Being A Freelance Translator in COVID-19 Era – Does Anything Change?

Social distancing measures, temporary unemployment, schools closed, face masks, gloves, scary news and statistics, fear – or even terror for some –, ``Stay At Home`` everywhere. How do these impact a freelance translator’s life? Or DO they?

Of course, since we are talking about a freelance translator, temporary unemployment does not affect you directly. But what happens if your spouse, s.o., boyfriend/girlfriend, roommate, sister, brother or even your parents, if they are still working, are temporarily unemployed now and you live with them? Or if you have one or more children and, since the schools are closed, they stay home?

I will try to keep it short. Even if you supposedly have more time now, that you can’t visit your friends anymore, I bet you are still not in the mood for reading long and boring articles – right?

For the sake of simplicity, I will not talk about gender differences. This doesn’t mean they do not exist or that I ignore them – I just want to keep it simple, that’s all. For the same reason, my heroes will be two middle-aged individuals, nothing extreme, living in urban areas. And, also for simplicity, let’s assume you are specializing in a field that is not (or not yet) affected by the pandemic.

Case 1. Freelance translator, living alone

So we have already agreed that unemployment does not affect you. Closed schools – not your problem. So you wake up as usual, drink your coffee and think about doing some shopping – after all, you still have to eat. Oops! It’s 11.30 – so you’d better wait until 1 p.m. Not a good time to go shopping now. So you wait, check your e-mail, put some things in order, fill in and print your affidavit. 1 p.m. You take your affidavit, your face mask and maybe your gloves and go shopping. Now it’s a pleasure to go shopping – very few people in the streets and in supermarkets, very few cars. It’s like almost all the people are left on holiday. Well, not quite. But it looks like. You buy what you need and get back home. Time to work. You start and… oh, a call from your friend X. He is temporarily unemployed and is bored at home. You talk for about 15 minutes – now you are happy men don’t talk so much on the phone. Your working mood is still there. You start again and work for some time. Another phone call – this time from your friend Y. Her 2 children are at home and she hardly has time for herself, but right now they are sleeping after lunch. You manage to talk only 30 minutes, with the promise that you will call back in the evening to talk a little more – after all, you can’t visit each other now, so phone calls are all you have. You get back to work and keep it going until late evening. OK, time to rest. Now you are the one who initiates phone calls. You finished your work for today and can afford to relax talking with your friend Y. But she doesn’t answer and you receive a text message from her: ``Sorry, I am exhausted, the kids sucked all my energy, I go to bed``.

Case 2. Freelance translator, 2 school kids, spouse still works

Even if your kids are at home, you wake up at the usual time – you don’t want them to become lazy. After breakfast, school time – at home, of course. They both have classes on Zoom but they can’t stay in the same room during school hours, so one goes to their room and the other stays with you. You start working but can’t refrain from trying to hear what happens during your kids’ classes. And also you can’t refrain from warning them from time to time, when they don’t pay attention or become rude. In their turn, your kids, knowing that their mother is right there, always have something to say or to ask – for a glass of water for instance (they can’t take it by themselves because they are at school). After school hours are over, lunch time and then – eventually – they go to bed for a nap. Now you can focus on work. But your spouse is calling from work – he wants you to cook something specific for dinner. After all, he still works and deserves a special treat when he gets home!

Now, of course, these are imaginary cases. In real life, things could be like this, slightly different or very different. But one thing’s for sure: our lives are interleaved. No matter how insignificant you think a change in your life is, it would most probably affect someone else’s life.