5 Top Tips For New Translators

Well before I founded TransTeach, I was was training new translators. In fact, I started training new translators just a few months after I stopped being one myself (a new translator that is!) With a background in education, I was approached about a year after I finished my own translation masters to teach on the very same course. And thus, over a decade of translator training was born.
 
I see lots of advice given to new translators these days, most of it extremely beneficial. I certainly wish some of it had been on offer when I started out!
 
Based on my own personal journey, the following are 5 top tips that I believe all new translators can benefit from, to ensure their career goes from strength to strength.

Tip 1 – Don’t undersell yourself!
Someone gave me this very piece of advice when I first started out and I’ve never forgotten it. Translation remains an underrated profession. If you don’t value your time and skills then no-one else will. So, do your research is necessary and then set yourself a baseline. Decide the minimum amount (daily/hourly/per word) you’re prepared to work for and then don’t budge from there. Ever! The minute you do, you make it harder for both you and every other professional translator to raise the bar and have people hold the profession in the esteem it deserves. Obviously, your minimum amounts may vary over time and indeed increase as you become more experienced. However, translating needs to pay you a wage you can live on, and are happy with, otherwise, to be frank, you might as well go and get a job which gives you holiday pay, sick pay and a pension on top!

Tip 2 – Don’t get obsessed with ‘specialising’ too early on.
When I started out, people had me down as a finance, technical and medical specialist (because my studies happened to focus on those areas). Ten years later and I’ve managed to cast off this mantle, as I discovered that I don’t particularly enjoy working in these areas. I’m creative; I like books, films, travel and the arts. Unsurprisingly, these are areas I’ve gravitated towards and the ones I now predominantly work in. I thought I had to know what I was going to want to translate from the off. I was wrong. Experiment, take on different types of work (skills and confidence permitting) and don’t pigeonhole yourself until you’ve developed plenty of experience and know yourself and your interests inside out, through trial and error.

Tip 3 – Keep your options open
I’ve seen translators come and I’ve seen them go. Some stay in the industry a lifetime, some are gone within a year. Translating, whether in-house or freelance, isn’t going to suit everyone for the long term, so keep your options open. If you have experience working in education, marketing, hospitality, the sciences or any other of a multitude of areas, don’t just let it slide. Keep your hand in, if possible, and further your knowledge and skills in that area. Not only will it serve you well if you decide you want to use it as your specialist translation ‘niche’, if you decide translation really isn’t for you at any point, then you won’t find it anywhere near as hard to get back into the job market.

Tip 4 – Develop, develop, develop…
As with any other self-employed professional, no longer will your career development be planned out for you. It’s all down to you from here on in. So, make sure you find time (and save money) to take any courses that appeal to you and keep up with the latest developments in the industry. Investigate opportunities and don’t be afraid to try out new aspects of the profession (proofreading, editing, copywriting, transcreation, localisation, subtitling etc). It’s amazing what comes your way when you have an open-mind and are willing to take on a new challenge. As with any career these days, if you snooze you lose. So, make your own professional development a priority and plan it in to your yearly schedule like your boss would do (if you still had one!)

Tip 5 – Find strategies to deal with the dry times.
Translation, if you’re working as a freelancer, offers no guarantees in terms of workload. Sometimes there’ll be so much on offer you could cry. Others, there’ll be so little available…you could cry (even more!) Very few translators love the uncertainty that comes with the professional territory but there are definitely ways of making it more bearable. Whether you use quiet times to get stuck in to administration and marketing yourself or to catch up on household chores and family time, always have a plan for the next time you’re without a deadline. And if you don’t like being without work (and I can assure you lots of us really don’t!) then find other ways to subsidise your income – teaching, part-time work in another field, writing etc – so that you don’t have all of your eggs in one basket. For any self-employed professional these days, diversity is the name of the game. We no longer live in a ‘job for life’ world, so ensuring you have several strings to your professional bow is a must, not a ‘nice-to-have’.

Claire Culliford – TransTeach founder

If you found this post helpful or have any more questions about starting out in the translation industry, drop me a line and let me know at info@transteach.com. And of course, good luck on your own translation journey. Enjoy the ride!

Lessons in business (and life…)

It’s the end of another working week and as anyone running their own business knows, there’s always at least one nugget of new knowledge that’s been acquired, however big or small. This week, TransTeach’s learning curve has come on in leap and bounds and despite starting out over 7 years ago, we never stop being a student when it comes to finding out more about the (business) world at large.

So what key lessons have been on the timetable this week?

Firstly, resilience is probably the most underrated skill in business, and in life! Without it, you don’t stand much of a chance. With it, you can conquer the world (at least metaphorically speaking.)

Once again, recent months have seen us face many challenges, from unexpected slumps in work requests to the usual stresses and strains of deadlines when trying to re-brand/launch a new website. The only thing that has got us through, as it always does, is a firm belief that all will eventually work out for the best. That’s easier to conjure up on some days than on others, naturally. However, it’s one trait/skill that is something we try to pass on to every single one of our students just starting out in the translation industry. See the positive in everything and believe – in yourself, in successful outcomes, in everything coming good in the end. It pretty much always works. The opposite view, one of pessimism and dreading the worst, generally only causes misery and makes dragging yourself through each day all the harder. Which leads us on to our next lesson…

Secondly, team/community/family, call it what you will, is vital, nay, ESSENTIAL, if you are to remain sane in business/life. When remaining optimistic is hard, having the right people around you can ensure you don’t succumb to the quagmire. Instead you can laugh, put things into a bit of perspective, and even come up with much better and more creative ways to overcome difficulties. When you’re a freelancer/sole trader, you need to seek out team/community/family wherever you can, so whether they’re physical, online (or evening imaginary!), locate them, share with them and watch how much easier it feels to face everything you’re going through.

When TransTeach relocated from London to Yorkshire this time last year, one of our biggest fears was leaving much of our support network behind. In reality, the wonder that is the Internet and the ease with which you meet people (when you’re walking the new canine member of the company!) has meant that there’s never been any dearth of help, assistance and downright championing of what we do. For that, we are immensely grateful. Over the year, we’ve extended our virtual and physical network considerably, by joining new groups, both locally and online. This week, when we actually had to call on people to show their support quite explicitly (Facebook likes and shares, Twitter retweets etc), every single person stepped up to the mark and made us realise how fortunate we are. So, on behalf of TransTeach:

THANK YOU, for being part of our virtual team, wherever you are…

Day 1 of “TransTeach – unleashing the new brand” – a success!

Rather excitingly in the space of the first day of TransTeach’s relaunch, we’ve been:

1) approached to give Swift (subtitling) software training by the mother of a recent graduate who’s just starting out in the industry and, like us, has a passion for subtitling.

2) carry out a Welsh translation (a task which we will of course pass on to a competent collaborator!)

3) asked to participate in a questionnaire by a former client who is now throwing their all in to creating a tool to make translators’ everyday lives much easier (from quote right through to invoice).

So, it would seem that the future is indeed positive…and purple! And that social media really is the way forward for business these days.

Now that the working day is over, it’s back to the creative writing we so love to undertake in our spare time (spare time, we hear you shout, what’s that??!), inspired, oh so inspired, by the beautiful Yorkshire countryside (and people!) where we’re based. It’s all great fodder for honing the language skills but lovely to be able to write exactly what we want instead of creating something for someone else’s purposes, for once. So, watch this space. News of our next writing projects will be winging their way to you soon!