Typical day on the job:
“Typical” is a misnomer for a freelancer. We can implement structure if we wish, but variety is the norm. I live in Mountain Time. Many of my clients are east of me, and about half are in Europe. Responsiveness is important, so I handle email early—about 6 a.m. I negotiate, accept, or refuse any jobs that have come in overnight, then get ready for the day. During school hours, which are my core working hours since I have three children, I get the bulk of my translations done. To break up my day I may attend a webinar online, pop to the gym or run an errand. Assuming my workload is not heavy, I take a break after school, then work again in the evening if I need to. So I sit at a desk reading, thinking about the subject matter, researching it as necessary, and writing the content in another language. Sometimes I work weekends, sometimes I take a day off midweek. I have to refuse jobs in order to take time off.
I work exclusively from my home office, though I could work from a laptop anywhere with Wi-Fi. I prefer to work with a powerful desktop and several screens in a quiet place. I only need typical office equipment.
The freelance world is often described as one of feast and famine. Indeed initially, more famine than feast. I work about 40 hours most weeks, but I sometimes work 70 if I get a rushed or lucrative project, and I take a lot of time off—six to eight weeks a year. I can work from my mobile office when I travel and many freelancers do so, but I prefer to take time off when I'm out of the office. The environment is fast-paced. Everyone wants everything now. I do tend to be connected a great deal, so that my clients receive a prompt response. I always use auto-responders when I want to be offline.
Best productivity trick:
My high productivity is largely due to how to I handle email. If I can handle an email response in less than two minutes, I do; then I delete or file as appropriate. The obvious effect on those I work with is that they see me as responsive. For me though, the lack of mental clutter that results helps me be less distracted when I am working on "real" jobs as opposed to pending communications. I set aside time for messages that need a longer response or in blocks a couple of times a day. My inbox is often empty at the end of the day.
Best career advice you’ve received:
Find something you love doing and earn a living from it.
Skills or talents that make you a good fit for your job:
I'm a proactive, self-motivated person. That is the only way anyone will break into a freelance market and thrive once there.
Essential habit you wish you'd started earlier:
When I write task lists, as well as assigning start or due dates, I assign a priority status for each task (three priority levels). Prioritization makes a substantial difference in keeping me doing the most important things all the time. A simple task list doesn't have the same effect. When I was younger, I just got things done, but wasn't as good at analyzing the worth of each task. The tool I use is Microsoft Outlook—but I'm a power user. I make use of many features ignored by most.
Favorite ACS resource:
I was going to say ACS Webinars, but then I realized that the single most useful resource for my everyday work is the ACS Style Guide, which I am very familiar with and refer to frequently.