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




  • Greater than 3 minutes, my friend!

    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!

    Lewis Dale

    About Lewis Dale

    Freelance German to English translator specialising in blockchain, finance, gaming, online content and business localisation.

    13 thoughts on “How can we give young freelancers a voice in the translation industry?

    1. Wow! Thank you Lewis for your article. It really gets me 🙂 Being one of these young translators you are talking about, you are really presenting the situation, loud and clear. I’ve been thinking of writing an article myself on young translators starting out and why not? I might really write it soon. Thanks again for your contribution ^.^

      1. Hi Ilaria, thanks for your comment. Go ahead and be sure to let me know once you’ve written something. I’d be interested to read it!

    2. Thank you Lewis for opening this thread.

      Actually I think being a young translator nowadays is tough, for sure. It was also when I started (1996), but now it seems a whole world has passed in between. And it’s not just an impression. So, young translators, don’t be shy! This is the place where you can make questions, I am sure each of us will be able to help and support in making decisions or understanding better how this world goes and where is going.

      As far as I can, I’m here to help.

      Cheers, Silvia

    3. Thank you so much for writing this post, Lewis! I can relate to everything you’ve said. Sometimes young people feel under appreciated, they lack confidence and think that they have nothing valuable to say.

      But that’s not true and here’s why: young people are the future of this profession. We’re the ones who will be setting new trends and determining the fate of our profession. That’s why our opinion matters.

      It matters because more often than note we have absolutely different perspective. Sometimes our perspective is the complete opposite of what senior translators might think. But isn’t it the beauty of being young? We can see things in a totally different light. We haven’t been marinating in this industry for decades that’s why we can easily come up with ideas that are fresh and original.

      You don’t have to be a genius or an incredible writer/public speaker to bring value to the community. And you certainly don’t need to be super experience or have an authority in order to say things.

      The industry has evolved over the past decade. What worked 20 years ago doesn’t work today. For example, I believe that job-bidding platforms don’t work anymore, I believe that we need a new online community that will create equal opportunities for each and every one of us.

      Do I care what other seasoned translators might think about me? I do, but I don’t let that stop me from being me. The real me.

      I feel like we need more inspiration and motivation in the industry. We need more people with can do attitude. We need more brave people. People who can lead by example.

      And guess what? We already have them. We have you, we have me, we have thousands of young people who are passionate about translation.

      Each of us can and will bring a lot of value to the community and i hope that projects like Open Mic or even Blabbing Translators will help us do it in a new and meaningful way.

      1. Thank you, Dmitry, for your kind words! I completely agree! One should never conflate different perspectives with invalid perspectives. BTW, did you fix my embedded tweets in this article? They’re displayed correctly now. 🙂

        1. Yep, I fixed them, I hope you don’t mind. How did you embed them? Did you copy-paste the link to tweet or tried using embed code from Twitter? Usually the best way to embed something is to copy-paste the link. No need to fiddle with code since WordPress supports a lot of embeds natively and all you have to do is to copy a link into the editor 🙂

          Let me know if it helps or if you encounter any other problems or bugs 🙂

    4. What an uplifting post Lewis, thank you so much! 🙂

      Your words reflect my situation exactly. Being also one (maybe not so young) translator anymore, but still a newbie to the industry, I feel like I am not really in a position to write an article. I am still sucking up all the information that I can to get my business rolling, so I do feel in a way exactly like “what can I really give back at this early stage?”.

      But you are definitely right that us newbies have to reach out to build a network to not feel so isolated. After all, if you don’t ask you don’t get, no? However, personally I am maybe a little too shy still to start writing articles, but I really want to do it in the future. For now I think I need to find my feet still and build my identity and direction as a freelance translator.

      1. Thank you, Berit! Well, maybe your expectations are too high. Your first few articles don’t need to be ground-breakingly new. I’m sure you have already had some experiences that others would find interesting. You could even produce an article that simply points readers to other useful resources and thereby act as a curator than creator if that seems more reasonable. 🙂 Let me know whenever you do decide to write something; I’d like to read it. 🙂

        1. Ha Lewis, I think you may have hit the nail on the head there… 😉 I do suffer from perfectionism a tiny bit, and am aware that this is not very helpful but rather keeps me from getting more proactive in certain areas. Something I have to change for sure.
          I like your idea about curating content, in fact I thought about having a kind of “blog” that instead of me writing articles lists interesting finds that I have come across on my rummages on the internet. Something like a “Favourite links of the week” or so. It is in the back of my head, but if I end up writing something, I will let you know 🙂

    5. Hi everybody! Surfing the articles, I came across this one and caught my immediate attention. I’m a newbie here, just registered yesterday, and share much of the fears that Lewis has described here. Actually, to be sincere, I’m not a really expert translator in many fields, but I think that Reading articles such as this one, and other valuable articles, really help us to take off, taking off to a huge world that is out there waiting for us all, Young translators who want to raise their voice and let the world get to know them and their abilities. In my case, i don’t write much because actually I’m a shy writer, I’m not overconfident with my English, so I prefer not to get into the business just now. It happens to me that I’m an excellent writer in Spanish, which is my native language, but still have to improve a lot with my English. So guys, as a newbie I ask for your support and feedback. share with us all your experience and your knowledge, and we will be most than grateful for that… Thanks Lewis, Dmitry, and all the rest for your comments and insight.

      1. Thank you for your comment, Bryner! That’s exactly the kind of support and mutual feedback that I mean with this article; newbie translators often don’t have many established peers, or even clients, so platforms like the Open Mic and such allow this knowledge sharing to take place.

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