Berlin-based Patrick Harens loves the freedom of working remotely and attributes his good work-life balance to regular travel and a flexible attitude.
We caught up with him during a recent two-month trip to Thailand!
What inspired you to become an editor?
It all started more as a supposedly ‘temporary’ solution. During my translation classes in university, I decided that translation work was not for me. After working in an office job that I had started to loath, and that was taking up all my time and energy, I decided it was time for a change. I started working as a freelance translator, proofreader and editor and found something that I enjoyed more than I would have ever thought. Sometimes we think we know what we want – but you should never say no to new opportunities until you try them. Now I wouldn’t change a thing!
Part of the problem was probably how translation was taught compared to what the job looks like in reality. We hardly learned anything about tools used in current translation projects in school and the focus was too much on practices that are not up to date anymore.
Has freelancing changed your attitude towards work?
Definitely! As with anything in life, there are upsides and downsides. I love that I can basically work from anywhere in the world. Right now, I am in Thailand for two months because the grey Berlin winter did not seem that appealing this year. I have become a lot more flexible with how I schedule work and had to learn to be a bit more relaxed in general.
I think we all know the pitfalls of being a freelancer. I normally work from home, so the laptop is always close. And too often it’s too easy to say, “Ok, I’ll quickly do these 20 minutes of work”, no matter what the time or how many times you said this in the last 60 minutes. I think I work more hours than I would in full-time employment, but I am also more focused and faster because I must be efficient to make the most of my time. Modern day technology does not make our lives easier. With Slack and emails on our phones, we are constantly available and most days my day starts with looking at the emails I received overnight.
What, if any, are the challenges of being an editor in Germany?
Previously working in a translation agency, I would say that German clients are the main challenge for translators and editors in Germany. I don’t know why but I have a feeling that they are more difficult than other clients.
Apart from that, being a freelancer in Germany is ridiculously complicated. It seems our tax and financial system is stuck in the 90s and you have to fill in so many forms and declarations. Unless you want to pay for a tax advisor, of course. Insurance is another topic that is way too complicated because we do not have a national insurance service like in the UK.
What would you say are the most important soft skills for Content Quality Leads?
You need a little bit of everything. Communication is key, of course. Mostly speaking over Slack can be quite a challenge because many things can be misunderstood when not said face to face. We Germans probably come across as quite frank and blunt when we don’t intend to. I guess you always need to bear in mind that we work in multinational teams.
And you shouldn’t forget that we are all just human beings. Sometimes I ask myself how some mistakes can slip through to QA. Maybe it’s the perfectionist in me that doesn’t want this to happen, but you need to accept that it does. You should feel some empathy towards your co-workers and not get too upset.
“Sometimes I ask myself how some mistakes can slip through to QA. Maybe it’s the perfectionist in me that doesn’t want this to happen, but you need to accept that it does.”
As aContent Quality Lead, how do you keep your project teams engaged when everyone works remotely?
With most of my projects at Quill I have been very lucky. I had the pleasure of working with incredible people and fantastic teams. I always try to stay positive and let this positivity transfer to the team. For me it is most important that everyone enjoys the project they are working on. There is no point staying on a project that you hate because it will show in your work.
With many team members I have built a close relationship and if I have the time, I like to check in how people are getting on with the project. Unfortunately, you can’t just stop by someone’s desk to see how they are doing. Some projects are also too short to even check in.
I encourage freelancers in the same city to meet up and get to know each other. Working alone at home can sometimes be a little lonely and it’s good to discuss experiences and issues amongst peers. We had a little Quill meetup in Berlin twice so far and we created the ‘quill_de’ channel on Slack for anyone living in Germany or any German Quill member to be able to ask questions and just interact.
How do you manage your work-life balance?
This can be quite tricky! I travel as much as I can and reduce my work load while I travel. Luckily, I do not need to take vacation days to be able to see the world, as I can just pack my laptop and go! I also do quite a lot of sports to keep in shape. At least that forces me to leave the desk and the house.
What's the best piece of advice you have ever received?
You should never reply to emails before your first coffee or in the heat of the moment. In both cases, you will probably either regret the answer or spot too many mistakes. Have your coffee, calm down and then reply. Nothing can be this urgent!