Taking advantage of the “free” in freelance – Going on a sabbatical year
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Corinne McKay and Eve Bodeux with Speaking of Translation, asked me to write some about my sabbatical in Sweden.

To sum it up, taking a year abroad requires a lot of planning, but it is well worth it. We have known about my husband’s upcoming sabbatical from the University for several years. The professors receive this opportunity every seven years to do research in other countries, write a book or similar things.

For myself, as a freelance translator, I can take advantage of the amazing liberty that comes with being a freelancer. I can practically work from anywhere, as long as I have my laptop and an internet connection. However, to move my business abroad for a whole year requires a bit more planning and thinking.

One of the main problems to solve is how to deal with all the customers in the US that are paying with a check. I opted to not change any payment options or my business address, and all customers will keep paying me the way they are used to. The post office lets you forward all your mail somewhere for up to a year. I have “hired” a trusted friend to receive all my mail, and she will also deposit all my checks. This is easy to do with an endorsement stamp from the bank instead of signing each check.  She will also go to the bank every other month or so and transfer money to my Swedish bank account. For this, she needs to be added as another signer to my account. The important thing here is to pick someone you can truly trust with all your finances.

I have my email set up so that my main business address forwards to a Gmail account.  I use the IMAP protocol in Microsoft Outlook to connect to that Gmail account, so no matter whether I use my laptop computer, my desktop computer or my iPhone, all my email is synchronized.  If I delete or move an email on one computer or my iPhone, IMAP updates the email on the other devices.  My Gmail-account also works as a backup. I can always log in there to see all emails sent and received. For my business phone number, I have set up Google Voice and will use a little Obitalk device made by Obihai to use Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) to connect a phone to the internet in Sweden.  So, if someone calls my U.S. business number, it will ring a phone in Sweden.  It cost about $60 to set up Google Voice ant to buy the Obitalk device, but all the calls are free.  I have bought an unlocked cell phone that I can use with a Swedish wireless service in Sweden.  Google Voice has another nice feature that if I use its voicemail feature, it will transcribe all email to text and either email it to me, or send me a text.  This way all my incoming business calls in the U.S. will be taken care of while I am in Sweden, and my customers do not need to contact me on another phone number.

When I leave, I will bring my laptop computer only, and store my big screen desktop. I am sure I will miss the big screen, but it is simply too big and cumbersome to bring. I also bring my handy little scanner and will buy a cheap printer in Sweden for my office needs there. We have also ordered a lot of converter plugs for all our devices that run on both 110 volt and 220 volt, as most modern electronics do.

I have sent an email to all clients I work regularly with, or have worked within the last months with and informed them about my move and the new time zone, ensuring them that this will not change the way they do business with me.

The advantage of going back to my native country after becoming a translator is that I can take writing classes and translation classes there during this year, which I fully intend to take advantage of. I look forward to truly immersing myself in the “new language nuances” too, instead of just reading news, books and discussing with friends and family in Swedish that I do from the US.

The business part of moving abroad for a whole year is actually the easy part. Moving as a whole family is much trickier. Last summer when we visited Sweden we looked at schools for the children. They will go to a fully Swedish charter school. Last summer they also went to a two week summer camp out on an Island in the archipelago, to improve their Swedish. This year abroad will further their feeling of being at home in both cultures and languages, which is something I have been striving for since they were born.

The last few months have been spent looking for a house to rent in Sweden and renting our house out here in Park City. If you go for a shorter period, and live in an attractive area, a house exchange program works well. We found a furnished house to rent through a Swedish equivalent to “Craig’s list,” and the family we are renting from will go to the US for a year. For our own home in Park City, we ended up hiring a property manager to rent our house furnished. This also gives us peace of mind, since the property manager will take care of all maintenance and management while we are abroad.

Now, all that remains is to pack and store all our personal belongings that we will not bring, and really think twice about what we need to bring, since the luggage capacity is limited. We are all excited to go and will take advantage of the stay in Europe by going on an interrail (eurail) trip with the whole family. I am looking forward to all the new experiences and to furthering my mission of creating a truly multicultural family.

Swedish Translation Services is a company owned by Tess Whitty, a freelance translator (English-Swedish), proofreader, editor, copy writer, localizer and entrepreneur.


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  2. Meg says:

    Great news, Tess! Technology is great these days, and I can confirm it. We’re working with people from 3 continents, and we still manage to operate and deliver projects. We’re a “free” business!

  3. Carolyn Yohn says:

    Wow! You make it sound so easy. I’m so glad you shared these details, too… I’ve been wanting to move back to Hungary for a while, but I don’t always trust my skills with these sorts of details. The banking would make me more nervous than anything, but then, that’s what family is for, right?

    Enjoy your year in your second home!

    • Tess says:

      Thanks Carolyn! Believe me, it is very stressful right now, but it will be all worth it in the end. Everything can be arranged if you really want to. Good luck with your plans! You should do it.

  4. Catharine says:

    You must be going through a mixture of excitement and stress at the moment! Good luck!

    However I was surprised by your remark “[A trusted friend] will also go to the bank every other month or so and transfer money to my Swedish bank account.” Not that you can’t trust her, but can’t you arrange things differently with the bank? When we left Reunion Island temporarily for S. Korea my husband’s salary was paid to Reunion island (even though that same employer was the one sending him to S. Korea!). We alternated between a standing order (transfer of the same amount on the same date every month), or just sending a fax or e-mail to the bank asking for €XXXX to be transferred (knowing it would take 7-10 days to arrive).

    From an accommodation point of view we rented our house on Reunion out via an agency, however we had 4 different tenants over 3 years, each one degraded the house a little more than the previous one – the agency really didn’t do their job; in the end from that point of view I was glad we only left the house for 3 years!

    • Tess says:

      Thank you Catharine,
      Sounds like you had quite the adventure/experience too. There are other solutions for the bank transfer, but none as easy or affordable as the friend. The banks here are very strict with transfers abroad these days.