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Separating the personal and the professional January 5, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Marketing ideas, Tech tips.

As a freelancer it is sometimes hard to separate the personal and professional aspects of your life. A large majority of my clients and/or jobs are due to personal contact or word of mouth from colleagues who have seen my posts on professional listservs and recommend me to their clients when they cannot accept a job. I found a new client sitting next to me at a murder mystery dinner theater show and a good contact and potential future job source (you never know…) on the boat from Alcatraz. I think it is crucial for the marketing of our services to never go anywhere without business cards. There is no doubt in my mind that being a social person plays a huge role in my success as a translator.

In these days of social media it can sometimes be hard to separate the personal and professional personas. I am enjoying exploring the various benefits of social networking and am also researching for a presentation on social networking tools at the ATA conference. In addition to this blog, I joined social networking tools Twitter and LinkedIn last year. However, I sometimes find it hard to separate my personal life from my professional life. A lot of my friends are fellow translators. I enjoy chatting with them on Skype, talking on the phone, exchanging e-mails in a smaller listserv, meeting locally for lunch or coffee, cheerleading them in their efforts to make important changes in their lives, and even going so far as meeting some of them in Vegas for a “spring conference” a few years ago to just hang out. As a result, it can be hard to draw the line sometimes.

I made a conscious decision when I joined Facebook to keep Facebook strictly personal, although I have lots of translators and former students among my “friends” there. I also have lots of friends from high school and college. Those two sections of my life don’t necessarily blend real well. One of my colleagues recently “friended” me on Facebook. After checking out his profile I realized that a lot (if not most) of his friends were professional contacts (and a couple of my clients) and I felt uncomfortable having my personal status posts broadcast to them. I decided to remove him as a friend, and luckily he understood when I explained it to him. I had looked into limiting access, but decided I simply needed to stick to my guns. After all, separating the two aspects is extremely important to me. For those of you who are already on Facebook and do not want to remove friends or want to limit certain friends’ access, these posts might help:

I may just have to give these tips a try…

In these days of Internet access and 24/7 availability, it is becoming harder and harder to keep the personal and the professional separate. Clients and some translators I know think nothing of working over the weekend. In the past I have had agencies call in the evening or even on a Saturday or Sunday trying to place a translation. I always decline those jobs. I need a couple days off to recharge just like everyone else and not working on the weekend is the easiest solution. I am finally going to buy a new phone with e-mail capabilities, but I am extremely hesitant to do so because it will once again blur the line between when I am available to my clients and when I am not. I won’t give up though and will continue to fight the Good Fight against the encroachment on my personal time. I look forward to hearing how all of you deal with this issue in the comments below.



1. Glenn - January 5, 2009


I like your post. I was recently brought, kicking and screaming to the mobile e-mail alter in the form of a blackberry. Prior to this I just never left my desk, so for now, it’s been a freeing experience rather than an enslaving one, and I’m trying to keep it that way.

Now that I’m my own boss, I don’t seem to mind my personal time being encroached upon by clients. When I worked for someone else, I hated being contacted on evening and weekends, and it happened rather often.

Interesting you mention facebook. I felt old the first time I visited it because I had trouble guaging personal vs. professional and public vs. private. I have the impression that young adults entering the workforce now don’t think in terms of, 9 to 5 belongs to someone else, the rest of the time is mine. It seems more fluid. I don’t know if they see themselves giving up more personal time because of technology, or actually re-claiming their personal time with technology.

2. Judy Jenner - January 5, 2009

Good points. I am currently trying to figure out how to have social media work more for me on the professional level. My current “rules” are that on LinkedIn, I don’t connect to anyone whom I either don’t know personally very well or whom I have had professional contact with. Facebook started out entirely for personal use for me. Some of my great translator friends (you!, thanks for coming to Vegas!) are connected to me, but no clients (thus far). I don’t have anything terribly controversial to post anyway, but I do think about the fact that anyone could read it, and that I am a public professional person on the Wild Wild West that is the Internet.

I joined Twitter a few days ago (finally, I joined the revolution!) and I have decided to keep that all professional, and I am feeding it into my translation blog. I have profiles on 30+ professional and social networking sites (Xing, MiGente.com, hi5.com, etc.) which I update regularly.

In terms of the blend of professional/personal: I like it. I am a recent convert from corporate America, so I actually enjoy being in both worlds at the same time. If I don’t want to answer the phone, I don’t have to. Most of the time, I do, though. After all, I am running a business. I really enjoy having the choice of accepting a project at say, 2 p.m. on a Friday or not. And I did not activate the e-mail function on my new BB. For now.

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