4 months ago

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First steps in freelance

First steps in freelance translation Whether you’re about to start your translation and interpreting career, or are in a full-time job and thinking of going it alone, Helen Oclee-Brown has some advice for first-time freelancers Helen Oclee-Brown MITI is a commercial translator working from French and Spanish into English. She is a member of ITI’s Professional Development Committee and Promotion Chair for MET (Mediterranean Editors and Translators). You can contact Helen at helen@ helenocleebrown. and follow her on Twitter @ helenocleebrown Freelance translation can be a brilliantly rewarding and stimulating career. We translators help businesses expand into new markets, help patients access the care they need and help people find justice, among many other things. But much like any meaningful profession, freelance translation is a hard nut to crack, so you have to be prepared to put in the work. Does this sound like you? You write exceptionally well in your mother tongue and you have a nearnative command of at least one other language. Good start. You’re an avid reader and naturally inquisitive. Even better. You’ve worked or trained abroad in another industry. Great. And you’re a team player who’s not afraid to share their work with others. Very promising indeed. A career as a freelance translator could be just the thing for you. But there’s plenty more to consider before you take the plunge. Speaking your clients’ language You can only translate what you understand. That means you need to have (or need to start acquiring) specialist knowledge. If you’ve already got professional experience in a particular area, great news, build on that. If not, look out for a field you enjoy and where there’s demand. And then get stuck in. There are so many ways you can learn now (short courses, degree programmes, MOOCs, etc.), so there’s no excuse. One thing is for certain, freelance translation means life-long learning, so embrace your inner student. Freelance translation means life-long learning Producing the goods Before you market your services to clients, why not test your skills on the pros? Several ITI networks offer mentoring schemes through which 4 ITI BULLETIN CAREERS SPECIAL

starting out you can glean priceless feedback from seasoned translators. Networks also often run face-to-face and virtual training events, so get out there and meet your future colleagues, in person and online. You may think that freelance translators work alone, but for us, collaboration is key. Revision partnerships, referrals, a sounding board…the benefits are endless. Start building your network now. Think business As a freelancer, you’re a oneperson business: chief coffee maker, IT technician, bookkeeper…all the fun stuff. When you first start out, you must make sure that you register with the appropriate authorities. In the UK, that means HMRC (see their website for details: Of course, it may be wise to outsource some tasks, especially your accounts to make sure you’re always in the taxman’s good books. A word of caution: business can be tough, which makes this mindset all the more important. Don’t get pushed around: set boundaries and learn when to say no, especially to unscrupulous offers. After all, if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. And if in doubt, ask a colleague. ‘Don’t get pushed around: set boundries and learn when to say no’ More freedom means more responsibility If you think freelancing means a lot of lie-ins and days in your PJs, then I’m sorry to say you’ve got it wrong. Sure, you can set your own schedule, but it’s best to work when your clients do – or be contactable at the very least. Discipline is an essential trait of any good freelancer. Our work is driven by deadlines, so we have to keep an eye on the clock. If your client needs your translation for a 3 pm meeting and you deliver at 4 pm, your work will have gone to waste – and you’ll lose the client. You alone are responsible for what and when you deliver to your paying clients. The buck stops with you. Working from home You’ll need a dedicated working area where you can lock away your clients’ information – physically and digitally. Your office should also be light and airy, somewhere you want to work. And don’t neglect your number-one asset: you. Invest in ergonomic furniture (hey, why not even get a sit-to-stand desk?), be kind to your eyes and remember to take breaks – you’ll be more productive in the long run. And if working alone isn’t for you, think about co-working in a shared office. Tech talk Technology is here to help, not to hinder. Whatever formats you choose to work in and whatever tools you choose to use, make sure you know them inside out. Each program and device in your toolkit should slot perfectly into your own workflow. You are the boss, so don’t be pressured into using other tools when yours are fit for the job. But things do go wrong, so it’s important to have a plan B: get an effective backup system, use dictation software to ward off Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), and install some decent anti-virus software to keep out unwanted intruders. Prevention is better than cure – for you and your business. ITI BULLETIN CAREERS SPECIAL 5

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