How to equip a home office

The office should be equipped with “the basics”; the most important items these days being a fast computer and Internet connection. Some translators swear by having dictionaries for any eventuality, some completely rely on online resources. If you are skilled in researching terminology on the Internet, there is really no need to spend thousands of pounds on quickly outdated dictionaries.

Translators working with a laptop rather than a PC or Mac should plug in a proper keyboard and/or screen to go easy on their wrists and neck or use appropriate aids (support stands for example). Laptops were not designed for continuous use!

Translators planning to work for agencies will need CAT tools. Have a look at various agencies’ websites as to which Computer Assisted Translation tools they recommend or even require their freelance translators to have. If you work mainly for direct clients and not translation agencies, CAT tools are more of an option than a “must have”. However, CAT tools are increasingly becoming an indispensable translation aid, speeding up a translator’s efficiency and thus  their productivity.

You should also make sure that you have adequate lighting and heating in your home office. Bad lighting may cause damage to your eyes. Chilblains do not contribute positively to your translation output. And remember to claim tax relief on the costs of running your office from home.

A good home office needs a file storage area. A lot of files are not in hard copy any more but there are business files which need to be kept in paper copy, for example inland revenue receipts and documents. A well-organised filing system can save you a lot of time. You’ll also need to store back-up copies of your computer data.

Your home working area needs to be ergonomically optimised, so you don’t develop any repetitive strain injuries. Invest in a comfortable, adjustable chair. Get someone else to watch you while you’re working to see if they can spot any bad habits, like leaning to the side or jutting your chin out or peering at the screen about 3 inches from your face.
If you wear glasses or contact lenses discuss your requirements with your optician, so you get the best pair of glasses for the job.

The better your home office fulfils your needs as an independent translator, the better your long-term work output and health.

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