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Quick, Send Help – I Can’t “Quiet Quit”… I’m Self-Employed!

Ottawa, October 2022
Ottawa, October 2022

On September 1, I boarded the Nantes-Montreal flight with reluctance but without the sense of impending doom I was feeling in 2020 and 2021 when lockdowns, school and border closures, and other pandemic-related bad news were still very likely.

Sure, on the global scale, the big picture isn’t pretty—an ongoing pandemic, political instability, inflation, a likely recession, an energy crisis, ongoing wars and geopolitical conflicts… just to name a few concerns, read the news for further reasons to freak out.

Yet, at the local level, I was reasonably optimistic about the “new normal” this fall.

I already suspected the inflation had gotten worse since the spring so I proactively cut expenses and planned for a rather ascetic lifestyle. But COVID seemed to be more or less under control thanks to vaccination efforts, so I expected we were all getting back to business, a huge relief for me after two bumpy years. In fact, I had already been contacted on LinkedIn by various potential clients all summer long. Things were looking good.  

My life in Ottawa isn’t terribly exciting but it’s straightforward. I focus on practical things—work, Mark’s education, and long-term projects. I don’t aim for happiness, I settle for satisfaction.  

Basically, as long as things run smoothly, I’m okay.

I thought I was ready for fall 2022 in Ottawa.

Ah. Not quite.

For those who don’t know me—hey guys! —I’ve been working as a freelance translator, editor and copywriter for ten years. I specialize in media relations, communications, and marketing. I try to align work with passion, so three of my main clients are in the tourism industry.

Of course, I couldn’t have predicted that late 2019 would have been a good time to train as a medical translator. To use a trendy pandemic word, I pivoted and spent the last 24 months translating hundreds of COVID restrictions, public health orders, and guidelines instead of writing about wine tours in Europe and the best places to watch the Northern Lights in Canada. Basically, I spent the pandemic endlessly pivoting like a whirling dervish to somehow keep my head above water without free pandemic money.

Needless to say, I was relieved to see new clients reaching out and new projects being discussed. Not only do I love my job but making money isn’t exactly optional these days.

I was busy in early September. I went through my project list, invoiced all the work done, and created a new Excel spreadsheet for October 2022.

And then, nothing.

On the surface, it seemed like business as usual because clients kept on contacting me for projects. Emails were exchanged. Zoom meetings were scheduled, then rescheduled, then finally happened with the usual technical issues (is it me or in every meeting, one person will be on mute, another won’t be able to get the video working and a third one will have no sound??).

But projects and assignments never materialized.

I’m cursed.

If I type a reply and hit “send,” I’m 99% sure I’m going to be ghosted. If I don’t reply right away (usually because the project doesn’t feel like a good fit), the potential client relentlessly insists that I’m the perfect translator or copywriter until I finally give in and agree to a meeting… and then I’m ghosted.

I know I’m not blacklisted. My regular clients and other freelancers report it’s been very quiet for them as well. My rates aren’t an issue either, at least not yet—most clients ghost me before we even get to the “how much are you charging?” stage.

“I don’t get paid to fucking shuffle things around!” I complained to Feng. “Why are people wasting time scheduling meetings, sending emails, and sharing project details if they aren’t going to follow up?”

Maybe budgets are tightening. Chronic disorganization is also an issue—public servants aren’t happy with the Government of Canada hybrid work plans and many private sector industries are understaffed. I also feel the general resentment of employees whose pay rise, if any, is far from keeping pace with inflation.

The bottom line is, things are not moving.

And I’m frustrated because I want to work. I can’t give myself a pay rise because the market is very competitive. I’ve accepted the fact I have to work more just to keep up with the crazy inflation rate.

So I’m trying to stay optimistic and productive. If this is late capitalism, I’ll be happy to join a workers’ rights, ’revolution. Meanwhile, I can’t start quiet quitting—it kind of defeats the purpose when you’re self-employed.

Now I’m back to finding a way through this mess—it’s more constructive, and finding my way is my specialty as a traveller.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for November.

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