In my previous article of the series Moving the first steps in the translation industry, I talked about ways to sell your translation and interpreting services at the beginning of your career, when you might not have much practical experience, and ways to build that experience in order to grow your knowledge and reputation.
However, before starting to work as a translator or interpreter, it is crucial that you know your business environment. This includes the national and international markets you operate in (i.e. the one where you are registered as a professional, and the markets of your languages and clients), the translation industry, and the industries of your specialty fields (i.e. the marketing industry or the automotive industry).
Getting to know your industry and markets can be quite tricky. With the internet and social media, there is overwhelming information out there. Unfortunately, not all information is useful and, more importantly, truthful. Believing everything you read about the translation industry or the situation of national and international markets is a mistake that can prove quite costly in terms of time, money and reputation. You might end up not complying with national regulations (and pay penalties), or you might be setting your rates too low and thus work against the industry as a whole.
Unfortunately, it is not always possible to know exactly what is true or right and what isn’t. Discerning reliable sources of information from untrustworthy ones is basically up to your judgement and common sense, but with thorough research you can make better decisions. Researching the author of an article or comment, for example, can tell you whether or not the information they’re providing is based on knowledge and experience. Researching the reputation of a translation agency can give you an indication of the trustworthiness of what they publish on their website.
Let’s now look at some websites where you can find information regarding the translation and interpreting industry.
General information about the translation industry in Europe can be found on the EU website in the form of studies or e-books. Just head to the EU Bookshop, where you can download a huge number of resources for free.
As for country-specific information, you can head to your own country’s institutional website. The UK National Careers Service website, for example, provides information about translation and interpreting careers.
Secondly, you can search for information on business-related websites, such as The Economist, Bloomberg, the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal and so on. Here you could also find useful information about the specific industries and markets you will be working in according to your specialty fields and language combinations.
You should also head to the websites of professional associations (such as CIOL, ITI, IAPTI, ATA, AIIC etc.), where you will find information about ethics, good and bad practices, rates and working conditions of freelance translators and interpreters. Some of these associations regularly conduct primary research among professionals, so they’re a very useful source of information to find out about the competition. Honestly, I don’t normally like to use the word “competition”, as I consider other translators to be colleagues, but from a business point of view they are in fact competitors, and you should know what they are doing as well.
Some translation companies also conduct market and marketing research studies, but remember that they are players in the industry, and thus the data and information they are providing might be biased. Translator blogs and websites are also very useful, but keep in mind that what you read is often a personal opinion and not a given truth.
Finally, there are plenty of translator groups online, especially on LinkedIn and Facebook (in a future article I’ll be listing these groups): don’t be afraid to ask for information if you can’t find it anywhere! Just make sure you have diligently done your research first: this will demonstrate good attitude and professionalism to your peers, and will help you build your reputation in the translation circles.
If you know your industry and your markets, and you are aware of the ethics and practices of the profession, you will be able to act professionally with both colleagues and clients, and thus increase your reputation and, ultimately, your business.
Do you have any other sources of information to add to this list? Where did you find the most useful information when you began your career? Let me know in a comment!