Five Common (And Surmountable) Barriers to a Fulfilling Career in Translation
Many of us embarked on a freelancing career in the hope of finding more fulfilment in our lives, only to discover that it isn’t as straight forward as we originally thought. Freelancing can be immensely rewarding, but also very demanding. In this article I discuss a few common barriers to a fulfilling career in translation, and share a few ideas to help you to overcome them.
1 – Lack of vision
Most translators translate because they like it. Not many of them see translation as a means to get to where they want to be. In other words, few translators start with a vision.
A vision is your 10 out of 10, your personal and/or professional life as you want it to be. Having a clear vision of what you want to achieve gives you a sense of direction and control over your choices. It helps you to decide what’s important and what’s not. In times of doubt, struggle or frustration, revisiting your vision helps to boost your levels of motivation and willpower.
What is your 10 out of 10?
How will your translation business enable you to achieve this?
2 – Lack of systems and processes
Many people go freelance because they love what they do and they do it well. Unfortunately, a large proportion of small businesses go bust within the first couple of years because their owners spend most of their time working IN the business (i.e. doing what they love doing) and not enough time working ON the business (developing systems and processes).
Systems and processes include, but are not limited to, filing systems, sales processes (from the initial enquiry to the actual sale) and customer service processes (including email templates). They boost your efficiency by eliminating the need to reinvent the wheel for each new client or project. This can in turn reduce the risk of burnout.
What systems and processes have you put in place for your translation business?
How effective are they?
3 – Working for the wrong clients
Have you ever regretted taking on a translation job? Or sworn never to work for a particular client again? You’re not alone. Sometimes finding clients, any client, takes priority over finding the right clients, especially if you’re new to the business.
Working for the wrong client doesn’t only mean working for someone who doesn’t pay on time or doesn’t reply quickly enough to your queries. It can also mean working in the wrong niche or specialisation, for clients you don’t have enough in common with. This can lead to spending too much time researching the right terminology or trying to understand concepts you’re not familiar with. Finding the right clients will boost your energy, your motivation and your productivity.
What specialisations and/or niche markets best suit you?
What areas do you enjoy researching and reading about?
4 – Overwhelm
Let’s face it, working as a freelance translator can at times be quite overwhelming. Especially if you’re having to juggle working from home and raising a family. And when deadlines are tight, keeping up with bookkeeping or filing a tax return can cause more stress than necessary.
Overwhelm can be overcome in several different ways, including chunking tasks down into small, manageable steps, delegating, outsourcing, and learning new skills (e.g. bookkeeping). Taking a moment to breathe and focus on the present, and not on future problems that may never occur, can also help to feel more grounded and in control.
What is the cause of you feeling overwhelmed?
What strategies can you adopt to avoid this?
5 – Undercompensation
Many translators worry about low rates in our industry but, while low rates are a valid concern, undercompensation is not limited to financial matters. It can also mean not taking enough time off to enjoy a quality of life that compensates for all your hard work and allows you to recharge.
Working long hours is sometimes necessary, but constantly working overtime is counter-productive. It leads to stress, irritability and loss of focus, which in turn leads to more mistakes and more work. Stress can also result in various illnesses and injuries.
Techniques such as the Pomodoro Technique™ can help you to take breaks at regular intervals with a view to maintaining high levels of energy.
How often do you completely switch off from work? Go on a holiday?
How do you reward yourself once you’ve completed a project?
How coaching can help
Coaching is a form of learning that promotes personal development, leading to action, change, and ultimately greater fulfilment in your life. The coach listens to you to understand who you are, what your current situation is and what you’re trying to achieve. During your conversations, the coach asks powerful, targeted questions to help you to gain real clarity, rise to challenges and overcome obstacles.
The coach encourages you to find your own solutions. Without telling you what to do, he/she helps you to understand your situation more clearly and to develop new ideas and approaches. By letting you design your own plan of action, the coaching process aims to boost your sense of confidence and accomplishment.