Systems are important and so are processes but both take time to develop so if you're looking for a way to boost your productivity instantly, check out these tools. You might have one or two, but I'd be willing to bet you don't have the last and most important productivity booster in this list!
1. Extra Monitor
If you’re still crouched over your tiny laptop screen typing out translations, you might as well be chiseling them into stone too. No, I’m not being dramatic…ok, maybe a tiny bit. But in all seriousness, while I too love the flexibility to work anywhere, setting up an office area with 2 decently sized monitors can boost your productivity to a new level. It’s amazing what you can get done when you can actually see your source, target, web browser, dictionaries and other references or tools all at once without constantly navigating around.
What I use: TVs can be a lot more inexpensive than monitors. I bought one as my extra monitor on Craigslist for $30 and I’ve had it for 4+ years.
2. Accounting Tool
Raise your hand if you hate invoicing. Ironic that so many of us hate the one thing that is what ensures we are paid, isn’t it? But I digress…having an accounting system is crucial for freelance translators and especially if you plan to grow your business beyond a side hustle. Once your business starts growing, it can grow fast (or maybe it already has) and if you’re not ready with a good system in place, you might end up doing a lot of work for free because you’re not staying on top of your invoicing or your expenses. Investing in an accounting tool like QuickBooks can save you a ton of headaches. Now, while QuickBooks is the tool I use, there are plenty of other options like FreshBooks or the translation-specific Translation Office 3000. Whatever you choose, choose something, learn how to use it, and you won’t regret it. The tool should alert you when invoices are past due and allow you to take payments online (this way, the software will mark them as paid for you).
What I use: I use QuickBooks online, which is a subscription service. I like it because it’s cloud-based, so I can log in anywhere including my various computers or my phone and it is always up to date. It also means that I didn’t have to make a huge investment all at once. While it will ultimately cost me more the longer I’m a member, it’s worth it to me to have the cloud functionality as well as the fact that it’s a bit simpler to use and it made it easy to hire a bookkeeper who logs in from her own computer using a bookkeeper account we set up for her.
3. E-mail Template Tool
Two Questions for you: 1) When was the last time you did business over the phone? 2) Do you even know if your phone still works as a phone? I’m kidding of course, but it is true that, as translators, e-mail is where we do nearly every bit of our business. I went on a trip to Mexico a few months ago and had a glitch in my phone so I couldn’t make or receive phone calls, only get e-mail and text. No one even noticed.
An e-mail template tool can be a lifesaver when you’re writing repetitive e-mails informing clients of your rates, telling them you’re booked, or any number of repetitive e-mails we tend to write as translators. Some features I have found helpful in the tool I chose are the ability to create templates for replies or for new e-mails that include a subject and the fact that it is a Chrome extension for Gmail so no matter what computer I log on to, everything is just as I left it. Plus, it will delay delivery and even remind me to follow up with someone if the e-mail did not receive a reply. This is incredibly helpful when I quote a project.
What I use: Most of these types of tools are relatively inexpensive. If you want to really save money on this, you could get a free (or very inexpensive) app for your phone and reply to e-mails that call for template responses that way. However, I rarely use my phone app now that I found Yesware. Yesware does so much for me that I wonder how I lived without it before. The reminder function mentioned above is brilliant. If you check out Yesware, keep in mind that it’s actually made for sales, but as you might know already, I’m all about squeezing every last drop of productivity out of any tool I find, and I have found this tool to be an epic productivity booster for managing my translation projects.