Reason No. 10: I can live wherever I want.
Since in spite of what my brother in Europe thinks about global warming and climate change, there might be something like that going on, if most of Eastern Virginia where I live now is under water a few years from now just as it was a million years ago, I’ll just move someplace else, like Idaho, France, or Australia. Freelance translators can live wherever they want. Sometime they can even move to a place where the taxes are lower, usually just before the taxes are raised again in such a place.
Reason No. 9: I spent a lot of time and money studying languages and now people pay me to study languages.
I majored in Japanese language more than 30 years ago. I never really gave much thought back then to what I would be doing with my education when I graduate. I remember when I was at the “Arbeitsamt” (Unemployment Office) in Nürnberg 30 years ago that the ignorant German dude whose official title was “employment counselor” told me in no uncertain terms that I would not be able to use what I studied at all, at least not anywhere in Nürnberg.
Well, what else than idiotic advice can one expect from a government employee who is paid by taxpayers to give advice to people who can’t figure out on their own how to find work and think that somebody will figure it out for them. Now that I am a freelance patent translator, the rest of my life will be a continuous course in postgraduate studies financed by customers who order translations from me.
Reason No. 8: I don’t have to have a boss anymore.
I used to be an employee for something like 7 years, in something 4 countries on 3 continents (the last number is definitely accurate). No matter where I lived and what kind of work I was doing, I had to have a boss and I had to do what he or she told me to do. The last one, a dumb blonde by the name of Gwenn, actually fired me. Gwenn, wherever you are, I owe you big time! Work is much more fun when you don’t have to listen to a stupid boss.
Reason No. 7: I can write what I think about anything on my blog and say it’s about translation.
The blog is really about me, of course, but since all I do is translate anyway, I can pretend that it is about translating and not about me. I happen to think that translation is a much more interesting subject than most other things that people do for living. For instance, if I were a dentist, would I be writing about the thoughts that are running through my dentist’s head when I am sticking my hands into somebody’s mouth? Yuck!
Machine translation, low rates, long payment deadlines, the absence of singular and plural in Japanese or whether a word is a legitimate unit in the structure of the Japanese language, all of these subjects are much more interesting, at least to me, than what I come across on blogs dealing with other professions.
Reason No. 6: Nobody can fire me when I get old.
This may not seem very important to people in countries where taxpayers still receive things like pension or healthcare in return for their taxes if there are such countries still left on this planet, but because the Wall Street stole most of the pensions that Americans used to have not so long ago, according to recent polls, most Americans will have to work well into their seventies or until they drop dead, whichever comes first. A freelance translator can work until he drops dead without any problems! Nobody cares that translators are still working even though they are 85! We freelance translators are so lucky!!!
Reason No. 5: Let’s face it, I don’t really know anything about anything except how to fake a few languages.
I don’t really know the languages that I am translating that well either, but I can fake them well enough to get paid for translating them to English.
The sad truth is that I don’t really know anything else, at least not well enough so that people would pay me money for it. I had quite a few different jobs: I sort of started as a journalist, then I worked in the tourist industry, but translation pays much better than working for a tour company or even for a news agency. At this point I am too old to learn something else anyway. Like they say, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
Reason No. 4: I can take a long break whenever I want.
And I do take a lot of breaks, even when I am really busy, I take a break a few times a day to read a book or watch a movie for a couple hours. When I was an employee, I used to have to pretend that I was busy doing something even if there was nothing to do. Those days are over. Freelance translators don’t have to pretend anything to anybody except maybe that they really do know their languages and understand the subjects that they are translating.
Reason No. 3: I can keep buying cool hi-tech toys and pretend that I need them for my work.
If I want to buy a new computer, a huge computer monitor which has a built-in shower, a really cool cell phone with all the bells and whistles, I can just say that I really need it for my work and that’s that. If I need it for my work, of course I have to buy the stuff and I don’t have to feel guilty about it. Why should I? Even when I buy an iPod, for instance, I really do that only because I can check my work-related e-mail on my iPod, so the expense is clearly justified. I’m pretty sure it’s even tax deductible.
Reason No. 2: If I was not a freelance translator, I would have to have a real job.
If I was an employee, I would have to wake up every morning to the obnoxious sound of my alarm clock, eat a breakfast of cold cereal, drive to work, listen to a stupid boss, in short do the things that most people have to do to pay bills. Freelance translators can just stagger a few steps barefoot and in their pajamas to their office and start checking out blogs to start their working day while drinking their first cup of coffee. Real jobs are for other people.
Reason No. 1: My wife thinks I’m a genius.
She really does. She says at least once a week: “You are really so dumb about most things, but when it comes to languages, you are a regular genius!” In fact she told me more than once that the real reason why she married me was that she does not like foreign languages and absolutely hates looking up words in dictionaries. My wife speaks an interesting version of English which includes Japanese particles “yoissho“, “yo” or “desho?” in most of her English sentences because the English language urgently needs at least a few expressive and melodic Japanese particles to make an otherwise bland and boring language a little bit more palatable (even when she speaks to people who don’t understand Japanese). She does not need any dictionaries any more, all she has to do is ask me what a certain word means and then shut me up if I get too excited about the possible etymology of that word and things like that.
Do you know anybody who has been married for 27 years and whose wife still thinks he is a genius about anything at all? I seriously doubt it. I am pretty sure there is only one such man on this planet … this freelance translator.