[A collaboration post with Day Translations – all thoughts are my own.]
How’s your life as a freelance translator?
Since the beginning of 2020, I work mostly from home, but I’m not the stereotypical all-day-in-pajamas-translator. Instead, my working routine is pretty regular: I start my day at 7 am, walking my dog, clean-up the house before taking a shower. Have breakfast at 9 before getting to work. I plan my daily tasks ahead so that the weekend (or at least one weekend day) is free — and this proves successful most of the time.
As you know, I work as a freelance translator and a content writer – both of them are freelance jobs. The freelance world is tough, and knowing where your next paycheck is coming from is one of the hardest challenges. One of the great benefit is the fact that the workday is pretty flexible. I can organize my day in a way that I get enough free time for all of the important things in life like having coffee with friend and walking my dog in the evening.
My life as a freelance translator has its ups and downs. While most of the time I’m perfectly happy with my chosen career: I can just leave the computer and play with my dogs or go to a coffee shop in search of little fresh air and inspiration. But, sometimes it can become to much to handle with.
What are the daily challenges you experience?
Whether it’s a new tool to help with translation projects, I must always focused, open-minded, and willing to learn. I have to use different resources, read books, and cross-check the information. This can be time-consuming, so good work is crucial.
I usually schedule my translation task well in advance because I also have to write contents for my two blogs: Monodreame and Cappuccino Cushy. I need to balance the workload between two jobs. Being self-employed is a lot of works: translation and blogging aside, I have to be my own finance/marketing/designer/etc. You also have to be flexible – short delivery times and urgent tasks that have to be done ASAP seem to be the standards in my job.
Well, being translator means I’m practically left to my own device with all this. It goes the same for being content writer. I had to learn how to manage these challenges: how not to take problems too personally, how to handle things professionally, and how to stay sane.
Translation requires a lot of concentration. Even when I know what every word in a sentence means, I still struggle now and then to translate the writer/author’s intent. Even when I know the exact meaning in Indonesian, sometimes one English word can be enough to break the flow and it can be pretty frustrating.
As a blogger and content writer, we’ve all heard of writer’s block, and there is also a translator’s block! Translators have to be creative: look up words, search for expressions and find idioms typical for the language they are translating into. These can be a real obstacle and often demands additional research. This happened when I received translation projects about sports, finance, IT, etc. That’s something that clients don’t often think about.
A single word can be the difference between a nice translation and a beautiful one. I’m always trying to figure out what they’re really trying to say and translate the same thing, with the same impact in the translations. When I get really stuck I always turn to my translators group for help.
What is the biggest misconception working as a translator?
Just because you know English and work as a translator, people around you seem to think you know the meaning of every single world in the language, and expect you to translate everything on the spot. As if I am some kind of walking dictionary. This is one of the expectations that I experienced almost every day.
Translator has his or her area of expertise: law, IT, healthcare, biology, history, fashion, legal, or linguistics. Considering the fact that language isn’t just collection of words. You need to consider the culture and context: they are inseparable part of translation, in order to transfer the meaning. This means that translators are explorers. One of the reason why I love watching movies with English subtitle: I always come across words I’ve never seen, heard, and don’t understand their meaning.
The idea that being a translator is a job that everyone speaking a foreign language could do. Knowing at least two languages is a must, but, as I said before, being a good translator requires much more. The quality of the final product depends on many factors, such as the translator’s background, writing skills, knowledge, and experience.
After having two jobs and also two blogs , I don’t always accept every projects that come to my email. I only accept small projects that fit with my criteria: expertise, deadline, and budget. I’ve made sacrifices along the way but almost half of my work comes from repeat clients so it’s been worth it.
Like any other freelance jobs, it’s scary when you don’t have the next job lined up. So, being content writer is a great choice for me when I don’t have translation project available. Marketing yourself is such a big part of the job these days. Today’s been a good day though, and my next project is waiting so it’s time to get some rest!
Translation is an amazing job where you get to explore unique cultures, learn new things about language, and chance to meet people from other country. After all, where would the world be today without translation and the ability for humans to work together?