Breather: When Your Home Office Just Won't Do

Of all the reasons people decide to freelance, the possibility of working from a home office may be close to the top. No more commuting plus the freedom to organize your work time and space according to your own needs and tastes. A home office, however, may not be suitable for all your business activities. If you live in Montreal, Ottawa, San Francisco, New York City or Boston, you're in luck. Breather might have the space you need when your home office just won't do.
Most of the time, I love my home office. Tucked into a cozy niche at the end of a long hallway, I only need to spin around in my ergonomic chair to take in the view. Beyond my spacious balcony, three stories below, the ever- changing Rivière-des-Prairies flows. In summer, I can see storms advancing from the north. In winter, before the ice forms, the sluggish, near-still water reflects and multiplies the colours of holiday lights strung on the condos across the river. Bliss.
The problem? My little home office, for all its charm, is really, well, little and cannot accommodate more than me. Up until now, that's been fine. I am currently developing workshops for groups of four to eight people, however, and there's no way I will be able to cram all the participants into my office. Seating them at the dining room table wouldn't really inspire confidence.
Also, while I love it, my office might not strike clients as particularly professional. Typically, if a meet-and-greet meal is the goal, I reserve a table at Le café Petit Flore. If getting some work done or negotiating a delicate contract is on the menu, however, the bistro doesn't fit the bill.
Booking space at a cooperative work space might be an option, but I don't want to pay a monthly fee for the privilege. Renting a conference room at a hotel downtown doesn't really fit my budget or my schedule for that matter.
Enter Breather.
Breather is the brainchild of Julien Smith, a local Montreal wunderkind who twigged to the power of social media early on. He harnessed that power and then went on to write two books—Trust Agents and The Impact Equation—with social media powerhouse Chris Brogan. He wrote a third, The Flinch, solo. All three are New York Times bestsellers.
Julien's work as a globetrotting entrepreneur, writer and speaker led him to a discovery. Like him, a lot of people conduct work on the fly, in cafés and restaurants. And like me and countless others, he knew that working in a corner of a noisy coffeshop is not optimal for every situation. The traditional option, renting a conference room in a hotel, was expensive and not exactly warm and fuzzy.
That realization lead to a critical "what if". What if folks could rent office space by the hour in comfortable spaces specifically designed for getting work done? He then imagined all those conference rooms in all those business offices that, most of the time, were empty. Win. Win.
And so it was that Breather was born.
For a modest hourly fee, if you live or happen to be in Montreal, Ottawa, San Francisco, New York City or Boston, you can rent comfortable, furnished office space with all the business amenities you need. Simple.
For example, in Montreal, there are nine spaces available. They are located in neighbourhoods where business folks tend to congregate: the plateau, Mile End, and the central and the west side of downtown. Each can accommodate from four to 10 people. The price: $15/hour.
Still need convincing? You can find pictures and more details on Breather's website.
I know. You're wondering if I'm getting paid to write this post? Short answer: no. Long answer: I just love when someone comes up with a simple idea to solve a nagging and, essentially, stupid problem.
Aha! Now you're thinking that I'm angling for a freebie. Not at all. Truth? I haven't yet given Breather a test drive. When I do, I'll share that experience with you.

Reading for a Rainy Day

Spring in Montreal, like fall, an in-between season of raw grey days, sometimes snowy but mostly rainy, sends me running for shelter between the covers of a tried and true classic: Tess of the D'Urbervilles. I can't remember the first time I read it, but I read it at least once a year at times like these, times when novelty simply won't do, rainy days when I need some comfort food for the soul.
I probably first read Thomas Hardy's classic morality tale to fulfil some English lit requirement in high school. The experience sent me on a lengthy reading jag that included everything D. H. Lawrence ever wrote, including the three versions of Lady Chatterley's Lover, and the entire collection of works by Henry James. For some reason, I still come back to Tess.
What strikes me each time about Tess is the beauty and precision of Hardy's language. Also, although published in 1891 at the tail end of the Victorian era, the emotions remain fundamentally human, thus timeless. As I decrypt and enjoy once again the music of its dated syntax, I wonder if I would have the patience for reading the story now had I not read it, and fallen in love with it, so young.
Why is it that the books we read and the music we listened to as young people remain so important to us? A little research turns up the reminiscence bump theory. Apparently, our search for personal identity creates a lush little island of memories to which we return more readily than any other place in our personal timelines.
The reminiscence bump explains our undying love for dopey pop tunes we first danced to at 25, the sappy movies that still thrill us as no new blockbuster ever will, our craving for comfort food that, even if utterly devoid of nutritious value, soothingly settles our nerves. I feel very lucky that my reminiscence bump, my private island of memories, has a decent library. No brain candy on the shelves, just the classics.

I have an ever-growing reading list of new titles that I want to read someday. Today, however, as fluffy wet snowflakes fall on raw patches of grass and mud, melt into gelid puddles of murk, only Tess will do.
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 Photo credit: Effie Deans by John Everett Millais via Wikimedia Commons.

Personal Branding, More than a Meets the Eye

These days, marketing experts would have us believe that, along with social media engagement,  personal branding is a “must” for both freelancers and salaried employees alike. But what exactly is personal branding?
A recent thread on a popular social media platform asked whether translators should invest time and money in personal branding. Some group members vehemently dismissed “personal branding” as a meaningless buzzword, just more marketing mumbo-jumbo. Others seemed ambivalent. The discussion quickly, if briefly, devolved into a discussion about the merits of logos then fizzled.
The mix of hostility, apparent confusion and, ultimately, indifference about personal branding surprised me. I wondered if folks understood the term. Frankly, it made me question if I understood the term.
As I understand it, personal branding is not about superficial packaging, eye-candy or snappy sales patter. In a crowded field of competitors all offering translalation, it is a strategy that helps you and your services stand out.
I suspect that, in the translation field where price appears to be the focal point and principal concern, personal branding can give you a stronger bargaining position. At the least, it can help keep you top of mind when folks need translation. Actually, when you think about it that way, subject matter specialization is a type of personal branding.
To be on the safe side and not propagate mis- or disinformation, I did some research on the topic. Here's a sampling of what I found.
Mark Traphagen, a recognized social media expert, confirmed what I had picked up by osmosis. More specifically, he writes that personal branding:

"… establishes you as an individual representative of your industry, complete with the unique expertise, personality, and humanity that you bring.
It is what separates you from the crowd."

He goes on to identify and elaborate four key principles: likability, genuine relationships, expertise and value. 
Although Personal Branding 101, a blog post written for Forbes by career coach Lisa Quast, specifically addresses companies, the content also might be useful for freelance translators. The post outlines six steps that will introduce you to the basics and give you an idea of how complex the process can be.
In a blog post featured on Business2Community, Shelly Kramer, founder and CEO of V3 Integrated Marketing, goes into even greater detail. Inspired by Dorie Clark, author of Reinventing You, Kramer's post will particularly resonate with salaried employees who want to stand out on the job.
Note that neither Traphagen, Quast nor Kramer mention logos or tag lines per se. They don't go into pricing either. They describe an approach and a process.
So, do you need to develop a personal branding strategy? I'll leave that to you. Hopefully, these resources will help you make an informed decision and, if you are convinced, provide the basics you'll need to get started.
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Photo Credit: I took this photo at Jean Talon Market in Montreal, a favourite haunt that feeds both body and soul.
Note bene : Une initiative du cœur et non commerciale, sauf où bien indiqué, le contenu en français n’est pas révisé. Merci de votre compréhension. Je vous invite à me signaler des erreurs.