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  • Michelle Lebowe

The Wild World of Freelance Translators

Comparing the day-to-day of regular 9-to-5 workers to us freelancers? It's like apples and unicorns. Regular job folks get their weekends, paid vacations, and those neat retirement plans. Freelancers? We're kings and queens of blending work with vacation, and our retirement strategy is a hopeful mix of caffeine, dreams, and a savings account—if we're feeling optimistic and are lucky.

Now, here's a spot where our paths cross: selection processes. While both of our categories are submitted to these vile, nasty, anxiety-causing events, it’s the way we freelance translators look at it that makes us different.

While for many being scrutinized for your experience, qualifications and talent is something you avoid at all costs and postpone until you want a raise, have been laid off, or simply hit that time in your life when you wake up and want to do a 180, WE ACTUALLY SIGN UP FOR IT.


“What?” you may ask. Let me explain. Come with me on this ride... through hell, or heaven, depending on your perspective.

We have to look for clients EVERY DAY. We should anyway, but we don’t always do that. This entails submitting your CV thousands of times, maybe being interviewed, and more times than not, completing a written translation test. it's like our own version of the Olympics, but with brainpower instead of muscle power.

Imagine these tests as a surprise quiz. Remember when you were in school, and you got one of those? Well, like Forest Gump taught us “a translation test is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” You might ace it or go completely blank. Deer in headlights.

Oh! Did I mention there is an inversely proportional ratio between how big the client is and how sharp your skills are on the day of the test? There is! Usually, the bigger the client, the more you think you tanked it.

Trust me, the emotional rollercoaster is real. One moment, you're a bundle of nerves; the next, you're dancing around your house because you just aced a test and landed a new client.

Yes, this is nerve-wracking, yes we get insomnia for days when we submit a test to a prospective important client. Yes, it gives us heart palpitations when we haven’t heard back in a while and feel we’ve been ghosted. Yes, we start questioning our knowledge, expertise, experience, and even life choices when this happens.

And yes, when you’re at the beginning of your career the time during which you wait for a response is like waking up from a nightmare into another nightmare into another, where the same scene repeats itself.

The scene? You wake up, walk over to your computer, check your emails, and see no response. In loop. The only thing missing is a voice saying “One, two, Freddy’s coming for you.”

You might compare the initial tests to the unease of a clumsy first date—complete with nervous laughter (often sparked by those all-too-vivid daydreams where your mailbox is stuffed with overdue bills, an eviction notice is on your door, and your fridge offers nothing but a few drops of water and some moldy cheese. Trust me, such scenarios are almost a rite of passage for freelancers who've endured even half a day without a fresh email).

There's the awkward silence, punctuated by the dread of not making the grade. Yet, as time marches on, something remarkable happens. Those once-intimidating tests transform into sources of excitement. It's as if we're eagerly asking, "What's next?" Each new test becomes a stage to showcase our talents, and every nod of approval feels like a high-five from the universe itself.

The thing is, when a positive outcome eventually comes, we’re infused with so much adrenaline, dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins that you get SKY HIGH!

Wait a minute, wait a minute.


Not that kind of high, people. Get your heads out of the gutter! I mean in confidence. In confidence and pride in yourself. Boy, do you have dirty minds!


In our game, hanging from that cliff is something we love to hate and hate to love. See the paradox? Yeah, we’re twisted like that.


So, as the good junkies we are, we remain in this life, feeding off of these ups and downs. Sometimes rejoicing, sometimes screaming in desperation. Nonetheless, addicted.


This constant cycle of charming clients and proving our worth isn't just some necessary chore. Not after a while, anyway. It turns out to be the essence of our freelance grind. It sharpens us, fuels our hunger, and, let's face it, keeps things spicy.


To the unfamiliar, our routine might look like something out of a horror flick, but for us, it's just another day in paradise. We translators are peculiar and get a kick out of what might give others the creeps. Chat us up, and you'll see our uniqueness first-hand.


Sure, being a freelance translator is like riding a Donkey Kong mine cart where, just like the game, the railroad seems solid but all of a sudden is missing some pieces and you’re left to fight for your life, but hey, it's our ride!


We love what we do and this thrill ride, with all its ups and downs, is what keeps us forever old  (thanks to the never-ending anxiety). I mean, forever young.

While to some it might spell out a recipe for an early grave, for us, it does too. But we’re convinced we’re living life at full throttle, and no shrink can convince us otherwise.


So sure, we might skip the usual job perks, but we wouldn't have it any other way. These endless tests and evaluations? They're our way of spicing things up, of showing that we're not just getting by in the wild world of freelance translation—we're owning it, one laugh, gasp, angina, short breath, panic attack, and victory lap at a time.

Oh, yeah! I almost forgot.

This whole thing was simply to say that the 2024 race has officially begun with my first approval and new client, a feeling of joy after having bitten off all of my nails and maybe almost gone bald due to the stress.   

May the odds be ever in our favor.


3 Kommentare

04. Feb.

Le chaim ,🍺

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02. Feb.

Muito bom o texto!

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02. Feb.

Yup. Not even chocolate can beat this thrill...

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