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How I Took the Freelance Plunge With Maple World Translation

Nerdy Graffiti, Toronto, September 2013
Nerdy Graffiti, Toronto, September 2013

Two years ago, I barged into a local accountant’s office, slightly panicked. “I need to incorporate”, I said. “Whatever that means”, I added sheepishly.

I had just quit my position as an English-to-French translator at the Liberal Research Bureau, and I had the opportunity to work with my first big client, a Crown corporation. The caveat? I had to “incorporate”, i.e. set up my own company.

This meant that I was taking the freelance plunge.

I had always toyed with the idea of being self-employed. I didn’t grow up in a family where mom and dad were going to the office from 9 to 5: my father is an artist and my mother, on top of raising the three of us, held various temp jobs throughout the years.

I tried to work in an office environment. In all of the positions I held, I loved the work and the tasks… but I didn’t like office politics and the predictable routine I invariably settled into after a few months. I thought, maybe somewhat naively, that I would be more efficient as a freelancer, and that it would be more challenging.

So I incorporated—the paperwork turned out to be easier than I had thought. I formed “Maple World Translation Ltd.” and started to work as a freelance translator, editor, copywriter and proofreader.

Little by little, I learned to deal with my new status, and its perks and downsides.

When I say I “work from home”, some people assume I’m doing some kind of borderline legal stuff, such as multi-level marketing. Others may even assume I am a sex worker (the French accent, you know…). “I’m a translator,” I usually explain if I see that look in their eyes.

“How lucky you are to be able to work whenever you want!”

Well… what can I say to that? Sure, I could “work whenever I want”. These days, it’s actually more a matter of “working whenever I can” with Mark. See, if I don’t look for clients, network, complete assignments or stay on top of things, I don’t get paid. I don’t get benefits either—the fact I wasn’t going to be eligible for maternity leave freaked me out when I first learned I was pregnant. But it turned out that Mark was fairly happy to nap in the sling while I was working on the laptop. I even did some translation work when breastfeeding when he was a newborn!

Did I take a pay cut? Hell, yes. Some months were awfully quiet and finding new clients is tough—this business is mostly word-of-mouth and with Mark, I don’t get much free time to socialize and network offline.

Do I regret the move? Hell, no. I love freelancing.

First, I am not “locked” into a specific job or into a specific task. I work as a translator for some clients, as a bilingual copyeditor and proofreader for others, and even as a copywriter in both official languages. I also did some transcription work and I had the chance to be part of major projects. I feel lucky to be able to put my skills to good use.

I do feel more efficient than when I worked at the office. Some days, I am swamped and I barely have the time to eat or sleep. But some days are quieter and I can take time off to travel, relax or take care of Mark. Feng is also self-employed so we don’t care much for weekends or bank holidays. We work when it’s busy and relax when it’s not. I don’t have to sit at the office until 5 p.m. even if there is nothing to do but surf the web.

Freelancing requires self-discipline, a sense of initiative, flexibility and creativity. These are my strengths, this is my realm. Managing people, office politics and fitting a specific position description aren’t.

I think I finally know what I want to do when I grow up. I think I am finally grown up.

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French woman in English Canada.

Exploring the world with my camera since 1999, translating sentences for a living, writing stories that may or may not get attention.

Firm believer that nobody is normal... and it’s better this way.

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