All in One and One in All – Balancing Salaried and Freelance Work
This post is a reblog, originally published at Tip of the Tongue. It is republished with permission of the author.
Many freelancers, including translators, hold two jobs, one salaried with regular hours and one as an independent. The benefits of such a dual existence are clear. However, the relative load is asymmetric and variable, creating stress not only in terms of being able to properly perform the job but also in terms of expectations of one’s self. The key in this arrangement, as in all imperfect situations, is to accept natural limits, however frustrating they may be, at least most of the time.
For transparency’s sake, I state that I am a full-time freelance translator and a half time (8 hours a week) college English lecturer at a local engineering college. After starting my translation career in my 40’s, I continued working as a full-time teacher for some eight years until circumstances allowed me to cut that down to half time. I still maintain and enjoy the salaried position as I get to be around people, even more in their 20’s with their future in front of them, an invigorating experience, and also have a vested pension. Thus, I see great benefits in having dual careers.
These benefits include financial security, risk management, benefits, and flexibility. Clearly, given the uncertainty of freelance income, the knowledge that the mortgage or rent will be paid significantly reduces financial stress. In practical terms, a stretch of poor business does not endanger the roof. On the same line, having a salary creates the basis of a budget and facilitates budgeting. Salaried positions may carry benefits, such as paid pensions, health insurance and vehicles, all expensive items for many freelancers, depending on your country. Retaining the paid position also allows freelancers to build up their freelance business until such a time that they can change their status. Looking from the opposite perspective, having an independent business allows time flexibility to deal with family and health issues. It also creates a sense of personal ownership of the success, an experience often lacking as an employee. An independent business may also better express the talents and ambition of the person. Thus, both holding a salaried position and having an independent business can be a recipe for happiness.
However, maintaining the balance can be stressful as the loads vary but people’s ability to excel at two positions is limited, creating disappointment among colleagues and in themselves. Most company positions have peak work periods, such as after the tax year, during holidays and before the end of the semester. During these times, employers expect a full effort and do not care about the other obligations of employees, including family and other work. Colleagues also expect no less effort than they invest. As most people wish to meet these expectations, whether it is to receive the respect of their peers, their own pride or both, it is uncomfortable to be limited in one’s contribution. In simple words, you are only one person with some 16 hours a day available. The option of burning the midnight candle is only practical for a short period and harmful in the long term. Even during normal periods, it is difficult enough investing time in career advancement, including attending seminars and conferences, in one profession. For most people, there is not enough time to invest in two professions as they would ideally do so. As a result, people’s skills become relatively static in one of two positions. Two work positions, no matter how well balanced, create an internal tension.
The key to emotional acceptance of this situation, aside from dropping one of the jobs, is accepting the greyness of the world, i.e., people can only do their best even if the result is less than ideal. It is clear that nobody chooses occupational schizophrenia as a first option. Circumstances lead to that situation. A person needs to understand and accept that others are often either unaware of or apathetic towards individual circumstances, whether in regard to work, family or health. As in the old story about the man, the boy, and the donkey, we need to do what is good for us, not what pleases others, within limits of course. More importantly, freelancers holding another position almost have no choice but to accept that ultimately, they have to choose which position to put their ego in. In my case, I am a professional translator that also teaches, albeit generally rather well after more than 30 years of experience. Most of the time, I am happy with that description. I no longer strive to be the best lecturer in my department, which I would have if I only taught, due to a lack of time and energy. Some people may consider that unprofessional but employees live in their own reality and can only do their best, however unsatisfactory that may seem to others and themselves.
Thus, while employers may act as if employees are all in their job, many entrepreneurs must or choose to split themselves among two jobs as well as family. The benefits, financial and otherwise, of trying to manage two work worlds are clear but the stress and challenge of properly serving two bosses creates emotional dissonance. However, with an effective personal attitude, it is possible to properly balance asymmetric loads, at least most of the time. I made that choice some 18 years ago and have never looked back. I hope that those that have made or will make the same choice feel the same.
About the Author
Stephen Rifkind – Gaguzia Translations – since 2005. He translates from Hebrew, French and Russian to English, both US and UK, specializing in legal and financial documents, in particular contracts and official documents. He is a member of the ATA and SFT (France), a Recognized Translator by the Israeli Translators Association and a Proz.com certified Pro. His eclectic education background includes a BA in Russian, Teaching Credentials in French, an MBA and legal studies. He has also been a Lecturer of English at Braude College of Engineering in Karmiel, Israel for over 20 years. He has had a blog for 10 years.
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