One of the best things about being a freelance translator is that it is entirely up to you how your career develops. I’ve always found that very empowering. But of course, one of the worst things about being a freelance translator is that it is entirely up to you how your career develops. It’s not always easy to handle that degree of choice.
Jed Schmidt, the original globe-trotting translator, says that translators have three options when it comes to developing long-term careers in translation. They can go deep, and immerse themselves so thoroughly in a particular area they become the go-to translator for that niche. They can go wide, and expand into providing other translation-related services. Or they can go fish: leave translation itself behind but move into a job that is still part of the wider translation industry.
I think it’s safe to say I have thoroughly explored all three options over the past five years. Before last year, I had always set myself challenges in terms of the kinds of clients I wanted to work with, or the kind of translation projects I wanted to work on. I was always thinking about what other step I could take, to move forward, to try something new and to consolidate what I had already done.
Then my energy and motivation levels flagged badly in 2009. (I tried to blog about this often, but found it too hard at the time.) I had always loved deciding which aspect of translation I was going to explore next. But it had come to a point where, while there were lots of things I knew I could do, there was nothing I felt I simply had to do anymore.
I knew for sure that I didn’t want to stagnate – the road to translation hell is paved with translators who stagnated – but I was done exploring. I knew what I liked and what I didn’t like, in which circumstances I worked well and when I was better off leaving an opportunity for someone else.
I just didn’t know which option to choose.
So my aim for 2010 was to make no sudden moves, professionally speaking. No matter how tempted, I wanted to give myself a year to just wait it out, to let the dust settle and to see what emerged.
And that’s exactly what I did, and it happened to be an awesome year. Satisfying projects, wonderful clients and financially rewarding, too. All seemed well in the world.
Then, about two weeks ago, something emerged. It was just right and I knew. On Friday, I’ll tell you what it was 🙂