Not all of the items of this list are exactly bad things. However, they are small details I learnt about freelancing for a year as a Portuguese and English Translator that I did not have no one to tell me before in order to to help me in my career process. Saying this, I hope I may at least assist you to be much more aware of the items of this list, so they don’t get you by surprise too, and so you can be prepared. Here are some of the things I wish someone had told me about Freelance Translation:
- Constant self-marketing
I always wanted to work from home. Staying at my own apartment, stress-free and only dealing with people by email and occasionally on the telephone. Your time is used so much better, because there is no lost with commuting and traffic jam everyday. Having enough time, you can finally worry about house chores and take care of yourself as well. However, my dreams were a bit wrecked by the work real world. Sometimes you engage with a new client, they send you work for months and then, suddenly, they stop. Out of sight, out of mind. So, basically, as a Freelancer you will need to constantly be sending curricula online, because today you may have this client, but tomorrow you might not anymore, so you need to do something in order to keep the business going. I confess this is the worse part to me, even more than doing taxes. For an inexperienced Freelancer, sending curricula on the internet it’s like opening the window and throwing your curricula at the wind. Sometimes it seems pointless, but no need to worry, job always comes eventually (universal truth). The secret is to see it as a normal process and do not panic. It’s the same with everybody. Not giving up is the key and, for those who worry about not being able to find jobs because of inexperience, volunteering and even internships are a good start.
- Learning about taxes
I, as well as half of the world, always despite mathematics. I remember starting a Dietitian course and getting frustrated when I realised I had to calculated a bunch of stuff in order to prescribe a diet. Changing my course to Languages made me feel free from numbers and all related problems. I bet that if there is a God, she is probably laughing at me right now (if she is really a she, she would definitely do that). Turns out that, in order to be a Freelancer, you shall need to calculate your taxes. Call me stupid, but I never really thought about that. With the Accountants prices, you shall feel obligated to start calculating and understanding how taxes and tax return work in the country you live. What everyone does is to keep an Accountant for one or two years before going on this dark path alone. But the Accountant is a big cost that you can avoid, so better get started on your internet research on government websites. For those who have difficulties, I would suggest a patient friend to help you, or may consider taking a short course. If it is for professional and self growing, it is worth the money.
- How to keep your grammar up to date
Languages are changeable, they are “alive”, so you need to constantly keep up with it. That’s what I was told since the first day I decided to became a Translator. What nobody warned me about it’s this sadder truth: you need to keep studying because you shall forget everything if you don’t. When I was in school I had always been good in grammar, but then school was over and years have passed until I faced this truth. For those really worried, I still think that it is worth to have a good grammar book in hand – I am old school, yes – and there are many free online courses on internet as well, as this one, for instance. Such as everything in life, there are no magic potions and no easy way. You need to keep studying. However, continue reading and writing is also important in order to keep your grammar up to date. And this brings me to the next item of my list.
- Read, read, read
As a Translator, you will need to constantly read as well. And that means to read everything. Be curious, because it is important to follow and copy on your work afterwards different type of styles and registers, depending on your target reader, you will need to know how to change these. Read gossip and fashion magazines, the news, documents such as your birth certificate, articles of your interest on Google Scholar… Do you like medical translation? Read news about medicine, there are tons of it. Read hospital brochures, legal medical documents. Most people when faced with a big text, they don’t even read it or they do a quick scan to filter the important things. If you are a Translator, you cannot allow yourself to be those people. Be curious, read carefully and try to pay attention on how language is being used in that text and why. Is there strange words? Good, so go search for it. See? Now you are beginning to learn, and that is good! If you’re reading the news, I suggest The Independent and Financial Times in matters of good grammar and few to none typos.
- Project managing and customer service
I am not sure, but I am guessing that probably fifty percent of the job is administration and dealing with clients, self-marketing, sending curricula and doing taxes. I love administration and I am flawless in organisation (I am actually not lying when I put that in my curriculum), although I cannot do many things at the same time. The thing is, these parts of the job may not be a natural talent for everyone. Before starting as a Freelancer, it’s always suggested to do a bit of in house jobs or even volunteering. This way you will learn many duties that might be more difficult to learn by yourself later. The bright side is that there are plenty of Project Managing opportunities out there, in translation companies or not. First get some experience, and then go solo. Think that this way you will also achieve more confidence to start by yourself.
- Mean clients and how to deal with them
Everybody commits mistakes. I’m sorry to start this next item with this jargon, but it is a true that sometimes we need to remember ourselves. Mainly in our first years, we will commit many mistakes, even if we have a graduation or not, because working practice is different than the theory we learn in school. I know, even though you may be the wrong one, this does not give anyone any reason to be rude, ever. This part is something that no one ever teach us, nevertheless, you are going to meet some rude clients along the way. The best thing to do is to always be nice, don’t matter what. If the client is exposing some issue and they are actually wrong, calmly explain why it is wrong and give examples. It is not a waste of time, you are being sincere and thoughtful, and this may be a client that will demand you services again in the future. If the wrong one is you, kindly and sincerely apologise and fix the mistake by doing what the client wants. The problem here is to deal with our prides. Remember: integrity feels way more better than staring a stressing argument that you might regret later. If you show that you can actually see your mistake and you are able to learn from it, you are showing your human side, because we all commit mistakes and that’s normal. Think ”what can I learn from this in order to do not let this happen again?”, simply ignore any insults and move on. Try to grow, but do not take insults too seriously. There will be times when clients will also compliment you. Try to balance.
- Having a trainer/mentor
If you started as a in-house Translator, mostly in big companies, you may had had that one person who you could ask all translation related questions. I find this also important, not everything you can learn from books and you also cannot possibly read all books in the world. Sometimes a doubt pop into my head and I simply do not have anyone to ask it to. Again, if you want to work as a Freelance it may be good to have a strong background working in house before, so that could be a great opportunity to meet a mentor and grow your network. You may have colleagues to help you too, but is good to keep a relationship with that one person that you know is more experienced than you and that you can trust.
- Making mistakes is okay
As a Freelancer, you are basically on your own now. Always remember it is normal to commit mistakes and perseverance and consistence are the key. I read this article about new years resolution and why you should actually want to make mistakes, since without them you don’t grow. I found it very interesting, because it shows another approach from the usual “how to succeed” texts we see on internet.
I hope I have not discourage anyone with this article, but actually open more your minds. Thanks for reading!