Advancing my freelance translation career

Advancing my freelance translation career

The good priest

There is a Hungarian saying “a jó pap holtig tanul” that basically means “the good priest is learning until the day of his death”.
Well, I do not know about priests but the saying is definitely true for us, translators! Once we get our translation degree, we cannot just rest on our laurels and expect our work to be done. I believe it’s essential that we never stop learning about new translation technologies, learning from others’ translations or the feedback we get about our own translations, improving our understanding of culture-specific issues, keeping our languages up-to-date, growing our vocabulary, etc., so that we can continuously provide excellent translations to our clients.

Webinars galore!

Nowadays the internet makes it so easy to do our continuous professional development (CPD) wherever we are. If you are online (and possibly have a headset), you are all set to learn and improve! I regularly listen to webinars that focus on certain aspects of our profession, for example, I have very recently learnt some secrets about transcreation and got some great tips for making the proofreading process more efficient. These professional courses are all great for learning new stuff and refreshing my knowledge of what I learnt at university.
But unfortunately, being a good and successful freelance translator is not only about linguistic skills.

The one-man (or woman) band

A successful translator is not only a translator. Translators tend to forget that we are also a small business. First of all, we are administrators and office managers making sure everything is well-organised and our equipment is in tip-top shape. Then we are sales people selling our services to the right people. We are marketing professionals who are out there trying to get our message across. We are social media managers looking after our own online presence. Mind-boggling and for translators who – let’s face it – are often introverts, this can be a rather intimidating and overwhelming thing.
I’ve got to a point where I realised that I would need some guidance on the business side of things. Being a good linguist is not everything! I can do all the webinars on how to become a better linguist, hone my translation skills but that won’t cut it. I also need to know about business! The internet is full of great advice, but unfortunately most of them are not really applicable to translation professionals. I needed something that was geared towards translators, giving some translator-specific advice for achieving my long-term professional goal (i.e. world domination through one translation at a time).

ITI, CPD and all the other abbreviations

And lo and behold! As I was looking for something out there to make myself into a businesswoman, the CPD team at the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) were just about to launch a 9-session course entitled “Advancing your Freelance Translation Career” (AFT)! Excellent, I thought as I read the full description, and in the end, I decided to sign up.
The course was an interactive webinar series where we could talk with our tutors, ask questions, etc. The online format was super convenient. For example, this autumn I spent a longer time in Hungary but I could still take part in the webinar and did not miss a thing! Great stuff for translators on the go. Our “class” also got regular homework which you might not find as exciting as I make it sound but it was really helpful to go through all the exercises our tutors set us. They would evaluate our individual assignments every week and give us specific feedback on our work.

Course content

Each topic was covered in two sessions. The first of each pair of sessions was a lecture-type presentation given by our tutors – usually accompanied by good-looking PowerPoint slides, then the following week we had a whole discussion session where everyone could put in their two cents or ask some questions. The topics were all relevant, such as “thinking of yourself as a customer”, “solving customer problems”, “building and maintaining customer relationships”. We covered both sales and marketing. There was some theory with an awful lot of practical advice. Some advice seemed so simple and common sense that all I could think was “why didn’t I think of this”? (Well, sometimes you do need someone to state the obvious.) Other pieces of advice were more surprising and I also had some “a-ha” moments.

…and the tutors

I found the tutors were well chosen, too. I could really tell they knew what they were talking about, building on their own knowledge and experience. If you are on social media or have attended some other webinars or conferences, you might have already heard about them. We had Judy Jenner (entrepreneurial linguist), Tess Whitty (translator and marketing guru), Doug Lawrence (sales and marketing wizard) and last but not least Sara Freitas (translator, copywriter and networking sage). They all brought their unique view to the course, their own theoretical and practical background to help us learn and improve ourselves. At the last session we even had a chance to present our elevator pitch. (In case you are not familiar with the notion of elevator pitches, they are short introductions about who you are and what you do. You basically need to cram everything about yourself in the time it takes an elevator to reach the top floor of a building. Number of floors not specified though.)

The course was well-organised, I regularly got reminders of up-coming sessions, so I never missed any, and there was surprisingly very minimal technical disruption during sessions. All the presentations were relevant, however, at times I felt my mind was going to explode with new information. I nearly filled an entire notebook with my notes, thoughts and comments to revisit later. Luckily, we were always sent a link to the PowerPoint presentations and a recording of each session, so once I have some more time, I can go back to them to make the most out of the AFT course.

All in all

So, would I recommend this course to my fellow translators?
Well, this course won’t make me (or you) an all-knowing, perfect businesswoman (or man) overnight. Most of the work is still ahead of those of us who completed this course. There will be a lot to do on an on-going basis: re-reading notes and handouts, implementing the tutors’ tips, re-working certain marketing bits and pieces here and there, adjusting strategies to see what works the best… This is not a small task by any means and my work is not done now that I have completed the course. I’m sure I’ll spend a lot of time and effort working on these aspects of my translation business in the future.
(And speaking of spending… Depending on your situation, you might find the course fee a bit much but at this point in my career I was ready to spend on high quality and useful CPD. This is after all an investment in my future, just like buying a new piece of software or hardware would be!)

All in all, I am happy that I took this course, it certainly got me inspired to invest more time and effort in improving my business skills besides focusing on my core linguistic skills. I believe what I learnt during these 9 weeks will help me build better, stronger relationships with my existing clients and form good, strong relationships with new clients.  It’s not a bad thing to aspire for as a goal, right?

(Besides world domination. It’s still on the cards.)

Do you regularly take CPD courses? Do you attend webinars? Please share in the comments below or drop me an email via my Contact page. Also, if I got you interested, you can check out the next AFT course on the ITI website, just click here.

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