In May 2019 I won the award for Best Newcomer in the freelance category at the Institute of Translation and Interpreting Awards. I had been translating part-time for less than a year. Here are 5 things that I did to kick start my second career in a completely new industry.
1. I took advice from the experts
From very little research, I quickly found that there were lots of successful translators out there willing to share their experiences as a newbie in the translation industry. I took this invaluable advice and used it to create a foundation for my business. By way of example, just after finishing my MA, I read ‘How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator’ by Corinne McKay and, very simply, did (almost) everything she suggested. I adopted her strategies in terms of approaching agencies, how to price my work, how to build a business plan and how to market myself locally and further afield. It really helped in terms of asking the right questions and setting goals for my future.
2. I used my existing network
I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t feel overwhelmed at the thought of starting out in a brand-new industry, learning new business skills and building new contacts. However, when it came to contacts, I didn’t actually start from zero, I simply built upon and grew my existing network. I unashamedly plugged my new venture and was surprised at how many friends and colleagues knew a translator and how willing they were to introduce me. I made use of these introductions and connections (and obviously also asked them how they started out (see point 1)) which led to the gradual construction of a new ‘translation’ network and even a couple of collaborations.
3. I got first-hand experience
I adopted a ‘try before you buy’ approach before fully embracing my second career and applied for and completed two translation internships during my MA. One internship was at a language service provider in the UK and the other at a translation agency in Spain. These both gave me an incredible insight into how the industry works; standard rates, pricing models, calculating turnaround times, managing and educating clients, all of which I use in my business today. It also gave me invaluable credibility when discussing industry issues with peers and potential clients.
4. I used the free stuff
When I first started out, my funds were pretty low, and I quickly found that I couldn’t afford to attend conferences or other courses to get things started. However, I found so many useful, free resources out there for new translators, I just had to do some digging. For example, in June 2018 I attended the free event ran by the ITI called ‘Starting Work as a Translator or Interpreter’ held at the University of Westminster, London. It was an entire day of presentations and Q&A from various players in the industry discussing hot topics such as pricing, marketing and specialising. Similarly, SDL Trados host a variety of free webinars with guest expert speakers on topics such as ‘How to find your first translation client’ and ‘How to future-proof your translation business’. These are just some examples of the free resources I have used in the past but there are so many other free blogs and podcasts available.
5. I embraced Twitter
Having never really used Twitter on a personal level, I didn’t really understand its value in a global industry like translation. I’ve been using Twitter in a professional context now for almost one year and have seen how translators and other language professionals use it not only to cover live events but also to discuss their projects, any upcoming conferences and even some translation problems. It is, without a doubt, one of the most effective ways to build connections, stay up to date and get ahead in the translation industry.
Corrine is a solicitor and legal translator. She works from Spanish and Portuguese to English and specialises in commercial contracts.