We are all translators.

For a little over a year now, I’ve technically been a part-time translator—by day, I work in my industry of specialization as a legal assistant. I draft, revise, and proofread legal writing five days a week, consult with court clerks, and prepare documents for filing. Two or three nights a week (on average—we all know how variable freelance schedules can be!), I continue to translate for agency and private clients and teach my source language to a couple students.

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When my career as a translator was brand new, there was a pervasive idea among language professionals that you were only a “real” translator or interpreter if it was the sole way you earned your living. At least, that was the message I gleaned from all the industry publications and professionals blogs I read. Perhaps things have changed, and just in case it wasn’t obvious: however frequently you practice your craft, as long as you conduct yourself with professionalism and obtain the requisite training to do your work well, you are a professional.

There is room enough in this industry for all of us. Translation and interpreting are increasingly growing in demand. Tech companies continue to attempt to reduce translation to machine output, and the results continue to highlight the need for human conduits between languages A and B.

As a full-time translator, I appreciated the time I had to really delve deep into vocabulary research and work on glossary projects. As a moonlighter, I love how my legal translations have improved from the interactions I have with attorneys’ work products. “Moonlighting” has allowed me to streamline my translation work so that I get to spend a greater percentage of my time on what I love: words.

I know many of my colleagues in the industry would never give up the freedom to be had in independent contracting—and why should you? But I have found my greatest artistic freedom within the so-called limits of a 9-to-5. My freelance clients continue to be happy with my work. And I don’t feel any less a translator than I ever did.

This story is in no way a defense: I hope only to inspire other translators to be true to themselves. If you love being your own boss and exploring your interests on your own terms, keep doing it. If you love the structure, stability, or socialization of an office job, get one. And if you love being a professional translator, be one, under whatever conditions you thrive upon. Your language skills are valuable, and however much you want to share them with the world in an educated, professional manner, the contribution is needed and appreciated.

We are all translators, no matter how often we can do the work.

It’s the little things

Holiday season is officially upon us!

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Consider this a PSA: I’m not one to dictate to anyone how to conduct business (there’s more than one way, after all!), but you should seriously consider using this opportunity to thank those who help you pay your bills by paying theirs. Meaning, your clients.

If you have something against holiday cards, send New Year greetings. If you have something against that, pick another point in the year that will be your thank-you time. Even if you have hundreds of clients, you can keep your costs low while making a big impact. Pick up the pen, put it to some stationery, and write “thanks!”

Think about it: when’s the last time you received something other than a bill or unsolicited marketing junk at your business address? Most likely, it’s been months. Another question: aren’t we translators ultimately in the business of communication?

Take a moment now to put a smile on the face of your clients by demonstrating your ability to communicate gratitude. Don’t sell, don’t write about new business, don’t schmooze. Just say thank you. The rewards will come. Not that they’re the point.

Warmth and rest to you this winter season!

On freelancing

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Throughout this month, I’m going to explore this idea of flying solo—whether you’re a freelance translator, self-employed writer, or any other kind of entrepreneur. It’s a scary and wonderful feeling to be your own boss. At times it can be overwhelming, frustrating, lonely, exhilarating, cozy, and empowering… Often all at once.

Flying solo doesn’t have to mean going it alone, though. There are plenty of freelancers out there willing to share their experiences to help you find your way. These are some of the topics I’ve already covered in previous posts:

And for first-time freelancers, I did a special roundup of links here.

The rest of the month, I’m going to explore the ups and downs of BYOB (being your own boss) and hopefully untangle some of the trickier knots you come across.

Are there any other topics you’d like to hear more about? Leave your questions below! And of course, your experiences are welcome. How do you like flying solo?

Links for first-time freelancers (or veterans who need an extra push this week)

Entering the world of freelance translation can feel daunting at first, but there are so many resources out there to help ease you in. No need to panic! If you are just dipping your toes into the profession, take a look at some of these articles. (Veteran translators can benefit from the reminders, too!)

From here:

First things first

Growing your skill set

Good tips for a great editing process

Tips for creating a professional web look

From elsewhere:

16 free online business classes that are actually worth your time

7 tips on how to survive your first freelancing month

Keeping your freelance finances in order

Advice for a new translator on job hunting

There are plenty of resources out there to help you get a clear picture of the steps to take to set up your business. These are just some of my favorites. What are yours?

Have a question that’s not answered here? Ask away!