Feast and famine – making hay and gathering no moss

Peaks and troughs. Busy periods and not-so-busy periods. “Aaaaargh! I’m up to my eyeballs in projects” and “Have all of my clients been wiped out in a flash flood/gone off my work?” We’ve all had them. In fact, I bet somewhere out there there’s a reader saying to themselves, “Why, yes, Mark. I’m having one right now…” (albeit perhaps not, as I am imagining as I type this, in the voice of the people on the Home Shopping Channel trying their damnedest to hawk their wares: kegel exercisers, orthopaedic spandex monstrosities, etc.). And by “a reader”, I mean my only reader (Hi Mom!).

The long and short of it has already been covered by many: try to have some cash squirreled away for slower times and do your best to plan for quieter periods (i.e.: the whole of France closing for August). In these austere times, the former part of the solution is not so easy and would take more than a blog entry to cover in any detail, so most of us will be more interested in the latter part of the plan; planning for the quieter weeks or months.

Personally, I tend to use such quiet periods for initial flapping (made sure I spellchecked that one!), self-doubt and then gaining perspective. The simple truth is that the reasons for a decrease in project offers are manifold and are least likely to be a reflection of your work or reputation: if there was a period of “feasting” immediately prior to this famine then the client has probably been clearing their desk of work before sloping off on holiday for a week or two, if you work regularly for a particular end client (either directly or indirectly) then the stop-start cycle is probably inherent to their documentation process and schedule (new releases, version-ups, product promotions, etc.). By actively following your end clients through social media and taking an interest in their product releases and documentation cycles you will be able to fill in the information gaps and know when to expect busier or leaner periods.

Quieter times are a great opportunity. (Really, Mark? Doesn’t feel all that positive to me… I imagine you are muttering under your breath). Yes, they are. There are always admin tasks to be caught up on, lapsed clients to get back in touch with, current clients to touch base with in order to provide that personal touch (assessing satisfaction, mentioning other fields of expertise that could expand your contact base to other colleagues, expressing an interest in their products/seminars, etc. with a view to client-specific CPD). There is an entire maelstrom of webinars specific to your chosen industries of specialisation, the translation and localisation industry and even (gasp!! The horror…) the CAT tools you use or those you are thinking of switching over to and would like to know more about. Sometimes, as these aren’t manifestly “productive” activities (i.e.: they have no tangible end result), it doesn’t feel a though you are doing enough somehow. Which doesn’t boost esteem or ease the underlying panic. However, investing your working time in such activities will pay off over time. Webinars of this ilk entail learning new skill sets, networking with other translators and you never know which new opportunities could emerge and be developed as a result.

Speaking of networking, a sensible, targeted approach on Twitter, LinkedIn and professional industry networking sites is also a great use of such “down” time. Think: sniper, not blunderbuss; sashaying into their inboxes, offering the potential to fulfil all of their needs like a linguistic Roger Moore, sitting back and waiting for them to come running.

Quiet periods never last forever. Although it can feel that way at times. I know there is an overwhelming temptation to catch up on those cat videos on YouTube or to stalk various D-listers on Twitter (OMG Ryland tweeted me back!), or indeed writing a blog (sideways glance, raises one eyebrow) but by treating the slower days still as working days, will pay dividends over the coming months.