How can we give young freelancers a voice in the translation industry?

As we’re all aware, working as a translator can be very solitary indeed. We miss out on water-cooler chat (who cares!) and colleague banter (actually, that’d be nice).

Depending on your perspective, these can be seen as pros or cons. After all, we can be so much happier and productive without office politics – a significant source of stress for many people in the corporate world.

This solitude is true for the battle-hardened veterans among us. But it is also particularly the case for the rookies who are new to the industry and lack a professional peer network.

Young translators often feel that they don’t have a voice – either to express their concerns or share ideas with others.

But what do I know about this? What makes me qualified to address this topic? – These are important questions of course, as they help us filter the wheat from the chaff in the vast fields of online content.

Well, I am a 24 year old freelance translator. Younger than most, but definitely not the youngest out there.

While I’m not entirely new to the business (approaching six years of experience), I only became a full-time freelancer back in 2014. This step gave me new insight into the industry and the difficulties newbies face.

Why do young translators want a voice? I can rattle off a few reasons: to seek out advice, to question prevailing norms in the industry, to reach out to peers and clients, and to interact with our close-knit community.

There are a whole host of reasons! So, let’s not labour this point too much.

In the age of the Internet, you’d be forgiven for asking why are young translators finding it difficult to speak up. Communicating has never been easier!

I agree, but the truth is young translators often don’t dare to speak out.

Codswallop, you say!

No, it’s true!

It takes courage to ask for advice, particularly in public arenas.

We all feel the need to present ourselves in a professional, competent light. That means we all have to know everything there is to know, right?

Of course not. Even the most experienced translators among us gladly accept qualified insights. Ultimately, to achieve success it’s important to be open to new information.

But this isn’t how the juniors see it. Stepping out into the limelight and asking essential questions reveals a certain vulnerability. It’s only natural to feel a sense of anxiety.

And news flash! A lot of translators are introverts, which only compounds this problem.

Luckily, I think this is changing. Facebook groups and platforms like the Open Mic are making it increasingly easier for newbies to get the advice they need – in a non-judgemental setting.

Let’s keep this up!

But I’m not just talking about advice.

Young translators may also want to write articles or discuss a certain topic, but feel reluctant to do so. Self-doubt creeps in. Where’s my credibility? Why would readers want to hear what I’ve got to say? Do I actually have anything of value to talk about?

Dmitry Kornyukhov puts it quite succinctly:

We should bear in mind, all our experiences are valid. Perhaps sharing these experiences may help others. We all have value to offer. So, newbies, get writing! Putting yourself out there, particularly when everything seems new, can be quite scary.

What are the solutions?

Platforms like the Open Mic and networks (such as the League of Extraordinary Translators on Facebook) are fantastic.

But also your own social media channels and websites are a great place to start.

For the rest of us, let’s (continue to) foster a welcoming, non-judgemental environment. Of course, non-judgemental doesn’t mean an avoidance of constructive feedback. That’s essential.

What’s in it for us? Why should I help young freelancers?

I’m not going to appeal to a sense of altruism as that’s hardly sustainable nor fair.

Instead, let’s look at how more established translators can benefit from this friendly exchange of ideas.

By helping others, we remind ourselves of certain pieces of information. In doing so, we can fine-tune our own services and businesses.

Developing a peer network can also lead to more leads. That newbie working in the reverse of your language pair might one day thank you by referring any relevant contacts to you. For example, I only translate from German (into English). So when an existing client asks if I can work in the other direction too, I recommend they try my skilled peers.

And last but not least:

A helpful and friendly community is an awesome one!

I’d also like to thank everyone who’s shared their value and expertise already. I certainly found the advice incredibly useful when I was starting out. And it’s great to carry on learning more and more about this industry!

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