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Gone are the days when freelance translators were linguistic hermits secluded in the peace and quiet of their home offices at the most unusual times – or are they?

As a matter of fact, it is all down to personal choice and it may well vary depending on the working day’s schedule. However, freelancers nowadays have a wide range of opportunities to go out and interact with other human beings other than those living in the same household. While interpreters get to work alongside people in a variety of contexts and locations, translators used to be quite secluded. However, freelance translators now enjoy much more flexibility with regards to our workplace and schedule. The portability of the profession has never been greater than it is today. 

Translating from home might suit those with a young family or a large house, or those who want to avoid renting any other premises and use the money saved for other purposes, such as their tax bill or pension. However, increasing numbers of translators are choosing to share an office with other language professionals, or rent a desk in a larger co-working space alongside people from a range of industries (ideally related to their specialisations, although this is not essential). This can make work feel more like an ordinary corporate routine, with enriching coffee breaks and banter included.

Portable profession

In the 21st century there really isn’t any excuse for being stuck in front of a PC any more. Technology has changed, and massively improved, translators’ quality of life. With a tablet, smartphone or laptop, the profession has become very portable and we can alternate the isolation of home office days with a change of scenery and a stroll, taking our beloved laptop and working at a local café, health club (in between sessions) or good old library. Libraries are not dead yet, and they provide an old-fashioned and effective way of researching specific terminology in a peaceful workspace, while being surrounded by people. The main advantage of all this is that we can translate from virtually anywhere that has WiFi access.

Needless to say, anyone working with languages should take long holidays to visit relatives and friends in other countries. This helps keep work and life in balance, and being exposed to a different language and culture also helps us brush up our language-related skills. Having hobbies can also benefit our subject knowledge. Time off work doesn’t necessarily need to be time off learning.

It is reassuring that, when we travel, we can now use executive airport lounges for work and even printing out any last-minute commissions. Whether you are going abroad to improve your foreign language skills, or you live abroad permanently and want to take a trip home to reinforce your own language and culture, leaving your office should not be an issue. On the contrary, it’s one of the few perks that we can undoubtedly revel in.

Part of a community

Another relevant, virtual way of enjoying a sense of belonging to a community is membership of social media sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. There is no denying that these platforms are not used purely for professional purposes. But regardless, they help us identify with individuals and companies alike and also ‘humanise’ the connecting experience regardless of distance. Online networking sometimes leads to actual physical meetings, such as the recently organised TweetUps or the old Powwows. The danger of some of these online tools and offline meetings lies in those that are not professionally moderated and may be full of self-proclaimed translators with no skills or qualifications, which can become counter-productive and damaging to professionals. So research is essential in order to avoid wasting your time. In addition, ITI’s various Networks and Regional Groups are a great source of terminology and fellow translators, and standards are always met.  

If time is not an issue, a personal blog or a website with links to social media can make you more visible and allow you to share your thoughts about translation and interpreting topics, which will also help relieve the ‘lone translator syndrome’. Really, freelance translators should never be caught off-guard and we should always be ready – card in hand – as our next client could well be in our local supermarket or even pub. Word of mouth from all our contacts helps inform potential new clients about our services. As freelancers we are moving advertising banners, and it is a fact that we are always surrounded by people. Make the most of it!

About the author

Arantza Elosua MITI, MSc, BA (Hons) is a freelance English/Catalan into Spanish translator, interpreter, teacher and features writer based in Edinburgh. She specialises in luxury business, marketing, premium food & drinks, Arts, literature and media. She manages www.thespanishlinguist.com. You can also find her on LinkedIn and on Twitter: @ArantzaElosua.

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