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Doldrums




Merriam Webster defines them as a part of the ocean near the equator abounding in calms; a state or period of inactivity, stagnation, or slump


I've sailed into those waters, and will sail into them again. If any translator never has, I'd like to meet them and learn their secret. The world economy always has booms and busts, and the translation industry undergoes changes every few years. We, as freelancers are prone to these peaks and troughs as we sail into uncharted waters. The phrase commonly used to describe these fluctuations is "feast or famine". That is to say, you are either gorging on succulent translations and stuffing your pockets with cash, or you are gaunt and thankful for anything that falls on your plate, even if it is a morsel.


What can you do during a slow spell?


  • Whatever you do, don't despair. What looks like a tragedy today will always pick up. Be positive.

  • Are you tired? Take a nap. Go for a walk. Read a book. Snack on something tasty. If work takes up suddenly, you will probably not have time to do these things.

  • Unlike a ship in the doldrums, you are on dry land. Think of how you would like to improve your business in preparation for the uptick. Some things you might like to review are: hardware, software, office furniture, research, a course that you can take online.

  • It is also a good idea to clean things, both electronically and physically. When was the last time you tuned up your computer? Are there any you files would like to delete?

  • I think that there is always some kind of work out there, it may just not be what you are looking for. I would start by applying to translation agencies. They might not respond today, but when there is a greater demand, your name will be on file with them. If you have a different skill besides translating, I would see about applying it. Just make sure it's worth your time. During the last recession, I had an online teaching stint with Japanese students. I guess I was doing it more for the experience than the pay, as it was too low for me. Just make sure you feel good about what you're doing.


So, I hope for your sake, and mine as well, that the next economic downturn will be delayed as much as possible.


Until then, happy translating!

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