International Translation Day - FAQs

In celebration of International Translation Day, I’ve collated a range of Frequently Asked Questions I’ve been asked over the course of the last year and a half. It’s a slightly tongue and cheek list which is light hearted but also hopefully explains what I do to some extent.

Q: Ah, a translator. Do you work for Google?

A: No. Google provides machine translation and last time I checked, I am a real human. Machine translation can be really useful for getting the gist of something or for very formulaic texts such as technical texts. However, ultimately, texts should always be checked and adapted by a human who understands both languages. If the translation is anyway creative, you definitely want a human and not a literal translation of the words. As is so often stated in the industry, we translate ideas not words.

Q: So, you can translate every language?

A: No. Sadly I don’t understand every language in the world and so can’t translate them. I work from French and Spanish to English. I would love to be able to offer more services and would love nothing more to understand every language in the world, but sadly, that seems an unrealistic goal!

Q: Why do you work into English? Surely there’s no demand?

A: Well, firstly I translate into English because it’s my native language and I understand all the nuances and connotations which only a native can understand. I don’t have this level of understanding in my source languages, so I don’t work into them.

Is there any demand? Yes. Firstly, for the reasons I spoke about for translating into English, some people may choose to write something in their native tongue and have it translated. Secondly, we live in a shrinking world where everything is closer so there are more and more opportunities for translation as people move about and also as countries and businesses work together more.

Q: You work from home. Is that a real job?

A: Amazingly yes, it is. The joy of my job is that all I need is a laptop and internet and I can work anywhere: at home, in a café, abroad. It can be hard, you need to be disciplined but I also have a freedom which you don’t get in a 9 to 5 job.

Q: With Brexit, will you still have a job?

A: Yes! Obviously, there’s a lot of uncertainty and no one knows how it’s going to look. However, I believe that there will always be a need for translation into English as it’s a global language and we’ll also (hopefully!) continue to be close allies with EU member countries. Perhaps I’m just an optimist, but there’s also a possibility of more work as the EU may have to outsource more work to freelancers. This is because to work for the EU currently, you have to be a citizen of an EU country which, if they keep this rule, will take out a lot of native English translators.

Q: Isn’t using a CAT tool cheating?

A: In a word, no. It helps make you work more efficiently and quickly. Basically, all it does is remember how you translated segments and words and offer those suggestions if those segments or words reappear. The work still needs to be done initially and adapted and checked but it just means repetitive or formulaic documents are quicker to translate.

Q: Aren’t you going to get a real job?

A: This is my real job! I’ve also tutored part time to help support myself, but this job is about as real as it gets. Not only do you do the translation, proofreading and editing but you also run all the business aspects. You are the marketing, sales, recruitment, customer service and accounting department. You’re the CEO but you’re also the workforce. In many ways, working in house would be a lot less challenging as there would be less to think about but personally, I enjoy the challenge and problem-solving aspects of running a business.

Q: Why do I need a human translator? Can’t I just use google or a dictionary?

A: As I said earlier, a translator translates more than just words. They convey ideas and messages. They translate in units of sense. Machines can make mistakes, you need humans to check them. Machines don’t understand cultural elements, or jokes, or word play. Machines don’t think about the context of where a word is being used and whether it makes sense. Machines try to make communication into a science: you must in a set of words and letters and that equals a set of words and letters you get back. However, language isn’t that simple so if you want an accurate and faithful translation which conveys your ideas to a target language, use a human. You may get a different result if you google translate it, but that’s maybe no bad thing!


I hope you’ve enjoyed this read, had a laugh and understood a little more as to what translators do. Happy International Translation Day!

May and June - Months Eleven and Twelve

Apologises for the radio silence – it’s been a crazy few months so I thought I’d try and get my head together to attempt to write something coherent for the two months combined. This will also be the last “Things I’ve Learnt” blog in terms of being a start up as I’m about to celebrate my first birthday!

But do not despair – I’ll be continuing to blog, ideally monthly, and be focusing on business issues, geeky language and cultural posts and looking at how language interacts with society. Anyway, here’s what I learnt over the last few months.

1.      Rest is good

It can be really hard to take time off. I often feel guilty and like I should be doing something. That it’s not acceptable to have a relaxed day off and read a book or go out despite the fact I’ve worked on numerous weekends. However, having booked a holiday and intentionally switching on my out of office was one of the most rewarding and refreshing things. It’s still a tough learning curve and I still feel guilty if I’m not doing anything but I can most certainly see the benefits of rest and working to get better at it! This also leads me on to the second point…

2.      It’s hard not to count the pennies

But it’s not helpful to. Sometimes it’s hard not to see a job and immediately think of it in terms of money: how many bills it will cover, how far will that get me to my next target, how much security it provides… However, it often leads to quite a shallow and greedy point of view. Obviously, it’s important to be making enough but it can be in danger of taking over and sapping away the enjoyment of it all. I’m learning to take a step back and reassess things, weigh up if I need or want to take a job but it’s a steep learning curve.

3.      Proofreading is everything

And I want to get better at it. I find I can easily proofread a stranger’s work and spot the mistakes no problem. I can proofread my own, short, pieces of work and improve them. However, where I really struggle, is proofreading my own 50 000 word document I’ve translated. I find I quickly become blind to my mistakes. I’m trying a few different methods: printing out (costly), having the computer read it aloud (time consuming), giving myself a few days before I proof (deadline dependent) but any tricks or suggestions would be much appreciated!

4.      Being selective matters

Life has been a lot better since I’ve allowed myself the freedom to be more selective! It makes a huge difference to my pace of work and more importantly, to my enjoyment. It’s been really nice to take a step back from more technical texts which require a lot of background reading for me to understand and to move more into humanities type texts or more customer facing texts. Having done this for almost a year now(!), I now have a lot more confidence to say no to jobs and ultimately, that’s going to be better for both me and the client.

5.      Context is key

Talking of customer facing texts, I got quite the scare the other day when a text for a coffee machine and products website and it used the word ‘connard’. I associate this as being quite a rude word and couldn’t quite believe that the translation in my head was what the customer wanted to communicate to their own clients. I looked it up and found ‘idiot’ as a much more mild alternative! It certainly served as a reminder that context is always essential, and that translation is so much more than knowing what the words mean – you always have to think about who’s going to read the final product!

6.      The client isn’t always right

This may seem odd and it’s one of the things I find hardest to admit. Maybe it’s being British and being overly polite, maybe it’s to do with still being quite new to the job, maybe it’s my people pleasing tendencies, but I find it really hard to tell the client that they’re wrong. However, recently I received a source text which had so many errors I couldn’t leave it. Indeed, the client was unimpressed at the unfinished sentences in some segments… until I pointed out that this was because the source text was unfinished. There were also various spelling and grammar mistakes and inconsistencies. I’ve also had times a client wanted a word translated as a completely wrong meaning. Eventually, you sometimes have to put your foot down and say that it’s not a faithful or true translation. It’s difficult but I’m quickly learning to be authoritative when needed!

7.      Community matters

I feel like I write about this every time, but community is so, so, so important. To me, this was particularly apparent when preparing for GDPR. It made life so much easier to have a community to ask questions of, share resources with and vent to. Without the translation community, I’m 100% sure I still wouldn’t understand GDPR and the implications for me. It’s also been really nice to begin to be in position where I can refer friends to agencies and it’s nice to share the ample work and give something back.

8.      You never truly switch off from translation

Recently I was watching a news story about the awful floods in Japan. As part of the story, they had the Japanese Prime Minister speaking which had been interpreted simultaneously. In a very geeky confession, this is my favourite part of the news, I love it. Granted, less exciting when I don’t understand the source but still great. I was surprised when the interpreter referred to an ‘inondation’ instead of a flood and found myself mentally correcting him, despite not knowing the source. This is just a small example but one thing which amazes me is how my brain is always looking out for errors like that and never truly switches off.

Thanks for being on the journey for the last 12 months! Keep checking back for regular updates on a whole range of topics.

April - Month Ten

Apologises this is so late, May has been crazy busy and this is in fact, a quick entry before I escape for a few days. Here’s what I learnt in April.

1.      Always make the most of feedback when you get it

I have a complete love/hate relationship with feedback. The fact I’m a perfectionist means that sometimes criticism is hard because you’re frustrated that you didn’t nail it. However, being a perfectionist also means I’m hungry for feedback, to know how to do even better and what to work on. After all, I’ve only being doing this for ten months so I know there’s things to work on. After fourth year and the intense amount of feedback you receive, I never thought I’d miss it. Now, I’m incredibly grateful and appreciative of any constructive feedback – it helps me hone my skills and improve to be the best translator I can be. All this being said, make the most of feedback you get – you’ll miss it when it’s gone.

2.      Tax returns aren’t as bad as you think

I was dreading doing my tax return. I also had an irrational fear that I was going to accidentally commit tax fraud. I’m happy to confirm that as far as I’m aware I haven’t done this. I was actually amazed at how smoothly it went and how straight forward it was to gather all the information. It definitely proved to me how important it is to have everything in order and easily accessible – it certainly saves time later on.

3.      Time management is everything

Time management is not my friend. I’m very good at underestimating how long something takes. I’m very good at procrastinating. These are not the best traits when working as a translator. I am slowly but surely learning how to get better at this or else suffer a late night as a result. However, what’s tricky is knowing when to say no to a job. I hate it. You feel like you’re letting a client down. Also, having had quiet periods, I also want to avoid this at all costs. It’s tough but it’s also about learning to look after myself and to not commit to something I can’t give 100% to.

4.      Separating yourself from you work is hard

It’s incredibly hard to pull back from work and see it with fresh eyes. I find this particularly challenging when proofreading after working on a job for a while – you find yourself reading what you think you’ve written and not necessarily what you’ve actually written. I’m slowly finding techniques to combat this – better time management, reading aloud, printing work out to avoid reading it on a screen, etc. However, any tips or tricks for how to separate yourself from your work and see it afresh would be much appreciated.

5.      Pro-bono work is super rewarding

This month I completed my first job for Translators Without Borders. What a delight it was. Pro-bono work is a field I’ve wanted to get into for a while so it’s very exciting to begin this journey. At first, I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to switch off as I’m so used to evaluating documents at a per word cost. However, it was super freeing to do pro-bono work, really enjoy the translation and know that ultimately, this translation will help someone. It’s also great practice and will be a good way to keep my skills up in any quiet spots. If you ever have a chance to do pro-bono work in your field, I highly recommend it.


That’s it for this month – apologises for the delay. I’m off on holiday and will update you on my May progress once I’m back!

March - Month Nine

Three quarters of a way through my first-year freelancing and still learning lots. Here’s what happened in month nine.

1.      One big job can change everything

This never fails to surprise me. You think I would be used to it by now. However, the thrill of signing on for a nice 20k project rather than a few thousand words doesn’t get old. I guess the reasons for this are multiple. One, it’s nice to be able to map out a week or so worth of work rather than a 24/48 hour turn around and not knowing what (if anything) is coming next. Two, it’s nice to have something to get your teeth into. Especially if there’s lots of technical or specialist terms to dig into, it’s easier to motivate yourself to do the in-depth research when you know it’ll be repeated multiple times rather than used once. In a business sense, it’s also easier to see that time as profitable – even when using trados discounts. Three, it’s amazing how much calmer you feel when you know you’ll make a reasonable amount that month based on one job. Especially if it’s near the start of the month, it can take the worry out of the rest of the month and help you to enjoy the pluses of working for yourself more. This leads me onto my next point…

2.      Financial stability is always hard

It’s incredibly hard not knowing how much money you’ll take home at the end of the month. Mainly because you can’t budget a month with any certainty which is hard for future planning. This has become particularly apparent when trying to figure out holiday plans or moving out. In one sense, it’s easy to save at the moment as I have very few outgoings. However, the idea of not being sure whether I’ll make rent or not is not a fun one. As ever, it’s a bit of a mind game but for me, that insecurity is definitely one of the hardest things about freelancing.

3.      Connections are amazing and help keep you sane

So, I’ve written about the importance of networking before but I’m going to keep writing about it because, in all aspects of life, people need people. This is true whether it’s a friend who can recommend you as a freelancer to their company or whether it’s the opportunity to be able to chat things through with someone in a similar position – finding out you’re not the only person who made that mistake or felt that way. I’m so grateful to the people in my life who tell me I can do it when it’s tough or remind me of what I’ve done so far. I’ve got some potential co-working opportunities on the horizon which I’m super excited about as a way to self-improve and develop. I used to think we got a ridiculous amount of feedback and critique at uni… I definitely miss that now!

4.      You can’t stop thinking…ever

Maybe this says more about me as a person than anything else! However, I find that I’m always thinking about what’s next. This can take many forms: what project is next? How will I find new clients? How do I improve a particular practice? What’s the best way to market myself? I’ve also been thinking a lot about diversification and how to best use my skills while slightly branching out of strict translation to add more strings to my bow. This is one aspect which continues to surprise me! I never thought I’d be overly business-minded but I’m loving the challenge of finding solutions to problems, having the authority to make decisions and being able to decide ultimately what direction I go in. Problem solving was never my strong point in maths but I’m finally coming into my own in it!

5.      Pressure to specialise vs work available is a headache

One thing you constantly hear in the industry is that you have to specialise and find your USP – great advice. However, where I find the tension is knowing what I want to ultimately specialise in, figuring out my dream clients versus the work, and inevitably vital experience, of work available to me day-to-day. This can create a difficult tension as you want to pursue these “dream jobs” but also need the experience to have the credentials to approach clients and be able to offer something of worth. It’s hard to see how a highly technical piece will ultimately help me get a job in sports translation or translating for a museum but I know it hones my skills and that some aspects are applicable to all translation jobs. As with any career, you have to get to know the ropes first.


That’s the March round-up. Check back in to see what happened in April.

February - Month Eight

Month eight was a welcome relief after months six and seven and it feels amazing to be back on track and have a steady flow of business. Here’s what I learnt.

1.      Never stop learning

I find that I’m constantly learning new things and it’s one of my favourite things about my job. I can go from researching Spanish property law and the English equivalents to looking at clothing cuts. Both require equal amounts of attention and research and it’s a real privilege to tackle such varied texts and I love being able to challenge and stretch myself constantly. But it’s not just learning subject matter and content – it’s critical to stay on top of linguistic changes. The Académie Française have just announced changes to 2400 spellings and so it’s important to stay on top of both your source and target languages – even if the new spelling ‘ognon’ makes you say, ‘oh non!’

2.      Persistence pays off

Being determined is arguably one of my best and worst qualities but professionally, it is definitely a plus. This month, it’s paid off in a number of ways. My dream speciality is sports translation and I’ve managed to get my foot in the door with a company specialising in it which is a fantastically exciting step and often the first bit of experience is the hardest to come by. Persistence has also lead to the vast majority of unpaid invoices to be recovered. It also gives me the confidence to check in with clients I haven’t worked with in a while and see what the state of play is. If any of these situations are applicable to you right now, be encouraged – persistence does pay off!

3.      I’m actually good at my job

This may be the most arrogant thing I’ve ever written. However, it’s important to celebrate the victories as this often keeps me going during the tougher times. This month, I’ve received some lovely and generous feedback from clients which has been such an important mental boost. It’s easy to get knocked back my rejection or criticism and ignore the positives but that’s not a healthy mindset. So instead, I’m trying to celebrate the wins, learn from the criticisms and find ways to encourage other people – both professionally and personally.

4.      Admin is essential… and keeps me sane

Admin is the least favourite part of my job. It’s slow. It’s painful. It’s time consuming. But it’s hugely important. In fact, I’ve learnt if I don’t set aside time for admin regularly then I actually can’t focus and run any other part of the business. If the admin side is out of control, it stresses me out, makes me feel out of control and distracts me. I’ve also learnt there’s ways to make the process a lot quicker and keep me a lot saner. Having clean, easy to use, clear accounting software is one of the best investments I’ve made. It keeps me on track. It sends payment reminders. It displays all the information I need at the click of a button. All initial scepticism has been transformed into gratitude!

5.      Work always picks up

This never fails to surprise me. After a few quiet days I will automatically assume that everyone thinks I’m a fraud and I’ll never get work again. Thankfully, this is completely untrue. Imposter syndrome is alive and kicking but it’s reassuring to know I’m not only one and that it affects people in all walks of life and professions. It’s a constant battle but knowing I am good at my job and enquires from new clients or return business helps remind me that I can do it and that even when work is slow, it will pick up again. In fact, so far February and March have been pretty busy so no complaints!

That’s the Feb round-up, check back in to see what happens in March. As ever, comments are very welcome!

Gender, Politics and Language

Last month we celebrated the 100-year anniversary of the first women in the UK getting the vote. This was obviously a momentous occasion after years of campaigning, but it wasn’t equality – under those conditions I still wouldn’t have the vote whereas I’ve had the privilege of voting 8 times in 6 years. (I think despite voting that frequently it’s still a privilege and not a burden!) Anyway, all this has made me reflect on gender equality and whether we’ve achieved it yet (spoiler alert – the answer is no). However, being a linguist, I’m also fascinated in were our language intersects with gender and whether our language is barrier or promotes equality. This is only becoming more pressing as more and more people identify as neither male or female. It also raises the question of whether our language reflects our thinking or whether our thinking is shaped by the words we use. Below, I’ve tried to categorise my thoughts in to some sort of logical order by splitting them into the following questions: whether gendered language still influences society today; whether there are tangible harms to male-biased language; what the possible solutions are.

1.      Does gendered language still influence society? Is it still a thing?

Sadly, it does still exist and still is a thing. Gendered language has probably been here since the dawn of time but 1827 was the first time ‘he’ appeared in UK legislation with the intention that ‘he’ would refer to all peoples of all genders. From here, the masculine form automatically became the norm and things rapidly went downhill in terms of equality. It led to the masculine form being viewed as normal and the feminine form being seen as a derivative and therefore less important. This is highlighted by the fact that the male form of a word is unmarked and the automatic form, implying that women and other genders are subspecies and denying them the language to tell their stories. Obviously, we’ve started to move away from this as generally ‘he’ is not seen as referring to any gender anymore and we try to use nouns to refer to both genders, for example, police officer instead of police man or woman. Language plays a key role in our decision-making processes, assessments and behaviours, as well as having the ability to shape our cognitive thinking. Therefore, when Trump dismisses his “grab ‘em by the pussy” comments as “locker room banter” and trivialises is sexist language, he not only diminishes the discriminated groups feelings but often makes them feel invisible, removes their voice and takes away their ability to explain their narrative. This makes the #metoo and #timesup campaigns particularly interesting as the language surrounding them is focused on reclaiming the narrative and speaking up, suggesting that previously their voices were lost or silenced. So, does gendered language still exist and influence our society? Yes. But why does it matter?

2.      Are there harms to male-biased language?

Maybe male-biased language is simply the by-product of archaic thinking which has no bearing on society today? Maybe not.

In the legal world, it has been found that writing legislation in gender-neutral language actually produces clearer and less ambiguous legislation which actually benefits both genders. Furthermore, a 1992 study by Hamilton, Hunter and Sharon found that if the pronoun ‘he’ is used in a text describing self-defence, the jury are far more likely to find the female defendant of being guilty of murder rather than acting in self-defence. This shows that gendered language can have real impacts on individual’s lives, and in this case, prison sentences.

Politically, when an existing political candidate uses derogatory or sexist language, it leads to less women standing for political office in the future as they feel isolated and unqualified to enter the political arena. If this is true of a candidate, I suspect it could be amplified when the candidate wins the highest office in the land. Therefore, the ripples of one candidate can continue long after them and not only effect female political involvement, but legitimise more fringe and extremist views, moving further away from civility in politics. This style of language, and indeed, the various allegations of inappropriate sexual advances, only perpetuate the view that Westminster is an old boys’ club, reinforcing existing power inequalities.

Finally, the unmarkedness of masculine words and the resulting invisibility can alienate women from more high-powered positions as if the pronoun ‘he’ is used to refer to positions like professors, judges and doctors, women struggle to visualise themselves in these roles. This is further highlighted by Bem and Bem’s study which showed only 5% of women applied for traditionally masculine jobs when male-biased language is used. This reinforces the glass ceiling for women and this is not only a negative thing for women, but society as a whole as No Ceilings report that when the gender gap closes, it increases the country’s GDP by 12%. So, evidently gender biased language not only negatively effects women and those who don’t identify as male or female, but holds back all of society, and prevents it from flourishing. So how do we combat it?

3.      Possible solutions...

One possible solution is to follow Sweden’s example and introduce a gender-neutral pronoun. Sweden introduced hen which is designed to be used when the gender of the speaker is unknown, irrelevant, or the speaker doesn’t identify as male or female. However, the use of hen isn’t mandatory and it’s currently too early to tell whether the introduction of a gender-neutral has been successful and reduced discrimination. For gender-neutral pronouns to be a success there must be strong public engagement and backing, which currently doesn’t seem to be the case. Furthermore, it’s unclear whether a new pronoun would actually solve all the problems surrounding gendered language. For example, the issue with Trump’s language isn’t the pronoun he uses, but his derogatory and sexist language.

Ultimately, the question comes down to the age-old debate in linguistics as to whether language shapes thought or vice versa. Personally, if there’s any chance language can be used to promote gender equality, I will use it accordingly. In terms of work, this means translating ambiguous pronouns as ‘they’ whenever possible and ensuring that my language doesn’t unintentionally reinforce gender stereotypes. Yes, we’ve come a long way since the first women got the vote but we’ve still got further to go and so does our language.

If you want any references of studies or research read which contributed to this then just shout - I have a very extensive list

P.S. shout out to anyone who thinks writing a dissertation isn't useful - getting to put mine into action!

January – Month Seven

The start of 2018 has been mixed with a mix of deadly quiet and tight turn arounds. Here’s what happened.

1.      Planning is everything

Anyone who knows me will know I’m not a natural planner. In fact, I’m the opposite of a natural planner. I take after my dad and have a tendency to do things a little last minute and wing it a bit. This is great when it comes to tight deadlines because I’m motivated by pressure and deadlines, but I’ve learnt the value of planning recently. A key activity for me has been learning o plan better and use time effectively. This can take a number of forms for me, whether it’s mapping out how long a job will take me or planning business development. Recently, I’ve been planning blog content and figuring out how to diversify the content. With it being the 100-year anniversary of the first women getting the vote in the UK, I’ve been reflecting on that and how language and gender intersect so you can look forward to a blog post on that soon… I knew my dissertation would come I handy one day!

2.      Marketing/looking for clients never stops (at least not yet!)

One of the hardest things was going from a relatively steady flow of work to that drying up and therefore forcing me to diversify and look for other sources when my other ones were current. It was actually a bit of a knock to my pride to go back to sending out numerous emails and CVs. However, it was well worth getting over myself and pursuing new leads. Realistically, I know I’m not going to have a regular client base for a while and it’s important to continue to pursue as many leads as possible, especially when trying to figure out what to specialise in. Although it can be demoralising at times, the rewards are well worth it.

3.      Writing scary emails is scary and I want to avoid doing so as much as possible

The reality of debt collection has been my least favourite experience to date. Sending out emails informing someone that you’ll be required to take legal action if payment isn’t received is not a nice feeling. It’s made me really reflect on my payment practices to try and find ways of avoiding this situation happening. It’s been a really tough learning curve and in future I definitely need to think about taking some upfront payment from new clients to avoid getting burnt again

4.      Always do your due diligence before accepting a job

This is very much linked to the previous point and avoiding clients not paying. I used to think due diligence was mainly focused on me: did I have the skills and expertise? Did I have the time? Was I good enough? While all these questions are good and relevant there’s also another set of questions which I’ve learnt to ask: what’s the company/client’s reputation? What’s their track record on payment? What are other translators saying about them? I used to think these questions were paranoid and unnecessary but now I can see the real benefit and necessity of them and would encourage any other service provider to do the same!

5.      Networking keeps me sane

One of the most reassuring things when work was quiet was knowing that other translators were facing the same struggles. This is particularly reassuring when it was much more experienced translators saying that they were finding work quiet and also struggled with the mental aspects of that. Sometimes it’s hard not to lose your head but it’s much easier when you have other people to discuss that with and share tips with.

That's the January round-up. Look forward to another special post on language and gender soon. Also, we recently used my blog as an example in the Succeeding in Secondary workshop we run as part of tutoring. Shout out to any of the kids who may be reading this!

December - Month Six

December marks half a year as a fulltime freelance translator and was challenging due to just how quiet it was. However, it was still productive in other ways. Here's what I learnt from a quiet month.

1. Enjoy the time off (as much as possible!)

This is easier said than done as some days it's hard not to wonder where you'll get work from/why all your regular clients are silent and sometimes you don't want to plan ahead so that you're available for any project which comes in. However, after months with ridiculously late nights and back to back deadlines, it's important to try and enjoy the quiet times - no doubt later on I'll be wanting more of a break!

2. Make contact with clients

It's easy to panic and think all your clients have decided never to work with you again for some inexplicable reason. With it being December, I used the opportunity to send customers a digital Christmas card and touch base. It was incredibly reassuring how many responded saying they'd love to work with me in 2018! The reassurance that clients genuinely don't have work and haven't replaced you allows you to keep your head in the game and not internally implode!

3. Use the time productively

With a lack of work, I've been able to do things which have previously been pushed further and further down the list! Rather than wondering what to do, I could finally catch up on marketing content, business set up, plan ahead for CPD and my finances which leads me on to my next point...

4. Invest when appropriate

I decided to invest in the accounting software Xero and I cannot recommend it highly enough! It's made the whole money side so much easier as I can track every account, create invoices and quotes and see exactly what's overdue or what money I've been spending. I could do it via my spreadsheets but this is so much easier. However, it did take me a while to get my head around and get all my accounts reconciled so if I'd been working flat out it would have got pushed down the list.

5. Know that work will come again

Although it's only the 5th day of 2018, I've already translated 15 000 words. Work will reappear. At least that's what I've found so far!

See you next month to discuss what I learn in month seven! As ever, comments are very welcome!

November - Month Five

I feel like I'm increasingly struggle to remember what happened the month before... I think I'll have to start taking notes as I go along! However, here are the things I learnt this month (which I still remember!)

1.        Make hay while the sun's shining

Firstly, what a delightful idiom, I had great fun attempting to explain this to a child I was tutoring recently who kept trying to tell me that hay wasn't man made (we muddled through the confusion eventually!). However, the principle is so true. Maybe one day my life will be super organised, I'll have jobs booked for the month ahead, everything will run smoothly and life won't throw up any curveballs..... maybe. Until that day, I intend to make the most of my time working and off. It's very easy to hate the days you don't have "assigned work" and stress the days you do but this is not overly productive! As a result, I've found making a list of tasks to do for days where I don't have projects and allocating myself more time then I think I need for a project where possible to remove a little bit of pressure. You also never know when life will throw up another curveball - I'm learning it's important to give yourself grace and it's ok to reject jobs too (it's a work in progress!)

2.      Being an adult is hard

Sorting out accounting software and your finances is hard. Sending payment reminders for overdue payment is hard. Telling someone their rate is completely unreasonable (politely) is hard. But it part of being an adult. One thing I find helpful is knowing everyone hates these jobs and I'm not the only one. It also means there's always people you can ask for advice who have also struggled with it and found ways to overcome their problems. Having said that, a bit of free advice, Taylor Swift and gin make adult tasks easier!

3.     There will never be enough hours in the day/week/month/year

Sometimes it feels like you're going from one job to another and simply doing damage control on what absolutely needs to be done (like invoices!) and neglecting everything else. However, this is the nature of the beast. As discussed last month, there's always something which can be improved or changed so it's about prioritising what needs to be done and what can wait. And allowing yourself to switch off and be ok with leaving things until tomorrow!

4.     Find out what you love... and what you hate...

And build the services you offer around this! I quickly realised while I was accepting work as a student that I hate transcription. It doesn't matter whether it's from foreign language to English or simply English to English. I cannot stand it. It's time consuming and a huge faff and it takes me far too long for it to ever be profitable. So I point blank reject transcription jobs. I take on subtitling jobs but only if they have a written script which needs translated into English subtitles. I have a friend who loves proofreading but would never want to be a translator. This is my idea if a nightmare but it's about finding what works for you and not being afraid to refuse jobs/not offer services which will cause you more stress than satisfaction. In the end of the day, I partly decided to be freelance to give myself more freedom and create a job which works for me, it would be silly to restrict that!

5. Always keep an eye on ever-changing language guidelines

Recently I've been reading a lot of articles on gender neutral language which is particularly interesting to me. In fact, I wrote my final year dissertation on whether there's a need for a gender-neutral pronoun in English. However, accepted language and guidelines around this are constantly changing as our knowledge and understanding changes and it's even harder to explain this to clients. For instance, it's not acceptable to use 'he' generically in English to refer to both genders but some clients request this. 'Padres' in Spanish is an incredibly complex word to translate. The author could mean parents, mother and father, fathers, or (less likely) mothers. Therefore, it's incredibly important to keep your finger on the industry pulse in order to accurately reflect the text's meaning but also to make sure it's as inclusive to society as possible. Maybe I'll write more on the subject another day, but it's a thought for you to ponder for now!

Those are five things I learnt in November. I'll update my blog in 2018 (that's terrifying!) with what I learnt in December. Until then, have a fantastic Christmas and a wonderful New Year - and make sure you enjoy some well-earned time off!


October – Month Four

Another month and another summary of what I’ve learnt…

1.      There is always something which can be improved

Maybe I feel this particularly acutely as a slight perfectionist, but I find I’m never ever short of things to do or improve. Whether that’s updating my website, redesigning invoices so they’re more aesthetically pleasing, looking into bookkeeping software, working on terminology or finding new clients there’s always something I can be doing! I love this aspect of the job as it means that there are always challenges and areas to push myself in. However, it can also be daunting and feel insurmountable sometimes so I’m finding it increasingly more necessary to prioritise and approach my ever-growing to-do list one item at a time to avoid a minor meltdown!

2.      Getting paid on time is the bain of my life.

It’s great when you look at your spread sheet and you see how many billable hours you’ve done so far. It’s less fun when you compare this to the money in your account and realise how many outstanding invoices you have to chase up. I’m incredibly glad that the ITI SUFT course has a whole week dedicated to this as it is far and away the biggest challenge I face. I can now fully understand why so many small businesses struggle to survive! I’m also glad I don’t have the pressure of making rent right now as unfortunately I can’t default on payments just because someone has defaulted on me!

3.      A word log is the single best thing I’ve done.

This was another top tip from SUFT but applying it has made such a difference. It’s such a confidence boost to be able to say I’ve translated X thousand words on this subject when applying for jobs or negotiating with a client. It’s also a great way to track your progress, the types of jobs you’re getting and the sheer volume of words you’ve translated. I’m utterly amazed that I’ve translated over 240K words already since starting! However, even just knowing this helps me to be more confident in my ability (imposter syndrome is real!) and also gives me lots of material to look over and areas of terminology to improve based on how long each job took. Definitely easier to do as you go along rather than retrospectively though!

4.      A simple email of thanks can have a huge impact

There is nothing more encouraging than receiving an email to thank you for working on a job – particularly if it’s caused a lot of stress or taken up a lot of time. I know how much I appreciate it (although I am also very words orientated!) and this is definitely something I’m going to try and remember to do both within the industry and in my life in general. As ever, a little can go a long way.

5.      Curiosity is a translator’s greatest asset

Most children have that phase where they ask “why” to everything and I don’t think I’ve ever really grown out of this phase! While this may occasionally be irritating for my family and friends who have to put up with the many hypothetical questions, debates and verbal processing I’ve found it comes into its own in translation! It’s great for CPD, learning more about the industry, being motivated to find out the context of a translation or the perfect word or phrase depending on the subject matter. I’ve also found it incredibly helpful as a freelancer and making all my business decisions myself (being an adult is scary!) as I find even subconsciously I’ve asked myself multiple questions before every decision so if a client ever asks me “why?” I know the reason instantly.

6.      I hate when people say I don’t have a real job!

I genuinely didn’t think this would annoy me, but it really does! It’s particularly annoying if someone says this after you’ve been tutoring, stayed up late to finish a big job, spent hours proofreading, had formatting/technical issues, created and billed an invoice yourself and dealt with a particularly demanding client. If there’s a freelancer in your life, please show them some love instead of ribbing them for still being in their pjs (there has to be some advantages of working from home, right?!)

So those are the 6 things I’ve learnt in month 4, as ever, comments, questions, entertaining anecdotes are very welcome. See you in December for month 5!