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The rather tired, stereotypical anti-agency freelancer versus the money-grabbing translation company is a familiar, but unfair image: something that my two days at the ITI Conference confirmed last year.

One of a number of Corporate members attending this hugely successful event, I was delighted to be warmly welcomed by an exceptionally friendly cohort of translators and interpreters. As I wrote in ITI Bulletin a few weeks later, my overriding impression was that freelancers want to meet their clients, including agencies, so we can have discussions, learn about problems on both sides, and hopefully come up with solutions and a path forward.

As director of Atlas Translations, I do have to defend the integrity of my peers from time to time. And there’s no denying that there are some dodgy agencies about, just as there are individuals with next-to-no language skills claiming to be translators. So those of us – freelancers and agencies – who seek to preserve the integrity of the profession, offer a service that goes above and beyond expectations, and feel passionate about language and communication, are on the same side. The question is: how can we communicate more effectively with each other to continue to take the profession forward?

One way we at Atlas do this is by holding Supplier Open Days twice a year.

Recently, a fellow business owner asked me why we bother: running such an event requires an investment of time, money and energy. My response was, why wouldn’t you? Here are just a few of the benefits of meeting the people you work with face to face.

Anonymous no more

It’s chance for our suppliers to meet other people just like them and talk about challenges and achievements, pass on tips, and gossip! For our part, we like meeting our suppliers, getting to know them and building relationships.

Information exchange

Speakers at our open days touch on areas that affect anyone running a business, including accounting, marketing and social media. They also cover topics specific to our freelancers, such as CAT tools, speech recognition software and voiceover work.

Seeing things ‘from the other side’

Being faced with 70+ suppliers helps our team remember what it’s like being a freelancer – and gives the suppliers an insight into what it’s like working for an agency and the challenges we face.

Getting out of the office for a day

It’s a treat not to be sitting in front of a PC all day, and there is definitely a buzz at an event like this. The next day we feel inspired to consider what we’ve heard/learnt, set new targets, and look back on everything that we’ve achieved. We don’t always get to reflect on business like this.

Learning from others

We usually have suppliers of all ages – from 20-somethings to 80-somethings – in attendance. It is fabulous to see the more experienced people passing on advice to the new kids on the block. Everyone has to start somewhere, and what an advantage to be able to speak with those who have been there before you. And it works both ways, as the younger translators have plenty of tricks up their sleeves.  

Agencies are clients too

Yes, you have direct clients. And you may work for agencies. And we are ALL clients. We do ask suppliers to remember that agencies are clients. Just like direct clients, there are good and bad ones; I have met plenty of lovely people from reputable, honest agencies. Don’t write us all off and do respect us.

I would strongly encourage other translation companies to hold open days: after eight years, we wouldn’t be without them at Atlas. Furthermore, ITI plans to hold its first Corporates Day later this year. The event will be designed to bring together Corporate members of the Institute, and freelancers. More details will follow on this website and in ITI Bulletin.

Everybody has a part to play – how can Corporates and freelancers work better together? What do you think? Let us know in the comments section.

About the author:

Clare Suttie is Director of Atlas Translations and Corporate representative on the ITI Board. She takes pleasure in offering a personal and high quality service to each and every client, and tracking suitable people down to work on the most unusual language requests. Follow Atlas on Twitter @atlastranslate and email Clare at clare@atlas-translations.co.uk.

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