It’s not always great being a translator. It can be unstable, with too much work one week and none the next. Sometimes customers may pay you late or not at all (thankfully I haven’t experienced this with any of my fantastic clients). You’re never going to make millions, and the deadlines can be very stressful. But, I love being a translator. Here’s why.
1. It’s flexible
This is the number one thing I love about being a translator. It gives you so many possibilities and so much flexibility. Of course, you can choose whether to work in-house (in an agency or for a large organisation with translation requirements), or to freelance. I’ve been a part-time freelancer for the last two years, and I’m finally making the transition to full-time freelancer. Being freelance gives you much more freedom than you have with a full-time contract or a 9-5 office job. For a start, you can decide your own work schedule.
Of course, the adage holds true: instead of ‘being your own boss’, actually, your clients or customers become your boss. However, within that remit, you have a lot of freedom to decide your own workload and hours. If you’re an early-bird like me, you can work from 7am-2pm and then call it a day. Or you can work from midnight to 6am if you feel like it! If you like to split your work into two sessions and take a big break in the middle, go ahead. And you can decide which days to work too. If you prefer to work on Saturday and keep a weekday free for chores, you can. You decide when to take a holiday, and when to have a heavy or light week. Basically, within reason, you can have any schedule you like.
What’s more, you can also decide where you work from. Forget the office: if you’re freelance you can work from your bed, the park, the beach or your ‘coffice‘. And you’re not tied to any one location either. If you’re a travel freak like me, freelancing is the perfect way to follow your dreams without sacrificing your career. From now on I’m ‘digital nomad-ing’ – working from my laptop no matter where I am.
2. It combines writing and languages
Two of my favourite things! I’ve always been obsessed with learning languages, and it’s amazing to be able to use them in my daily work. It means that every day I get to read new things in German (or another language), research them and figure out how to say them in English. I learn new vocabulary and phrases all the time and get a better grasp of the written language over time. However I also get to use my other favourite skill – writing. I’ve always spent hours and hours of my free time writing everything from book and music reviews to fanfiction to essays and blogs, but now I actually get paid for it.
3. It’s always different
Unlike some jobs where you deal with the same thing every day, as a translator you can be translating an employment contract one day and medical records the next. A marketing brochure on Monday and a financial report on Friday. And you do get a choice about what area you choose to translate in. If you’re especially interested in fashion, finance or food, you can choose to specialise in that area and do most of your work in an area that you actually enjoy reading and writing about. Every time I do a new translation I learn something new from reading and researching that topic, or at least a few new words or terms.
4. You make your mark on the text
No matter what you translate, from which language and in which subject area, your translation is always unique! No matter how banal and everyday a text is, no two translators could possibly translate it in the same way. From which translation you decide to use for a certain term, to your turn of phrase, to any of the hundreds of tiny decisions you make in any text, you actually put your own personal stamp on the translation. Unless you’re a literary translator, we don’t often get credit for our work, but I think if I come across one of my texts somewhere, I’ll recognise it as my own. We all have our own personal style and you can put your own tiny personal touches on every piece of work.
5. I find it exciting to bring a message from one language into another
You know when you switch on the tv and a Swedish drama, a Chinese kung-fu movie or an Arabic news report comes on? Without translation, you’d have no idea what was going on at all. We can all enjoy Chinese technology, French foods, Spanish books, Japanese anime, German journal papers, Danish tv shows and so much more, thanks to translation. We probably all come across translated products almost daily. And we probably don’t even think about it, because the information and the message have been converted into our language so skilfully that we can seamlessly understand and appreciate something that would have been totally incomprehensible before translation. Ok, so I mainly translate much less fun things: reports, contracts, records and so on. But even so, somewhere down the line someone is going to be holding a document in their hands that they can read thanks to me. Somewhere, sometime, someone will be reading a webpage that I’ve translated, or maybe even buying a product that contains a few of my words. That’s pretty cool, if you ask me.
What do you love (or hate) about being a translator? Let me know in the comments.