Conferences – why go?

Now that I’ve been a freelance translator for almost two years, one question I’m frequently asked by aspiring freelancers is how I managed to make it sustainable. This is a really good question as freelancers are unfortunately often plagued by instability and periods of uncertainty. Don’t get me wrong, I am by no means a veteran translator (yet!) and I do still have what we might call ‘low seasons’ but I have managed to be relatively successful as a self-employed translator and this I owe not only to extensive research and hard work but also to advice given to me by fellow, more experienced translators.

When I first started, I was reluctant to reach out to fellow translators nor did I really participate in discussions about the industry itself in the various translation-related forums and groups online. I was afraid this would reflect badly on me due to my lack of experience or that nobody would want to help. However, over time and having spoken with fellow translators at co-working days I’ve attended or in online groups, I’ve found that they are more than happy to give advice to the younger, less experienced translators. One of the best pieces of advice that I have been given time and time again is this: whenever possible, attend relevant conferences. 

These conferences don’t necessarily have to concern translation. You can attend conferences in a number of areas, depending on your specialisation: cardiology, dentistry, medicine, literature, tourism, climate change, the list goes on and on. Having tried and tested this advice (albeit not as frequently as I would have liked), I wanted to share with you, my fellow and aspiring translators, why this has been beneficial in my case.

  1. Meeting other translators

As I’ve already mentioned, I owe a lot to the more experienced translators who gave me advice during my first few months as a freelance translator (and even as recently as this year) on how to improve my services, find clients and keep progressing along this career path. Conferences are an excellent way to meet other translators and to share and discuss advice or concerns relating to your work. (Translators are often a great laugh, too!)

  1. Continued Professional Development

CPD is fundamental, not only to translators but to all career paths. Technology improves, theories develop, language skills and subject knowledge wane with time, so we must keep working on them if we are to provide a professional translation service which keeps our clients happy. This is another way in which conferences can be extremely beneficial since CPD sessions are held for attendees and these sessions are often recognised by various professional associations. In addition, there are often educational companies present at these conferences which may provide discounts on their courses for attendees and happily provide information about their courses. Even just the conversations that you have with fellow translators, agencies, prospective clients and companies can be incredibly educational and help you develop a new skill, be it negotiation skills, business etiquette or keeping up with the latest trends in your subject area.

  1. Meeting clients

Of course, this is the Holy Grail for all freelancers: the opportunity to meet new clients. At all kinds of conferences, you can meet potential clients. Although most of your client interaction will more than likely be via email, being able to meet them in person is certainly beneficial. It puts a face to the name and your presence at the conference also communicates to the potential client that you invest time and money into expanding your business and learning more to improve the professional translation services you provide. It’s also an opportunity to touch base with existing clients – if they are there. Last year at the Language Show in London, I met a project manager with whom I had been working regularly for a few months and it was great to meet her in person. Such meetings improve the professional relationship you have with your clients, which is important if you are to keep working with them.

Some of the above are the reasons for which I’ll be attending the Mediterranean Editors and Translators Meeting 2017 this October, and I look forward to posting about my experience there.

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