In the last of our series of three guest blog articles on how to travel the world while supporting yourself financially by working at a certified translator, I’ll tell you a bit about my ideas on the subject. For as long as I can remember, travelling has been one of the most important goals for me (it is one of the reasons why I am unable to keep a steady job).
The vast majority of the decisions I have taken have always been made with a trip in mind, even if it was only for a weekend! I dreamed of knowing distant lands, living new experiences, and interacting with other cultures. But for a long time I believed - erroneously - that I had to wait until I had a lot of money to do it. Basically, it was a dream.
Becoming a full-time freelance certified translator was what really brought about a change in my way of thinking about my life. Suddenly, it was no longer necessary to be in a fixed place in order to work. As long as I had an internet connection, I was able to carry out my certified translation service and earn money, whether at home in bed, in my garden, at a local coffee shop, or backpacking around the world. But all that glitters is not gold. Although it is absolutely great, travelling while working presents all kinds of challenges.
What are the 10 keys to travelling while working as certified translator, and not dying in the process?
1. Create a routine
Flexibility is one of the characteristics of being a freelancer who works on certified translation, but it can become an obstacle if you are not careful.
You have to balance the desire to see and get to know a new place and to have new experiences, with the reality that you have to meet your customers’ needs and carry your business forward. Identify at what time of day you are most productive and put together your routine based on that. Find your rhythm and respect it. If you work better at night, make sure you do not spend all your energy traveling through a new city during the day. If you are more productive in the mornings, create a 'work schedule' that leaves you free time to explore while there is still light. Whatever you do, make sure the quality of your certified translation service doesn’t suffer as a result of your travelling and seeing the world. It really is all about work life balance in this case. You also have to take into account the availability and time zones of your clients, since many times you will have to be present for Skype meetings, or to answer emails in real time. This can sometimes involve early mornings or late nights if you are on the other side the world working on their certified translation.
2. Discover how to earn money before travelling
It can be very tempting to buy a plane ticket and expect customers to appear in your inbox as if by magic. But the reality is that being a freelancer is having a business, and as such it requires prior preparation. Do not wait until you are already on the road to discover what skills you can offer, or how you are going to get clients. Fortunately, I already had my career as a freelancer offering a certified translation service before I set off on my travels. My advice is that you shouldn’t start travelling until you are generating enough income to keep you in your current city. If you are already out there backpacking around the world and reading this, I don’t want to put you off. You should still go for it, but you may not be in the easiest position to start you freelancing career. But, she who dares, wins!
3. Create a travel fund
While you will generate money along the way by working on your certified translations, it is important to have a travel fund in case of emergencies.
Situations such as theft, equipment failures, or even lack of internet (which limits your ability to earn money – and are fairly common if travelling off the beaten track in less developed countries) are things that must be taken into account.
In short, do not depend only on the income that you can generate along the way. This rule may prevent you from getting stuck far from home without funds.
4. Don't forget your finances
It is widely known that the income of a freelancer changes from month to month. You don’t usually have fixed jobs, so you never know what you are going to earn. Whether you are on the road or not, always keep in mind that you will not always have money in the bank; and plan accordingly. Make a list of the different expenses, both for your trip and for your business, and organise your money based on this. You may have to give up a particular trip or look for cheaper alternatives in the months that your income is not so good. With time, this aspect should be minimized. As you get more regular clients you will finally feel more secure. When you have regular certified translation jobs coming in, you should be fine. You’ll be able to relax and have more freedom for your travels. But don’t relax too much. Stay on your toes. You never know what is around the corner!
5. Be open to accepting services in lieu of payment
As you already know, I am totally against working for free. Phrases like 'it's a great opportunity' or 'everyone will see your work' are signs that a client just wants to take advantage of your experience without giving anything in return. But the payment does not always have to be in cash, especially when travelling. You can often offer to help out in a hostel for a few hours a day in exchange for a bed and your meals. Use your imagination, when the exchange results in something equally beneficial for all those involved, anything goes. You may even find someone who needs your specialist skills of producing a certified translation. Spread the word as you travel, hotels, travel agencies, even airline companies might need your skills. You never know what you might get in return.
6. Create a business model that suits your trip
As I said at the beginning of this post, almost all of the decisions that I make in life are made in relation to my travels. My business model changes depending on the type of trip I want to make: being two months without accessing my email; connecting and working on certified translations for five hours every day; creating passive income, etc. Everything requires prior planning. Think about the type of trip you want to make, and build your business based on that. Remember that even if you are traveling, it is not always going to be on holiday! Likewise, and equally importantly, you are not travelling in order to work all the time, so remember to take it easy now and then!
7. Prioritise your motivation
Being motivated is something that all freelancers struggle with. When everything is down to you, you often don’t have the luxury of not working simply because you do not want to.
One way to stay productive while travelling is to find communities of digital nomads. Many translators are travelling the world taking advantage of working remotely. These people are likely to understand how you are living and your reasons for it, and the importance of staying focused. Personally, I find it very useful to work for 'awards': when I finish a task, I allow myself something pleasurable or a break to do something fun.
8. Be social
I don’t mean that you live your life connected to Facebook non-stop.
It can be very tempting to get to a new place, find a cafe with wifi, and make it your de facto office. Why not try instead getting involved with the local freelancer scene. It’s a good opportunity for networking and forcing yourself to interact with your peers. You never know what kind results this might have. Connecting with other freelancers can result in new job opportunities, travel companions, or even friendships that can last a lifetime. Who knows? Your future spouse may even be out there freelancing too, just waiting for a connection - he or she might be on the next desk working on certified translations too! Most large cities have co-working sites and freelancer meetups. There are also websites that can help you find spaces to work and put like-minded freelancers in touch.
9. Discomfort is part of the game
It is not always obvious, but when you are travelling you will not always have the opportunity to be in an office with a comfortable chair, unlimited coffee, and natural light.
It is more likely that you will find yourself working sitting on a plastic bench, on a surface where your laptop just fits. I always remember waving my laptop off the balcony in Belize and squatting on the pavement in Romania, in both cases trying to connect to the elusive WIFI while desperately trying to send a certified translation to a client. Stressful times, but I can laugh about them now. Learning to deal with far from ideal infrastructure is also part of the journey.
10. Don't forget to take a vacation
As mentioned above, you may be travelling around the world, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the time to relax and rest instead of staring at your computer screen all day.
Taking vacations is something that many freelancers put aside, since they’re often the only ones holding the fort, but it is necessary as part of taking care of oneself. After all, we work independently to be the bosses of our own lives, right?
11. Equip yourself properly!
Working while traveling presents unique obstacles for which you have to prepare in advance. Having equipment that is ready for any contingency is essential. You can’t carry out the certified translation service that if funding your travels if your laptop is broken or stolen. Always have a back-up plan, insurance is a very good idea, and a spare laptop could come in very handy! Keep in mind that you will need to carry spare cables and physical protection for your electronic equipment, invest in digital tools such as space in the cloud, etc. Do not wait to find yourself in a jungle on the other side of the world to realise that you do not have an adapter to plug in your laptop!
In short, prepare yourself. But even more importantly, enjoy yourself!