Advice to a young freelance translator (Jost Zetzsche)

spiros · 1 · 1453


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Advice to a young freelance translator (Jost Zetzsche)

I was thinking the other day — what important piece of advice could I offer a young freelance translator that they might not hear elsewhere?

On a technical level, I would advise them to be computer literate (which includes being educated about ongoing technological changes), have good data entry and data manipulation (=engineering) skills, be open to change, and be willing to add to their tool sets. But that's not new or uncommon advice.

On a linguistic level, I would recommend that they continue to read (and listen) voraciously in all the languages they're working with. Alarm bells should sound if they ever lose their fascination with the intricacies of language. Also something that's been said a million times.

I would also advise them that "hard work," "long hours," and "working at night and during weekends" might be necessary sometimes, especially in the beginning, but are nothing to be proud of, and that "interesting work," "regulated hours," and "sleeping at night and playing on weekends" are vastly preferable (and something to be proud of). Also not really new.

Then this: The last couple of years we've talked a lot about the need for diversification in addition to specialization, i.e., specialization in more than one area (something many of us have learned — sometimes painfully — in the COVID era). That's good advice as well.

But here is something that I have not seen mentioned much and that has been really valuable to me: Make sure you eventually have something profitable you can do at any time but can also put aside if something more urgent comes in. I don't think there's a formula for what that should be or how to find it, but I have discovered that it's helpful if it's connected in some way to your regular translation work while not being exactly the same. A "side hustle" like this provides a welcome breather from the regular routine and prevents worries when there's no "regular work" coming in for a day of two. For me it happens to be my writing and, especially in the last few years, the Translation Insights & Perspectives project. Clearly, it will be something different for you, but I can assure you, it's awfully nice to come into your office and say: "I'm so glad I have nothing booked for a couple of days so I can finally spend some quality time with my other projects (and also get paid)."

— The 334th Tool Box Journal
« Last Edit: 19 Feb, 2022, 10:31:35 by spiros »


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