Why Batch Days Will Make You a More Productive Freelance Translator

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Batching your work, i.e., working on a set of similar tasks in the same block of time, can be a real time saver and lead to more productivity. It takes a little bit of planning ahead, but by batching your tasks, you can avoid distractions and get more done during the work day.

There are many reasons to batch your tasks. First, there is a wide amount of research proving how much time is wasted when we switch back and forth from one task to another, or even between tabs in our web browser. It’s no wonder that we can sometimes work the day away and feel like we’ve accomplished very little. The amount of time it takes to stop and start a task, answer a random email in the middle of a task or creative project, take a client call or even pop on a social media app for a few minutes (which we all know can turn into much more than a few minutes!) takes away from valuable time we could be spending on business-related tasks that move the needle forward.

How does a batch day work?

The ideal batch day consists of putting all your related projects together in one large "batch" and working on them back to back, taking breaks as needed, and not allowing anyone to interrupt that planned work time. Yes, boundaries are key!

Remember that with batching tasks and your work days, you set the parameters. Let those around you know what you’re working on, and ask them to respect your work time. You can even do this with your clients. Set up an auto-responder on your email to tell recipients that you’re working on a time-sensitive project and you’ll reply to them the next time you check your email, or within 24 hours. If you work from home, ask your family members not to interrupt you during your work hours unless they truly need you for something that cannot wait.

Next, you’ll want to decide what days will work best for you to handle specific tasks. Do you prefer to handle client calls on a specific day of the week? I try to hold calls only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Do you need to set aside time to work on balancing your books or invoicing your clients? I certainly do. I like to handle my accounting-related tasks on what I’ve dubbed “Finance Fridays.”

What kinds of tasks should you batch?

Once you feel comfortable that the right people are notified about your unavailable times, decide what tasks are most essential in helping you grow your business. These tasks can be related to client projects, content creation like writing blog or social media posts, updating your website or directory listings with new information, writing warm emails to clients as part of your marketing efforts, etc.

If you have a set of tasks that you find tedious to handle (think of those that you would rather put off by scrolling social media or checking your inbox every few minutes, even when you’re not waiting on a specific message from anyone!), batch them together and commit to finishing them before you move on to something else. For example, if you dread working on marketing, you can take all of those pesky tasks and handle them on Mondays. "Marketing Mondays," anyone?

Personally, I find batching tasks that are similar in nature to be the best way to make sure I get all of them done. This puts my mind at ease and helps me to do the rest of my work better, too. By taking care of tasks in batches or blocks of time, it ensures that I can stay on top of all the projects I have going on simultaneously.

How do you batch your tasks to maximize your work productivity and time?

You can do it any way you like, but if you're to make the most of your time, it's a good idea to first take a look at all the tasks you do on a regular basis (even those you would rather put off). Once you have things laid out in front of you, it's easier to see which ones are related. You can list them in categories so that you have a clear visual to work with, if you like.

For example, you could put all of your marketing tasks in one batch or break them into two batches if you find that you have several tasks to handle and little time. You could even schedule these tasks on Monday so that you are sure to get them out of the way for the week. It could look something like this.

Marketing Monday

  • Write to 5 new potential clients.

  • Touch base with 3 current clients to say “hello” and send them an article they might appreciate (this keeps you top of mind!).

  • Write a blog post.

  • Send a handwritten note to one of your favorite clients.

  • Prepare your social media posts for the week.

  • Outline your next client newsletter.

Even if you can’t work on all of the items under your marketing category list at once, you can choose two or three to do every Monday. This means that you are consistently marketing your business, something we all need to be doing regardless of how busy we are! This type of progress will continue to compound over time, and you’ll find that the couple of hours you put in every Monday are well worth it.

By blocking time to knock out several tasks of the same kind at once, you also give yourself more freedom to work on other items throughout the day. And you know that you've already handled these items and won't put them off for another week!

Here’s another example.

Finance Friday

  • Pay your business credit card and other business-related bills.

  • Balance your books.

  • Send any invoices or receipts to your bookkeeper or accountant.

  • Invoice clients.

  • Pay estimated taxes.

  • Pay yourself!

If you already know that you handle finance-related tasks every Friday, you won't have to stop during the rest of your work week to handle them. Again, by setting aside this time, you are being proactive instead of reactive!

As I mentioned above, another way that I handle batching is with phone calls and meetings. I try my best to hold calls and meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This way, I'm not spending an hour or two in meetings five days a week. This allows me to schedule specific and dedicated time to my client work, volunteer commitments, colleagues, etc. If this is something you’d like to try, check out Calendly for scheduling calls and Zoom for holding virtual meetings and calls.

Some freelancers I know even batch their client works on certain days of the week or at certain times of the day when they know they're most productive. Whether you do your best work early in the morning or long into the evening, choose the time of day when your brain tends to fire on all cylinders, and use that time for client and creative work. Leave the administrative work for the times when you don’t need as much creativity. This way, you won't be using precious work hours on the behind-the-scenes tasks that don't actually pay the bills.

Now, you tell me. Have you ever tried batching your work or tasks? Do you have certain days of the week when you handle marketing, financial tasks, etc.?

5 Ways to Collaborate With Other T&I Freelancers

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Sometimes we get into the habit of putting our heads down to work and not coming up for air. But perhaps just as important as working hard to grow in our profession is taking the time to develop relationships with others who do what we do for a living.

One of the ways we can do this is to collaborate! Not only does collaborating help you to grow in your craft, but it could very well open the door to new opportunities, even if that isn't your primary intention for the starting a collaboration.

Here are 5 ways to collaborate with other T&I freelancers to grow in your career.

1. Attend client-facing conferences together.

This can be a really wonderful way to work with a colleague in a strategic way. When you find someone who is willing to attend a conference with you in one of your areas of specialization, you can benefit from this experience both in the long term and the short term.

Split up at the event and talk to as many people as you can. Think of one another as your "wingperson" throughout the conference weekend. By pairing up with a colleague at client-facing events, you can promote your own business, as well as theirs, more widely. Circle back to one another every few hours and share ideas, contact information for possible leads, notes to follow up with certain people or companies, etc.

2. Write an article together.

This might be one way to collaborate that most people don't think about. However, when you write an article on a given topic related to your area of specialization or language pair, you are often seen by readers as an authority on that topic.

Split up the work involved in pitching and writing the article. Decide who will do what part of the research and writing process, benefit from editing one another's work, and enjoy seeing your names together in writing. Then share the article with your colleagues and clients!

3. Present together.

This may be another rarely considered form of collaboration among colleagues. Let's say you live near a colleague who is also a translator/interpreter. Take a look at the organizations in your local region and pinpoint a few venues where you could propose a presentation together, including local conferences, chamber of commerce gatherings, local "lunch and learn" events, etc. Just like with the article idea in #2, split up the work involved: pitching, preparing the outline of the presentation, putting slides together, preparing and printing handouts or marketing materials, etc.

After your presentation, split up and talk to as many attendees as you can. Regroup after the presentation and Q&A portion to share notes and ideas for follow-up.

4. Join forces and pitch to similar clients.

Do you know someone who works in the same language pair(s) and specialization(s) as you? Consider becoming a translator/editor team and pitching to clients in the same industry. By embracing a collaboration over competition mentality, you can reach more potential clients and benefit from each other's legwork. When you pick up a new client from this process, hire your colleague to edit your work as part of the scope of the project, and vice versa.

Even if you don't have a close colleague who works in the same language pair(s) and specialization(s), you can still find a colleague who you can refer work to whenever a client inquires about a project you don't feel particularly qualified to handle. When you begin referring work to colleagues, they will remember your kindness and will often return the favor.

5. Volunteer together.

A lot of us meet colleagues who we become friends with simply from volunteering together. If you're a member of a local, regional or national association, consider volunteering a few hours a month with the goal of promoting the profession and meeting like-minded colleagues. I can tell you from my own experience that I have found so many colleagues to collaborate with over the years, and most of them are people I've met through professional volunteer activities.

Other ways to collaborate with T&I colleagues

  • Mentor one another. Let's say that you want to learn something new in your area of specialization, or you might want to establish yourself in a new one. You may have a colleague who could mentor you. In exchange, you could offer to pay this person for their time or mentor them in something you are particularly well skilled in. Another option is to find a mentor through your local, regional or national translators/interpreters association. Whatever you choose, try to find a mentoring program that is mutually beneficial for both the mentor and mentee.

  • Be each other's accountability partner. Is there something you'd like to do in your business this year? I'm guessing there are others who would like to reach certain professional or business goals as well. Look for someone in the same or a similar stage of their career and offer to be one another's accountability partner. Check in with and support one another on a regular basis. Brainstorm new ideas together, and continue to build your professional relationship with that person.

  • Host a social/learning event together for other colleagues. Is there a topic you'd like to learn about that would lend well to a one-day workshop style event? My guess is that if you want to learn about a topic, there are others in your region (or even virtually!) who would like to do the same. Partner with a colleague to organize an event, and invite others to join you to learn about this topic, share their professional experience and exchange advice on a given topic.

I recently heard about this idea from a colleague in France who attended an event hosted by another colleague as part of a larger T&I association. She told me that it was very well organized, and the topic (Machine Translation) drew several attendees in the area. If you're thinking of organizing an event like this on a specific topic, check out this Speaking of Translation podcast episode to hear about the event Eve Bodeux organized for her local translators association colleagues on technology for translators.

There are countless ways to collaborate with other T&I freelancers. If you find yourself feeling stuck or on the verge of burnout, now might be the perfect time to get that extra boost of energy from joining forces with a colleague.

And if you're not sure who that person could be, put out a "call" on Twitter or elsewhere for another serious freelancer who has similar goals. It's doable! And you might just find that you'll meet new people in this process or become closer to a colleague you've already admired and respected for some time. Win-win!

Have you collaborated with other colleagues before? What was your experience, and would you recommend it to others?

Five Productivity Hacks for Freelance Translators and Interpreters

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At this time of year, it seems that everyone is looking to better themselves in some way. Some people make resolutions, and some make a list of goals they want to achieve over the course of the year. I tend to fall into the latter category, but either way, I know that there is no way I can come close to achieving my goals if I don't take into account how I spend my days, i.e. my time.

Here is a short list of productivity hacks I have found useful in my freelance business. I hope that you, too, will find them helpful, and I'd love to hear about your own productivity hacks in the comments at the end of this post.

1. Check your email only two or three times a day maximum (!).

This is still something I am working on myself. But I have found that I am so much more productive when I set limits on how often I check my email. Not only is it better to spend more time on the tasks that actually make money in your business, but sometimes just checking our email can lead us down one rabbit hole after another that suck our time and keep us from giving more attention to the tasks that actually move the needle forward in our businesses.

My own plan for 2019 is to check my email three times each day: once first thing in the morning, since I have clients in Europe, once right before lunch and once at the end of the day before calling it quits. With so many commitments, I have found that I can spend endless amounts of time just responding to requests and producing information for others instead of tackling my own tasks. I'm not complaining by any means, but it is a reality I've become more aware of over the past year.

2. Batch similar tasks/projects/commitments.

If you have read articles or books about productivity, you've probably heard this one (and maybe some others on the list) before. There are a lot of studies that show the amount of time wasted when having to switch tasks is much higher than most of us even realize. Whether we are interrupted by notifications, emails, daily household occurrences, or even when shifting from one task to another, our minds do not immediately jump into the new task right away. These transition periods between tasks can truly add up if we are not cognizant of them. By batching similar tasks or projects on a given day or morning/afternoon, we allow ourselves to focus on one thing at a time, thereby making sure we finish it well before moving on to the next task or project.

For example, I try my best to schedule all calls on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Sometimes it doesn't work out due to scheduling conflicts, but it's something I strive to do as often as possible. I also work on blog posts and content creation the same day each week. This way, I know that when Wednesday comes, I have to write a blog post for the following month or an email to subscribers for the following Friday. Speaking of Fridays… this is the day I do all financial tasks: paying bills and those who work for me, invoicing clients, balancing the books and submitting payroll. If it helps, name the days of the week when you are going to batch certain tasks. I personally love "Finance Fridays" for the hour or so I spend on knocking out those money-related tasks.

3. Turn off all notifications during your scheduled work time.

I'll admit that this is another hard one for me. I really like to make myself available to others as much as possible. This can be both a good and a bad thing at times. I'm typically a very responsive person, but I realize that other people don't necessarily need (or expect!) to hear from me right away. If something is not urgent, then I can probably respond later in the day when I am answering my emails. I love to clean out my emails every single day, and admittedly, having pending emails gives me a bit of stress. The same goes for text messages or other requests. But slowly, I'm finding ways to set more boundaries, and turning off notifications has been a game changer.

I silence my cell phone all day, every day. There are only a few people who can reach me during the day, if absolutely necessary, when I'm working on an important task. If you want to give this a try, go ahead and set your phone to "do not disturb" mode each day during your working hours. Let others know that you'll be more than happy to respond to them once you're finished working for the day, just as you might do if you worked in a traditional office setting and answered to a boss or supervisor.

4. Set a timer for yourself for every type of task, and commit to getting that task done in that amount of time.

Again, this is not a new idea. You'll hear it again and again if you read about productivity and time management. But it is definitely another game changer in my mind, especially for those of us who are perfectionists. Make sure you turn off all distractions when you press "start" on the timer, and do your best to try to beat the clock. Some people like to reward themselves if they can finish a task before the timer goes off. Whatever works for you, do that.

5. Change your scenery from time to time (at least once a week), and especially for those "eat the frog" tasks!

I'm someone who doesn't mind a little bit of background noise while I work. In fact, I often welcome a bit of music or soft noise. It helps me to focus, but I realize this may not work for everyone. Whether you need to hear some noise or you prefer complete silence, changing your workspace or scenery at least once a week can be a really welcome change. You might even notice that you are more productive on the days when you choose to work at a local library or neighborhood coffee shop for a few hours.

Again, try to set a timer for tasks, batch similar items on that day and turn off notifications. All of these things, plus the change of environment could really help you to knock out a few items you've been putting off. If you have one of those "eat the frog" tasks (something tedious or just really unappealing) to do, it might be good to save it for your date with new surroundings so you can tackle it.

Whatever you choose to do to boost your productivity this year, make a mental note of what works best for you and try to be consistent with it. It isn't helpful to try something for a day before you write it off. Try to give a few of these tips a go, and seek out a few more if you are someone who has trouble focusing or avoiding distractions. And don't forget to share your own favorite productivity hacks with me below in the comments!

The Free Project Management Tool You Need for Your Translation or Interpreting Business

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Whether you are a freelancer or a small business owner, you always want to make sure you have systems in place that run efficiently in your business. When your systems work well, you have more time to focus on what you do best, and this means more time for billable hours, too. One of the most essential systems in running a translation or interpreting business is the one in which you manage all of your tasks and projects. I'm not talking only about client projects, but also those projects that don't necessarily bring in any revenue, like invoicing, planning a marketing strategy, preparing social media posts, writing blog posts, reaching out to prospective clients, planning days, you name it.

I first presented about this free tool at the American Translators Association annual conference in New Orleans (October 2018), and those who attended my session were very excited to learn about it. The audience was made up of a range of professionals, from freelancers to agency owners and committee volunteers to chapter presidents. I was blown away by the number of people who thanked me for suggesting this tool to them. Some of them even downloaded the Asana app right after the session!

Introducing… Asana.

Before I made the switch to Asana, I was using a few different tools to keep everything organized in my business. It didn't seem like a complicated system at the time. It did the job, but I didn't realize how much more organized we could be by keeping everything all in one place until we found Asana. I'd tried several of the project management tools that are meant for T&I businesses, but I found that none of them can do all that we need them to do. And as I don't have the budget to create a custom project management system at this time, I have found Asana to be a truly dynamic and easy-to-use tool both for myself and for my team. I also use Asana to organize my own freelance and volunteer projects. It's so dynamic!

And do you want to know the absolute best part?! It is free. That's right. I don't pay a dime to use it and I can add as many people as I would like to a project within my organization. It is free for them, too! Even if you are a solopreneur and have no plans to hire anyone for your business, this project management tool will change the way you do business for the better. It will keep you organized and planning things from start to finish. It will help you with your workflow and really give you the full picture when it comes to long-term goals and planning.

Here's a view of my Dashboard when I first open Asana in my web browser.

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All of your projects are organized however you like, but what I love is that you can color code them and move them around however you like whenever you need. Besides the Dashboard view, you can easily access all of your projects in the left-hand sidebar by scrolling down. Here's an example of how I organize my blog posts for the blog you're reading right now!

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We use Asana to keep track of our client projects, as well as inquiries we get from prospective clients who might not yet be ready to hire us for a project.

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You can set up a template for the projects you tend to have the same steps for over and over. We've done this with our prospective client and current client pipelines (like the one you see above), and it couldn't be easier. No reinventing the wheel for each inquiry you receive!

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Asana also integrates with so many programs that we already use to keep files organized, like Google Drive, Dropbox, etc. We are able to email tasks to ourselves that will show up in Asana, use the app on our smartphones to add tasks and respond to items in the conversations feature, and so much more. And I just found out that I can also turn handwritten notes into tasks and get Siri to add tasks for me on my iPhone. What?!

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I've already told you that we organize the projects we have to do as teams, but I also have projects for which I am the only "team member" (things like administrative tasks, reminders about making tax payments, completing payroll, etc.). Here is a screenshot of a few tasks that would only show up in my own administrative projects view. I'm able to set deadlines and assign them to myself so that I receive a reminder notification on the day they're due.

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If you're someone who likes to be able to see a full calendar view of your tasks (as well as those of anyone you may add to your projects), you can switch to the Calendar View very easily.

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Or you can see everything in a List view, if you prefer.

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There is also an Asana app for Smartphone users, so I can access projects and files from my phone if I'm traveling, running errands or just out of the office. And I can even add tasks to projects straight from my email that will show up in this tool whenever I want.

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Now, I'll be honest and tell you that Asana isn't the most intuitive program to use at first. But! If you stick with it, you will find that it is worth learning how to use it properly. I personally didn't have a lot of time to learn how to use the tool through trial and error, so I did a little research and found an online course that breaks down exactly how to set up your Asana account for your business. This class is the best. I was able to set up my Asana account to be the workhorse for my business. My project managers are also in love with Asana now. And no, that's not an exaggeration.

If you are interested in setting up an organizational system like this for yourself and/or for a team you work with in your T&I business (even if it's just for you and your accountant!), I highly recommend you check out Megan Minns' course Asana HQ. Truly, it is worth taking the course so that you can see the full capacity of Asana and all of its free features. I learned so many things about how to use Asana that I would have had no idea about had it not been for this course. Megan gives tips and tricks that you likely wouldn't be able to figure out just from signing up with a free account and tinkering around in the program.

If you're not sure how Asana can work for you, I would suggest just watching this video and seeing if this type of organizational system would help you in your business. Even if you are a freelancer who usually works as a solopreneur, using Asana to get your operations and client management down pat will make you so much more efficient. Asana can get your processes and workflows so organized, you'll feel like a new person. Again, not an exaggeration. Besides, you may not work alone forever, and if you have everything set up this way already, it will be easy to bring on someone else in the future!

(I have no affiliation with Asana, and I use the free version! So, this is an honest review. I love it that much.)

How to Project and Track Sales Revenue in Your T&I Business to Start Earning More

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I recently showed you exactly how I project and track business expenses and how to do it easily in your own business. In this post, I want to show you the more exciting part: how to project and track sales revenue in your T&I business so that you can start earning more.

Everyone needs to know their earnings in order to pay their bills, right? If you are always waiting on the next project to land in your inbox, then you're doing this business thing all wrong. This method and spreadsheet will help you to stop living check to check, or month to month and really take control of your earnings and your business.

Again, just as in my other post and video on expense projection and tracking, the numbers I use in this spreadsheet and video do not reflect numbers in my own business. This is simply a demonstration to show you how you can project and track your earnings using a simple method.

Here's how my sales revenue projection and tracking tool looks in a few snapshot views.

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This spreadsheet is great to use at the end of a tax year, to help you decide when to go on vacation or take an extended work break and to let you see where you can start earning more and/or working less by changing up your rates or fees. No matter if you charge by the word, by the hour, by a flat project fee, etc., you can use this spreadsheet to get a very good picture of your sales goals and how to meet them. Let me show you how.

By projecting your sales revenue, you can figure out exactly how much work you need to do each quarter to hit your sales goals/projections. It will also help you to get an overview of what you can earn for each type of service you provide. Don't like editing? Decide to translate more and plug that into your projections. Don't think you'll hit the numbers you projected? Use the planning tabs to figure out how you can. Want to drop low-paying clients? This will show you what you need to do in order to get there.

This method allows you to stop taking on every project that falls into your lap and start thinking ahead about how much you want to work and what you need to do to hit your sales revenue goals. Of course, you should reassess at the end of the quarter and tweak what you'll need to do in the following quarter or six months. You can use this method every year in your business. You can even project next year's sales revenue now, if you like.

Stop living project to project, check to check and lay out a plan for your T&I business. To get the exact spreadsheet I use in this video, click on the button below to download and get started.

When you purchase the spreadsheet, you will receive:

● the spreadsheet in Excel format (email me for the link as a Google spreadsheet, if you prefer);

● a link to a video that will walk you through exactly how to use the spreadsheet in order to track and project expenses in your T&I business;

● a discount code to use toward the M|Z Expense Planner (available as of April 19, 2018!).

The video tutorial that accompanies the spreadsheet is only available to those who download it. Before you tell another person, "I'm a words person, not a numbers person!", check out this spreadsheet, as well as the Expense Planner, and empower yourself in order to earn more, and plan for the future.


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