As job stress goes, translators seem to fall somewhere between anesthesiologists and air traffic controllers (most stressed-out) and florists and historians (least stressed-out). Still, dealing with job stress is a big issue because it has a dramatic effect on both your enjoyment of your job and on your longevity in the profession; and the longer you keep your translation business running, the more efficient you get at your work and the more money you earn (hopefully!). So, what are some of your best tips for dealing with job stress? A few of mine are:
- Have confidence in the quality of your work. A few years ago, I decided to start proofreading a hard copy of every document I translated. Interestingly enough, although this step takes time, it has actually decreased my level of job stress because I am more confident that I haven’t skipped a section of the source text or grossly mis-translated something.
- Accept that you’re going to make mistakes. This sounds like the antithesis of point #1, but it’s not. A certain amount of perfectionism is an asset to a freelance translator, but it’s also important to own up to your failures. When a disgruntled client has a point about an error in your work, apologize, offer to make it right, and move on.
- Minimize financial worries by living beneath your means. This is definitely a personal choice, but in this economy, I think it’s an important one. Spending less than what you earn frees you from taking on unpleasant work just because you need the money and reduces your incentive to produce huge volumes of work at low rates. The Thoughts on Translation household is an extreme example, as we have two incomes but live off one (and bank the other), but whatever your financial philosophy, spending *more* than you earn is a road to serious job stress.
- Get out of your head. I really believe that knowledge workers who are at the computer for many hours a day need to unplug when work is over. In addition to getting your body moving, give your brain a little candy especially if the documents you work on are very dense. This can be hard; before I became a translator I was a lifelong voracious reader, and now I find that gardening manuals and cookbooks are about as much as I can handle after translating all day.
- Set objective boundaries around your time. “I’m too busy to take that on” is a subjective statement; maybe you could just stay up later, or work faster, or work more efficiently. “For quality reasons, I translate no more than 2,000 words per day” is an objective statement, and gives you a policy to abide by, which is a lot less stressful than trying to decide if you can squeeze in just one more job.
Feel free to contribute your own thoughts on stress management as well!