My Side Project: Reasons to Do It and Practical Tips
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My side project: reasons to do it and practical tips

As some of you know, I have a small side project called I Love Mondays. A some time ago I already wrote about it here on my blog. Recently a colleague has asked me about some details of this passion project because she wanted to start something similar but in her own field. I figured that someone else would like to know more about it or that my example might inspire other translators so in today’s post I’m sharing my reasons for doing it as well as some practical tips.

 

But first of all, what is I Love Mondays? It’s a weekly newsletter for people who want to start and develop their own small business. Every Monday I send my translations of articles about marketing, branding, overcoming fears and obstacles, fighting procrastination and all the other things that can help entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into reality.

 

How do I know that this can be helpful? Because I’m one of such entrepreneurs. I must admit it took me a while to get that. For a long time, I was sure I’m ‘just a translator’. It wasn’t good for my business. But it was even worse for me personally, because I missed all the challenging but fascinating things and opportunities to gain new skills.

 

Finding the book 1 Million Dollar Freelancer almost a year ago changed my perspective. It made me want more. Not only in terms of income, but also in terms of the work I do, the clients I work for and the level of satisfaction I get from my work.

 

And then I found other inspiring freelancers and digital entrepreneurs: Paul Jarvis, Jason Zook, Caroline Celso, Jon Westenberg, Anna Lovind and many others. Every week I found links to great posts on Twitter and amazing articles on Medium. I was reading about things like authenticity, caring about your customer, providing value, genuine desire to help you target audience, aligning your business with your personal values and I felt that these are all the things I want to see more of in my life. And not just in my own business, but also in other companies that I deal with every day as a customer.

 

This is how I got the idea for I Love Mondays. I had the skills that allowed me to help others learn what I was learning. I was very enthusiastic about the project and dove right into it.

 

Here is what my process for working on this project looks like. First, I find the article. I read a lot, so this is usually not a problem. Usually, when I come across some writing I like I go to the author’s website where I find other articles I’d like to translate for my newsletter.

 

This is when I contact the author. I try to keep my email short and sweet and write something like this:

 

Hi, XX

 

I hope you’re having a great week!

 

I came across your blog and I was wondering if you would let me to translate some of your articles for my own newsletter with a link to the original, of course.

 

I see demand for high-quality content about entrepreneurship and creativity on the Russian market. And therefore I’m looking for articles that I find inspiring and useful for my target audience and your posts fit perfectly.

 

Hope you won’t mind. Anyway, have a wonderful week ahead.

 

All the best,
Elena

 

Over the past few months, I’ve contacted a couple of dozens of writers. One didn’t answer my email. Two said they prefer to keep their articles on their websites, but one of them is actually planning to translate his content into Russian at a later stage, so I promised to stay in touch. Everyone else liked the idea and happily allowed me to translated their articles.

 

An average article is about 1.5-2k words. What I noticed is that I usually work faster when translating them. I guess it’s because I translate something I really like. It takes me about 2-3 hours to do the translation and I either spread this time out evenly throughout the week or do it in one sitting on Saturday.

 

I then leave it till Sunday when I edit and proofread the translation. After that, I schedule the newsletter and the post on I Love Mondays website to go out at noon on Monday and I’m done.

 

All in all, if I take into account everything I do in connection with the project (translation, editing, finding articles to translate, interacting with the authors, updating the website) I probably spend about 5 hours a week, which amounts to less than 1 hour a day. I think, it’s ok to take and hour a day to do something you like. Especially if you take into accounts all the benefits that this it can bring in the long run.

 

Here are some of them:

 

1. You hone your craft

 

What’s the best way to become a good translator? Well, if you ask me, I’d say translate more! Translation is a skill, so the more you do it, the better you become at it.

 

2. You get to translate what you love

 

My passion project, my rules. I choose only the articles that have either deeply touched me on an emotional level, or provided some practical down-to-earth tips.

 

And even though I love my area of specialization (creative and marketing translations) translating something I choose myself gives me a special pleasure.

 

3. You build your network

 

As I mentioned, over the past six months I’ve contacted over 20 writers. I’ve written only two emails to some of them — one asking for permission to translate their writing and one thanking them for giving it to me.

 

But I also exchanged several emails with others. And I became a blip on their radar. You never know who and when might need a translator.

 

4. You build your portfolio

 

I put a link to the original article at the end of every translation so that anyone interested could read it. I can share the link to I Love Mondays website with anyone who would like to see the examples of my work. In fact, I’m going to add the link to the menu of this website when I do a redesign. 😉

 

5. You have to get out of your comfort zone

 

I’m probably sounding a bit like a broken record here, but getting out of your comfort zone is good. And if sending an email to Seth Godin asking him for permission to translate hit posts is not getting out of your comfort zone, then what is?

 

6. You provide value to community/your potential customers

 

I believe that what I do can help people change the way they see themselves and their business. In a way it’s like my own small charity: I spend some of my time to do something good using my skills. This does bring joy and satisfaction.

 

7. You increase the visibility of translators and promote the importance of good translations

 

Of course, my readers know that what I’m sharing with them is my translations. This is probably not the most humble thing to say, but I know that my translations are good. I try to convey not only the words but the mood of the text and the style of the author.

 

When those who read my translations come across poorly translated texts they are bound to see the difference.

 

8. You flex your creativity muscle

 

Even if I translated something different, I would still have to use my creativity to come up with the format, to make the website, to keep things fresh. And of course, this spills into other areas of my life. It’s easier to be creative when you do it on a regular basis. Taking into account the work I do for clients, this small side project is helping me greatly.

 

So by now you probably won’t be surprised to learn that I’m an advocate of having a translation side project. Here are some tips that can help you get started and stick with it:

 

Choose the subject you’re passionate about

 

I guess this is the most important thing that helps me motivated. I love the articles I translate. And it brings me joy to share them with people who wouldn’t have read them otherwise.

 

You might find something that you want to learn more about, or something that challenges you. The beauty of this is that you can choose anything.

 

Start small

 

When I first had the idea I was planning to post the translations on the website and I was going to do it every week Monday to Friday. It didn’t take long to understand that it wouldn’t be sustainable. Even if I managed to find shorter articles, it would mean translating 1k words a day on top of my regular workload, and there was no way I could squeeze that in.

 

Then I thought about posting three times a week. But that was still too much.

 

And then I came across the notion of MVP, or Minimum Viable Product. For those of you who are not familiar with this concept, an MVP is the simplest version of your product that can actually work. That was when I thought about choosing a newsletter as the format to share my translations. And sending it every week seemed like a good idea. It wasn’t too time-consuming and it was often enough to have a chance of building a relationship with the reader.

 

Be consistent

 

I Love Mondays newsletter is something I’ve been most consistent with. Since I started it back in October 2015 I haven’t missed a single week. Even now when I’m planning to go to my first translation conference and on vacation right after that, I’m scheduling the letters to go out every Monday.

 

This level of consistency helps me to build trust with my audience. This is my way of showing appreciation to the people who read my translations.

 

Don’t expect fast results

 

When you start a new project, you have a vision of what you want to achieve. In the case of I Love Mondays, my mission is to help people start or improve their businesses because in my experience working for yourself has more potential to give you happiness and satisfaction than having a 9 to 5 job.

 

On a more practical note, I want to connect with writers and get my name out there, because this is the kind of work I would really love to do for money. I also have some goals in terms of the audience growth.

 

However, I always remind myself that this is something I’m doing for fun in the first place. I’m enjoying the process. And although numbers do matter, they are far from being the most important thing that keeps me going.

 

Get rid of perfectionism

 

When I first started the project, I needed a website. That was the first time I was using a free WordPress theme and I found it hard to make something pretty with it.

 

Another thing was that I wasn’t sure that the idea would take off (probably no one would subscribe) or that I would stick with it, so why spend a lot of time on making a fancy website that no one would visit?

 

I didn’t need much. I needed a page with a subscription form, a page with the description of what this project was about, another one with the list of articles and individual pages where every article would be published. So that was exactly what I made without trying to get it perfect.

 

After I saw that people actually liked what I do and found the way to make it a part of my schedule, I took some time to think about what I want the website to look like. Which brings me to the next point:

 

Iterate, don’t get stuck

 

This is my personal project. This is a place where I can experiment, shake things up, change something and then change it back if I don’t like the result. This is my playground.

 

It’s been six months since I started the project and I’ve already done one major website redesign and even changed the format a bit and now I’m sending a series of articles covering one particular area written by one author.

 

I already have a couple of ideas for spicing it up even further. That way I don’t get bored and can keep my readers engaged.

 

What do you think about making translation not only your job but also a hobby? Do you translate some things just for fun? Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to share this article with someone who might find it useful.

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