Translation is a multi-billion industry which provides jobs to millions of qualified professionals and empowers millions of companies (from startups to Fortune 500) and brands through bilingual and/or multilingual communications. Translation offers several career choices, including freelance – i.e. work-from-home – as well as in-house positions (usually referred to as 9-to-5 jobs). If you are a translator or often work as such, chances are that you’ve experienced the versatility and dealt with the complexities of that profession. If you have ever thought about quitting translation, review these warning signs to make sure you decide wisely.
You consider translation as a hobby
Some people regard translation as a hobby or second-choice, extra source of income. This, certainly justifies why they claim to be translator because they understand a few words in another language and can struggle to form one or two correct sentences. They rely on dictionaries, provide word-for-word rendering and mostly opt for “translation software” like Power Translator or free, online services such as Google Translate. If you recognized yourself in this description, please, do yourself a favor and quit translating now!
You are not passionate about translation
I blame you if you never realized that translation is first and foremost about passion. Sure, you need to pay bills, but above all, you must be passionate to be part of a “bigger” thing. Have you ever thought about how the technical manuals you translate help millions of end users operate their devices? Can you feel consumers’ satisfaction whenever they glance at your (translated) copy on a huge billboard and keep loyal to a given brand? What about books, articles, website copy that you translate to help people and nations meet and cross language borders? If all of this means nothing to you, please quit translating!
You don’t get in the business mood
Passion is what fuels your translation business. Did I just say “business”? Yes. Translation is a business and you are a business person. As a translator/small business owner, you must get into the “business mood” or you won’t survive. So, you ought to search for clients, suggest language solutions to their problems, negotiate rates, charge for services provided, market your expertise, get posted on industry news, attend events, plan for office supplies, get software equipment, buy CAT tools and try them, translate, edit, proofread, keep your family happy. And there are much more to do. If this is too much for you, fine. You know where the exit is.
You never meet set deadlines
Deadlines are capital. This sounds like a Gospel truth within the translation world. I don’t know about other trades, but when you consistently miss set deadlines, there must be something wrong with you. It is true that unforeseen circumstances exist, but a professional translator is trained to mitigate them. Your background and field experience must have taught you how to take precautionary measures to deal with possible obstacles. Keeping in touch with your Project manager is a way to discuss possible deadline extensions based on justifiable reasons. Setting priorities and implementing time management strategies are other ways to ensure you deliver on time.
You always complain about stress
Stress is part of our trade, buddy. Nothing else to add. Either you deal with stress or you stop calling yourself a translator. As simple as that.
You don’t care about confidentiality
Are you sharing the same computer with your old friends who read your mails and documents? Do you discuss the details of your translation projects in bars or during after-work parties? Do you boast about the manuals you just translated for company X, or brand Y’s new brochure? Do you remember you signed NDAs? Have you even read them? Translation may not be your best fit. This is just my humble opinion. After suffering two judicial cases and severe fines, you may not say I didn’t tell you. Reconsider your relationship with confidentiality or quit translating!
Technology is your worst enemy
When St Jerome translated the Holy Bible, there was no Internet at the time. There is no point in working nowadays as back then. Things have evolved and we should adapt. Better still, as translators, we ought to leverage the power of technology to work smarter and faster. If you think CAT tools are what entertain felines, or believe Twitter is the name of an endangered species, you might not be fit for the translation world. Do yourself a favour.
You always say “No”
No matter the project scope, domain(s) to tackle or timeframe, whatever opportunity coming your way is rejected. You always say “No” to stressful situations related to translation project management, you don’t like complicated texts, you hate learning new software or dislike working under pressure. In such a context, I just wonder “Why on earth did you become a translator?” It may not be late to consider a career in football (soccer) or mechanics.
You always say “Yes”
You are always prompt to accept any jobs, in any language combination. After all, you are a translator, aren’t you? Wrong. Professional translators work into their native language only and decline offers involving domains they might not have a good command of. Plus, nothing forces you accept rubbish services like #PEMT (Post-editing machine translation) or to translate 100 words buried in 25 thousand non-paid repetitions.
I may have forgotten some warning signs. Depending on your experience and that of other colleagues, you can have additional stories to tell. Feel free to share in the comments.