The best moment to start thinking about your future is the present. So the best time to start thinking about your career is when you’re still studying. If you’re lucky enough to still be at university, take advantage of your young age and start laying down a plan for your future. Don’t let the events decide for you, take control over the direction of your life.
I know; you’re still struggling with terms such as Source-Text, Target-Text, Source-Language, Target-Language, Localization and so on. But as you build your knowledge in the translation field, it’s important to start building your knowledge of the freelancing world as well, if this is what you want to become.
I have a few tips for you:
1. First of all, whether you are studying an undergraduate or postgraduate course, you will have to think very soon about whether to specialize or not, and in which field. This is a controversial subject, since many translators suggest you should be, at least at the beginning, a generic translator. I personally disagree, and I suggest you start thinking quite early about which field to specialize in.
2. Secondly, I suggest you start gaining some experience early on in your career. If you want to work as a freelancer, you’ll have to showcase on your website (we’ll touch later on the topic of building an online presence) some sort of portfolio or some examples of work you’ve done. So my suggestion is to start very early to get some experience as a freelance translator.
These are just a few ideas:
• You can offer to translate stuff for free for your friends
• You can subtitle some Youtube or TED videos (ok, this is subtitling, but it's still translation)
• You can ask your university to give you some work that you can then showcase on your website
• You can sell your translation services on websites such as PeoplePerHour or UpWork. You can ask as much as you want for your translation services, and it’s a good way to gather some initial experience.
• Translate a website for free. Pick a website you like, contact the owner and translate it. Why a website and not a book? Because a website is online. You can simply link to it and everyone will be able to see your work. If you follow my first tip and create a website to promote yourself, you can create a “Projects” page and display the website there.
Remember: the goal is to gather some initial work that you can showcase on your website (I’ll teach you how to build that step by step later in this course, don’t worry!)
3. Start to read some articles and books about what it really means to be a freelancer or about the entrepreneurial mind-set you’ll need to run a small business (I can’t say this enough; being a freelancer effectively means to run a tiny business, but a business nonetheless)
4. Start your own website/blog today. You’ll find a full section later about how to set up and run a website with a blog. Why is it so important? Because a website/blog requires constant commitment; it will train you to be entrepreneurial, to do research, to face problems and to find solutions to questions you don’t know the answer to yet. Furthermore, it will prompt you to learn how the Internet works, how to get traffic, how to leverage content marketing and social media, knowledge that will be essential if you want to promote yourself online or if you’re thinking about opening your own translation agency in the future. And finally, but most importantly, it gives you visibility and allows your customers to find you. It will be your door for new business.
5. And lastly, be a self-learner. University will teach you something, but you can learn much faster if, in the meantime, you read blogs or translators associations' websites, or if you talk with other professionals, or participate in debates and discussion on LinkedIn, and so on. Being a proactive self- learner is an attitude that can change your life, and make the adventure much more exciting.