My first year as a freelancer

Firstly, hello and welcome to my blog!

So who am I? I’m a freelance translator and interpreter working from French to English. It’s been about a year now so I’d like to kick-start my blog by telling you what I’ve been up to.

My goal was always to work as a freelancer straight after university, despite the challenges. A lack of financial security can hold graduates back from freelancing but living at home has given me the freedom to develop my business. I also have a freelance position at a PR company, allowing me to pay for expenses, and invest in my business. I’ve used the flexibility of freelancing to make time for learning, learning, and more learning!

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One of the main challenges as a newbie is to gain experience. I think I’ve been lucky as I’ve translated a variety of texts over the last year. I found a mentor through ProZ.com (not a plug, I assure you) and she regularly sends work my way. In exchange for a discounted rate, she gives me feedback on my translations, offers advice and provides me with references. Ideally, every freelancer would have a mentor when starting out. I’ve read articles and forum discussions about mentoring so I hope it will eventually become standard practice. I don’t know how I would have gained experience without the help of a mentor.

Logically the first point of call to get work is agencies. I’ve managed to register with a few agencies and as this first year comes to an end, I’ve started to get a trickle of job offers too. It isn’t easy to get signed up with agencies; there are long application forms, requirements for experience or specific software, reference requests, and so on. It can be tough to convince an agency to take you on without previous experience. For instance, if an agency needs a reference from someone in the translation field, and you haven’t got previous translation experience, providing a reference is impossible. You just have to be patient and keep at it until someone gives you a break.

This brings me to one of the main turning points of the year: Marta Stelmaszak’s Business School for Translators. At the moment, I have to think hard about the utility of paying for courses or events. This is one investment I will never regret. Since the course, I’ve started to look at my work as a business, and Marta has given me plenty of tools and ideas to help me progress. I feel more confident so I’m trying out things I wouldn’t have done before, from tweeting to contributing to forums to starting this blog! The school’s alumni group is equally as generous with their support and advice. I also did Oliver Lawrence’s Clear Writing course so even as I write, I’m going back to reread my sentences and trim them down. It’s hard work, I tell you.

Finally, perhaps my proudest achievement, I learnt to read Gujarati. I am a native speaker but I’d never learnt to write. I’ve always wanted to, and now seemed like a good time as I can make use of it professionally. Of course, I read like a child but it’s so much fun and very satisfying! I also completed Grade 2 Spanish on the Polylang programme at the University of Westminster and I hope to start Grade 3 in September. I did my MA at Westminster and I can’t quite let go yet!

So there you have it – my first year. I’m excited to find out what happens next! Follow my blog and join me on my journey.

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7 thoughts on “My first year as a freelancer

  1. A really interesting post, i cant believe you know how to read Gujarati 😀
    Good Luck on your business, I’ve got a feeling you wont be needing it 🙂

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  2. Great post, Sarah. Really interesting for me, having just finished my masters and looking to go straight into freelancing. Although I do have 20+ years IT and business experience behind me, I’m sure it’s not going to be that easy to get work from agencies. Was wondering how you went about getting your mentor on ProZ.com? Also, how many agencies did you apply to initially? I’m thinking about four or five. Good luck with building your business going forward!

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    1. Hi Keith! Thank you for your comments. I’ve just checked out your website – it looks great, very professional. Congratulations on finishing your masters!
      I think that your experience should really help you to get work, especially when you’re ready to approach direct clients. ProZ has a mentoring scheme but I’m not actually on the programme because you need to be a full member: http://www.proz.com/guidance-center/mentoring-program/. I contacted one of the mentors on there and she agreed to work with me anyway.
      I think four or five agencies is a start but it’s likely that you’ll need to contact many more before you get anywhere. Having said that, I initially contacted agencies without a real strategy; I’ve now realised that it’s better to contact agencies who deal with your specialist areas, and to have a more personal approach, rather than just sending out a generic email. I hope all of that helps. Please do email me if you’d like to chat more. Sarah

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