Tuesday, 7 February 2017

5 Things I’d do exactly the same if I were starting out as a translator again today

Following on from my previous post on “5 things I’d do differently if I were starting out as a translator again today”, here are 5 things I’d do exactly the same again.

If I were starting out as a translator again today, I would …

1) … join a translators’ association early on.

I have benefitted greatly from the support, advice and sense of community from my professional association in the UK, the ITI. I have, frankly, never again felt alone as a translator ever since I joined, and many of my colleagues have become real friends. Translation certainly isn’t the lonely profession it is sometimes perceived to be!

2) … complete a business skills course for translators.

I know I wouldn’t be where I am in my career today if I hadn’t participated in the ITI’s Peer Support Group in 2007 (which was replaced by SUFT later). Not only did I pick up many vital skills on how to succeed as a freelance translator, I also gained the necessary confidence and self-belief that I was previously lacking.

Being a self-employed translator comes with many perks: complete flexibility, suitable working hours,
charging appropriate rates and working with amazing clients

3) … pinpoint an area (or areas) to translate in.

From marketing to literature to patents, the range of areas that translators work in is vast. It was therefore extremely difficult as a budding translator to make a decision on what area(s) to specialise in. A specialist area has to be something that you’re willing to learn more about – even in your free time. For me, a “side effect” of translating IT-related texts has been to take up learning computer programming. (I’m currently trying to get my head around the basics of PHP 7.)

4) … spend my hard-earned cash on as many specialised dictionaries as possible.

I still remember all the parcels with specialised dictionaries (read: books containing terminology that you cannot find for free on the internet) being delivered to my door. The slim Uexküll dictionary for patent translation alone, for example, cost a whopping 98 euros. With hindsight, though, it was money well spent.

5) … aim to become, and stay, a freelancer.

If I were starting out again today, I would probably try to find an in-house position as a translator for a while, since I’ve heard you do pick up a lot of useful knowledge to equip yourself with in your career. I would then, however, move on and become a freelancer. The self-employed lifestyle comes with many perks: complete flexibility, working hours that suit you, charging rates that you feel are appropriate, working with clients you choose etc.

With hindsight, I realise I did take some good decisions as I was starting out. I am deeply grateful for my amazing colleagues, and all the clients who I work with are lovely –  I feel really privileged!