I’ve finished reading an article entitled « Freelancer or Independent Professional » by Herman Boel. I thought his piece was extremely relevant to translators in today’s globalised world. It actually tackles a topic which is of significance for any self-employed individual: branding and image.
Can you hear the difference between « freelance » and « independent professional »? It turns out I had asked myself the question a while ago. I had come to the conclusion that I preferred calling myself an « independent translator » rather than a « freelancer », without really being able to explain why precisely. The article worded the nuance perfectly well.
You have a boss (or you behave as if you have a boss)
You are your own boss
Technically speaking you are still a self-employed individual. However, unconsciously your approach differs. It seems that « freelancer » bears a slight negative connotation. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that we should stop using it altogether. But, in an industry where competition is fierce and differentiation is really difficult, especially online, every little detail counts. You’re offering your expertise, your service to clients, partners. It is important to act the part. Something doesn’t sit right with you? The rate? deadline? Then, you need to voice your concerns and negotiate until you both reach a win-win decision. That’s the fundamental basis to any solid, sustainable business relationships. Easier said than done? Maybe, especially for newbies. But, it’s necessary if you want to consider this activity on a long-term basis.
My previous post was meant for junior translators fresh out of college who might be looking for some guidance on how to start out in the translation business. I think it is all the more important for them to be aware of this from the start. I’ve been working in the translation industry for almost three years now (which can still be considered junior!) and I’ve only stopped using the word « freelance » quite recently.
You are building a business, YOUR business. You get to decide what you’re selling and how you sell it. Your business is what you make of it. And the way you name it matters a great deal, all the more so as we, translators, are experts with words! What if we tasted our own medecine after all?