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.


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.


Getting things done

Happy new year! Have you made any business resolutions yet?

This year, I’m going to focus on expansion in several directions: doing more education outreach, getting more involved with direct clients, and taking my language skills up another notch. I laid the foundations for reaching these goals last year by joining a few chambers of commerce and working closely with a colleague to develop a panel discussion at the local university. And this summer, I’m planning to spend 6 weeks working from Budapest.

frozen waterfall

Needless to say, there are days when everything feels incredibly overwhelming! I know I’m not the only entrepreneur out there who gets anxious. Here are my favorite resources for helping “tame the beast:”

  • A calendar. I used to be a die-hard paper person (and I still have a paper calendar on my wall), but for all the daily and weekly to-dos, it got too crowded. The visual clutter was too much! This year, I switched to Google for my scheduling. So far, so good!
  • A planner. Most of my planning goes into a simple, unruled notebook. It’s great for “brain dumps” and doodling the connections between different tasks. If you need a little more guidance than a blank page offers, I recommend the Passion Planner. (You can download a basic template for free!)
  • An escape. A couple of times a week, I go to yoga. The classes I like are recurring events on my calendar so I’m not tempted to skip. And once every 6–8 weeks, I get a massage. (And no, I’m not a 6-figure earner yet.) I started doing this the last few months of 2014, and it is amazing how much longer I can go between the “freelancer blahs.” Not to mention the energy boost it gives me. What’s your escape?

Best wishes to you with all your goals this year. Feel free to share your own below, and resources you’re using to reach them. Happy 2015!