Welcome to the first post in my Re-prioritise mini-series, part of the Looking-Glass Translations productivity programme!

The best of intentions can set a dangerous precedent.

When I first started out, whether you were the first or fifth customer on my books that week, I treated you like #1.

I’d agree to deadlines like you were my only client, and strove to be the most flexible, available freelancer in my language pair.

After all, der Kunde ist König (“the customer is king”) as they say in Germany.


Experienced freelancers will already be shaking their heads.

They’ve all been there.

I was trying to appease everyone – and you and I both know this isn’t really possible.

I strongly believe in making my clients  raving fans, and I thought I could achieve that by being ‘always on’, giving them the best possible deadlines and the best possible service at all times.

What I had forgotten in my haste to please everyone else was that I also needed to appease myself.

Giving ourselves what we want

As freelancing linguists, many of us have been affected by a deep-seated belief that we are not business people, but this simply isn’t true.

We are all – without exception – running our own businesses. By very definition, we work for ourselves on our terms.

We don’t work for clients, but with them to help them achieve their goals. So it’s very important to ask ourselves:

  1. What are our  goals?
  2. What do we want to achieve?
  3. What do we want and need from our careers?


Do you want to work evenings and weekends?

It might be wonderful for your clients, but do you want to pull regular all-nighters to provide a one-day turnaround on 6,000 words (on top of all the other work you’ve accepted that day)?

The same applies to business development.

Do you really want to spend all your spare time on business development (the business won’t market itself!), so you’re fully available for your clients during office hours?


Any self-respecting businessperson will know the answer is a resounding ‘no’.

We aren’t just translators and interpreters; we’re family men and women, partners, parents, friends, hobbyists and, fundamentally, human beings.

And human beings need rest, relaxation and downtime to be happy and healthy.

What’s more, even your business benefits when you take a break. Not working on your business is the world’s best-kept productivity secret.


Making the switch to self-respect

You may be thinking you could never afford to be this way, but that means one of three things:

  1. Your rates are too low.
  2. You haven’t yet learned how to prioritise.
  3. You’re scared of change – even if it’s for the better.

Fortunately, all of these can be remedied – and I’ll be discussing #2 over the next few weeks here on the blog!

Of course, all three scenarios point to one thing: you don’t truly respect your own time or value.


If your rates are decent, you’ll only see good things come from enforcing stricter office hours and learning to say ‘no’.

First, you’ll see a slight dip in your workload – an ideal time to realign yourself with your goals.

Then the magic happens.

Suddenly, you’re no longer sent urgent jobs last thing on Fridays, because your clients respect you more; they know you’re a professional not willing to accept unreasonable demands to get work.

They also know you know your limits, and that is never a bad thing.


You’ll then find your deadline and fee negotiations are more successful.

You’ll be able to confidently stand your ground, because you’ve given yourself permission to have free time.

Client education will suddenly be as natural as breathing – and, with that comes improved customer service.

Naturally, this reduction in stress will also help boost your productivity, giving you more time to focus on the important things and achieve greater job satisfaction.

Why can’t business development happen during business hours, anyway (it does for me)?


Ultimately, business ownership is just one big exercise in self-respect.

All of this should be self-evident, but if you’re new to running your own business, or just eager to put your best foot forward, it’s very easy to forget that you’re allowed to be in the driver’s seat.

This means not only knowing when to say ‘no’, but how to say it.

It also applies to more than just client work; friends, family and colleagues all contact us for help with this or that, asking us to take part in a new project or to head-up new initiatives.

And sometimes these things just aren’t in line with our goals.


Discipline and self-respect are absolutely vital to a successful and satisfying freelance career.

And once you embrace this, your entire experience of entrepreneurship will change for the better.

Fortunately, you’re not alone.

I’ll be discussing the ins and outs of getting your priorities straight for the next month or two – meaning you’ll soon have all the tools you need to prioritise your passions and run a more fulfilling business.


Need more help? I know the answer is ‘yes’!

Take a look at the links below for more inspiration:


Are you good at saying ‘no’ or do you tend to say ‘yes’ to everything? Have you found this to be a good thing or bad? Share your take on things in the comments!


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