome them because often those fears will manifest themselves at different times in your life.

The trick is to recognize when those fears are impeding you from progressing and move forward.

It’s easy to quote comfortable little sayings like “face your fears” or “get out of our comfort zone.”

Nice sayings but unless you have an idea of concrete actions you can take, these aren’t going to get you there.

In my experience, the best thing to do is take one small step at a time.

If you’re afraid of sending out your résumé because you don’t feel qualified even though you are, send one resumé out to a translation agency.

If you’re afraid of reaching out to a list of potential clients by phone or in person, pick one potential client and one day and make that first phone call.

Once you honestly complete that first step, it’s easier to complete the next step, and the next one, and the one after that.

Action Steps

So here’s what you can do. You can either tell yourself that this is all hogwash and it doesn’t apply to you and keep doing what you’re doing.

Or you can really look at the excuses you are telling yourself and figure out what it is that you’re afraid of, and what is keeping you from having the success you want.

Then, make a list of small steps that will get you over that hump and make a conscious decision to do one.

Then another.

And before you know, the confidence you’ve gained from actually completing actions will help push you onward and upward.

Until next time.

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