How SUFT helped in my success
Three former students from our Setting Up as a Freelance Translator Course tell us what they are doing now and how the course helped them to get there.
This article was updated on 23 June 2022
ITI's Setting Up as a Freelance Translator course started in 2014 and in eight years over 200 students have completed the ten weeks of training. It is aimed at those just starting out in their freelance career and aims to provide strong foundations on which to build your new business.
There are ten modules in total, each taught by a highly-regarded, practising translator. Central to the success of the course is the mentoring and feedback that the tutors, who are all extremely generous with their time, provide.
We hear from three former students about what they gained and how it has benefited their career so far.
These days, many of us make at least one career change and, in 2018, I decided to follow that trend. A languages degree had initially led me to work at a large international law firm but, after ten years, it was time for a change. But before taking the leap, I needed to know whether it could work and, crucially, if I would still be able to pay the bills. This was where the SUFT course came in. It offered a practical opportunity to find out more and to meet people who had made a success of being freelance translators in a very competitive market.
The slightly vague and overwhelming notion I’d had of “becoming a translator” was soon broken down into much more manageable tasks. I finished each week of the course with another building block in place: a list of equipment I wanted to buy, a polished CV and robust terms of business, to name but a few. The final step was to write a business plan that I could start putting into action straight away.
What really set the course apart was the amount of personal feedback from the tutors, who gave me the confidence to turn what started out as a vague idea into a very real business proposition. They and some of the other course participants have become friends and trusted colleagues today.
Thanks to this advance planning, my translation work took off much faster than I expected. Over the last four years, I have enjoyed plenty of stimulating work in my specialisms (law and sports) with some wonderful clients, including large European law firms and one of sport’s global governing bodies.
The course reinforced the benefits of continuous learning regardless of experience and I’ve clocked up some fascinating CPD and picked up a Diploma in Translation along the way. Another particular highlight was winning ITI’s Best Newcomer (Freelance) Award in 2020.
Most exciting of all is that I have have now returned to the SUFT course as a tutor to help a new set of budding translators take their first steps towards exciting and rewarding careers. When I was a student on the course I never dreamed I would have the knowledge and experience to be able to take on such a role but it just shows how far you can go with the right training behind you.
I signed up for SUFT in 2016 when I'd just taken my translation business full time. I'd been freelancing part-time around a job for about 8 months and was already an ITI member. I had a languages degree and experience of working as an administrator, so I felt I had the translation skills and business knowledge I needed, but I lacked awareness of how things worked in the translation industry specifically.
The course was a great all-round introduction to life as a freelance translator, and it gave me the confidence to put myself out there professionally. I gained a great base of knowledge through taking the course and it gave me the opportunity to connect with other translators, which was something I very much appreciated at a time when I’d just taken the leap into working alone.
In the six years since I took the course, I have established an online presence, developed a specialism, and gained a solid portfolio of clients I enjoy working with. I also now mentor other freelancers on pricing, which was something I first started to learn about in this context as part of SUFT. I spoke about the subject at the ITI Conference and on a short course that ITI ran and then in 2021 I was approached by ITI to tutor this module on the SUFT course. It really felt as if I had come full circle and am delighted now to be able to pass on my knowledge to the next wave of translators coming through.
In Autumn 2015 I had just finished my MA and I enrolled on the ITI's SUFT course. I joined with some trepidation but soon realised that there were elements of the course I was more familiar with from my previous career. So, I focussed on really getting to grips with the areas I found more tricky, such as negotiating and getting experience in an industry that was completely new to me.
It was reassuring to be with other people at the same point in their careers and good to be able to make connections with fellow students. It meant that we were able to support each other as we made our first steps into the industry. Developing an awareness of how our tutors made use of social media was one take-away that has helped me build my own online presence.
Throughout the course, we completed exercises that were very useful and applicable to the development of our businesses. One important example was looking at key features of a translator’s CV – from purpose and content through to layout and register. Quite different from a standard CV, but having a strong translator’s CV can be the difference between getting work and not. Another key element of getting work is knowing what specialisms you can work with. The SUFT course also covered this in some detail and helped me get started in the travel and tourism sector alongside the sports sector.
Overall, the SUFT course was a bit like taking my business for an MOT. All the aspects were checked and tested as well as highlighting some key areas for improvement. This review approach has helped to develop the skills I needed to cultivate new specialisms alongside working with agencies and direct clients.
Six years on in 2021 I have achieved MITI status. I am also pleased to see my client and agency base growing as I develop deeper specialism knowledge. The SUFT course definitely laid the foundations to help me with the essential parts of becoming a successful freelance translator.
You can connect with Gillian on LinkedIn.
How do I book?
The next course will start on October 4 2022. Find out more about the content here, or book online now.