A Freelance Translator’s Right to Holiday

Why is it that every time I push the out-of-office button, suddenly there is a flood of projects running down my inbox? I have noticed this happening every time I go on holiday, not that I leave the comfort of my office too often. It happened again this year. I decided to take a week off and recharge those batteries that I could feel were slowly but steadily running low.

A few hours after my pushing the button, emails started to arrive from every side of the globe, from all types of clients: loved long-term ones, agencies that I had only completed small projects for, even clients I had never worked with in the past. I was determined to rest and so, they all received the automated out-of-office reply. What a lie! I sent a personal one to each and every one of them.

Let’s take things from the beginning. I was taking a sneaky peak at my inbox every now and then, and by doing this I could see the number of emails rising. Internet on a mobile phone is such a temptation! Why is it in my nature to leave no email unanswered? Why was I tempted to send a personal reply even though an automatic one had already been sent? A million thoughts were running through my head while sitting on a sandy beach, sipping a cold refreshment under the hot sun.

Looking beyond the charming, summery scenery, I could not help but wonder: are these old clients and loved agencies ever going to contact me again after receiving this automated but polite out-of-office reply? Will they trust me with their projects again after exposing to them that I am a mere human being that needs to rest from time to time? Should I have taken my laptop with me? Should I have accepted some of these projects and worked during my so called holiday? Should I have at least done work for my favorite ones? And, what, leave the rest crying for help? Should I ever again take time off? All kinds of colourful little people were laughing at me, Mr. Little Worry, Miss Little Guilt, Mr. Little Pessimistic, Little Miss Scared and so very many others!

Even now that I am writing this post, I am not sure what kind of impact my holiday will have as far as work is concerned for the months to come. How fragile is a translator’s relationship with her/his clients? Does it take one automated out-of-office reply to lose all work and start building a client base again from scratch?

I will certainly let you know, stay tuned!

This Post Has 33 Comments
  1. Great post, Konstantina! I was thinking of writing one about working during holidays because I have noticed that some of the translators in fact do work during their ‘annual leave’. As for me, I wouldn’t be able to do so. We are human beings and not machines so this is completely natural to have some time off and recharge our batteries. Clients should respect that so long as we don’t take holidays too often, although there might be a risk of losing one (but definitely not all of them). Once you’ve decided to take a holiday, make the most of it and don’t think about those lost projects, otherwise you will not be able to relax properly and you’ll end up being Miss Little Worry and Miss Big Frustration 🙂 Have a great time and enjoy it (while it lasts)!

    1. Ewa,

      Thank you every so much! In fact, it was my guest post on your blog that inspired the birth of Blogorama, so many thanks again!
      Yes, it seems that translators tend to work during their holidays; most of them take their laptops with them. I couldn’t in my case, as I went camping. I really needed a rest and to be honest, I did not fancy taking my laptop with me (little Miss Naughty Translator). I had informed those clients for whom I was working on projects just before my holiday started and we had completed them before I left. Only those clients that were not aware of my holiday got in touch. Do you check your email while you are away? Can you restrain yourself from not pushing the inbox button? I find it so hard!
      So, good news from you, too, so I guess it is weak 0- strong 2! Great stuff!

      Many thanks for your comment, Ewa!

  2. Konstantina,
    I completely understand how you felt! This year, for the first time in 4 years, I have taken 4 weeks off and informed my clients that I would have been unavailable. Of course, I also received many translation requests before going on holidays and had to reject some of them(Murphy’s law). Although I really needed a break, I was terrified, because you never know how clients might react. I had been working for two clients on two projects that have been going on for months. My fear was that they would just replace me with someone else. However, I have been back 4 days and have received translation requests every single day! And those two clients are still there!
    I guess good clients realise that we are just like them: we also deserve a break. And the fact that we are not available for a while (I think 4 weeks is the absolute maximum I would take) doesn’t make us less reliable or worse than other translators.
    I hope your clients will all come back, just like mine did.

    1. Livia,

      Thank you so much for your comment! I am so happy to hear that a holiday had no effect whatsoever on your getting new projects! Great news! I do agree with you, that those clients that really appreciate a freelance translator’s work will not just abandon this person because of a holiday. I am just wandering on how strong a relationship of this type really is! Good news from you, so that is weak 0- strong 1! Well done Livia, keep up the good work! Many thanks for posting your comment!

  3. Konstantina,
    Well, I actually did take my laptop with me, but only used to check my email and to surf a bit. I did reply to some new clients who asked for a translation (3 requests in one day!). I just explained that I was on holidays and couldn’t help them at that time (but that I was looking forward to working with them after my holiday ;-)). I don’t know whether they’ll come back, but I do feel that it was the right decision. For the rest I just relaxed and enjoyed my holiday. I think it’s a question of finding the right balance: checking your email for a few minutes a day, won’t ruin your holiday: what do you think?

    1. Livia,

      Yes, I think you are absolutely right about checking the email every now and then, and yes balance is everything! Thank you for sharing!

  4. Hello Konstantina,

    Loved your post! And you are right on! After 2 weeks of having left the freelance world, and enjoying my first vacation as an in-house employee (I’m in Portugal at the moment), I can see things from a different perspective.

    One of the perks of being a freelance was the freedom of traveling whenever I wanted and, believe me, I TRULY took advantage of that! Nevertheless, like most of us do, I can’t recall EVER leaving my laptop behind but once in 7 years! I didn’t know the meaning of “out of the office” auto-respondent until now. There is, indeed, a certain degree of guilt and sense of responsibility when you are an independent worker. I knew all my clients depended on my work in order for theirs to keep on moving forward. And the thought of losing them just wasn’t an option!

    Today, as a former freelancer and on my first vacation, I feel less stressed and more inclined to enjoy every single moment of my time-off. In fact, at the moment my son and 2 nephews are taking their naps, and I just don’t know what to do with my time. In the past, I would have been answering e-mails and doing some translations. Now, I can enjoy great posts such as this one and offer my input 🙂

    1. Silvina!

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience!

      You do not know what to do with your time, eh? I wish I could also say the same! Depending on how things are next time I get a break, or if see that I have lost clients due to the one I took last week, I may consider taking my laptop with me as well. It seems that all freelancing translators are in fact doing it. But, during those times, did you manage to get any rest, or were you in fact working during this so called holiday? I would hate to return from a holiday and be more tired that before it!

      Many thanks for your post!

  5. Hello Konstantina,

    I fully understand how you feel.. we all need a rest from work. December last year when I went on full holiday for two weeks. Prior to my vacation I have been so anxious whether or not I’ll be getting work after the holidays. So to lessen my anxiousness, I informed the agencies and my clients two weeks before and two days prior to my official hiatus I reminded them that I’ll be out of the country and that my connection with emails will be very limited… so vacation went on and I tried my best not to check my inbox .. I only checked my email a day before I went back home and sent messages to agencies and clients that I’ll be back officially 2 days after…. true enough I was flooded with tons of emails during the holidays. Good thing there were no messages that required immediate action.
    I was able to enjoy my vacation — I told myselft – only two weeks off and that won’t hurt much. It really helped a lot. I guess it also helped that I did not get any projects two weeks before the vacation, or else I might not have fully enjoyed it.

    You deserve a break … your very good in your job and I am sure that your clients will not forget about you.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing that! Gosh, it is a relief to see that is not just me that worries (not that worrying is a good thing, but at least I am not the only one that battles with it. It turns out, I have company!)

      You were very lucky that the projects you mention did not require immediate action. The projects offered by clients during my holiday did need it, so sadly I had to decline all of them. I do agree that if one is good in his/her field, one is not forgotten so easily and to be honest, I have been offered projects by some of those clients. Some others have not contacted me again so far. Fingers crossed, they will.

      Thanks again for sharing, I appreciate it!

    1. Hello Celexa!

      Thank you for your comment, I am so happy you have found the post of interest!

      Yes, I am thinking of writing a sequel, I am just waiting for some time to go by since my holidays ended so that I can have a clear view on the matter!

      Keep checking the blog and soon I will be updating it with A Freelance Translator’s Right to Holiday II!!

      Thanks again,


  6. Hi Konstantina! I very much enjoyed reading your entry, because as it turns out, we are in the same situation. I too was very worried about losing clients during my holidays but there was no way I would say no to a much need time off – besides, you know how much I love travelling! And so I took a week off to go to Peloponnisos, without my laptop, and tried to forget for a minute that I am a freelancer with clients that need me. When I came back, I went through my emails -170 in total – and found out I had been sent 3 job requests. They had all three received an “out of office message” detailing exactly when I would be back in the office. I contacted my clients to check for project availability but sadly, they had already assigned work to someone else! I was terrified.

    Well, fingers crossed I didn’t lose these clients. No matter what happens though, I don’t want to be taking my laptop while I am on my “detox from work” holidays. I also don’t have internet on my phone either because it’s such a great temptation to go back to work and forget you have a life. But I am seriously thinking of buying a netbook for my short trips, eg. conferences, etc. What do you think?

    1. Hi Natali!

      Thank you for reading my post! I know what you mean! I, too, have bought a net book for travelling and conferences, but isn’t it a laptop, really? It is a good investment, though, and so much lighter than laptop!

      I do not think you have lost those clients you mention, give it some time and soon they will be knocking your door! Wow, 170 messages, so many, you must be really popular!

      Thanks again for reading my posts, soon there is going to be a sequel for this one!

    1. Hi there!

      Thank you for your kind words and thank you ever so much for reading my posts!

      Have a great week!

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