Operating a professional translator’s business without a support network is like driving a car without a seat belt. You may be perfectly alright driving along at 60 miles an hour – until a deer jumps into your path. Bad luck? No, bad planning! No, it wasn’t your fault that the deer jumped in front of your car but, yes, if you drive without a seat belt, you are responsible for the severity of your injuries.
Your network needs to cover a multitude of eventualities.
- IT problems and internet connection problems
- Vocabulary research/translation related queries
- Domestic issues/child care
- Illness and professional indemnity cover
Setting up a technical support network
In the course of their long standing careers, every translator has had technical trouble with computers, software, new equipment or times when the Internet just wasn’t available. In the translation industry we are completely dependent on this kind of technology. Nothing gets done without it. So, when you set up your business or move house, make sure you ask around or check local ads for professionals who can help you sort problems quickly and efficiently when needed. Having a phone number to hand when disaster strikes is much less stressful than having to search at that time.
Some independent translators are much better at solving technology issues than others. Watch the contributions colleagues make to forums. If you notice someone making repeated intelligent suggestions regarding IT queries, mail him or her and ask if it would be ok to contact them in an emergency. If they are willing to help others in a forum, they may be willing to help you too. – Naturally, don’t abuse this helping hand and only use when absolutely necessary.
Finding translation support
Established professional translators know where to go for vocabulary research. First they’ll search their own specialist dictionaries, if that fails they’ll go online. If that fails too, they’ll ask in one of the translators’ forums (often run by professional bodies or translation companies or online platforms for freelance translators). Most queries will be answered here.
If all else fails, you must talk to your client. You could ask for a synonym in the source language or ask if they have business partners or staff who are familiar with the terminology. Do they have competitors they know of in the target country? Can they supply you with a photo of the item in question? As a last resort: can they rephrase the sentence without the use of this particular term? Point out to them that you have tried all avenues open to you. It is in their interest to help you.
One day your central heating might pack up or your childminder not turn up. Make sure you have a safety net in place for foreseeable emergencies, so your translation work doesn’t suffer as a consequence.
No one is immune to falling ill. If you depend on your earnings from translation jobs as your only source of income, take out insurance cover that gives you a replacement income in times of need. These insurances aren’t very expensive (unless you have pre-existing health issues) and well worth investing in.
To cover your clients, should you fall ill in the middle of a translation assignment, build up a network of fellow translators that you can rely on to carry out your work when you are incapacitated.
All freelance translators should also take out professional indemnity insurance.
Professional bodies like the Chartered Institute of Linguists offer insurance deals at affordable prices to their members.