I decided I’d be a translator when I was about 14 years old, and everyone kept asking “oh, what will you be when you grow up?”. Once I replied honestly, they would ask “but what will you do?”, to which I would reply naively “get a document in another language”. That simple.
I started my BA course, a couple of years later I got an in-house job as a translator and thought that was heaven. Wrong again. There, I discovered CAT tools, and workflow, and freelancing. Another few years and I was working on my own, as a freelancer. Then, I had to discover other tools for the job, I had to set up my own workflow and start playing roles other than translator.
Accountant. You have to keep track of clients that require an invoice, others that have online systems for invoicing, different payment terms (15, 30, 45 days from invoice date). You also have to keep an eye on IRS, pay taxes. Now and then, you have to remind a client or two that payment is delayed, you have to negotiate (again) for them to pay sooner than later.
IT support. This is the role that usually takes most of my time (besides translating). If a CAT crashes, I need to find out why the hell did that happen and how can that be avoided. If a client sends you a PDF file, you need to check the best way to work with the file – should you convert it into doc and use a CAT tool? Would it be faster to translate straight to a doc file? If a client asks for a translation of an updated version, and they send you the previous version (source and target files) for reference, can you generate a TM from aligning those files, or will it be better to compare previous and current source files and update the translated file? Don’t get me started on blogging and creating a website…
Marketer. If you don’t market your business, how are clients supposed to find you? So, you have to be present, managing Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and many other tools, besides checking what is going on in the field, keep yourself up-to-date in order to see if you’re meeting the current market demand.
Account manager. You have to deal directly with your clients, whether they are final clients or translation agencies. If they have questions or complaints, you need to solve them. And you have to keep your clients happy, because business relationships ARE relationships, you have to work on them. Don’t get me wrong – this doesn’t mean that “the client is always right”, but you do need to check the complaint.
Hey, don’t forget translator. You also have to produce some thousands of words to be happily paid as well. All your other roles are for free, they come with the job. But it’s a nice job, no day is ever the same in this business.
Any other roles you think a translator must have to suceed in this business?