Back to the year 2010 – my personal perspective on the coronavirus

In today’s fast and increasingly digital world, one of the most important qualities someone in my line of work has to have is flexibility. Whether you translate content or correct texts, it’s important to remember that by its nature this type of work always comes at the end of a project or process, which means the client’s deadline is approaching and you’re going to hear the words “very urgent” a lot. That’s why companies like people who can work flexibly and fast.

Does that sound stressful? It is. But it’s how you become a valued partner to your clients. I must say that after ten years of working for myself, I still catch my pulse racing a bit when a client says a job is “urgent”. But I’ve also discovered at this point that I like having a lot of deadlines. True, they can be tight and mean a lot of headaches and late nights, but they are also what gives structure to my freelance life, and they give me something to focus on and keep me from getting lost in distractions.

Now, ever since we’ve all had our lives turned upside down by the coronavirus crisis, I’ve started to see a new category of urgent translation jobs: the “urgent Covid-related job”.

Valtrado bei der Arbeit

For me, these add an additional layer of stress, because alongside the pulse-racing I get a feeling of ethical and moral obligation. I feel a duty to the company to produce and proofread coronavirus-related translations quickly, capably and perfect the first time.

So while the coronavirus meant a threat to life and livelihood to some, and a “pause button” and a return to quieter days for others, for me it meant something of a trip through time, back to the year 2010, my first year as a freelancer, when my order book started filling up with jobs and I found myself working harder and harder to keep all my clients happy. Most days, I just worked non-stop until I basically collapsed. Free nights? Weekends off? Holidays? All of these were unknown to me, as my days and nights were spent putting in long hours at my computer, always with the nagging fear of not doing enough, not being good enough, of needing to offer my clients even more.

Always hearing those two voices in your head, one urging you “You need to take this job, so they’ll keep coming back” and the other saying “It’s really important to the company, they have to get this product to market fast and they need me to help them do it.”

Despite all the stress, I’m grateful to be able to say that I have continued to work straight through the recent weeks of lockdown, and my incoming jobs never stopped coming. Of course, it helps that my specialization, medical technology, is one that does not stop in the face of closed borders and closed economies.

But I also learned that adding a dose of the confidence in my abilities I’ve gained over the years to the panic and existential angst of my early years in the business makes for a dangerous mixture.

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It’s a realization that has hit home with me in this year of the virus. I had forgotten that putting everything into working long hours, and nothing into keeping fit, meeting friends and being outdoors, is not healthy for me. It surprised me how fast I hit my limits; but thankfully I hit the brakes in time. I firmly believe that no job, as much as I love mine, is worth sacrificing your nights and weekends for endless hours of sitting at the computer. Our health is the most valuable thing we have. And that’s exactly what we need to learn from the coronavirus pandemic.