One of the best perks in my former role as a Director of eCPD, the online training provider for translators, was that I got to attend some truly fantastic talks by the most interesting, inspiring and successful people in our profession.
So I was buzzed when I heard Judy Jenner, blogger at Translation Times and co-author of The Entrepreneurial Linguist, emphasise that building and growing a business is hard, and that freelance translators and interpreters need to expect it to be that way.
Yet not many translators (and dare I say it, even fewer interpreters I meet) seem to grasp this.
Becoming a translator is easy
It’s no secret that translation has a low barrier to entry, and freelance work an even lower one.
Speak more than one language? Then set up an account on Proz.com, mass-email your CV to a list of agencies and voilà, you’re a freelance translator. If you want to be especially entrepreneurial, you might even take thirty minutes or so to set up a website, blog and Twitter stream.
There is nothing wrong with any of this. I don’t begrudge anyone their route into translation, nor do I believe a baptism of fire is a requirement to earn your wings as a “real” translator.
But I do think it’s what you do next, after you’ve emailed your CV, set up your LinkedIn profile or had your business cards printed, and every single day thereafter, over a period of weeks, months and years, that secures you a successful and sustainable career in translation.
But being one isn’t
A lot of people become freelance translators, but far fewer stay long in the profession. Translation communities are full of translators complaining about low rates, unfair conditions and clients who take advantage of them.
By my reckoning, these people do not have successful, sustainable careers in translation. So what can they do to change that?
As Aristotle apparently never said, we are what we repeatedly do, and excellence is not an act but a habit.
Significant results don’t materialise overnight – they require continuous (or at least continual) practice combined with a strategic approach, a long-term commitment and plenty of hard work.
Projects that are well paid, satisfying and regular, or clients that are reasonable, interesting and appreciative: there is no magic pill or single way to achieve these things.
They simply require that you put the work in, over and over again.
In the words of Judy Jenner, if it were that easy, everyone would be doing it – right?