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Does constant availability affect your life?
Thread poster: Robgo

Robgo
Austria
Local time: 17:58
Member (2016)
English to German
+ ...
Jan 26, 2017

Hello!

I am new here.

Besides my job I am finishing my degree in translation sciences and am currently doing a seminar on the topic of how technology affects a translator's work/life.

My question is how does the (more or less required) constant availability affect your life? Do you feel the constant pressure to be able to respond immediately? Can you enjoy your weekends or do you often have to cancel plans at the last minute? Have smartphones changed your l
... See more
Hello!

I am new here.

Besides my job I am finishing my degree in translation sciences and am currently doing a seminar on the topic of how technology affects a translator's work/life.

My question is how does the (more or less required) constant availability affect your life? Do you feel the constant pressure to be able to respond immediately? Can you enjoy your weekends or do you often have to cancel plans at the last minute? Have smartphones changed your life for the better or worse? Is planning your vacation now more difficult than 10 years ago because you don't want to be gone and not reachable?

Obviously these questions serve for my class, but they also interest me personally. I for one do absolutely feel this pressure. I worry if I cannot do a job my client will go elsewhere and since I only work for a rather small number of clients, that would be bad. Planning a holiday always involves checking if there is cell phone coverage. While I don't think that it affects my health yet, I can imagine that it can become a problem later on.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Regards

Robert
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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:58
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Not available Jan 26, 2017

I am not always available. I almost never carry my smartphone with me. I usually don't need it.

Most people don't have my mobile phone number. They have my landline phone number and with my landline the answering machine is permanently ON. I pick up if it's someone I want to talk to. Otherwise, nobody gets to speak to me unless I want them to.

I respond IMMEDIATELY to all work-related emails. I am available to my clients during working hours. Not at any other time.
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I am not always available. I almost never carry my smartphone with me. I usually don't need it.

Most people don't have my mobile phone number. They have my landline phone number and with my landline the answering machine is permanently ON. I pick up if it's someone I want to talk to. Otherwise, nobody gets to speak to me unless I want them to.

I respond IMMEDIATELY to all work-related emails. I am available to my clients during working hours. Not at any other time.

Mobile phones cause inefficiency and wasted time because they enable people to constantly change appointments.

When I agree to meet someone at place X at time Y, that's agreed. I'll be there. No changes.

[Edited at 2017-01-26 15:16 GMT]
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Octavio Armendariz  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:58
French to English
+ ...
It does affect your life Jan 26, 2017

Constant availability does affect my life: I often have to cancel plans with friends at the last minute. I have to go everywhere with a smartphone and a tablet to make sure I don't miss out on jobs. As for vacations, I haven't taken one in 4 years. Having said that, I wouldn't trade my life for a 9-5 work schedule and having a boss. I enjoy the enormous flexibility that comes with a freelance job. Smartphones have been a blessing. I can run my errands or go out with friends without missing jobs ... See more
Constant availability does affect my life: I often have to cancel plans with friends at the last minute. I have to go everywhere with a smartphone and a tablet to make sure I don't miss out on jobs. As for vacations, I haven't taken one in 4 years. Having said that, I wouldn't trade my life for a 9-5 work schedule and having a boss. I enjoy the enormous flexibility that comes with a freelance job. Smartphones have been a blessing. I can run my errands or go out with friends without missing jobs because smartphones give me the flexibility of being able to reply to jobs instantly. Back in the 1990s, when I was starting out, I would have to spend the entire business day cooped in my apartment for fear of losing jobs. Notebook computers also give me the ability to work anywhere I want so if I get tired of being at my home office I can work at a coffee shop and still be as productive.Collapse


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:58
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Apartment Jan 26, 2017

Octavio Armendariz wrote:

.....I would have to spend the entire business day cooped in my apartment for fear of losing jobs.


The trick here is to have a nice apartment.


 

Robgo
Austria
Local time: 17:58
Member (2016)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Jan 26, 2017

Thanks for your input.
I can appreciate you situation, Ocatvio, and I often feel the same way. I guess it doesn'tz matter if you work for an agency or direct clients, if speed is essential, which it almost always is, you cannot well wait several hours until you get back to an inquiry.
Tom, I take it you are not worried that you might miss out an o job if it comes outside of your working hours. If you can keep this up, it certailny helps in keeping a healthy work/life schedule. But it
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Thanks for your input.
I can appreciate you situation, Ocatvio, and I often feel the same way. I guess it doesn'tz matter if you work for an agency or direct clients, if speed is essential, which it almost always is, you cannot well wait several hours until you get back to an inquiry.
Tom, I take it you are not worried that you might miss out an o job if it comes outside of your working hours. If you can keep this up, it certailny helps in keeping a healthy work/life schedule. But it also means that you have to be at your desk 40 hours a week, doesn't it? Don't you miss the flexibility in scheduling your days?
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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:58
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Working hours Jan 26, 2017

Robgo wrote:
.....
Tom, I take it you are not worried that you might miss out an o job if it comes outside of your working hours. If you can keep this up, it certailny helps in keeping a healthy work/life schedule. But it also means that you have to be at your desk 40 hours a week, doesn't it? Don't you miss the flexibility in scheduling your days?


You take it correctly. I work the same hours as my clients, most of whom are in Italy. Other clients in other places can always email me. I reply to work-related emails immediately, at any time, if my computer (which is always on) alerts me with a sound I have trained it to play for work-related emails ONLY.

I don't need flexibility in scheduling my days. I start work at 0900 Italian time and stop at 1800 Italian time. Then I'm gone. I never lose jobs. And I like being at my desk. It's a nice desk, in a nice room, with excellent technology and a nice view through the window. When not working I listen to music, watch TV, read, browse, or maintain contact with people.

I see people driving themselves crazy and becoming neurotic about missing a call or a message. Some of my friends have become unpleasant to be with because instead of talking to me, they are constantly checking their phone. If you want to lose friends and become a really uninteresting person, that's a good way to do it.

[Edited at 2017-01-26 15:40 GMT]


 

Robgo
Austria
Local time: 17:58
Member (2016)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Working hours Jan 26, 2017

Hi Tom,
I wonder how typical your way of handling this is.
Depending on how much you actually work during the day, this means that you (have to) spend a lot of time at home because you want to be available but you don't want to carry your mobile phone with you. As nice as one's home may be, to me that would not be an ideal way to do things because one of the perks as a freelancer is that you can also go out during the day if you have the time and feel like it.
Don't get me wro
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Hi Tom,
I wonder how typical your way of handling this is.
Depending on how much you actually work during the day, this means that you (have to) spend a lot of time at home because you want to be available but you don't want to carry your mobile phone with you. As nice as one's home may be, to me that would not be an ideal way to do things because one of the perks as a freelancer is that you can also go out during the day if you have the time and feel like it.
Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that one way is better than the other, it's just that yours seems to be more the classic business day, not the freelancer lifestyle- if I am not mistaken.
But it's certainly a good way to avoid the issues that I was originally asking about.
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Matthias Brombach  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:58
Member (2007)
Dutch to German
+ ...
Constant availability in the week a necessity, but not a nuisance Jan 26, 2017

Being constantly available in the week doesn´t mean that you need to react within two minutes or shorter, especially when one of your (my) regular clients asks.
My smartphone (for checking emails, automatically) is rather a helpful tool than a nuisance and assists to react at all when I´m out for fishing or swimming in the Firth to bridge idle times in my working week (which are rare enough). Within ten or twenty minutes I then could be home again by cycling to check the job more careful
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Being constantly available in the week doesn´t mean that you need to react within two minutes or shorter, especially when one of your (my) regular clients asks.
My smartphone (for checking emails, automatically) is rather a helpful tool than a nuisance and assists to react at all when I´m out for fishing or swimming in the Firth to bridge idle times in my working week (which are rare enough). Within ten or twenty minutes I then could be home again by cycling to check the job more carefully than possible with my smartphone. When alarmed by the usual "dear-all-best-rate" outsourcers via Proz I would cast the lure again or turn for tanning the other side ...
Rarely enough I am contacted by some Russian and US clients, either early in the morning or late in the afternoon / evening. The first one usually wait for my reaction around 8 am, for the latter I would go back to my work desk again to check when home, but I would never react immediately and take rush jobs for night work.

[Edited at 2017-01-26 16:28 GMT]
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Robgo
Austria
Local time: 17:58
Member (2016)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Matthias Jan 26, 2017

Thank you Matthias, you seem to have found a good balance.
I guess it all comes down to how established you are, how loyal your customers are and how your general situation is.


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:58
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Correct Jan 26, 2017

Robgo wrote:

.... it's just that yours seems to be more the classic business day, not the freelancer lifestyle...


Correct. I need to stay sane and not be WORKING 24/7. I would describe what you refer to as "the freelancer lifestyle" as "not having a life".

As it happens, I'm writing this during a dead period in my work. It's very cold outside so I wouldn't want to be out unless I had to be. I'm listening to music, playing with my cat, checking the news etc. If a job comes in, I'm here. At 5 PM I'm gone - out for some exercise. That's called "working as a freelancer and also having a life".


 

Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:58
German to English
It gets better over time Jan 26, 2017

Like Tom, I've been in the words-for-money business for a while, so my current situation is a little different from yours.

When I started translating full time with the advent of the PC, there was less urgency to have documents translated. A "rush" job usually meant a 4-day turnaround for a 5000-word document, which was usually delivered either by mail or fax (or in my case, picked up personally at a nearby agency).

I lived outside the US from 1990-94, and during this t
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Like Tom, I've been in the words-for-money business for a while, so my current situation is a little different from yours.

When I started translating full time with the advent of the PC, there was less urgency to have documents translated. A "rush" job usually meant a 4-day turnaround for a 5000-word document, which was usually delivered either by mail or fax (or in my case, picked up personally at a nearby agency).

I lived outside the US from 1990-94, and during this time, the landscape had evolved immeasurably.

When internet access and e-mail became widespread, the volume of translation work expanded exponentially, and deadlines became increasingly compressed. I was eager to restart my business when I returned to the US, and was afraid of missing jobs and losing customers. I had a second landline installed in the house, got a cell phone (no smartphones in 1994) and was afraid to take significant time off during the week. I took rush jobs from new customers, a practice I soon abandoned. My main criterion for taking on/keeping a customer was a respectable rate.

Over time I learned a few lessons: not every job is worth taking, and not every customer is worth keeping (for whatever reason). By the end of the 1990s I had about a dozen regular customers, and about as many who occasionally sent me work. I was afraid to turn down offers and worked 6-7 days/week for weeks at a time. Now I have a handful of regular well-paying customers who send me work almost every week, plus a few more who contact me for quarterly reports, monthly newsletters, etc. I work the occasional weekend, but this is generally by choice, not due to urgency on the part of the customer.

Unlike Tom, I have my smartphone with me at all times, as I got rid of my landline. My customers rarely call me, and I don't answer calls from unrecognized numbers. Like Tom, I follow the good practice of responding to all inquiries immediately, as this promotes good customer relations, even though I may have to turn a job down.

My point is that at first you'll have to work very hard to develop a solid customer base, and you may have to sacrifice some of your flexibility. Unfortunately, competition for jobs is very fierce these days, and there's downward pressure on prices in some markets, but with hard work and luck things can improve – assuming you don't go bankrupt or insane first.
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Michal Fabian  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 11:58
Member (2012)
Dutch to Slovak
+ ...
Sounds like a classic example of a freelancer... Jan 26, 2017

... who needs to take any job they get lest they starve or get evicted.

If that is the case, something along the way of building their business went seriously wrong and they need to rethink their USP.


 

Matthias Brombach  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:58
Member (2007)
Dutch to German
+ ...
General situation Jan 26, 2017


I guess it all comes down to how established you are, how loyal your customers are and how your general situation is.


Exactly and I still remember different times, especially in my first year. And of course you never know what times you are heading for, i.e. after raising your prices, declining too many jobs of one of your regular clients or when being pestered by an overambitious proofreader (and you don´t know it) etc.
And you should have enough savings to bridge silly seasons.

[Edited at 2017-01-26 18:23 GMT]


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:58
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
A recipe for disaster? Jan 26, 2017

Robgo wrote:
My question is how does the (more or less required) constant availability affect your life?

No human being can be available 24 hours a day. It's a ridiculous thing to try to do. Even subracting 8 hours to sleep is not enough. We aren't machines!

Do you feel the constant pressure to be able to respond immediately?

During the working day, yes, I feel some pressure. I always take my smartphone out with me, check it regularly, and at least get back to them with an "I'll get back to you soon" message. But I don't suppose there's a job in the world that comes without its share of pressure. If they get in touch in the evening or at the weekend I do generally see the message, but I don't feel any need to reply until I'm back at work.

Can you enjoy your weekends or do you often have to cancel plans at the last minute?

I do sometimes have to cancel plans for part of the weekend, yes. It is tempting to take on more jobs than you can handle during the normal working hours and although I never actually plan to work at the weekend I do sometimes worry about missing a Monday deadline if I don't. But I do try to bear in mind how family and friends will be inconvenienced.

Have smartphones changed your life for the better or worse?

Well, telephones have changed it for the better, that's for sure. Most people here probably don't remember life before them but I remember ours being put in when I was about 12. It was such an enormous event I even remember the number, 50 years on! KIN 7054, changed to 546 7054, without changing where you needed to put your fingers. Of course that was just a home phone. I remember my daughter passing her driving test 25 years ago and going off alone. I was frantic by the time she got back, an hour late, having got lost. If only she could have phoned from the car! Then in 1999, when I'd had a mobile phone for a while, we bought one for our son. The very next day we got a call from him: he'd crashed his bike and was quite seriously injured among the vineyards where nobody would have found him in time to save his leg. So yes, I'd say phones are a definite improvement. And smartphones more so, with their GPS, maps etc.

Is planning your vacation now more difficult than 10 years ago because you don't want to be gone and not reachable?

When I'm on holiday, I'm on holiday. Surely it's unwise to go year in year out without a total break?

I worry if I cannot do a job my client will go elsewhere and since I only work for a rather small number of clients, that would be bad.

Of course it's a slight worry, but I find it doesn't normally cause the loss of the client. I know for a fact that both my best clients went elsewhere during my very recent holiday. One actually had me evaluate my replacement before I left. I got back on Monday and one has already come back. The other normally finishes the month with the replacement, so I'm expecting him back next Wednesday. I've worked as a regular replacement for fellow translators in the past, too, without stealing their jobs.

Planning a holiday always involves checking if there is cell phone coverage.

That must be a sad apology for a holiday. And downright insulting to whoever you're on holiday with. I'm glad I've never gone down that route.

While I don't think that it affects my health yet, I can imagine that it can become a problem later on.

I'm absolutely certain it will be damaging. There must be a way to plan for your downtime. Can you not find your replacement yourself, and come to some agreement with them to cover for each other? Or give your clients sufficient notice so that they can plan for a replacement? You don't want to leave them in the lurch, but surely your downtime can be managed, just like every other aspect of your business can - and has to - be managed?


 

Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
Danish to English
+ ...
Agree with Tom Jan 26, 2017

I agree with Tom. I don’t want to risk a burnout, so I don’t make myself available 24/7.

I’m an incorrigible night owl, so I don’t attempt to work ‘normal’ business hours (which would simply give me a perpetual ‘jet lag’) but have a later schedule. It is published on my website and in my Proz profile. I may lose some morning jobs, but then I can take late-afternoon jobs when everybody else in my time zone has stopped working, and it gives me a better overlap with ti
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I agree with Tom. I don’t want to risk a burnout, so I don’t make myself available 24/7.

I’m an incorrigible night owl, so I don’t attempt to work ‘normal’ business hours (which would simply give me a perpetual ‘jet lag’) but have a later schedule. It is published on my website and in my Proz profile. I may lose some morning jobs, but then I can take late-afternoon jobs when everybody else in my time zone has stopped working, and it gives me a better overlap with time zones on the American continent.

My DSL service includes more than one landline number, so I use different ones for private and professional purposes. I turn off my business phone at the end of my working hours.

I use an old mobile phone for a separate business mobile number and also turn that phone off outside office hours.

I have two Skype accounts. Guess what. I sign out of the business account at the end of my working day.

Emails do arrive 24/7, but I don’t feel obliged to reply outside my office hours. Sometimes I do, particularly if it’s from a good client, and sometimes I don’t. This does not cause any stress.

I also take time out for holidays, and I don’t accept work in these periods.

I could obviously work and earn more if I never took time off for myself and my family, but doing this would just have unwanted consequences such as stress, burnout, increased risk of illness and even death (a relation between stress and heart attacks/strokes has been demonstrated), and a lot more. What do you need money for if you’ve just died of a heart attack?

It’s a question of finding a balance that suits you. It’s not because you’re working freelance you have to be available 24/7. In any case, it’s up to you to manage your phones and availability. Don’t let the tail wag the dog.

I may be flexible within certain boundaries, depending on the circumstances and how much inconvenience a last-minute change would cause.
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