It’s Sunday evening and you’re sitting at home watching the television, when suddenly your mind is filled with fear. You’ve just remember how much work you have to do in the office tomorrow to complete a project on time or get a report in, and you start to map out how you’re going to work from the moment you sit at your employer’s desk.
It’s not a fear or feeling that freelancers have, thanks to the flexibility of working how and when you want. But freelancing comes with other challenges instead, many of them fears, such as ensuring there’s enough work to do, getting paid on time, etc.
This week’s Featured Freelancer has been self-employed for over a year now, which is often the most testing time in a freelancing journey, and this is her story of the lessons she’s learnt so far. Enjoy…
What is your name, where are you based, and what do you do?
Hello, I’m Lisa, I’m based in Manchester and I work as a writer, English-to-German translator and proofreader.
How long have you been freelancing and why did you decide to become a freelancer?
I’m in my second year of freelancing, so I’m still quite new to it. I was working as an Executive Assistant in London, which, I thought, was going to be the best job ever. Turns out, it really wasn’t. However, what it did show me was that I really, really enjoyed writing and translating. I’d just never thought to make a living from it. Being self-employed had always been a dream of mine, too, and as it became clear to me that I needed to leave my full-time job, I thought, “Let’s do this”.
What support did you have from family and friends? Did anyone advise you against becoming freelance?
My dad is my biggest cheerleader. He is my rock and also happens to be self-employed, so I go to him for advice and ask him all the questions. Everyone else in my family thinks I am wasting my time and I’m not actually working. My friends don’t really get it, either.
Did you use any professional support resources in starting your freelance business?
Not really. I very much established everything with ‘learning by doing’, but as I have a degree in English and German linguistics and did an internship with a translation agency a few years ago, I had a little bit of background info about the industry.
How would you describe your clients or customers?
I mostly work with other freelancers and small-to-medium-sized agencies. I like that it’s varied and a good mixture of close, more personal relationships with other self-employees as well as being part of a pool of linguists at an agency. I also get the occasional on-off customer, mostly for translations such as contracts or certificates.
Why do your clients/customers select you over your competitors?
That is a very good question. I’ve been told that I have a very friendly and positive way of approaching people, which I suppose is a bonus if you want to convince someone to work with you. I’m really passionate about my job, and I think that shows when I chat to a (potential) client about a new project. Communication is also very important to me, and I often find that others lack that ability to really take their clients on board.
Is being a freelancer what you expected? e.g. Do you work more hours (or less) than you had first anticipated?
I don’t think I really expected anything before I started. I definitely work a lot, probably more than I ever thought I would, but I wouldn’t want to have it any other way.
What app or website could you not run your business without, and why?
Pons, Linguee and the Thesaurus are lifesavers, as is the German ‘Duden’. I like to think I’m pretty good at what I do but sometimes, you just need to double-check! Also, Toggl for time-tracking, otherwise I’d never know what I’ve been doing and how long for.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start a freelance business, specifically in your field?
Don’t work on an empty stomach, it always ends in tears. Have a morning routine that sets you up for a productive day, no matter what that entails for you. Be prepared to work hard with very little reward at the beginning, but don’t give up. Allow yourself rest days, even when you feel like you can’t have them. As for my field, I’d say read a lot, continuously improve your language skills (in any language you speak, even if it’s your native!) and don’t be disheartened by the people who have no qualifications whatsoever but think they can do your job. Your abilities will shine through.
What are the most notable things you have learnt since starting your business; either about running a business or about yourself?
I think I firstly learnt that this is a business. When I started, I didn’t really know what I was doing or where I wanted to go. I didn’t set out with any high ambitions, and so for a long time, I almost treated it as a hobby that somehow made an income now.
Most importantly, though, I learnt that I am actually capable of being my own boss, and I am good at my job. In my full-time employment, it was impossible to do something right, no matter how much hard work I put in. It never paid off, and really crushed my confidence at some point. Now I know that I am more than capable of achieving my dreams, but I also learnt the hard way how much work goes into a business behind the scenes!
What is it about being a freelancer that you most enjoy?
It’s a cliché answer but I really do love being able to schedule my time freely. It doesn’t matter whether I work on a project at 4AM or 4PM, as long as the quality of my work doesn’t suffer. That’s a freedom I wouldn’t want to give up anymore. That, and the fact that I actually enjoy my job and I haven’t had a ‘Sunday Night Dread’ since I became self-employed.
What do you enjoy the least about being a freelancer?
It can get very lonely sometimes. I’m an introvert and enjoy my own company, but when it gets to day three of not having left the house and not having spoken to anyone, even I crave socialising with other humans!
What is your ultimate professional goal as a freelancer?
I would love to translate a book someday. And write one, actually.
What one thing do you wish you had known before you became a freelancer?
That you have to convince banks, phone companies and landlords that you actually do work. I’ve not been self-employed for long, so there aren’t that many records of my income yet, and it’s been a right task to sort some things out!
You can connect with Lisa at the following sites: