This post was most recently updated on October 21st, 2023
[A collaboration post – all thoughts are my own.]
How’s your life as a freelance translator?
Since the beginning of 2020, I have mostly been working from home, but I’m not the stereotypical all-day-in-pajamas translator. Instead, my work routine is quite regular: I start my day at 7 a.m., walk my dog, clean up the house before taking a shower, and 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 has proven successful most of the time.
As you may know, I work as a freelance translator and a content writer – both of which are freelance jobs. The freelance world is tough, and one of the greatest challenges is knowing where your next paycheck is coming from. However, one of the great benefits is the flexibility of the workday. I can organize my day in a way that allows me to have enough free time for important things in life, like having coffee with friends and walking my dog in the evening.
My life as a freelance translator has its ups and downs. Most of the time, I’m perfectly happy with my chosen career: I can step away from the computer and play with my dogs or go to a coffee shop in search of a little fresh air and inspiration. However, sometimes it can become too much to handle.
What are the daily challenges you experience?
Whether it’s a new tool to help with translation projects, I must always stay focused, be open-minded, and be willing to learn. I have to use different resources, read books, and cross-check the information. This can be time-consuming, so delivering quality work is crucial.
I usually schedule my translation tasks well in advance because I also have to write content for my blog. I need to balance the workload between the two jobs. Being self-employed involves a lot of work: translation and blogging aside, I have to handle my own finances, marketing, design, and more. Flexibility is essential – short delivery times and urgent tasks that have to be completed ASAP seem to be the standards in my job.
Well, being a translator means I’m practically on my own with all of this, and the same goes for being a content writer. I’ve 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 intense concentration. Even when I understand the meaning of every word in a sentence, I sometimes struggle to capture the writer or author’s intent. Even when I know the exact meaning in Indonesian, a single English word can disrupt the flow, and this can be quite frustrating.
As a blogger and content writer, we’ve all heard of writer’s block, and there is also a phenomenon known as translator’s block. Translators need to be creative, constantly looking up words, searching for expressions, and finding idioms that are typical for the target language. These can be genuine obstacles and often require additional research. This challenge arises, especially when I receive translation projects related to sports, finance, IT, and other specialized fields. It’s something clients may not always consider.
A single word can make the difference between a good translation and a beautiful one. I’m always striving to understand what the writer is truly trying to convey and translate it with the same impact. When I’m stuck, I turn to my group of fellow translators for assistance.
What is the biggest misconception about working as a translator?
Just because you know English and work as a translator, people around you often assume that you know the meaning of every single word in the language and expect you to translate everything on the spot. It’s as if I’m some kind of walking dictionary. This is an expectation I encounter almost daily.
A translator has their area of expertise, whether it’s in law, IT, healthcare, biology, history, fashion, legal matters, or linguistics. It’s crucial to understand that language isn’t merely a collection of words. Culture and context are integral to translation, as they are inseparable from conveying meaning. This makes translators akin to explorers. That’s one reason why I enjoy watching movies with English subtitles; I often come across words I’ve never seen or heard and don’t understand their meaning.
The misconception that being a translator is a job anyone who speaks a foreign language can do is widespread. While knowing at least two languages is a requirement, being a good translator demands much more. The quality of the final product depends on several factors, including the translator’s background, writing skills, knowledge, and experience.
Balancing two jobs has taught me to be selective when it comes to accepting projects that land in my email. I prioritize projects that align with my expertise, fit within the specified deadlines, and meet my budget requirements. This approach means making some sacrifices along the way, but it’s been worthwhile because nearly half of my work comes from repeat clients.
Like any other freelance profession, there are moments of apprehension when the next job isn’t lined up. That’s where my role as a content writer comes in handy when translation projects are scarce. Self-promotion is a crucial aspect of the job these days, and I’m proud of the efforts I’ve put into marketing myself. Today has been a productive day, and my next project is already in the queue, so now it’s time for some well-deserved rest!
The translation is an amazing job where you get to explore unique cultures, learn new things about language, and a 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?