Feb 28, 2009

What's busy?

Ken Fagan, a French to English translator, made an interesting comment in a recent forum discussion:
At the risk of making an obvious point, a translator who averages 5,000 words/day is clearly going to find it much more difficult to keep busy, week after week, than a translator who translates 2,500 words/day.

Personally, I define "busy" as the total number of words I'm offered (= total number of words translated + the approximate total number of words turned down).

With all the to-do about busy or not busy, business good or bad in all corners, I think this is the first time I've heard this particular quantitative perspective brought up. I suppose if someone used to churning out 4,000 words a day only finds 3,000 on offer, there may be concern, whereas a person able or content to do 2,000 words a day will still feel deluged. I think my own perception of "busy" is probably a lot in the sense I understand Ken's own definition. It's not just how much I do, which may be a lot or a little, depending on my personal choices and other commitments, but also how much I turn away. Saying "no" in a professional way can also be time-consuming; for me, it often involves careful consideration of the work calendar, consultation with my partner, counterproposals and often detailed alternative recommendations. There have been days when "no" involved far more work than the actual translations, because basic courtesy requires some response to valued clients and strangers who approach you politely.

That's how I see it. How do you define "busy"?

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