ATA Business Smarts – The Midsummer Slump
Reblogged from ATA Business Practices
Dear Business Smarts:
During the past two weeks, very little work has come in. My regular clients all seem to have gone on a collective beach vacation. Even though I usually have a steady amount of work, I have had to search the online marketplaces for assignments, without much success. I feel like a fraud sitting in my office and not making any money. What should I do?
— Unemployed Workaholic in New York
Fluctuations in workload, and an ebbing of the tide during the summertime, are inescapable parts of every freelancer’s life. Here are some suggestions for things to do during what seems to be the inevitable “midsummer lull,” which is a perfect time to address many of the management and business chores small business owners often neglect:
- Make sure you have sent an invoice for every job and logged every payment that has come in. Balance your checkbook and order new checks if you are about to run out.
- Check that you have current versions of all your essential software: now is the time to spend a couple of hours downloading those enormous upgrade files. Run a utility to defragment your main hard drive. Delete any application programs you never use, along with their preference files and other baggage; there are utilities for this, too.
- Double-check that your virus protection software is up-to-date, and scan for undetected malware.
- Enter useful terminology into your translation memory system or terminology management program.
- Even in the age of Google, you might still want to order some new dictionaries or reference books. Check through those discussion list printouts and book reviews you stuffed into a folder a few months ago.
- Look through your Internet browser bookmarks or favorites to see whether there are any useful sites you have not visited recently.
- Check your supplies of printer paper, toner, staples, etc.
- Do something about all the stuff that piled up around the office while you had no time to do anything but work.
- Sort through your e-mail IN box and confirm that every meancial records for seven years, but anything older can now be recycled. Be sure to shred all documents that include confidential data, such as your Social Security number.
- If you have not decided to keep copies of every translation you have ever done, add the old ones to the recycling bin.ssage requiring a response has been answered.
- The IRS requires that you retain financial records for seven years, but anything older can now be recycled. Be sure to shred all documents that include confidential data, such as your Social Security number.
- If you have not decided to keep copies of every translation you have ever done, add the old ones to the recycling bin.
- Are you happy with your present assortment of clients? Are some of them more trouble than they are worth? Consider refining your client mix using the “portfolio management techniques” discussed in this column a few months ago.
- Are there new subject areas you would like to explore so that you can expand your expertise and take on new kinds of work?
- Think about the types of translations you love and hate (engineering drawings? magazine articles? lab reports?) and act accordingly.
- Is your work life in balance with the rest of your life? Are you spending enough time with your family and friends, and on other activities that make you a well-rounded human being?
- Are you making enough money from your translation or interpretation work? How does your income contribute to the family budget?
- This is the perfect time to consider your tax situation: should your estimated payments be raised or lowered? How do your business expenses look at mid-year?
… panic. Your favorite client has not forgotten about you, and the phone will ring again.
… check your e-mail every 10 minutes to see whether new work has come in (besides, your
computer is busy downloading all that updated software).
… accept work at a lower rate, or work with clients you do not like, just because there is a
temporary hole in your job calendar.
- Talk to the people you live with.
- Pull some weeds out of the flowerbeds.
- Read a book.
- Take a walk.
- Find a new restaurant and go out on a date with your significant other.
- Buy yourself a nice plant for the office.
- Go for a bicycle ride.
Keep a folder around to collect “downtime” ideas. Then, the next time you are buried up to your eyeballs in assignments and are wondering how much more coffee you can drink, you can actually look forward to having a little well-deserved time off.