Freelance Lifehacking for Translators: Are you battling or fixing?


What is battle-mode

Battle: 1250-1300; Middle English bataile < Old French < Vulgar Latin *battālia for Late Latin battuālia (neuter plural) gladiatorial exercises, equivalent to battu (ere) to strike + -ālia, neuter plural of -ālis.

Battle-mode is a state of mind whereby a freelancer undertakes gladiatorial exercises.

You might recognize this mode. When you’ve got a tight deadline on a nightmarish project, you might shift into battle-mode in order to finish your project on time. In general, battle-mode happens when you really need to fight through something.

Sometimes, there’s no other option than to fight through a problem, but other times we could solve the problem instead of fighting through it. I think we go through cycles of battling and big picture solutions, which is probably why vacations are crucial to performance.

Freelancers in particular have this problem

There are many benefits to being a freelancer. Everyone knows somebody who’s tearing it up on their freelancer lifestyle.

Yet, freelancers often have the battle-mode problem, because as a freelancer, you’re responsible for a whole lot of things: your computer, your budget, your house, your office, your chair, your desk, your health—in fact, you’re responsible for everything in your life, personally and professionally, plus your actual work.

As you work toward solving issues one by one, sometimes you can get into battle-mode and then forget that there was a solution to your problem in the first place. Freelancers can sometimes get stuck in battle-mode for several years, whether it’s an inadequately furnished home office, issues with late payments and rates, or stuff to do with the computer.

In fact, right now I’m sitting with awful posture on a kitchen chair, and I’m thinking back one year when I was sitting on this same chair thinking, “I’ll buy a fancy office chair this summer.” A few international trips and big expenses later and I still don’t have my new fancy chair. But why am I sitting on a kitchen chair? Because I’ve been in battle-mode.

Big battles and little battles

Freelancers can get into some huge battles. At the end of the day, the complete tilt toward self-reliance combined with the lack of guarantees and being the last one on the food chain (when the customer gets squeezed, who will they pay first?) makes many freelancers vulnerable to perfect storm scenarios.

If you have some financial difficulties, get paid late, lose a customer, incur some medical bills, etc. all at the same time, you could end up in serious battle-mode that goes beyond the office chair.

Regardless of the size of you battle, the solution is almost always to create some distance between yourself and the problem. Meditation is becoming a very popular thing to do, and I’ve noticed that freelance people in particular recognize the benefits.

Fixing vs. fighting

When you are in battle-mode, you can do very well at individual tasks, so it’s not a total failure. However, you can also lose track of the big picture and fail to make choices that would help you.

Case in point: I had been in battle-mode with my email client (Thunderbird) for months. It was working slowly and crashing. When I entered into my email, it was like I was a pirate raiding an 17th century clipper. “I’m going in! Aaaarrrrrgggghhhhhh!” And I would slay 10 second email loading times, crashes, and the archive button not working, all sorts of foes. My prize? Sending and receiving emails.

Why didn’t I fix it sooner? Because my customers were calling, the easy solutions didn’t work, so after fifteen minutes of “fixing,” I would inevitably go back to “work.”

So yesterday I fixed my email client, finally. It only took 4 hours, but now that my email is working, I realize just how bad my email client was! Why didn’t I fix it sooner? Because I was fighting! I would’ve been so much happier if I had fixed it months ago.

The solution: You deserve it.

Your customers are calling… But take adequate time to fix your problems anyway.

Ask yourself, What am I battling right now? When am I fighting and not fixing?

For freelance translators, aside from personal/business matters, this often means fighting with tools that you use and the types of jobs that you take. If your software setup is slowing you down considerably, maybe it’s time for a change. As with my email software, these are often the hardest to fix, not because they’re literally hard to fix, but because it feels like you’ve already invested so much in a way of doing things that it would simply be too hard to change. With many problems/solutions, what we often don’t realize is just how good things can be after fixing the problem.

Another good idea is to look at intermediate steps, rather than waiting for big solutions. If you’re saving money to get a new office chair, maybe you can go get an old one somewhere in the meantime.

Tackle those fixes as if they were little investments that will pay you back over time. I think you’ll be glad that you did!

Who wrote this guest post?

Robert Rogge (Thank you, Robert! You rock!)

Robert is CEO of Zingword, launching soon… A place where translators get great jobs and businesses can find them easily. Launching a startup is not easy, so he’s been trying to stay healthy and take care of himself while also building Zing.



Robert digs literature, cooking, travel, music, running, swimming, and basketball, and is hosting a podcast for translators, Translator City Radio, which recently added a cha-ching sound effect to the mix. Lately, he’s been listening to Vaporwave.


Photo Acknowledgment

Kick Chess Piece Standing photo used under Creative Commons (CC0) License