Learning from those who share their stories
One of the positive things about the new translators’ group Standing Up, of which I am an administrator, is that it has brought together translators who don’t usually come into contact. This has led to some interesting conversations and interactions, but, at times, it has also brought about a culture clash, and never has this been more evident than when people start talking about success and money.
Some people, it seems, have a problem when others begin talking about how well they’ve done or how much they can earn. Perhaps if it was all just empty boasting I might agree with them, but usually when people talk about their own successes or earning capacity in groups with other translators it’s to make a point: “If I can do it, others can too.”
Whenever I read someone else’s success story I like to start off critically, to make sure I’m not being taken in, but the truth is I don’t find too much “Look at my Porsche” arrogance among translators. Even when people are talking of extremely high rates, I generally don’t find I’m affected by envy either. What I’m much more interested in is trying to learn from what the successful person has got to say.
There are, of course, good reasons why someone might be doing better than I am which I can do nothing about. They might be working in a different language combination or subject areas with greater earning potential. They might have knowledge or experience I’m simply never going to enjoy. But there are usually factors I can learn from or try to replicate in my own business: working methods, ways to look for or deal with clients, ways of doing administrative tasks and even ways of thinking.
Some success factors, of course, I wouldn’t necessarily want to replicate. If people tell me, for example, they’re got where they are by working 18 hours a day, or having to put up with being badly treated by high-paying clients, or doing work I would find shockingly boring, my reaction might well be “Thanks but no thanks”. There is also an issue I’ve discussed before: the question of defining success.
But even if I don’t feel they’re applicable to my situation, I’m grateful to people who show me better ways of doing things and more effective working methods. Maybe I can’t be as successful as they are, for whatever reason, but I still appreciate them sharing their insights, and what doesn’t work for me might well work for someone else.
I’m certainly glad I’ve been able to share the insights and guidance of other better and more successful translators over the past few years. We all find our own approaches, of course, but without models and examples – without people prepared to share their successful ways and methods – we’d all be stuck in our own ruts with little hope of improving our situation.