Looking at the Bright Side of Freelance Translation: An interview with Nicole Y. Adams​ and Andrew Morris​ 5

bright_sideSome translators live in a world full of problems. It can sometimes seem as if things are very grim indeed, and it’s tempting to sit idle, whinge and complain.” Such is certainly not the case for freelance translators Nicole Y. Adams and Andrew Morris. In preparation for their upcoming e-book, The Bright Side of Freelance Translation, the two have been gathering feedback from fellow freelancers on the positive aspects of working in the industry. In today’s post, I had a chance to speak with Nicole and Andrew about The Bright Side of Freelance Translation, the motivation behind the project, and, based on the responses they’ve received so far, if they envision a bright future for the translation industry.

MK: First things first: How did you two get started in the translation industry?

AMI started out as a language teacher then a teacher trainer, spending 20 years in education, but as I moved up the ladder and found myself one day at a desk-job at the Ministry of Education in Bangladesh, I realised I had strayed too far from the things that make me tick. A change in life situation also meant it was time to reassess. Some bright spark suggested translation, so I applied to do an excellent online distance course while still in Bangladesh (focusing on the art of translation itself rather than the business side) and found I was hooked. The day I arrived in France in May 2009, I had lots of enthusiasm but no clients, no leads and a CV that was totally empty.

NYA: I originally studied law, but realised fairly early on that I wasn’t meant to be a lawyer. I went on to study linguistics, politics and history, and worked in corporate roles for a number of years. Then in 2003 I stumbled across an ad by a translation agency looking for a document to be translated, which I was promptly tasked with after contacting them. At that point, I had no idea that there was such a thing as a ‘translation industry’ and that you could make a living from translation. But once I had completed that first translation (and the cheque, much to my delight, had promptly arrived in the post), I was hooked immediately and started to do a lot of research – and I mean a lot!

I built my business part-time for a couple of years and took the plunge to full-time once my part-time earnings were higher than my income in my full-time job at the time. After a couple of years in the business, I flew to Germany to take the state exam as an external candidate in order to become a certified translator, because I thought it was important to back up my practical experience with a recognised qualification. Today, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else but translating.

MK: What prompted the creation of The Bright Side of Freelance Translation, and how did you two decide to collaborate on this project together?NYA

NYA: Last year I published Diversification in the Language Industry, which features almost 50 translators from all over the world. When I read their contributions, it struck me how successful and content they were with being translators, and how different their (and my own) experience was from the many horror stories and complaints I was reading in translator fora and mailing lists every day. It seemed that the negative experiences, which no doubt exist, were given so much more attention and air time than the positive aspects of our profession that the new generation of translators was at risk of getting the wrong impression altogether. I felt strongly that more focus needs to be given to translators’ positive experiences and success stories to demonstrate that translation is and will remain a very viable career, and that it is up to us to make that happen.

When Andrew burst onto the scene at the end of last year, it was clear immediately that were on the same wavelength and that he shared this positive outlook and can-do attitude. We decided that something needs to be done to give a voice back to those content and successful translators who do not identify with all the woes we hear about every day – and the idea for The Bright Side of Freelance Translation was born.

AM: For this we need to fast forward 5 years to 2014. I think it was a natural coming together of like minds. We both noticed each other in the virtual world. I’d bought Nicole’s book (see above) and had already begun to experiment with diversification, particularly in the area of what might broadly be called training, exploring the idea of webinars and making frequent posts on the Watercooler forum on Facebook. Nicole picked up on what I was posting and felt we were on the same page. We then got in touch initially just to express that shared attitude. Over the weeks it began to develop into a need to balance out what seemed to us to be a dominant focus (in certain quarters, if not in the heads of most translators) on problems and complaints.

MK: What kind of response have you received so far from the translation community about this project?

NYA & AMThe response has been overwhelmingly positive. Many translators have made very encouraging comments on various fora on Facebook, Linkedin (including the ProZ.com group) and Twitter. There seems to be a shared sense out there that our hunch was right, there is a need for an alternative voice and many translators have felt, so they say, underrepresented in the vital virtual fora because of the predominance of prophets of doom.

On the other hand, there have been criticisms too, and we welcome those, as they help us to reposition and clarify what we are doing.

One such criticism has been to compare our project to some kind of ‘Disney’ approach, ignoring very real problems and painting everything in bright and infantile colours. While useful, such comments display a fundamental misunderstanding of what the project is about. At no point does it attempt to say there are no problems. What it does is to focus on solutions and the empowerment of individual translators to position themselves as agents rather than victims in their own lives and start to make changes in their attitudes and their working practices.  

AMMK: What do you two hope to accomplish through the Bright Side project?

AMThe initial aim has already been achieved. To give a voice to a more balanced approach to our job which celebrates the freedoms, the privilege of being to work with a tool we love (language) and on fascinating texts. Momentum has been generated and I think a certain balance has been restored even at this early stage, in the collective mindset. Even commentators who have previously thrived on pointing out the downsides of translation are now forced to position themselves in counter-distinction to something, rather than simply ruling the roost. They may still criticise the project of course, but they cannot ignore it.

The forthcoming e-book will further crystallise the project and represent a collective project which focuses attention on what can be done. It’s the result of a considerable investment of time by all the contributors and of both time and money by Nicole and me. But it’s free of charge of course, as we felt it was important to avoid any accusation of making money out of this. The ultimate reward is the groundswell of support and the profile the project has achieved already.

NYA: It is important to reverse the current trend towards negativity and doom and gloom. We want to showcase the success of many of our colleagues and share their positive approach to the profession. We certainly don’t want to sweep problems under the carpet, but simply complaining without taking any action to resolve the matter is pointless. We’d like to focus on solutions to challenges freelance translators may be faced with at one point or another in their career, and foster a stronger community spirit. I feel strongly that it is important to support one another, share information and most of all maintain a positive, professional vibe in our industry. I would like clients to look at translator fora and be impressed by the professional discussions, positive outlook and mutual support among translators, rather than witness in-fighting and endless complaints about themselves (the clients), because this is potentially damaging to the businesses of freelance translators anywhere.

MK: Some might say that rates and other working conditions of freelance translators today are not under their control. Do you think that is true? 

AM: No I don’t. My own experience in 5 years, having started out with an empty CV, has shown me that ultimately, everything is under your control. It is certainly true that there are agencies out there which are unscrupulous, cheap and bad payers. And that there are bulk market industry players which impose low rates. But the beauty of freelance life is that you are free to choose whether or not to work with such players. I can’t speak for translators in China or Egypt, where conditions may well be different, but the vast majority of translators we interact with are in Western or Westernised countries, and they have choices to make. It may take time: you cannot set up on Day 1 declaring you will only work with premium clients. Or rather you can, but you need a healthy bank balance as you establish yourself. But as you learn the ropes, and assuming (and this is crucial) that you are good at what you do, everything from your clients, your rates, your specialisms and your working practices are up to you. The problem, it seems to me, is that for reasons which go way beyond the translation world, a number of translators are unable or unwilling to realise that. Facing up to the choices you have to make entails facing challenges, taking responsibility for your own actions and realising you are in control, which isn’t always comfortable, as there’s no-one left to blame once you head down that road.

NYA: Absolutely not, unless you choose to work for fly-by-night ‘agencies’ (or rather ‘translation brokers’) at the bottom end of the market who are focused on nothing but price. For anyone else, that is professional translators, rates and working conditions are entirely up to them. As freelance translators, we are professionals who set our own rates, and clients are free to take them or leave them. The biggest problem lies within our own ranks. It is not the big, bad agencies who drive prices down, but our colleagues who are willing to accept low rates or even offer them on their own accord.

Just recently, a colleague here in Australia quoted a very reasonable $40 for a certified certificate translation, and the client declined, proudly stating that another translator had quoted only $15! So who is to blame here, the client or the other translator? That’s why ‘colleague education’ is so important, and I feel The Bright Side is a step in the right direction, as it shows new or doubting freelance translators that it is possible to charge decent rates and work in favourable conditions. Sometimes it just takes the courage to go for it – and reading about others’ success stories might just give them the nudge they need.

MK: Do you see a bright future in translation for freelancers? If so, what indications do you see of this?

AM: I see a bright future for freelancers who realise the power they have in their hands and work hard on their skills, knowledge and attitudes. Translators who take risks and are prepared to face up to challenges, even despite occasional setbacks, will always survive and even thrive, as those are life skills which transcend any bright_side_1particular industry. We need to be aware of changes, to move with the times, but above all we need to focus on the freedoms, the ability to make decisions, the autonomy that we enjoy. To be freelance is a great gift. It’s a maverick position and it’s a power to be respected, not thrown away.

NYA: I am convinced the future will be very bright for those colleagues who position themselves appropriately in the market and establish strong reputations as specialist translators in a certain niche. Generalists will fall prey to the increased level of automation, the crowdsourcing and the decreasing focus on quality at the low end of the market that we have started to see. But specialised translators who present themselves strongly and forge long-term relationships with companies and boutique agencies will become very sought after and enjoy thriving businesses. Translation buyers will appreciate the high-end service at the top end of the market and be willing to pay for it. As Andrew said, it is up to us as individual translators to rise to the challenges along the way and recognise that success lies in our own hands.

MK: What advice would you give to someone considering a career in translation?

AM: I’d say for the first year or two, take on a variety of projects. Try out different clients and agencies and see what fits. And use the plethora of advice available on the fora to find out about going rates, practices and taboos. And then, when you begin to find your feet, start to shape your job so that it begins to reflect your own unique and individual situation, needs, skills passions and inspirations, working towards the point where your job is a close reflection of you, and where you enjoy what you do on a daily basis.

NYA: I’d recommend gaining in-house experience first; preferably not as a translator, but as a translation project manager to learn all the tools and tricks of the trade, or in your (future) area of specialisation (e.g. as a marketing assistant if you plan to specialise in marketing translations). It’s also essential to do your research and read as much as you can about running a translation business. Today there is no excuse, as there are so many fora, courses and mentoring schemes for freelance translators all over the world. I’d also start networking, and join a professional association and attend its events. Then of course it’s a couple of years of very hard work to establish yourself and build a solid client base. In my experience, the key is to gather testimonials from happy clients as soon as you can. After that, look after your existing clients and try to form long-term relationships. This will allow you to reject any offers that are not in your area of expertise, that don’t match your rate expectations, that come from clients you don’t gel with, or that you simply don’t feel like doing. The result will be a thriving business that you love, with very happy clients.

bright_side_1Learn more about The Bright Side of Freelance Translation by visiting http://www.brightxl8.com/

You can also contribute to the project by sharing examples of your own positive experiences as a freelance language professional here: http://www.brightxl8.com/#!contact/c11m6

Radio interview about Translators without Borders with Enrique Cavalitto (Spanish) Reply

ProZ.com staff member and Translators without Borders board member and Translation Workspace Director Enrique Cavalitto was interviewed today on Argentine radio regarding origin of, and the work being done by, Translators without Borders in support of humanitarian causes around the world. If you speak or understand Spanish, the interview is only 21 minutes long and well worth a listen.

Interview with Enrique Cavalitto about Translators without Borders, Radio Maria, January 23rd, 2014

Click here to listen:


Click here to download: Enrique_Cavalitto_TwB_RadioMaria_23-01-14

(right click and “Save as”)

Source: Radio Maria

Meet the speaker: Nicholas Rose 1

Nicholas_RoseMeet Nicholas Rose – a chemical engineer by education, former freelance translator, and current Translation Manager with Datawords’ branch in Paris. Nicholas will be presenting on the topic “Optimize your collaboration with a translation agency” at the upcoming conference in Biarritz, France, which will kick off next Friday, September 27.

The interview

MK: What was the most important obstacle for you to overcome in building your career as a language professional?

NR: One might expect the answer to be lack of qualifications. (I have a degree in chemical engineering and only o-levels in languages.) But in fact this has not been the case, though I think it would be a barrier for entry into certain lucrative sectors, such as working for the EU. I have come across no real barrier since becoming a salaried translator but when I was freelance, my biggest problem by far was payment. I spent as much time on chasing payments as in carrying out the work. The culprits were generally smallish companies, but well known – and supposedly of good repute – in  their sectors and therefore not in any financial difficulties. Just accountants “trying to be clever”…

MK: What is the greatest issue facing translators working in France or with the French language?

NR: Understanding (the) French! :)

A Portuguese colleague in a previous (non-translation) job dryly summed up working in France: “Why make things complicated when you can make them… very complicated?”

More seriously, a few years ago I would have replied without hesitation: the URSSAF? But my main dealings with that body were in 1994 and 1999 and already, in those five years, the improvement was considerable, so maybe things run smoothly today for freelancers. However, a problem that persists with the URSSAF, as with French institutions in general, is their tunnel vision in thinking that other countries’ administrations are mirror-images of their own. You come across this everywhere, from the five-box postcode spaces on preformatted envelopes to requests for SIRET numbers and APE codes in official information requests concerning foreign countries. The consequences for us as an agency, in concrete terms, have been the imposition of hefty fines for “not having made sufficiently exhaustive checks” on freelance translators who were cheating the system (living in France but declaring themselves resident in Germany to avoid charges). Worse than the fines has been the setting up of such checking procedures, in which the URSSAF provides no assistance whatsoever but just expects those wonderful “justificatifs” à la française. Apart from the endless hours lost in trying to identify equivalents in various countries, this has even cost us some translators.

Biarritz_conferenceMK: Any client horror stories? (without naming names)

NR: In general, the translation business is pretty civilized, suffering only from a general ignorance on the part of the clientele about what translation involves, and thus unrealistic expectation in terms of price and delivery. I encountered far more horror stories in my other life as an engineer. One event did strike me, though. I was working late one evening trying to clear up a few jobs, when a stressed project manager rang me with a translation “request” from a (household-name)  client, just received (at 8 p.m.): an hour’s work, for delivery that same evening or the client would stop working with us!

MK: What is your prediction for the future of human translation?

NR: In certain fields, those where people appreciate the work involved and are prepared to pay, I believe human translation has a solid future. Neither global languages (with the possible exception of simplified English in restricted high-technology/high-risk sectors) nor machine translations will pose a serious threat, because neither will live up to expectations. However, in fields where people want price at a price (industry, instructions for use, downmarket catalogues and brochures, etc.) human translators might be squeezed out as rates become downright offensive and the quality of machine translations improves to become tolerable to those for whom money counts more than image or quality.

MK: At the upcoming conference in Biarritz, France, you will be presenting on the topic of “Optimize your collaboration with a translation agency.” What can attendees to this session expect to learn?

NR: Helping freelance translators to:

  • gain a better understanding of today’s agencies (translation yesterday => localization, CMS, SEO/SEM, online media, e-reputation etc. today) and their expectations, perhaps revising a few preconceived ideas
  • adapt their working approach accordingly, if necessary, in order to improve client satisfaction and relations
  • appreciate the health risks associate with working in front of a computer and thus avoid problems that can ruin a self-employed worker.

The event

Benefit from presentations like Nicholas’ at the upcoming conference in Biarritz, France, which will take place on September 27 and 28.

The list of speakers for this event can be found here: http://www.proz.com/conference/449?page=speakers

You can register for this event from the main conference page: http://www.proz.com/conference/449

Brazil conference speaker interview series: Lorena Leandro 1

Meet the speaker


Lorena Leandro is the subject of the sixth installment of this multi-part interview series featuring some of the presenters of the upcoming conference in Recife, Brazil, which will take place in just a few days. Lorena graduated from the Universidade Católica de Santos with a BA in Translation, and has been working as a translator since 2005. She specializes in the areas of IT, marketing, and business. Lorena is also a member of the ProZ.com Certified PRO Network.

You can learn more about Lorena by visiting her blog – “Ao Principiante” – which is aimed at providing tips and advice to translators who are just starting out in the industry.

The interview

MK: How did you get started in translation/interpretation?

LL: When I was 16, I was looking for more information on college courses in a Student’s Guide when I came across a brief text about the work of translators. The year after that I went to college and, in 2004, I graduated in English-Portuguese Translation. After that, however, I had no idea what to expect of the translation market and started a Social Communication college course, but gave up two years later. Eventually, I plucked up the courage and became a full time translator, with no regrets.

MK: What would you consider the most important challenge facing freelance translators or interpreters today?

LL: Many freelance translators find it difficult to stand for their prices and professional practices. Saying no to bad market practices can be difficult and frustrating, but it’s the only way to protect our profession.

MK: What advice would you give freelancers seeking to expand their client base?

LL: I believe flexibility is the key word. It’s important to know how to listen to the clients, and how to communicate with them. Also, to keep pace with new technologies and be open to new opportunities, even if they are a bit different to what we are used to. Always be open to learning something new, whether it’s using a new tool or specializing in a new subject field.

MK: What one piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in translation or interpretation?

LL: I always say that being a beginner does not mean being an amateur. Therefore, it’s crucial to have a professional attitude from day one, but always be willing to learn from more experienced translators.

MK: You will be giving a session at the upcoming conference in Recife, Brazil, called “O tradutor monotarefa: um novo conceito de produtividade pessoal e profissional.” What can attendees to this session expect to learn?

LL: I believe multitasking is an overrated practice and can seriously compromise our professional and personal lives. We can’t be truly present in what we do if we divide our attention among multiple tasks. I hope I can show my colleagues a new and different way to set their professional and personal priorities by stopping multitasking and focusing on one thing at a time, through a new productivity approach.

The event

This interview features one of the many speakers who will be presenting at the Fifth ProZ.com conference in Brazil, which will kick off this Saturday in Recife. If you’re interested in attending this event, it’s not too late to register:


Brazil conference speaker interview series: Fernanda Rocha 1

Fernanda_RochaMeet the speaker

The fifth installment of the Brazil conference interview series features translator, interpreter, and ProZ.com moderator Fernanda Rocha. As part of her presentation at the upcoming conference in Recife, Brazil, Fernanda will be sharing some advice on how to get the most out of the tools and opportunities available at ProZ.com.

The interview

MK: How did you get started in translation/interpretation?

FR: I decided I wanted to be a translator when I was in the first year of high school. I then focused on my goal and started reading and studying about it. I got started as a professional translator by translating internal documents of the cement factory where I worked and, as time went by, I began to offer my services to local companies and to expand my client base.

In 2002 I went to college and now I have a BA in Translation and I am always taking extra courses to improve my skills.

MK: What would you consider the most important challenge facing freelance translators or interpreters today?

FR: For me, it has always been the idea many people have that translating is not an actual job and that anyone who speaks a foreign language or who has lived in another country can do this without further efforts. People don’t actually realize how complex our job is. Most of them don’t take into consideration that, if we have access to many things in our native language nowadays it is because a translator was there, studying and working hard to get the job done. (Not to mention those who think our job is to paste the text on Google Translator, click the button, and send the translated version back to them.)

MK: What advice would you give freelancers seeking to expand their client base?

FR: The internet makes it quite simple to get in contact with clients from all over the world. Create a good online professional profile and advertise your services. Take advantage of what websites like ProZ.com have to offer and start building a solid image online. Keep in mind that your profile is like your “business card.” It has to call your client’s attention and make him or her interested in contacting you.

MK: What one piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in translation or interpretation?

FR: Read. Be a very attentive reader. And research. Practice your research techniques, learn new ones and do not stop improving them. In my honest opinion, these are the basic skills a translator has to have. I know it might sound silly but believe me, laziness cannot be one of the characteristics of a good professional in our area.

MK: You will be giving a session at the upcoming conference in Recife, Brazil, called “‘Fiz um cadastro no ProZ.com: e agora?!’ Dicas sobre como aproveitar ao máximo o que o ProZ.com lhe oferece.” What can attendees to this session expect to learn?

FR: As the title itself says, I’m going to show attendees some of the interesting tools and opportunities ProZ.com has to offer, and give tips on how site users/members can take full advantage of them in a way that will help them build a solid profile, find new clients, among other things.

The event

Only four more days until the Fifth ProZ.com Conference in Brazil! If you’re interested in attending this event, it’s not too late. Just visit the conference page and sign up today.

Brazil conference speaker interview series: Bianca Bold 1

Meet the speakerBianca_Bold

Today’s installment of the Brazil conference speaker interview series features Bianca Bold. Bianca has been working in the industry for over ten years, holds an MA in Translation Studies from York University, and has been working in the field of film subtitling since 2006. Bianca will be sharing her knowledge of the field of audiovisual translation during her presentation entitled “A globalização do audiovisual: uma projeção para muito além do cinema” at the upcoming event in Recife, Brazil.

The interview

MK: How did you get started in translation/interpretation?

BB: I started teaching English at a very young age, but I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do for life. One of the options I had at university was to major in English–Portuguese translation – so I said, “Why not?”, since I had already done a few translations and enjoyed it. This was back in 2000. Little by little I started getting more translation clients and teaching fewer classes. The full transition happened in about 2005, when I decided to dedicate my time exclusively to translations. I participated then in a very active forum of Brazilian translators and interpreters, and they taught me a great deal about the market, professionalism, networking, etiquette, you name it. I wouldn’t have made it this far if it weren’t for them. A bunch of participants are now a solid group of friends who interact regularly via Skype and Facebook. Constant networking with great professionals has opened a lot of doors for me.

MK: What would you consider the most important challenge facing freelance translators or interpreters today?

BB: I’m not sure this is the most important, but it’s a big one in my opinion: knowing how to establish oneself in the market as a well-paid professional. There’s no doubt that we have a multifaceted market, in which there are indeed many clients paying peanuts and relying on very low quality standards. On the other hand, there are thousands of end clients (and even agencies) willing to pay premium rates for top-notch translation services. I believe it’s a choice a professional has to make: which market are you going to tackle? Then go for it, market yourself accordingly, invest in your continuous development, network with the right crowd… the possibilities are endless. It’s certainly not as simple as it may sound; it’s challenging to maintain this course. But I think professional translators and interpreters should know that this premium market does exist and that they can raise their game and achieve better working conditions, instead of just complaining uselessly.

MK: What advice would you give freelancers seeking to expand their client base?

BB: I’ve just mentioned two strategies that have worked like a charm for me: networking with the right people and focusing on continuous development as a professional. I can recall two milestones in my career. First, I became a much better professional and expanded my client base immensely by participating in online discussion lists, which to this day is part of my regular routine. Second, I became an ATA member and began attending their annual conference, as well as other professional events. The benefits of this are many: learning a lot, making incredible contacts, establishing new partnerships, working for great agencies, and much more. Freelancers in general need to get out there and make themselves known in the market. Appearing frequently in these environments with a positive, professional attitude, and interacting with great professionals, will make other influential people remember your name, your face, your specialties, and eventually hire you or refer you to someone in need.

MK: What one piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in translation or interpretation?

BB: Don’t be pushy. Note that I’ve mentioned we should keep a “positive, professional attitude” when networking. The way you interact with colleagues and the way people see you, both online and offline, will influence HOW WELL you’re remembered and HOW you’re remembered. No one wants to be remembered as the “clueless guy who distributes his résumé or business card to everybody and their dog,” or “the lazy girl who keeps posting silly translation questions on the forum, instead of researching herself.” There are many great posts about professional etiquette, and I strongly believe every newbie should take time to read and study the subject.

MK: You will be giving a session at the upcoming conference in Recife, Brazil, called “A globalização do audiovisual: uma projeção para muito além do cinema.” What can attendees to this session expect to learn?

BB: Although I’m the only speaker in this session, I prepared the material together with my business partner, Carolina Alfaro de Carvalho, a reference in audiovisual translation in Brazil. Our main purpose is to break down stigmas and stereotypes in the realm of audiovisual translation. Many think of audiovisual translation as limited to the entertainment industry (subtitling or dubbing for cinema, DVDs, TV, etc.), and restricted to young, specialized translators who get paid very low rates and produce questionable quality, among other generalizations that do not always hold true. In fact, there is a strong demand for audiovisual translation in the corporate sector which is not usually seen by the general public. This sector is making extensive use of multimedia resources and requires specialized translators. We’ve put together several examples to illustrate our points and, hopefully, make attendees look at this translation submarket as something that can be very profitable and beneficial for translators who invest in learning about the intricacies of audiovisual translation.

The event

This is the fourth installment of the multi-part interview series featuring speakers of the upcoming conference in Recife, Brazil.


Stay tuned for the next post in this series which will highlight the responses of conference presenter and ProZ.com moderator Fernanda Rocha.

Brazil conference speaker interview series: Branca Vianna 1

Branca_ViannaMeet the speaker

Today’s installment of the Brazil conference speaker interview series highlights the responses of Branca Vianna, who has been working as a conference interpreter since 1990. Branca will be speaking on her professional experience and offer advice to aspiring – as well as current – conference interpreters as part of her presentation at the upcoming event in Recife.

The interview

MK: How did you get started in translation/interpretation?

BV: I trained as an interpreter in college. It was one of the majors available to undergraduates who were studying Languages and Literature at PUC-Rio. When I started college I had no idea what interpretation was, but a friend was taking the course and suggested I give it a try, since I had lived in the US as a child, could speak fluent English and was disappointed with my choice in major, which had originally been Brazilian and Portuguese literature. I took her advice and never looked back. I never really had any other profession. My friend is also still working as an interpreter in Rio – we often work together.

MK: What would you consider the most important challenge facing freelance translators or interpreters today?

BV: I think the most important challenges are the highly competitive market and the need for constantly updating your skills, both professional skills and marketing skills. Social networks have made marketing yourself easier, but keeping up with all this marketing is also very time consuming, and can take away from the main event, which should be working on your languages and preparing for conferences.

MK: What advice would you give freelancers seeking to expand their client base?

BV: My advice would be to use social networks as much as possible, to become digitally literate, but to not forget that none of that will matter if, once you land a job, you don’t know the terminology, don’t know how to behave at a conference, haven’t kept up your B and C languages (and even A language) and just bomb in the booth. Clients do not give second chances very often, and neither do chief interpreters.

MK: What one piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in translation or interpretation?

BV: To work hard in keeping up your skills once you are out of interpreting school. Learning never ends for interpreters. Continue to read and listen to your podcasts, just like your teachers taught you to, practice consecutive on your own, record yourself every once in a while, try to attend classes at your alma mater if work is scarce just so your interpreting doesn’t get rusty. In short, do everything you can to keep in shape. It’s slow going in the beginning, but keep at it and you will succeed. We’ve all been there and you are not alone.

MK: You will be giving a session at the upcoming conference in Recife, Brazil, called “O profissional de interpretação no país da gambiarra.” What can attendees to this session expect to learn?

BV: They can expect to learn about the difference between professionals and amateurs and why it matters in the world of interpreting.

The event

This is the third installment of the multi-part speaker interview series featuring the presenters of the Fifth ProZ.com conference in Brazil, which will be held on August 24th and 25th in Recife.

To learn more about this event and register to attend, please visit http://www.proz.com/conference/400