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The luxury of mobility May 20, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Random musings.

telecommuting_frenzyYou really have to love our job. We can live and work anywhere we want and still be able to keep in contact with our clients. Benny the Irish Polyglot is the epitome of the globetrotting translator :-), but most of us do love the freedom translating affords. As long as we have our laptop set up and configured we can pop off to the cafe and use the wi-fi whenever we feel like working with others or our Internet goes down.

I just spent the last two days at my sister’s. I babysat my nieces and still managed to translate around 3000 words both days. My parents are on vacation (I am also dogsitting their Cairn Terrier). My father babysits on Mondays, and my sister needed me to take his “shift.” I was even able to spontaneously stay a second day when I realized they needed me but hadn’t dared ask if I could. I don’t think my clients noticed, because I had access to my e-mail, Twitter and Skype the whole time. Most of my clients also know to call my cell phone. When I walked in the door tonight I checked my messages and only had one – and it was not a business call.

When my nieces asked me why I was working all day I explained that adults work all day (and that their mom and dad were also at work); however, I also found time to blow bubbles in the backyard, run around the yard with the dogs with them, and cater to their every need. Most importantly, I took the time to explain that work doesn’t feel like work when you are doing something you love. Hopefully that settled in their subconscience for when they grow older and are ready to choose a vocation.



1. Benny the Irish polyglot - May 20, 2009

Thanks for the honourable mention!! 😀

I love this job so much!! Thanks to my location-independence I have just been able to spend almost 2 months at my parents’ house, teaching my mum some basic computing and spending time with my godson and siblings. There would otherwise be no means of me having any kind of professional work in this small town and I would only ever see my family for extremely brief visits! Imagine!

Before that I was working on a beach in India for 2 months and I will spend all of this summer in Prague! I don’t “bother” my clients with such details, since I imagine it could be viewed as unprofessional that I can’t focus because there is an Indian cow on the beach distracting me or all my neighbours are yelling loudly because “La Boca”‘s team just won the football match in Buenos Aires etc…

My SkypeIn number(s) have been great – as soon as I arrive in a new location I buy a new prepaid SIM card for my unlocked phone and punch that new number into my Skype forwarding options so I receive all calls on my cell. I’ve lived and worked from more than 10 cities since I started my freelance translation 2 years ago, but I’ve always had the same fixed telephone number!

On slow days, thanks to my iPhone, my emails get “pushed” to me and I can open and read them while away from my laptop to accept a document or not. I don’t work full time (by choice; I worked to get 3 main outsourcers and haven’t branched out since) since living in cheaper countries (usually thanks to favourable strength in the euro) means I don’t have to and can spend half the time working on personal projects like my videos (have no less than 3 waiting to be edited! Keep a look out!)

Note that I could travel with a tiny 15″ laptop like most of my fellow “flashpackers”, but I opt for the powerful (and somewhat bulky) 17″ Dell XPS M1739 with 1900×1200 pixel screen, nicknamed the “Beast”, since it’s more of a portable desktop that will stay in the same place for 2 months at a time (my normal resting time) rather than a coffee-shop bound true laptop.

Of course, I’m having a blast in these travels, but my professional justification is that most of the time I am perfecting the languages that I translate from. Even while in Prague I plan on taking refresher French courses to iron out my accent and perfect my overall level if I can, lest I get rusty! But I mingle with lots of other “technomads” from many countries so on a day to day basis I get to practise the languages I translate from. I wouldn’t have it any other way!!

Oh yeah, wish me luck learning Czech!! 😛

2. Litterate - May 20, 2009

That is so true, Jill! The freedom to change “facilities” is a great thing.

It is one of the reasons I am finally taking the plunge into freelancing. Right now, I wouldn’t dare to follow the example of Benny the Irish Polyglot, but it would certainly be an ideal life, changing residence every now and then to improve my languages!

3. Judy Jenner - May 21, 2009

Agreed on the amazing freedom out jobs allow. Love it. I think in a way we all want to be like the Irish Polyglot, so awesome! The closest I got this year was working from my twin sister’s house in Vienna for seven weeks, but of course, she’s my business partner and lodging is free. What a great life Benny has created — actually, we all have. I am lucky and happy to be doing what we do. It’s very rewarding. I just got back from presenting at a conference in Chicago (it’s not a beach in India, but still) last weekend, and it reminded me how awesome it is to do this for a living and how cool it is that we we can share knowledge with others, travel, explore the world, and keep our languages fresh while we are at it. Counting blessings…

4. Karen Tkaczyk - May 21, 2009

That’s a lovely example of the benefits of this lifestyle.

5. Corinne McKay - May 22, 2009

This is so true about the freelance lifestyle! It’s such an incredible luxury to be able to combine work and the rest of life in such a great way. For most of my friends who have office jobs, a blip such as a snow day, sick kid, spouse’s job relocation, nieces who need a babysitter etc. is a hair-pulling hassle. For us, it’s often an opportunity to spend more time with people we like anyway (like nieces!). And there’s always the dream of living like the Irish Polyglot (someday!). Great post!

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