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Good Things to Know Before You Go Pro

By: Jonathan Downie    Date: March 1, 2011

No. 2 Jobs Can Come From Anywhere

So there I was: a professional. I had the degree. I had the skills (or so I thought). I even had a French-English dictionary on CD-ROM. All I needed now was work.

Ok then, so where do I get work? I wondered. To be fair, I had received a few really good hints from guest speakers at university. Nevertheless, for about three months after I finished my masters, I found myself sat in front of a computer, for days on end, sending quote after quote via translation portals.

Now, don’t get me wrong, translation portals are useful. I gained a decent number of my first clients there. However, what I didn’t know then and thankfully do know now is that you can get work from just about anywhere.

Here are a few true examples. I have written three articles for the ITI Bulletin, from two of those articles, I have gained at least three clients and probably sent at least the same number of quotes. On top of that, I have had the joy of talking to, and working with, some incredibly talented professionals, all because of writing those articles.

I once thanked an organisation for creating a very useful DVD on running a business with integrity. From that thank you note, I ended up receiving the amazing opportunity to coordinate a large translation project and I have received two large requests for quotes.

One last example: I once received a referral from my brother. A few months after that referral, the client he referred to me gave me enough work to keep me busy for a month. Needless to say, that particular invoice was a lot of fun to write.

The point of all of these examples is that they all came from unexpected places. Who would have guessed that a small thank you note could have led to coordinating a team of translators working in seven languages? What university would have told you that contributing something to an industry publication would attract work?

The lesson to learn is that only ever looking in one place for work is a really bad strategy. What is a much better strategy is to contribute something to the wider industry, visit translation events, chat to other translators, be appreciative and generally network.

As you will read later, the translation and interpreting community is actually surprisingly friendly. On top of that, translators and interpreters, being language professionals, talk like old fish-wives! It therefore pays to be around them when they are talking and to offer help when people need it. The Latin for this is quid pro quo. I’d like to pretend that it means you get a few more quid when you help out a fellow pro. (On this point, you might also want to read my previous post:  We’re all in this together

So, while writing to agencies, sending quotes and the like is useful, it pays to remember that work can come from anywhere. That is good to know before you go pro.

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