Translators on… the First Year of Business


Translators on… brings together a collection of industry professionals, each sharing their experience and advice on certain topics of their career, offering a wider, more authoritative range of opinions than a single source. Want to know more about the series? Watch the launch video.

The first year of business is something we anticipated with both dread and zeal – there is nothing quite like the rush of knowing you are starting your own venture and that you would be solely responsible for your professional destiny. Although the uncertainty of whether you would get enough work or whether your rates were right might have put a bit of a downer on it all.

But once established, you can look back on it all and smile, safe in the knowledge that you’ve made it. There may well be some things you would have done differently, but you will probably have learned a heck of a lot by the end of that first year.

Let’s first look at what our contributors put their success down to.


As for what we would have done differently, a couple of our contributors would have pursued further training or qualifications in translation. As I mentioned in the last post, in the absence of a Master’s in translation, I have found qualified membership of ITI to have fulfilled the void in terms of assuring myself and my clients that I am a professional. Nevertheless, a qualification like the Diploma in Translation would set you in good stead for your career if you have the skills and experience, but need something to help you sell yourself better to your clients.


Although we will come onto the subject of dealing with first clients in future posts, it’s something perhaps most of us would have gone about differently, so worth briefly reflecting on.


The administration involved in running a business tends to be one of the last things we think about. Getting yourself organised right at the start will save you a world of pain further down the line, not just in terms of the sheer effort of doing everything retroactively, but finding the time to do it if business picks up. So did this catch anyone out?


Something that the industry has been starting to talk about more and more over the past few years is the fact that you are actually running a business. It is only recently that most translation-teaching universities, in the UK at least, are starting to build content on this subject into their programmes. This wasn’t the case when many of our contributors started out and it also won’t be relevant if you don’t have a Master’s. As Suzanne found, better business training at university would have helped.


There is the argument that learning on the job and learning from your mistakes is beneficial, and that translators new to the industry shouldn’t be handed everything on a plate, but some mistakes – in buying software or filing your tax return, for example – can be costly, so the question is whether we should teach newcomers to the industry about matters like these or allow them to gain some life experience instead. What does Caroline think?


The next Translators on… post will shift from the subject of the first year of business and examine how we can exploit our individual experience to form our unique selling points.