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Staying focused on translation as a freelance translator

By Nicole Adams

In today's world, being online is a given, and our translation practices couldn't run without some Internet presence. Freelance translators, at least those working in the private sector, need to have a website as an online business card for potential clients.

However, I have noticed a trend for translators, especially our younger colleagues, to become distracted from their profession by social media.

Although I dabbled in social media at one point, I now have neither a Facebook page for my business, a Twitter account, or a LinkedIn profile, as I am a very private individual and do not enjoy being 'out there'.

When I had a look around social media recently, I noticed that some colleagues build a bubble and appear to be important figures but are not actually prominent outside the confines of their group.

Although they are considered an 'industry influencer' amongst their followers, most other established professionals in the same field are not even aware of them.

So having accumulated lots of followers or group members on social media means nothing in the real world and may not be an indicator of whether or not someone runs a successful professional translation practice.

I would guess that the majority of translators don't have the time or need to use social media, so don't be ashamed to be one of them!

Social media is a good tool for staying in touch with friends and family around the globe, but I see it as a distraction when it comes to our businesses.

If you feel at all pressured to use social media, to set up a hundred accounts and force yourself to engage when it's not in your nature, please don't.

Your time would be spent much more wisely attending local translator events or visiting events your clients might be attending, to forge real-life relationships. Those are the ones that are likely to turn into fruitful collaborations.

A lot of younger colleagues also seem to feel pressured to 'diversify'. A few years ago, when I followed a suggestion by an AUSIT past president to put together a book presenting a snapshot of colleagues who happily diversify, I was amazed.

Amazed because I personally wouldn't consider doing anything but translating and, as an introvert who hates the spotlight, I wouldn't have the impetus or energy to, say, present at conferences or host webinars.

Just putting that book together was hard work, and to be honest not all that enjoyable as I had to put my translation business on the back burner for a few months. It made me realise that all those colleagues who happily diversify may not be doing much translation proper, and that that isn't an avenue I'd like to go down personally.

Although I did invest in a certificate in business coaching at one point (along with a dozen other certificates ranging from airport management to nutrition), I never put it to use, as it just isn't who I am or what I'm interested in doing.

I did have a single coaching session with one colleague at her request, and although it was only one hour of my time, I felt terribly guilty for charging to help a colleague, so I have never repeated the exercise and much prefer to stick to mentoring free of charge through translator associations, which I believe is what will continue to drive the profession.

I became a translator to translate. While I don't judge colleagues who choose to engage in a variety of other activities, I would encourage you to concentrate on translating if that's what makes you happy.

When you translate 100% of your time, the sky's the limit when it comes to your income. Why would you want to take away from that to sell a few hundred dollars’ worth of products or ancillary services, when you could have earned thousands translating in the same amount of time?

That makes no sense to me, hence I'll continue to stick to only translating, without looking at other income streams. This has worked for me over the past 15 years, so I'll proudly represent our profession for the next 15 years too, and I invite you to join me.

Nicole Y. Adams is a certified commercial German/English translator and editor based in Brisbane, Australia. She has been practising since 2003 and specialises in marketing, corporate communications and public relations. Nicole holds a Masters in Contemporary English Language and Linguistics from the University of Reading (UK) and was awarded Chartered Linguist status for Translation in 2014.