Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Do translators and interpreters have a career ladder?

Do freelance translators and interpreters have a career ladder? Once you are past the start-up phase, have a steady flow of clients and are firmly established in your field, how do you know that you are still progressing?

One way to make progress as a mid- to late-career freelancer is to focus on working smarter instead of harder. From the outside, it may look as if you are maintaining a steady level of income and/or prestige. But what you are really doing is creating efficiencies, seeing how much you can cut back without falling behind. This takes a lot of practice but it forces you to refine the way in which you work, so you can consistently produce your best work in the most streamlined manner.

Penelope Trunk, serial entrepreneur, author and blogger, calls this method “one of the most common but least-talked about career moves” and thinks we should start experimenting with it early so we have it down to a fine art when we really need it later in our career.

What do you think?


  1. Interesting question! As freelancers, I think we have a lot of incentive to work more efficiently, because that streamlining goes directly (in terms of time, money, effort, stress saved) into our pockets. When I think back on my startup years, I probably worked 50-75% more and earned 50% less than I do now. Partially I've focused on specializations in which I can work relatively fast but still produce high-quality work. Partially I've learned to triage the important things and those that I can let slide, and I know myself and my own work habits better. This translates into an improved quality of life, which keeps me more excited about the job in general!

  2. Good point about being able to triage things, Corinne. It's so easy to not see the wood for the trees at times, so being able to stand back and calmly and quickly decide where your time can be best spent is a really useful skill. I wonder how we could nurture that? Experience undoubtably helps, but the field of productivity might have some useful tips and tricks too... anything that improves quality of life and keep us excited about the job has got to be good!

    Thanks for the insightful comment.