14 Feb 2023

ITI Profile: Sarah Bowtell

In the latest of our ITI Profile series, we talk to Sarah Bowtell, one of the two students awarded 'Best in class' on the 2022 Setting Up as a Freelance Translator course.

Course tutors voted for Sarah for the quality of her course work, and the contribution she made to the group. Here she talks about her route into translation, her experience of the SUFT course and being part of the community of ITI and its networks.

Why did you decide to become a translator?

Sarah Bowtell

I’ve loved languages for as long as I can remember. As a small child on summer camping trips in France, I’d get such a buzz when I successfully communicated in French. After I graduated with my bachelors in French and Arabic, the international experiences my languages degree had offered led to job opportunities in travel and education. Although languages were always on the fringes of these roles, I became frustrated that I wasn’t using my languages on a regular basis.

I did originally consider doing a masters straight after my undergraduate degree but at the time I decided I wanted some ‘real world’ experience before undertaking further study. By 2018, I decided I really wanted to return to languages in the everyday so I signed up to the distance learning masters programme at the University of Birmingham and didn’t look back! In hindsight, I’m glad I waited a little as the experiences I had in between my studies have been invaluable to my translation work.

How did you decided which sectors to specialise in?

I focused on where I already had experience as well as an interest. Doing a SWOT analysis as part of the SUFT course was actually really helpful in confirming where I wanted to specialise as it reaffirmed that a lot of my work and personal experiences related to the areas of education, travel and tourism. Having said that I am open to seeing where my career takes me and I’m currently expanding my knowledge of finance translations.

What made you decide to sign up for the SUFT course?

I’d had my eye on the course for some time while doing my masters. Each year I heard the rave reviews but was initially sceptical as I tend to try my best to keep CPD to a minimal cost and I was unsure whether I’d learn enough to make the financial investment worth it. After graduating in 2021, I almost signed up but the combination of being pregnant and working full-time elsewhere meant it just wasn’t the right time. When I saw the course come up again just as my maternity leave was coming to an end, it felt like the perfect time to take the leap and really invest in myself. I’m so glad I did!

Tell us about the support you received on the course.

This was the aspect I was probably the most impressed and surprised by on the course. The tutors were so friendly and approachable. After each presentation, there would be a task to complete which you’d then receive personalised feedback on. This might be in the form of an email, in-class discussion or even a voice note. There would also be general feedback and tips from tutors’ personal experience. This was such a valuable resource as the tutors have a really varied wealth of experience. Added to that, the participants had a WhatsApp group where we could share advice and thoughts and there was an online discussion forum. You couldn’t ask for much more than that!

What were your key takeaways from the course?

I think a big part of it was valuing myself and my business. It’s really hard coming into a new industry which is mostly made up of freelancers. There’s no induction or clear path as you might find in traditional employment. The modules on the course encouraged me to really reflect on what I want to achieve in my freelance business and how I can get there without falling into the pitfalls of new translators like accepting work for £0.00001 per word just to get experience.

How did you feel when you found out you’d been named Best in Class?

Absolutely thrilled! I’d enjoyed the course so much and got far more out of it than I’d expected but it really was a huge bonus to be voted Best in Class. The class of 2022 was a really great group of people, and I learnt a lot from those around me as well as the tutors.

You are a member of several of the ITI Networks. What have you gained from membership of these?

I think ITI network membership is so important, especially when you’re working alone most of the time. I’ve felt particularly well supported by my regional group, ITI East Anglia. The committee organises a mixture of online and in-person events throughout the year and they’re great opportunities to connect with colleagues. Having the opportunity to hear from more experienced translators is such a great resource as a newbie not to mention the great CPD opportunities and the feeling of being part of a community.

Where do you hope your career to be in five years’ time?

In terms of my career, I hope to be a thriving freelancer and have built up a lot more confidence in my skills and my business. I’m also hoping to be in a position to offer support or mentoring to new freelancers entering the industry as I think it’s the best way to support translators starting out.

You can connect with Sarah via her website or on LinkedIn