After working for two years as a project manager and in-house translator, I decided that it was high time for me to change (partially) my life and move forward. Therefore, I resigned from my in-house position and I started my “career” as freelance translator. Some time after taking this decision and actually start working, I thought it could be interesting and a good idea to share my thoughts about it and the reasons behind my slight change of path to maybe help other students and professionals to clear their minds and, why not, have a fresh start. So, as a result, I decided to put together some sort of a series of articles, going through the reasons to change career, how to start out as a translator or professional, and how it was going for me after one, three and six months, with the hope that my journey could help those that find themselves in my exact same position.
First things first, why creating a problem for myself and leaving in-house employment (il tanto venerato POSTO FISSO) to live my working and personal life in the darkness of uncertainty? Well, there are many, many reasons and here below, I will try to go through them and explain them making some sense.
More in depth, the first reason can be identified as the fact that I really wanted to be and work how I liked it: this does not mean avoid working, because if you know me you’ll know that I am a very hard working person, but to work following my logic, and sometimes the common sense, therefore leaving behind guidelines and rules that I did not choose or on which I did not have a say at all. Another important reason for me was that I could actually manage my time, basing my tasks and working schedule on my level of productivity. Saying this, it’s important to consider that every person has different levels of productivity at different hours. For example, if working in an office, employee A takes an hour to perform a task and employee B takes half an hour to go through the same task, depending on the employer, the work and performance of the two employees will be perceived differently by the boss and maybe employee B will look busier and therefore more serious and hard working in the eyes of his manager.
Thirdly, I really wanted the power to matter and to take decisions that were relevant to my work and performance, of course taking the responsibilities related to my actions.
Finally, it goes without saying that flexibility, being able to go home more often and diversify what I do were all on the “go for it” side; so in the end, I just wanted to give it a shot and try to see if it was as cool as everyone was making it.
On the other side, when taking such a decision, it’s important to consider all possibilities and variables, keeping in mind that every “dream job” has its downfalls. In this case, regarding the possible freelance career that was in front of me, the issues were many and here below you will see which ones were the scariestto me.
The lack of stability, for example, was an important point to consider; no routine, no places to be at, no timetables can create problems and disrupt many people’s balance and personal stability. As I consider myself pretty self-sufficient and I am very much able to manage my day and create a set list of tasks to perform, I thought that this should not be a great problem, as I always enjoyed this kind of freedom in my student life too.
On top on this, loneliness, responsibilities and abilities that maybe are not within everyone’s comfort zone, such as being an accountant, PR and marketing manager at the same time could be considered an issue; however, here again, to me they were not a threat, but looked more like a challenge that could help me diversify my job and make it more interesting on many level, being therefore able to use differently my brain.
To end this piece about the reasons that pushed me to have a career change and actually making a big jump like this, I must say that when I was writing down the theme and important things to mention for this article, including the reasons for not going freelance, I could only keep thinking about the positive sides. Hence, I believe that for now it’s looking like I have made the right decision, although it’s very important to mention that this choice may not be for everyone and I highly suggest that anyone who’s thinking about doing something like this should take a moment and, with calm, writing down negative and positive reasons that could influence the decision process, but also finally their lives.
Just after finishing a degree, for example, a Master’s degree in translation, most people feel quite confused on what to do next. Only a few students have everything already planned out, as well as, a decent budget to start freelancing; the truth is that the majority of us are not only clueless, but also broke. This is why we should always consider transferable skills as part of what we can gain through our career to get our dream job.
First things first, what are transferable skills? According to the Princeton University experts, they are “the skills you acquire and transfer to future employment settings. Common examples include interpersonal, communication, leadership and organizational skills”. Therefore, these are the skills that you will be able to gain in an office-like environment, which then will be super useful to you, when you will decide to change job, set up your own company or even start freelancing. Thinking about the translation industry, I believe that it can be quite hard and daunting to start freelancing without even knowing how to write to agencies or how to react to negative feedback. This is why, I think that starting from an in-house position, as a project manager, vendor controller or in-house translator will be a fantastic starting point to launch your career in this sector.
Having said that, I would like to share the abilities that I think will be very useful as a freelance translator to further boost your position in this very dynamic and competitive market.
It’s true, there’s nothing new here, but I really do think that people underestimate the importance of having good phone and e-mail manners. Being able to handle a challenging conversation with a client or an agency is something you will only be able to do with practice. Nobody mentions this when you are studying, but the power of a very well thought and written email is priceless and can solve many issues and situations that could escalate in no time. Of course, this “e-mail writing skill” intertwines with problem solving and sales, but I assure you that it’s all part of every translator/editor/vendor controller AND project manager’s role.
This second point is absolutely essential to stand out in an ocean of translators. Not only coming up with effective solutions, but also preventing problems through different workflows/workarounds is key. Would you choose someone that whinges about the text segmentation in a CAT tool, or someone who suggests preparing the file in a different way to avoid further problems? Well, I would surely prefer the second option. It’s important to think about the person we are working for/with always as a client. I am not saying that we all have to be formal and serious all the time, but being able to be proactive and efficient will definitely make you look professional to anyone you are delivering a project for.
Scrolling, scrolling, scrolling… Social medias and smartphones are great, but they make us also waste hours and hours of our lives doing essentially nothing. We do need to put them down and work our way through our tasks. Talking about tasks, when planning our day, it’s crucial to understand how long it will take us to perform them. We don’t want to pack too much stuff in our day, but we also don’t want to set a deadline too far away, when we could have translated something earlier on and fit in more projects. This is something that I learnt while working as a project manager: you need to provide turnaround times all the time. Everyone needs them because everyone has a boss or client to get back to.
The list could be never ending, because the skills and abilities you can gain from different jobs can have a fantastic and positive impact both on your productivity and happiness levels in your future or present jobs. If you are asking yourself what to do after your degree, try to think about what skills you would like to have in your personal portfolio and look for jobs that will provide you with them. This should not be the only requirement for looking for a job, but I still think it’s a good indicator for being able to then develop your career and help you move forward in your work life.
I have had this blog post in my drafts for months and now I have finally managed to finish it and have the chance to publish it in the very interesting and highly relevant blog Apertis Verbis.
Please, feel free to check it out here.
It's just a beginners guide for anyone who is starting out as a freelancer or a project manager and would like to know a bit more desktop publishing, but I think that many people will benefit from it.
Thanks for having me on your blog, girls - Miruna, Ele and Lara!
Before moving to the UK and starting the MA, I had never written on any publications, journals or websites, neither in English nor in Italian, mainly because the jobs that I was in were not very intellectually stimulating and because Italian universities are, let’s say, not very dynamic or young.
For these reasons, I had really no self-esteem in terms of my writing skills (my skills in general) and I didn’t know where to start. Therefore, it was actually my partner who pushed me to open a blog and to take any opportunity to write and put my name out there.
These chances came when, as I said before, I started university again and therefore started writing reports about the Professionalisation Talks I was attending. After that, I did some volunteer project coordinating work for Translator Without Borders and I started a position as Project Manager in Leeds. Even though I was always busy, I tried to keep this writing exercise active, not only because I wanted to keep up with my writing skills in another language (reason #1), but I also wanted to share my point of view on translation subjects and, why not, helping a cause I believe in. Thus, I wrote a few times on the company’s blog, on some friends’ blog, as well as, on the first ITI Student Bulletin.
On this note, writing short articles and reports, helped me get transferable skills (reason #2) that I could use when writing complicated emails, which in my job happens almost every day. You just want to get your point across without fussing around too much.
On top of this, this practice helped me networking and meeting new very interesting and highly intelligent people that enriched my knowledge and life experience (reason #3); and what's even better is that you can share what you have been working on social media to make other people know what you are doing and possibly inspire them.
To provide some examples of easy ways to start, I added here below some of the blog posts and short articles I wrote.
Hence, considering all I have mentioned above, I suggest everyone to write more to keep your brain busy and your mind active!
What do you think? Will you start a blog about your opinions too? It doesn't need to be about translation, it can be about anything you like :)
The translation industry is known for being unpredictable, many times new projects come in waves. One week is slow and quiet and the next one is so busy and fast that you don’t even realise that is almost the weekend.
When everybody remembers that it’s almost the end of the month and they forgot to send the files for translation, things can get very busy and stressful and right at the point, we PMs forget the importance of reference material.
But what is reference material? Well… this term covers a very wide variety of files that are normally sent to the translators to help them understand the source material or the subject matter of the project, and to be consistent with the previous translated material. They can be Translation Memories, Terminology Databases, previous translations (for example, this can be very useful when translating manuals as well as marketing material) or visual material, such as pictures, CAD drawings and so on.
These files can be supplied by the end clients when requesting a job, however this is a very rare occurrence, as PMs need to ask for them every time a project goes ahead. It is true that translators should do their own research and spend time looking for what they are translating to better understand the subject matter, however having all the files ready for a project can speed up the whole process a lot, improving the delivery deadline and translation too.
It is the classic PPPPP rule – Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance!
Unfortunately, this step is often overlooked in the fast-paced industry of translation. I believe that agencies should take more care of storing and using properly all the reference material that is necessary for a project. An example are TDs which are not as widely used as TMs mainly because looking after terminology is a long process compared to simply throwing everything in a TM and then ask the translators to search for the terms they may need. Also, to create TDs, you need to make a small investment and spend time researching what the preferred and correct terminology is. On a positive note though, the programmes needed to maintain them are very cheap and are already included in other main packages, such as Excel and Trados Multiterm.
All in all, I believe that taking some time to look after terminology and do some research to provide more context are a crucial step to improve the quality of translation and make a translation project flow smoothly. This will also avoid receiving negative feedback mainly based on terminology and a ton of questions from the translators! 😊
Sometimes it’s hard to keep on top of everything. We always have a lot going on: very long lists of emails to answer, people waiting for us, the phone ringing and just things to do - working as PM is also this. For how much you try to be organised, there is always that new project or query that pops up and makes everything else slide on the bottom of the list for the day.
What I found particularly challenging when I first started managing my own projects and clients, is that every day I would find myself in front of this never-ending list of emails all related to different projects, coming from translators, clients and colleagues. I have experimented several techniques, like sorting out one email at a time, so that I did not have to make a list. Then, I tried to go through them all at the same time and then check them again putting together a list; however, I found that some of these, let’s call them, techniques made me feel every more anxious and less organised.
So, after experimenting and failing and experimenting again, I finally discovered what works for me in order to organise my email inbox and set my tasks for the day! My strategy now consists in having my trusted diary next to me and going through my emails, writing down a task only when needed. Therefore, if it’s a quick email that I need to reply to, I will just do it, but if I need to check 3000 words, I will add a task to the list. Please don’t think that my lists look all beautifully written (see Instagram *coughs* fake *coughs* diaries); they actually look like a mess, but the important thing is that they make sense to me!
This all may seem very silly to you, but understanding that LISTS ARE GOOD has been crucial to me. To do this you do not need anything fancy, so no fancy and expensive glittery diaries (maybe with some unicorns :)), no super rose gold pens or anything like that. You will only need a pen (that works, possibly) and a piece of paper to put down what needs to be done for the day.
Another important part that I wanted to focus on is that I had to learn how to prioritise tasks throughout the day, i.e. understanding what needs to be done first and what can be done later or even tomorrow. This is one of the most important sides of project management, as well as, time management. You need to understand what’s more urgent otherwise you will have clients chasing deliveries, translators waiting to start and a general sense of anxiety (at least for me).
We all know that learning new languages is always exciting, but we also know that keeping them alive is not always easy if we don’t get to practice them every day. That’s why, even though I had previously studied Spanish for five years and got a DELE certificate in Spanish, last year I decided to start ‘refreshing’ my Spanish.
This opportunity came around when I started working as a PM and the company where I work now offered to pay for my course. Being Italian, this is a very interesting option, as it is quite rare that companies offer to pay for your education or personal development in Italy. Therefore, I welcomed this new chance to know more about the Spanish language and culture without thinking too much about it.
I re-started learning Spanish last year in September and I felt quite nervous about getting down to practice it again, but week after week, I felt more comfortable and confident about it. This has a lot to do with the fact that Spanish and Italian are very similar and they share part of the vocabulary, while for English native speakers, learning Spanish could be a bit more of a challenge.
In any case, the Spanish course has been like a breath of fresh air for me compared to the Masters course that I finished not long ago. I really enjoyed it and it had a positive impact both on my mind and on my work. I now feel more free and confident both checking and translating from Spanish as well as sure that my knowledge of that language is up to a high standard. Also, re-learning this language has allowed me to have more flexibility in terms of thinking and considering different perspectives.
I would recommend to anyone to attend a language course, if their daily schedule allows them to.
It opens your mind and provides much more flexibility and happiness (at least to me).
When looking around on the internet to find inspiration and suggestions regarding how a subtitling project can be structured, I only managed to find very confused instructions and even more confused workflows. At uni, we talked about ‘templates’, ‘corporate videos’, etc., but none of these very clear terms were mentioned in blogs online.
For this reason, I thought of writing down a way to provide subtitles, which is very simple and linear, at least from my point of view. First of all, to implement this workflow, you will need to know how to work with subtitling programmes, as well as, having a decent understanding of subtitling theory and practice.
1 - THE SCRIPT