Lessons learned: branching out

In recent months, it appears clear that many freelance translators are struggling to fill their days, their once busy schedules significantly impacted by the financial implications of Covid-19. I have actually experienced this for myself, certain clients having had to cut their budgets, or even do away with some of their suppliers altogether. And whether these are temporary or permanent measures remains to be seen of course…


So what can we do, particularly in the current climate, to ensure we are not left empty-handed? Well, experience has taught me that it is important to continually develop and expand on your skillset, rather than relying on one niche service to provide your entire income. I am essentially talking about diversification, which sees you branch out and avoid the freelancer’s pitfall of having ‘all your eggs in one basket’.


What do I mean? OK, so the next time you find yourself with a little time on your hands, make good use of it and try a little brainstorming. Yes, you translate and yes, you enjoy the work and know you’re good at it, but have you considered what else you can do? Take a blank page and get thinking! If you are an effective translator, you clearly have a way with words. Perhaps you could extend your portfolio of services to include some kind of freelance journalism or copywriting activity? In what industries do you translate and, more importantly, for whom? Is there perhaps a way for you to adapt to offer media and communications services, as I myself do?


Then, what is your background? Many translators started out in very different jobs or have studied subjects other than languages. Can you ‘fall back’ on any of what you have previously learned and put that into good use today? Or maybe there is a particular field that has always interested you and that you could pursue now, doing the groundwork and/or the relevant training to put you in a position to gain work in that area? I, for example, have spent the lockdown period following courses in social media marketing, crisis communications and psychology. Knowledge is power, as they say!


Then again, perhaps you translate in such a niche field that it might be time to simply expand on your subject areas in order to widen your potential client base. Or you might boost your offer with editing and proofreading activities. I also know translators, particularly those living in their target language country, who offer language lessons in their native tongue, effectively riding the Zoom/Skype online education wave.


In recent months, I have heard more and more talk of MTPE and see that a growing number of translators are worried that this will ultimately reduce their workload, and therefore their income, even further in coming years. I too can understand that this is a distinct possibility, and so in order to guard against a potential realigning of translation services, we must do all we can do to prepare. And branching out in terms of our professional offer can be an effective way to both add to our client portfolio and keep our day to day work interesting and stimulating.

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