Friday, January 8, 2016

5 New Year's Resolutions for Freelance Translators

Since the start of a new year is the perfect time to start afresh with new goals for the future, I've spent the last several days thinking about what my New Year's resolutions should be for 2016. In addition to the typical personal goals that no one ever keeps for long (such as "drink less" or "eat more vegetables"), I've also come up with a list of five goals related to my freelance translation career. I think they're fairly reasonable goals, so I thought I'd share them today in case any other freelance translators out there want to try them out too!

#1: Make better use of CAT tools

If only CAT tools included
the help of adorable cats...
For those unfamiliar with the translation industry, CAT stands for computer-assisted translation. Basically any tool or program that helps in the translation process can be considered a CAT tool, but the most popular choice is to use CAT software that features translation memory (TM) and termbase (TB) tools. With TMs, segments of text that you've already translated are saved and can then be automatically displayed by the software when a similar segment appears in a new text, while TBs essentially allow you to create your own bilingual dictionary for each project or text type.

If you invest a bit of time in setting up useful TMs and TBs, they can end up saving you a lot of time. However, if you're anything like me, you might find that you often keep moving full speed ahead with your translations without ever stopping to update your termbase. With the CAT software I use, it only takes two clicks to add a new word to my termbase, and yet I am often too lazy to do it. This year, I'm hoping to keep in mind that taking a moment to add a new term could save me from having to do countless dictionary searches in the months to come.

#2: Connect more with other translators

When you work as a freelancer, it's really easy to just stay in your own world and never communicate with others in your industry. However, one of the best ways to improve your skills, expand your resources, and even find new clients, is to have an extensive network of contacts in the industry. While I already have a great core group of fellow freelance translators who I often collaborate and share ideas with, I'm hoping to further expand my contacts this year, be it through LinkedIn, ProZ, or social media.

#3: Stick to a regular work schedule

One of the great things about working freelance is that you can have as much flexibility as you want. However, it is also important to keep a good balance between your work life and your social life. Last year, I tried to focus on maintaining a relatively "normal" daily work schedule. While I made sure to keep my evenings free so that I had a few hours to relax each day, I wasn't as great about keeping the weekends work-free. Sometimes it's necessary to work on the weekend in order to finish an urgent project, but I definitely don't think it should become a habit. It's important to take a day or two off every once in a while!

Jerez de los Caballeros, Spain
#4: Never accept jobs below minimum rates

As I've mentioned in the past, you should never ask a translator to work for free, or for an unreasonably low wage. When I was first starting out as a freelancer last year and desperate to get new clients, I occasionally let prospective clients negotiate translation rates that were lower than I was truly happy with. In the past several months I've become much better about respecting the value of my skills, so this year one of my resolutions is to never accept any jobs below my minimum rates. It's certainly important to be able to negotiate costs with clients based on the characteristics of a specific project, but a minimum rate should be the bare minimum you would ever accept, and therefore be non-negotiable.

#5: Spend more free time absorbing foreign language/culture

I've saved the best for last, since this goal is certainly the most enjoyable one. If I had all the money in the world, I would simply spend as much free time as possible visiting Spanish-speaking countries in order to fully immerse myself in my favorite foreign language. Since that's in no way realistic, I've instead decided that I should spend more time absorbing Spanish language and culture from home, be it by reading Spanish literature or websites, listening to Spanish music, or watching Spanish films!

Do you have any New Year's resolutions that you think would benefit freelance translators? Feel free to share them in the comments below!