That question may sound rather philosophical!
However, apart from my close colleagues and friends, very few of you will know how I ended up as a freelance translator, so let me share a little bit with you in this short post.
As a child I was interested in basically everything, but I particularly loved reading all kinds of books, writing stories, exploring, examining maps and place names and pretending to be an adult! When I went to school, I did well at most subjects bar Maths, (when they started adding letters to the numbers, I knew I was doomed), so when I got to high school it was no surprise that I enjoyed languages most. With passionate and encouraging teachers for both French and Spanish, I was naturally led towards thinking about a future using these languages. After receiving my A-level exam results, in the Autumn of 2005 I packed my bags and went off to the University of St. Andrews in Scotland to study modern languages which allowed me to spend one abroad in Cádiz, Spain, where I got my first taste of translation by helping a teacher translate some material for a school project. As I had no grounding in the academic principals of translation, I was obviously… clueless. A translation of 200 words took me about 2 days (don’t worry; I’m a bit quicker now!), but I remember feeling drawn to the basic idea of de-constructing a text in one language only to reconstruct it in another. I felt like a code breaker!
Knowing that I would finish my degree just 2 years after, I felt a bit of pressure to carve out my future path. Whilst many of my friends applied for graduate schemes with large corporations, I researched several ideas: teaching (most people assumed I would become a teacher), journalism, conference interpreting and, of course, translation. After gaining some knowledge about all the areas, it would be lovely to tell you that I had systematically reached a measured decision about my career, but alas, I had not. What I was sure of, however, was that I wanted to move to Spain, in particular Barcelona ,despite pleas of “come home”, “we miss you” and “let’s go travelling” from family and friends. After a few days in the city spent frantically sending my CV to all sorts of companies and English academies, thankfully I landed a steady job as an English teacher and linguist. My approach to job-seeking may have been a bit haphazard, and if I could do it again, I’d definitely try to have a job lined up in advance.
Being surrounded by 3 languages, English, Spanish and Catalan was thrilling for me and switching from one language to another and then learning a new one (Catalan) gave me such a buzz. It made me feel even more drawn to becoming a translator, especially as some friends and colleague were asking me to do some translations and some interpreting for them, and I was really enjoying it. After some careful planning, I decided to take a Masters in Translation, Interpreting and Intercultural Studies at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, which opened my mind up to a whole new world; my self-taught concepts went out the window. I learnt valuable lessons about becoming a translator and was supported by professors whose theoretical and practical knowledge was invaluable. I also met some terrific classmates who I am pleased to call friends and colleagues now, namely Martine Hansen, Marta Alvarez, Herminia Paez and Lucía Alvarez Pérez.
After graduating I moved back to Northern Ireland and began to work in a company as a Business Development Executive; a position which allowed me to translate, interpret and use languages in a variety of ways in a business environment. It also gave me the opportunity to learn transferable business skills: the ins and outs of customer service, marketing, lead generation and sales pitching amongst other valuable lessons, which have been paramount in establishing Bella Translations. Whilst working in the company, I would arrive home and start doing some translations in the evening, gradually building up my client base in order to become a full-time freelance translator and I studied for the Diploma in Public Service Interpreting (IoL) at the same time. Combining all of that is not a lifestyle for the faint-hearted.
In November 2014, I finally became a full-time self-employed translator and interpreter. The first few months have thrown up some difficulties, as does the start of any new job. I harbour no doubts that business will get tougher, work-life balance will get more complicated, and I will probably have the odd breakdown. However, for now, I can say that I have never been happier.
Who gets to work at something they love every day? Translators do!
I would love to know how you got started as a freelancer, so please feel free to share your story below in the comments section!