#t9n 101: Things you didn’t know and wish you’d been told earlier

by Spyros Balesias

There’s a good chance you are a new translator, exactly like me, without the faintest idea how the market works. When you’re setting for such a career, one thing is certain: it will take some time before making a name for yourself in the industry you decided to work in!

It’s already been a month since I started working as a freelance translator and I’ve already had to face the harsh truth: clients do not come out of nowhere. Nevertheless, this shouldn’t discourage you, since nobody woke up one day to find new clients at his doorstep. You’ll soon find out you’re not alone. And if you’re eager to start your own business as a freelance translator, you’re certainly going to find the following tips useful, which would have made my life easier had I known them beforehand:

  1. In the beginning were the expenses!

Yes, I know this sounds awful, but don’t give up already. To build your career, first you need to invest in yourself and to do so, you need to work on your image. Step out from the comfort of your home (or office), connect with new people and maintain connections you already have with friends and acquaintances: they might be important links in introducing you to other friends and acquaintances, prospective clients that may need your services. Print out your business cards, work on your LinkedIn account and think about joining one (or more) translation networks and online forums. It might be a long-term objective, but consider creating your own website. If you have a basic knowledge of marketing strategies, then you already know that there is no one is better at presenting and promoting you to prospective clients than yourself; it is you who knows your qualifications and areas of specialisation.


  1. Organisation maketh translator!

First step, done! Once you’ve grown your network, you have to be able to work in the most organised way possible. If you don’t want to miss any important deadlines, you will have to keep everything in one place. There are plenty of productivity apps out there for all of us who hate mess. My suggestion? Trello. This is the greatest online application for those who love things that are free of charge and want to keep everything in order. With Trello, you can create your to-do lists, set deadlines and whatever other lists and cards you come up with. Make your own board and, if you have to deal with a team project, you can also connect with your co-workers in teams. Nevertheless, for those using the professional versions of popular CAT tools, you can always manage your projects through them, and keep track of deadlines and individual projects’ completion status.


  1. Keep learning and carry on!

You might know how to translate. You might even be a native in both languages you work with. Either way you can’t know everything! It is part of your job description to keep an eye out and learn new things and there are many great ways to do so. For example, you can enrol in one of the courses of the e-learning programme the National and Kapodistrian University has to offer (see here) or take a look at the MOOCs available on websites like edx, coursera and udemy. As a matter of fact, this is probably the best advice I can give you: Make Love and Read Books! Read books in every language you work with. Books are your best friends and the primary tool for both your personal and professional development. For more information on Continuous Professional Development (CPD), have a look at this piece by Mary Kyriakopoulou here.


  1. It is all about your protection!

When you begin doing business with translation agencies or other clients, you need to protect your interests. Be proactive and make agreements that will prove themselves handy when undertaking big projects and you would like to get paid sometime after its completion. If your client doesn’t mention such an agreement, once you begin working on a project, take the initiative and send them a what-I-call TSPO, or Translation Services Provision Order. As a translator of legal texts, I am fond of such practices and I want my clients to become familiar with them. I might have only a few –okay, maybe two or three– regular- clients, but this doesn’t mean I shouldn’t apply such practices in my work.


Whatever you may choose to do, follow my tips or find your own way in our profession, I wish you –and myself– a great beginning. Don’t give up! It can be a tough market to excel in, but this doesn’t mean you should let your career to chance [after getting your degree] – it will take time [and effort] to actually make profit in this business. Your first steps are really important and, luckily, there are those willing to mentor new translators as they begin their career.

Which reminds me that I’d like to take the chance to thank PEEMPIP for welcoming me in its wonderful team and I really hope I’ve also given new ideas to some of its veteran members!

Spyros Balesias graduated from the Department of Foreign Languages, Translation and Interpreting in 2016. He was born and raised in Preveza, but he prefers the upbeat environment of bigger cities. He works as a translator of legal and financial texts, he loves content writing both professionally and for his own amusement, and he is currently interested in international relations. He speaks English, German, and he is making progress with Spanish. Last but not least, he enjoys translation, but keeps a low profile about this! You can find him on LinkedIn or you can send him an e-mail.

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