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Travelling and Translating: the Location-Independent Business Owner

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By Maeva Cifuentes

One of the perks of being a freelance translator is being able to have a location-independent lifestyle. We basically live a vacation, right?

While technically true that freelance translators can work from anywhere with a functioning internet connection, I find it challenging, if not brash, to try and run a viable business with a constant travelling and vacation mindset – the reason why I choose to work from a fixed office and within set working hours. If you run a serious translation business, your clients depend on you to answer emails during regular hours and be present and ready to help solve their problems. In short, it’s not a feasible business model to be working on perpetual vacation mode. Don’t get me wrong – you can definitely make some extra cash translating if your goal is to travel, but if your goal is to build a successful translation business and be a professional and reliable solution provider for your clients, you’ll have to travel tactfully and strategically.

That being said, it is of course possible to enjoy the benefits of being a digital nomad, but it’s important to do so professionally and never forget that you are the sole proprietor of your business.

I’m currently writing this  facing the window overlooking the lofty silhouettes of palms trees against the Los Angeles skyline. I’ve come back to Southern California for the summer, my motherland of dodger-blue skies and scorching sidewalks– 9,656 km and nine time zone sections away from most of my clients in my adopted home of Barcelona. With my brother and sister still living here, my parents living in Colombia and me living in Europe, I’ve had to learn tricks of running a business while being in different time zones around the world.

If I’m going on a work-free vacation, I let my clients know a few weeks in advance that I’ll be away, and offer them a trusted colleague’s information to take care of any work they would need from me during that period.

If you’re travelling like I am now, you intend to continue working during your trip. It’s important to keep a daily work schedule regardless of where you are. When changing time zones, you’ll have to have a savvy strategy for keeping your clients happy. Unfortunately, California requires midnight to 8-am response times to keep up with my European clients, so I need to adjust my working schedule accordingly.

This month I’m focusing on my US clients. Luckily, August is a slow month in Europe and most of my European clients are on vacation anyway. I try to wake up twice in the night – 3 am and 5 am – to check emails, but this won’t work for people who have trouble getting back to sleep. Most of the time, if the project has a short deadline, I have to refer it to a colleague who can take care of it on time; otherwise, I can confirm the job and start on it in the morning when I wake up again. It can be useful to be in this time zone for clients who need rush overnight translations.

Nonetheless, I maintain my work schedule and catch up on unbillable work that I don’t usually have time for outside the late summer slump: working on my business plan, my USP, marketing, my portfolio, and this blog. It’s all a part of our profession and requires a bit of backup savings.

It’s possible to travel while being a translator, but don’t forget you’re running a business and people are counting on you. Do you have experience doing this? What are your tips/experience? Share in the comments below.

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