The ATA Chronicle - May/June 2020 - 32

THE ENTREPRENEURIAL LINGUIST

BY JUDY JENNER

Dealing with Uncertain Times

B

y the time you have this issue in
your hands, things may or may not
have gotten back to normal after a
very difficult and unprecedented spring
due to the coronavirus outbreak. I'm going
to go out on a limb here and predict that
things will be far from normal, so an article
about how to deal with your interpreting
business should be relevant at the time of
this writing and in early summer.
In mid-March, I saw my interpreting
business decline by 90%. By the end of the
month, it was completely decimated as law
firms cancelled depositions, arbitrations,
mediations, etc., and courts continued
most cases but only held hearings for
urgent cases. The few court hearings that
needed an interpreter were easily handled
by in-house interpreters rather than by
contractors like me. I had quite a few
conference interpreting assignments lined
up, and those were all cancelled in midMarch. Some entrepreneurial law firms
and litigation services companies moved
to remote depositions, and I did a few of
these with average results. I continued
charging my same hourly rate, but as we
were using Zoom or even just a phone
conference call, everything had to be
done consecutively, which is challenging
(but lucrative, as I bill these by the hour).
Many of my law firm clients stopped doing
remote after they realized how difficult this
was for most parties, including the court
reporter and deponents, who often rely on
a cell phone and speakerphone with poor
audio quality.
Just like for all my colleagues, this
has been a difficult time. Not necessarily
for me personally, because I'm in the
lucky position of also having a boutique
translation business that still has clients and
work coming in (albeit less), but because
I'm worried about others of lesser means
and the impact this situation will have
on so many who already live paycheck to
paycheck. The global effect of this crisis
is almost unimaginable, and it's made me
feel hopeless, angry, and sad. However, I've
come up with a few ways to deal with this
terrible uncertainty and my own feeling of

You can't control what the virus
does, but you can certainly
control what you do for others.

Coursera), and have learned about new
software, how to translate virus-related
terms, how to teach remotely more
efficiently, etc.
■	

Catch Up on Your To-Do List: While
I'll never get to inbox zero, I'm currently
closer than ever. I've shredded a box of
old documents, started going through
my photos that were in dire need of a
clean-up, and tackled some drawers
I should have organized a long time
ago. These are small successes that do
wonders for my mood and motivation.

■	

Don't Reduce Your Rates: Finally,
while it's very tempting to do so, I
would resist the temptation of lowering
rates and working conditions, as it will
be challenging to reverse them once
things are better. We might have to
temporarily relax standards a bit, but
just for now. For example, I had always
declined over-the-phone consecutive
interpreting for depositions, but I did
accept a few during the crisis. But we
do need to make sure we safeguard
our rates and working conditions, now
more than ever.

powerlessness, plus my empty calendar, that
you might also find useful.
■	

■	

Do Something Nice for Others: Our
profession is a very supportive under
normal circumstances, but now we've
become even more supportive, which is
great. I go beyond our profession every
day, including: ordering books from a
small independent bookstore that's been
hard hit by the virus, making cookies
and delivering them to a friend's house,
writing a letter of recommendation for
a colleague, becoming a peer mentor
in Corinne McKay's free MOOC-style
course for beginning translators,
helping find clients for a colleague who
wanted to get into remote interpreting,
and doing a video chat a day with a
colleague or friend who wants to talk.
The possibilities are endless, and helping
others feels good. You can't control what
the virus does, but you can certainly
control what you do for others.
Exercise and Yoga: Studies show that
exercise may actually strengthen your
immune system. With my yoga studio
and gym closed, I've found new ways to
exercise. I've been running outside more
(keeping a safe distance from others),
gone on walks with one friend at a
time, taken live Zoom classes with yoga
instructors (helping to support them as
their businesses have collapsed), and
grown to love yoga videos on YouTube.

■	

Virtual Book Club and Happy Hours:
To retain some sense of normalcy, I've
moved my book club online and am
doing at least one happy hour a week via
some form of video chat. We each grab
snacks and a favorite drink and chat away.
It's almost as good as the real thing.

■	

Learn Something New: I've filled my
usually packed calendar with webinars,
MOOCs (on coronavirus through

We're all in this together, dear colleagues
and friends. Now is the time for even more
kindness and support. Let's help each other
through this. What can you do to help
someone today or in the near future?
Judy Jenner is a Spanish and
German business and legal
translator and a federally and
state-certified (California,
Nevada) Spanish court
interpreter. She has an MBA in
marketing and runs her boutique translation and
interpreting business, Twin Translations, with her
twin sister Dagmar. She was born in Austria and
grew up in Mexico City. A former in-house
translation department manager, she is a past
president of the Nevada Interpreters and Translators
Association. She writes the blog Translation Times
and is a frequent conference speaker. She is the
co-author of The Entrepreneurial Linguist: The
Business-School Approach to Freelance Translation.
Contact: judy.jenner@twintranslations.com.

This column is not intended to constitute legal, financial, or other business advice. Each individual or company should make its own independent business decisions and consult its own legal, financial, or
other advisors as appropriate. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of ATA or its Board of Directors. Ideas and questions should be directed to judy.jenner@twintranslations.com.

32

The ATA Chronicle | May/June 2020

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