Should You Work From Home?

Partial view of Judy's home office.
Many newcomers to the profession are attracted to the flexibility that translation and interpreting afford: you get to work from home, and you make your own schedule. Sounds fantastic, doesn't it? But not so quick: working from home isn't for everyone. Read on if you are a beginning linguist or are thinking about making the move from in-house to at-home.

There are a few questions you should probably ask yourself before you decide that working sans a boss (as you will work for yourself) AND from home is a good idea. Here are a few questions to give you some food for thought.

Do you like being by yourself all day? In previous jobs, your co-workers may have bugged you and office politics may have driven you crazy, but working all by yourself can get lonely. It personally works for us, but Judy also works from a co-working space at least once a week.

Can you work with all the home distractions? Many people just can't work from home because they'd be too tempted to mop the floors, do the dishes, do the laundry, run errands, or anything else that needs to be done around the house. Others can't work from home because they don't have the discipline and would be watching sitcoms all day or viewing cute internet cat videos. There's nothing wrong with that, but obviously you need to be able to resist all these temptations if you want to get work done and make a living. We will occasionally do some chores around the house during our breaks, but most of the time, we put our head down and we work. And we watch no cat videos, as cute as they are.

Can you work without any direct pressure from anyone? Sure, your clients will put pressure on you, but the pressure will come in the form of mutually agreed-upon deadlines. Will you be able to work without someone checking on you? Have you done it before? This question really goes beyond the working-from-home question and is more about working for yourself in general. As much as many don't like being micromanaged and/or having any boss in general, he or she usually does hold employees accountable. Can you hold yourself accountable? Think about this for a bit before you take the plunge into self-employment.

Can you solve your own computer problems? We've been there, done that: we've worked in organizations that had entire IT departments to solve any challenge, and we got a bit lazy. After we started working for ourselves, we had to figure out how to solve IT-related problems, and we did so by hiring outside help and by being more resourceful ourselves (this involves a lot of time on Google, looking for tutorials). This topic also goes beyond working from home, and it's an important one. Your clients don't care that you can't open a Mac file; you just have to figure it out. And yes, sometimes it's painful. 

Do you need a lot of feedback and guidance? No translator or interpreter is an island, and you will need to build your network to get advice and feedback from more experienced colleagues (and you might have to pay for this). Until you do build a network, how will you get feedback? Do you have people in your life who are willing to guide you both on the T&I competencies side and the business side? This is much easier now than it was years ago when we started (we just had each other), but it's still a challenge. If you need assistance every step of the way, you need to get used to the idea that you might not able to get it and that you will need to make many decisions using incomplete information. And that many decisions will be wrong (ours were). BTW: we try to share our mistakes on this blog so you don't have to make the same ones.

So that's it, dear colleagues and future colleagues! Of course, this list isn't exhaustive, but we hope it gets you thinking a bit more about whether working from home is for you.

We'd love to hear your thoughts -- simply leave a comment below.


All Graduates | Translating Services on January 29, 2015 at 6:26 PM said...

It is certainly not that easy to work at home. There are so many distractions (your loving bed, your highly entertaining TV, your frisky dog, your adorable children, etc.) that can break your concentration. Even if let's say you are disciplined enough (and there are certainly a lot of freelance translators out there who are) to keep your focus on your work, you cannot say it's the same thing for other people in the house. You will constantly hear things like "Dad, where's the remote?" "Mom, Danny's at it again!" or worse a phone call saying "Lydia, since you're at home, can you be a dear and guard my dogs for me while I go out?"

Working at home is something that is still foreign to a lot (and that's A LOT) of people who are used to working under the corporate mindset. They will see you as just doing something just for fun, and it's not a job. Hey, you're at home, working in your PJ's, and you are eating in front of your screen. You're just playing, right?

It can be like a dream job, or it can be hell. You have to know your limits, and let everyone know theirs as well. Good luck to translators who wish to do this. It's a challenge, but it's not impossible.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on February 12, 2015 at 11:52 PM said...

@All Graduates: Many thanks for reading and for commenting! Oh, we have certainly heard that many times before -- the requests for rides to the airport, etc. since we work from home. We have a long way to go to convince those with a corporate mindset that those of us working from home are true professionals no matter where we work from, but we are getting there!

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The entrepreneurial linguists and translating twins blog about the business of translation from Las Vegas and Vienna.

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