What I learned in October 2016

calendar-1712508_1280It’s nearly December now and here I am just getting around to writing about last month. Following weeks of working on one project after another, and being lucky enough for clients to agree to wait in the queue, I’m finally enjoying a bit of breathing space. Hopefully it won’t signal a famine period for me as I am only free because I couldn’t make the deadline for one largish project and didn’t fancy anything else I was offered.

Putting rates up is a tough choice if your work flow sometimes resembles a trickle or even alarmingly dries up for a while

Judging by the results of a survey run by Simon Akhrameev (published in April, but retweeted on Twitter in October), a whopping 48.5% cannot find enough work. I imagine that’s why almost 40% are not satisfied with their rates. Putting them up, which many of us will be considering right now as the year comes to an end, is a tough choice if your work flow sometimes resembles a trickle or even alarmingly dries up for a while. It’s certainly reminded me that I shouldn’t be complacent just because I’ve been immersed in a busy spell; I must actively try to expand my client circles to ensure any “unemployed” stretches don’t last longer than the period of time I need to rest and catch up with everything.

Ripples of discontent are also beginning to pervade the post-conference glow (read Paula Arturo’s unmissable post on this subject). Conferences have proliferated in recent years, and, as I mentioned in September’s post, you can follow the action live on Twitter. The sheer volume of sessions on offer has emboldened many to give presenting a go. That’s no bad thing. Until the outcome’s bad. Personally, my fear of making a complete hash of it will prevent me from signing up to speak anytime soon (besides, everything I have to share is already here on the blog). Despite firmly believing everyone has something of value to say (it’s one of the reasons why I encourage guest blogging), if you’re going to put yourself out there on a public stage in front of colleagues who have paid to listen to you, you absolutely must provide them with your über-researched and über-rehearsed best.

the instagurus in our profession are also coming under fire

With translation work often hard to come by, rates stagnating or, worse, falling, and conference sessions exposing a frightening lack of substance or even common sense on occasion, the instagurus in our profession are also coming under fire. The term usually refers to colleagues making some of their living from charging translators and interpreters for (occasionally dubious) content that can mostly be found elsewhere free of charge. Because many who start out with a conference session or two then go on to give webinars, courses and write books.

Under no circumstances am I saying that everyone who does this is spouting nonsense or is unhelpful. Far from it. But as more and more jump onto the CPD-selling bandwagon, we do need to become more discerning in how we spend our time and money and ensure we are making wise choices (please see Oliver Lawrence’s post and read Kevin Hendzel’s comments). As Simon Berrill said a few months ago, referring to blog posts rather than CPD specifically (although as Paula Arturo pointed out, the same principle applies to other aspects), we must learn to distinguish the e-wheat from the cyberchaff. The shift from focusing on business issues is already beginning to happen and we must now continue to improve our core translating and writing skills because doing our job well is what will gain us repeat clients, raise standards across the board and ultimately improve our bottom line.

This ties in with another wonderful article I read during the month by psychologist Dr Melissa Weinberg. Talking about the potential harm positive motivational quotes can cause, she urges us not to give advice or information on subjects we know nothing about and to show more respect and sensitivity towards others’ situations.

Some people who do know what they’re talking about, however, are the translation school staff at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. While preparing some entries for the Non-European MA page because I published a guest review post by Deepti Limaye on the blog about the MATI at the MIIS, I came across this great list of ten ways to prepare to be a student at the institute. Regardless of our current professional status, I think we could all benefit from reading it as it contains some excellent ideas for improving our craft.

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