Not all is lost when hope is lost

Hey, money for nothing!
That was my first thought last spring, as a reaction to my younger brother’s idea that “You could make money, bro, with your linguistic skills.” My wife happened to stumble across the Upwork platform in a Portuguese magazine she was reading at the time… and I signed up.
Man, that was fun! I was doing great, you see, in the Upwork translation skills tests – some 1st Places, and all.

Then came the hard bit – landing a first job.
Being a 6’7″ Dutch Frisian I have always been a bit… uhh, challenged at making first impressions – in social situations I feel like the proverbial elephant in the room.
Has that posed a problem at all? Well, not for me, I’m afraid. I feel that being a fun guy often implies that you have lots of fun friends. And lots of fun friends tend to take up lots of fun time – time that I’d rather spend reading, writing or painting…
Don’t get me wrong, I am not condemning fun guys in any way. Absolutely not. It’s just that… it is not my beach, as we say in Portugal – não é a minha praia.
I am more of a loner, I suppose, doing things that I like.

However, when it comes to landing a job making a good first impression is pivotal.
Well, as it happens I seem to be lousy at making written first impressions as well…
Come on, give me a break! You may think I’m a bit weird (“authentic” people usually say in order not to be offensive), but I assure you I’ve got the goods, I’ve got what it takes. Just gimme a chance to prove my worth to you!

No dice!
As if, by the way, there are no weirdos among clients – some of them offering five bucks for translating five books within five blips
Okay, I’m exaggerating. But it’s true, some clients do not seem to be privy to the fact that slavery has been abolished.
Maybe I should lower my rate, I ruminated aloud.
“Don’t do that,” a British friend cut that line of thought short, “because they will think that you’re no good!”
Well, I’ve almost reached that point myself.

Long story short, I was on the verge of giving up. I know that attitude does not sit well with the American way of When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
I have no qualms about being tough though, or persistent for that matter when things are not exactly going my way, but when I’m running out of ideas I’m running out of steam, you see.
No, it is more physical than that, it’s like running into a brick wall.

So, when more than a week ago, on a Sunday night, on my job feed I read about someone who was looking for a freelancer that could translate Portuguese concert reviews to English, I hit my keyboard: Bring it on!
Yeah, right, I thought to myself, I am going to waste energy on another extensive cover letter – no way, José!
In other words, I had lost hope – tired of what felt like fighting windmills.
Perhaps it was about time to return to my easel.

One minute later…
“Thank you so much for your application, Jaap. We’re expecting reviews in overnight and during Monday. So keep an eye out on your inbox as I’d be happy to add you to our translator pool on this. I’ll be in touch…”
Say what!?!?
Needless to say both my eyes were glued to my inbox, all night.

During that night I had been browsing in order to see if I myself could find any reviews of the music concert. And at 06:12 one popped up on my screen. I translated it and handed the unsolicited translation in to the client who had fallen silent.
One hour later: “That’s very enterprising of you, Jaap! Thank you for the snippet of translation! Are you available for another one right now?”

Long story short, I had a great week – lots of fun…
No, not lots of money, but that’s of less importance, innit…
Oops, I realize that last bit must sound like blasphemy to American ears. But outside the USA there are still some Neanderthals left that consider money as nice by-product, not the main thing. And I may well be one of them.

The client turned out to be an uncomplicated, straightforward, no-nonsense guy who didn’t care much for beating around the bush – in one word, my kinda guy.
And I did not think any less of him when he gave me a great review – “excellent work from Jaap, great communicator, great English, pleasure to work with, highly recommended”. Easy on the eyes, innit.

I certainly don’t want to imply to anyone that ill-mannered cover letters are the key to success – one should be so lucky. Moreover, there may very well be no follow-up to my short-lived success last week. Main thing: I had a great time!

I just wanted to share that experience with you.

That it may serve as an encouragement to those hopefuls that erroneously believe that not being able to land a first job says anything at all about their value in general, or about their talents in particular. Believe you me: it doesn’t say diddly.

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