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Starting Out: part 6

By: Jonathan Downie    Date: December 7, 2010

Putting it all Together

This is the very last post in the “Starting Out” series. So far, we have looked at the importance of the mental side of translation and interpreting. We have seen how we need to have good old tenacity, flexibility, the ability to network and get on well with others and lastly, we saw that we need to be teachable and seek out those who can help us improve.

All of this is well and good but, in my experience, there is one last ingredient. To succeed in the language services industry you need something called “intentionality.” What is intentionality? Well, let’s put it this way. Imagine, for a second that you had put all of this stuff into place. You were tenaciously chasing down jobs. You have met a hundred people and get on well with a nice handful and you have people helping you. However, the jobs you are chasing down are not really what you are interested in doing and so you find them incredibly boring. Your network consists entirely of your former classmates and their cousins, none of whom have any more work than you do and you are getting people to teach you how to use software that you don’t have and can’t afford.

Do you see the problem?

To make all these tips work, you need to make sure that they align with where you want your business to be in a few years’ time. In short, you need to know where you want to go before you can best apply the skills to get there.

Now, I expect that most of you will be smiling happily to yourselves right now. “Jonathan, don’t be daft,” you’ll be saying. “I know exactly where I want to be in three years time. I want to have clients coming out of my ears, money boring holes in my pockets and a car that would make James Bond jealous.”

If any of that sounds even vaguely like what you are thinking, stop right there. Let me ask you another question: what specific kind of work do you want? Come to think of it, let’s go with another question: what kinds of clients do you want? Here’s another: exactly how much do you think you want to be earning by then and (if you will excuse me another question) how much would you have to charge per word, hour or day to get that?

It probably sounds cheesy by now but unless you know specifically where you want to go, the chances are that you won’t get there. Imagine starting driving on the M8 and saying that you wanted to go to Glasgow but you had no idea whereabouts in Glasgow. Even worse, imagine driving around the M25 with just the vague idea that you wanted to end up somewhere near London. Chances are that in both cases, your direction will be pretty random and you are just as likely to run out of petrol before you get anywhere interesting (except in the case of the M25 where you are more likely to end up hospitalised with hypothermia, boredom and deafness from hearing too many car horns).

The examples might be a bit silly but the point is important. After all, there is little point in spending days on Trados training if you intend to be a literary translator. Similarly, why spend all your time schmoozing clients who only ever want translation if you want to spend the rest of your life in a conference interpreting booth? While flexibility will always be a plus, a lack of direction will always be a minus.

If you get nothing else out of this series, please remember this: noone ever became successful by accident. In the Language Services Business, a great career and booming business isn’t just going to drop onto your head from above. You need to work for it and more than that, you need to work smartly. Hopefully the last six weeks will have helped you do just that.

3 comments on “Starting Out: part 6

  1. This is so timely! I’ve just been contacted by a language student at Glasgow Uni who’s interested in translation as a career. I’ve offered to meet up with him for a chat (once the transport’s working again). In the meantime I’ve pointed him to the ITI’s “Getting Started” page and I’ll send him this link too.
    Great stuff!

  2. Pingback: Hold That Thought! The Thoughtful Translator Part III « Get Downie

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