What kind of a year have you had? My 2019’s been strange. As I identified in a previous post, I put my basic agency rates up at the beginning of the year without properly combining this with a marketing effort to ensure I would have enough new direct clients to compensate for the inevitable drop-off in agency work. I paid for this mistake by having more slack periods, when I felt obliged to take on jobs bristling with red flags, and the predictable result has been a year of nightmare projects, some of which I have also described in another post.
But the year has also had its upsides. At the beginning of the year, I took another wine course to improve my expertise in one of my specialist areas. Apart from enjoying it greatly and learning a tremendous amount about wine, I ended up with a Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET to its friends) level 3 certificate. Beyond expert knowledge that you can feed into your translations, another beneficial aspect about doing specialist CPD is the confidence it gives you when dealing with clients. Recently, for example, I went to a wine event where about 100 producers – all potential clients – had samples for tasting. Being able to go up to them, try their wine and know enough to chat to them about it with a reasonable degree of knowledge was something I couldn’t have contemplated without doing the two wine courses I’ve taken (the first one was WSET level 2). The same would apply to any specialist area you could name.
In May I went to my first ITI conference, in Sheffield, which I wrote about in this post. Having joined the ITI fairly recently, I wanted to see what one of its conferences was like, and I was favourably impressed. It was extremely well organised, the quality of the speakers was high, with the likes of David Jemielity and Chris Durban presenting, and it was also a lot of fun. I also had another reason to be there, after Victoria Patience and I were given the chance to present our RevClub project (you can read more about what RevClub is about here). Before we had only given workshops, and speaking in front of such a large audience was a new experience. But apart from one or two timing hiccups (tip: telepathy with a copresenter can be really useful if you find you’re going too fast and need to add in extra material that you cut out earlier in fear of overrunning) it all went magnificently and there was a great deal of interest afterwards in the way our arrangement works.
Spreading the word about RevClub was, in fact, a big theme for 2019, as I wrote in another post. A couple of weeks after Sheffield, I was in Aberdour, near Edinburgh, with RevClub’s other member, Tim Gutteridge, to give an all-day workshop to the ITI’s Scottish network. In a way, this was the opposite kind of experience to the ITI conference. That had been fast, intense and, mostly, involved talking at an audience. This was relaxed and interactive, consisting of much less talking by us and much more activity by our participants. We also had to cater for some translators working out of English – the first time we had had to design activities of this kind. My abiding memory of the day is wandering around the hotel where the event was held listening to the different small groups working on our exercises. Plenty of English was spoken, but here there were some translators speaking French, there they were speaking German, and around the table in the corner they were speaking Russian. It felt as if the RevClub idea really was growing into something bigger and more complex than we could ever have imagined.
In 2018, Tim and Victoria and I had all met for the first time at the MET conference in Girona, where we gave a RevClub workshop. This year, neither of them were at METM19 in Split, and my involvement there was rather different. I’d agreed to coordinate reports on the sessions by those attending them, which we called “chronicles”. My job involved recruiting the chroniclers, making sure we had as many sessions as possible covered and coordinating the reports as they came in, after the conference. I’m not posting a link to them here because they are available only to MET members, but they were a good way for anyone who had missed the conference or someone wanting to get a flavour of a session they hadn’t been able to attend, to catch up on what had been happening.
But a translator cannot live on conferences alone, and although work has been more irregular than I would like this year, there have been some interesting projects. My favourites have included a website for a major museum in Barcelona, a job I’m particularly proud of both because of the work itself and because it was the direct result of a marketing effort of my own, described here, and a book about a historic company in the city where I live produced in conjunction with our local museum. The firm produces anise liqueur and is particularly interesting because it was involved in the birth of marketing, commissioning posters from well-known artists and bringing in a distinctively shaped bottle.
Marketing is definitely something I’m going to have to prioritise in the New Year. For too long I’ve been pushing it to the fringes, working on it at odd hours of the evening or when I’ve got nothing else to do. But I can’t use time as an excuse any more. For personal reasons (my son has just recently started secondary school so we have to be up to see him off every morning for an 8am start) I have more time to work than I used to. However, I’ve been using that time very badly, allowing the work I have to expand and fill it up. My New Year resolution will be to work efficiently enough so I can use this time windfall for marketing. To reinforce this, I will also be prioritising potential client events over any other plans to venture outside the office. Translator events will be taking second place in 2020.
My other resolution will be to take a much tougher line on the type of work I accept. This year I’ve written a couple of posts about projects that have gone wrong – jobs I should never have taken. Next year, even if the result is taking a financial hit. I am going to turn my back on those projects. Any time I gain can be used for the marketing I need to do to redress the balance. I realise this is basic common sense and I should have been applying it all along, but, like many of us, I’m not good at being short of work and I usually prefer to be doing something, provided the pay is reasonable, to doing nothing. But it’s time I looked beyond the short-term financial bottom line towards my own future well-being.
So maybe less work in the short term, but better work, and a strategy to find the clients who are going to bring me more of it. That’s the plan for 2020. Although, as we know, years don’t always work out exactly the way we intend…