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The beauty of working from home April 29, 2011

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

I am sitting in my hotel room after the Welcome Reception for the ATA’s TCD conference. Corinne McKay gave me and several others signed second editions of her popular book, How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator (hot-off-the-press – it’s not yet available for sale but it will be very soon). After staying up late last night to finish translating a particularly tricky contract and packing to then wake up early to fly to DC I declined joining several friends for dinner, choosing to crash in the hotel. I started reading the book, and something in her Introduction resonated enough with me that I wanted to immediately blog about it. She talks about work-from-home opportunities and how translation is one of the few legitimate work-from-home careers. The sentence “…working from home, you’ll probably experience greater job satisfaction and less stress, since a relatively minor disruption like a dentist appointment or furnace repair won’t derail your entire work day.” made me say “right on!”

I recently experienced this first-hand. Wednesday night my Internet kept going down and was running at an average of 36 MPbs. Repeated reboots of the cable modem and router – and even my computers – were unable to speed up the connection. Frustrated, I turned the computer off, hoping it was a momentary upgrade problem. Thursday morning things hadn’t improved, so I called my cable Internet provider to complain. The service rep checked the line and agreed that I did have a problem. He offered to send a tech out, but he noted with some trepidation in his voice that  he wasn’t sure when the tech could come out and I would need to be home the whole day, possibly as late as 8 PM. I cheerfully informed him that that wasn’t a problem because I worked from home and urged him to put me as high on the list as possible since I depend on the Internet for my job. Luckily I didn’t have to wait all day. The tech was there within a half an hour and even though he didn’t find the cause of the problem and would have to come back later to check the cable on the telephone pole the Internet was somewhat more stable after he left and I was able to work again.

If I worked in an office this scenario could have never been possible. I would have had to take a vacation day to be home to let him in, and he wouldn’t have been able to fit me in so quickly in the day. I was already home, so the tech was able to immediately come by.

As Corinne so aptly states, the beauty of working from home as freelance translators is that we can structure our work day around our peak energy times and family needs, rather than our employer and its policies. I particularly love working from home in the winter, when my commute on snowy days is from the bedroom to the coffeemaker to the office, where I read all kinds of irate tweets and status updates from people complaining about their commutes and the weather. And in the summer I can take some time off at any time to take the dog for a walk. You really can’t beat it… and I wouldn’t exchange it for anything.



1. Kevin Lossner - April 30, 2011

I’ve been thinking about this one a lot lately, especially last night as disruptions in the city rail service more than tripled the time it should have taken to return home after meeting a colleague in town for drinks and a chat. It’s one thing to deal with transportation inconveniences after a relaxing evening with friends and quite another to have this as your daily routine. I used to drive the LA freeways with a broken dashboard that bore witness to such a trying routine.

The most important aspect for me with this wonderful profession we share is that more than any other activity I know, we can calibrate it to our personal situations at any time as we need to. Illness, injury, inconveniences like broken water pipes or electrical problems, even unanticipated car repairs can be handled with so much less inconvenience as you point out with your examples. We can enjoy the environment of a shared office when we want it through short on-site assignments or visits to clients or colleagues, or if we need to we can retreat to a countryside canal with a fishing pole and a netbook or take a rifle to a raised blind and shoot a pig instead of the swine who authored the awful text we’re working on. Or just find a quiet cave and still be productive enough to pay the bills.

The flexibility that this independent profession offers us is so great and so able to accommodate individual situations with a little creative planning that I have a hard time not recommending it to someone who is qualified and interested. I am also very pleased to be part of one of the few professions that does not disadvantage working parents as much as is all too common practice in many countries.

2. Anke - April 30, 2011

Amen, sister! I am currently experiencing the freedom and flexibility of being a freelancer, since one of my dogs is sick and no-one seems to be able to tell me why, which means lots of sitting in the vet’s office, trying to ease the pain of the poor creature (including during the wee hours of the night), and so on, which would all not be possible would I have to go to work somewhere else every day.

Jill (@bonnjill) - April 30, 2011

Anke, have you tried changing your dog’s food, because it might be a food allergy. You didn’t go into detail, but it took me 10 years of visiting doctors and getting all kinds of blood tests and even inconclusive prick tests. Only to find out I was allergic to eggs and dairy. Lots of dogs can develop grain allergies. It’s worth at least checking into…

3. Maria Rosaria - April 30, 2011

I completely agree with the priceless freedom this kind of job offers you.I think the most important step if finding the right balance so that you can succesfully work and have fun at the same time! No other job gives you this opportunity!

4. EP - May 1, 2011

I remember one of the most stressful things about my old “real” job (as a corporate drone in cubicle land) was trying to organize being home for workmen or technicians just as you described it. It was a huge pain and I hated asking to get off and I’m so very, very glad that it’s over now. There are other sources of stress for freelancers (finding work, for instance), but I wouldn’t trade now and go back to my old cubicle existence for anything.

5. Ken Clark - May 2, 2011

Working from home is great, until home stops working. Without the IT support at the office, its on each of us alone to stay online and responsive to customers. That can be a real hair-pulling experience. And without a boss looking over your work, productivity is greater, that is if if you are working, and not watching soap operas. Not too common among your readers, though, I’ll bet, Jill. For me the temptation is to work all the time, and the struggle is to resist the siren call of the fridge. Nice post.

Silvina - May 9, 2011


Personally, in terms of tech support, is not so much when my computer crashes or my Internet is not working properly, but when I have a CAT-tools related problem. Back in 2005, when I first started using Trados, it was very difficult to find answers to my problems or questions regarding this topic. Nevertheless, over the years, this issue has seen major improvement thanks to the opportunity of establishing relationships with other colleagues online. Blogs, forums, and even Twitter have been great resources.

Regarding your “fridge” comment, I must agree that is not easy! I don’t want to sound like a commercial, but not too long ago I’ve decided enough is enough. I now have a couple of cereal bars next to my computer; these are filling and only 90 calories each! They’ve truly helped the unnecessary trips to the fridge, even if it’s just to check out “what’s in there.” 🙂

6. Katherine Osgood - May 4, 2011

I couldn’t agree more Jill. I left my job in a non profit (which I now also realize was highly stressful!) last August to pursue a translation career full time. Nine months on I still wake up every morning thanking my lucky stars.

Every so often on a Saturday night I still get that ‘sick’ feeling in the pit of my stomach, thinking that I have to go to the office on Monday. Then I pinch myself and remember that the office is my dining room table now! 🙂

You are so right too about the convenience of taking time off when you need – for example, I’m taking tomorrow off to become a US citizen!

Enjoying your blog as always,

Jill (@bonnjill) - May 4, 2011

Congratulations on your new citizenship!

Silvina - May 9, 2011


I became a citizen in 2009. Exciting times. Congrats!

7. key logger - May 6, 2011

Working from home is really one of the most relaxing parts, one can enjoy their job and can able to concentrate more on the stuff; I think one can tackle their problems more effectively from home due to comforts.

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