To continue to improve your finances as a translator, you need to already be in a state where you can afford the basic life necessities to a certain extent. Only then will your bargaining power grow, allowing you to work with increasingly better clients. Through three posts starting from this one, we will be thinking of practices to prepare the stepping stones to move us to a better stage.
In this first post, let’s start by talking about the “basic cost of living”.
When people receive a salary, their thoughts are significantly influenced by the size of that salary. “My salary is this much, so I have to live in this kind of house,” “my salary is this much, so I should spend this much and save this much,” and so on. A salary appears to increase to a certain extent as time goes by and as effort is put in, but it’s largely more accurate to say that it doesn’t really increase, and so it’d be wise to think about everything according to the amount of your salary.
However, if you live as a freelance translator, you can eventually choose how much to work and how much to earn even if this is difficult at first. Of course, you should still put in effort to run your business to work efficiently and receive better compensation for your work. At this point, the important thing is knowing how much you have to earn.
If you think the more, the better, I don’t know what to tell you. A person who thinks that way will never be satisfied, will never be grateful, won’t know how to give and share, and will die after a lifetime of working like a mule. I think the path to happiness is realistically calculating how much money you need considering the size of your family, your goals, the type of lifestyle you want, what kind of things are really important in your life, etc. and designing your work and earnings accordingly.
Even in the short term, it’s important to think about money. For those just starting the translation business and trying to grow and stabilize it, earning enough for basic living expenses is a very important achievement. If you can’t get to that stage, you have no choice but to endlessly continue to work and receive that (low) rate you first agreed on. You have to accept work under bad conditions and be dragged around by bad agencies, unable to cut ties with them. You won’t be able to self-assert and will have to continue to do unprofitable work.
However, once you reach the level where you can afford the basic cost of living, the story changes. At that stage, you can upgrade your business to a new level. Instead of simply working more to increase your income, you can exchange your old clients for better ones and suggest a better rate so that you can receive a better wage for the same work. This will give you more free time and you will at least maintain, if not increase, your income. You will have reduced stress and overall be able to better regulate your schedule. However, to do this, you must at least be able to earn the basic cost of living, which is not such an easy task at first.
Now, from the above long- and short-term perspectives, you can see how important it is to reduce your basic cost of living. If your basic cost of living is high, you will have to do more work and it will take a really long time for you to graduate from stage 1. When your basic cost of living is too high, translation becomes an exhausting labor that must be taken care of instead of something that’s enjoyable and intellectually satisfying.
When your basic cost of living is too high, translation becomes an exhausting labor. Click To Tweet
Time for self-improvement and hobbies will go out the window. When it takes so much longer for you to be able to afford your basic cost of living, you won’t have the luxury of upgrading your business even if you’ve been working for several years. How can you have the guts to point out your clients’ mistakes and demand corrections when you can’t even earn your living expenses? How can you have the guts to demand a higher translation fee from new clients?
Lower your living expenses is a very necessary business wisdom and know-how. This is true for everyone, but even more so for freelance translators. The lower the basic cost of living, the less time a translator needs to work to reach that amount. The remaining time can then be used to plan out a more long-term take off. On the other hand, if the basic cost of living is high, it will take longer to earn the amount of necessary income, which means you will have to continue to work for low rates or with clients you don’t like because you won’t have any bargaining power for a long time. Are you getting a sense of the importance of lowering your basic living expenses?