Part 1
Whereas the first part of this diary was a description of me, this second part focuses more on my actions since I got the Diploma in Translation results at the beginning of May.
After taking the exam in January, I was determined to make the best of the waiting to acquire experience and add a few extra, oh so necessary lines to my CV. I thought it could only be positive whether I pass or fail the exam. So, I decided to do some pro bono work.
Although you could argue that offering your services for free is not the best way to start getting respected in the profession, I knew deep-down it was the best solution for me. As well as having a contact in the organisation I volunteered for, there were several other advantages: it is local, has a good reputation, deals with issues that I am interested in and has recurrent translation needs. I also knew that they were in the process of renewing their funding for managing their website in four different languages, and so I hope I would be in a good position to get work from them once the money arrives.
Having done this work, it definitely was a win-win situation: I have now two more clients’ quotes to add to my portfolio and a promise to be hired for their next project. In order to broaden my fields of expertise and to be of some help too, I also registered with two charities: the Online UN volunteering services and Translators without Borders.
However, starting as a freelance translator is not all about trying to get clients, as I read in the very useful Starting Up as a Translator by Stephen Hackett and Tim Connell. First, it means starting a business. Being the opposite of "business-minded", I decided to get "proper" advice and went to my local business centre to see what kind of help I could get. As I am based in Wales, the business support there is provided by two different branches: Business Eye deals with information whereas the General Support for Business funded by the Welsh Assembly Government (but available through Business Eye only) provides advice and courses. In England, Business Link deals with both. And in Scotland, it is called Business Gateway. Well, you would not believe how long it took me to figure this out and find my way through this maze of different organisations. In addition, some county councils offer financial help like business start up or e-commerce grants. Unfortunately, where I live, they have just run out of money, but you can check grant availability on the J4begrants website.
If finding the right place was one thing, finding the right advisor was another one. To cut a long story short, I ended up registering as self-employed with the HMRC far too early. In Britain, you have up to three months to do it after starting trading. So, if you do not want to pay National Insurance Contributions before you have actually earned any money, wait until you cash your first cheque.
I was directed to an e-commerce advisor whose job is to find a reliable web-developer and supervise the building of the website. This scheme was funded —it ended on June 30th — by Opportunity Wales and the European Union. The first consultation is free and then you pay according to the amount of time spent on you. I must say, this service saved me some precious time and effort.
Knowing what to do first probably proved the most difficult thing for me, but it was a relief when I was sent off on a four day course. The "Start your own business" workshop was very comprehensive, covering a whole range of subjects such as networks of support, market research, marketing strategies, financial planning and tax. Besides, meeting some fellow fledglings was comforting and an opportunity to start networking
I have decided to start trading properly only when my website is set up, my IOL membership confirmed, my rates settled and my business cards printed. I want to feel I am fully prepared. In the meantime, I am keeping a list of businesses and agencies to contact. I will talk about how I decided to go about finding and selecting targets in my next part.
To be continued.