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Working From Home as a Translator

By Anne-Marijn Küthe

My story:
When my son was very young I worked as a conference interpreter. It’s what I did before I had him, and I believed I would happily continue. How wrong I was! The long days away from home soon started to take their toll, I missed him terribly when I was not with him and I felt guilty constantly: towards my son in the first place, towards my colleague interpreters and towards my clients, as my heart was not in the work any longer. It took a bit of time and a lot of perseverance but I converted my skills and became a translator (instead of orally interpreting speeches I now translate written texts, which is something I can do from home).

The investment needed:
The investment needed was not huge: a good computer and printer, a fax machine and a good number of linguistic resources, such as dictionaries. Please note: it also took a while before I had enough clients to live from my translation work! In the meantime I continued interpreting.

The skills needed:
A translator obviously needs linguistic skills in at least two languages, but must also have a sound knowledge of the culture involved. Being good with the computer helps, too.

The training required:
I have a degree in translation, but I know many translators who learned various languages due to personal circumstances (having bilingual parents, spending their youth abroad and so on) who are excellent at what they do. A true love for language and a willingness to keep up that knowledge are key.

Handy hint:
When starting out, it’s fine to be an all-round translator. This gives you the opportunity to find out more about your specific strengths and interests. After a while, specializing can make a real difference. I am extremely specialized: I am a legal translator and almost only work in the field of intellectual property law. I think that’s the main reason why I am never ever short of work.

Being a mom and a translator:
I love my work, but I am a mom first and foremost. This means that I have a few rules to make sure work does not overrule things in this house, such as: no work on Wednesday (on that day, my son only goes to school in the morning), switching off the computer when I go to collect my son from school and involving my son in my business in a way, by talking to him about sharp deadlines or important projects. I have a study (home office), which also helps me set up boundaries between my private and my professional life.

Advice for moms who want to try their hand at translating:

  • Write down areas of expertise you would like to become active in: the legal field or the medical field for instance.
  • Take stock of the equipment you already have and that might be useful (such as a desktop computer and a lap top computer) and draw up a list of what you might need to acquire.
  • The Internet is a wonderful source of information and inspiration, at a click of a mouse.
  • Get in touch with moms who are also translators and ask them for handy hints.
  • Make sure people can reach you easily.

For more information about my translation services visit www.vertaalslag.net (it has an English section). I also have a site on working from home: www.businessanddiapers.com

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