mentoring for interpreters

5 Ways to Collaborate With Other T&I Freelancers

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Sometimes we get into the habit of putting our heads down to work and not coming up for air. But perhaps just as important as working hard to grow in our profession is taking the time to develop relationships with others who do what we do for a living.

One of the ways we can do this is to collaborate! Not only does collaborating help you to grow in your craft, but it could very well open the door to new opportunities, even if that isn't your primary intention for the starting a collaboration.

Here are 5 ways to collaborate with other T&I freelancers to grow in your career.

1. Attend client-facing conferences together.

This can be a really wonderful way to work with a colleague in a strategic way. When you find someone who is willing to attend a conference with you in one of your areas of specialization, you can benefit from this experience both in the long term and the short term.

Split up at the event and talk to as many people as you can. Think of one another as your "wingperson" throughout the conference weekend. By pairing up with a colleague at client-facing events, you can promote your own business, as well as theirs, more widely. Circle back to one another every few hours and share ideas, contact information for possible leads, notes to follow up with certain people or companies, etc.

2. Write an article together.

This might be one way to collaborate that most people don't think about. However, when you write an article on a given topic related to your area of specialization or language pair, you are often seen by readers as an authority on that topic.

Split up the work involved in pitching and writing the article. Decide who will do what part of the research and writing process, benefit from editing one another's work, and enjoy seeing your names together in writing. Then share the article with your colleagues and clients!

3. Present together.

This may be another rarely considered form of collaboration among colleagues. Let's say you live near a colleague who is also a translator/interpreter. Take a look at the organizations in your local region and pinpoint a few venues where you could propose a presentation together, including local conferences, chamber of commerce gatherings, local "lunch and learn" events, etc. Just like with the article idea in #2, split up the work involved: pitching, preparing the outline of the presentation, putting slides together, preparing and printing handouts or marketing materials, etc.

After your presentation, split up and talk to as many attendees as you can. Regroup after the presentation and Q&A portion to share notes and ideas for follow-up.

4. Join forces and pitch to similar clients.

Do you know someone who works in the same language pair(s) and specialization(s) as you? Consider becoming a translator/editor team and pitching to clients in the same industry. By embracing a collaboration over competition mentality, you can reach more potential clients and benefit from each other's legwork. When you pick up a new client from this process, hire your colleague to edit your work as part of the scope of the project, and vice versa.

Even if you don't have a close colleague who works in the same language pair(s) and specialization(s), you can still find a colleague who you can refer work to whenever a client inquires about a project you don't feel particularly qualified to handle. When you begin referring work to colleagues, they will remember your kindness and will often return the favor.

5. Volunteer together.

A lot of us meet colleagues who we become friends with simply from volunteering together. If you're a member of a local, regional or national association, consider volunteering a few hours a month with the goal of promoting the profession and meeting like-minded colleagues. I can tell you from my own experience that I have found so many colleagues to collaborate with over the years, and most of them are people I've met through professional volunteer activities.

Other ways to collaborate with T&I colleagues

  • Mentor one another. Let's say that you want to learn something new in your area of specialization, or you might want to establish yourself in a new one. You may have a colleague who could mentor you. In exchange, you could offer to pay this person for their time or mentor them in something you are particularly well skilled in. Another option is to find a mentor through your local, regional or national translators/interpreters association. Whatever you choose, try to find a mentoring program that is mutually beneficial for both the mentor and mentee.

  • Be each other's accountability partner. Is there something you'd like to do in your business this year? I'm guessing there are others who would like to reach certain professional or business goals as well. Look for someone in the same or a similar stage of their career and offer to be one another's accountability partner. Check in with and support one another on a regular basis. Brainstorm new ideas together, and continue to build your professional relationship with that person.

  • Host a social/learning event together for other colleagues. Is there a topic you'd like to learn about that would lend well to a one-day workshop style event? My guess is that if you want to learn about a topic, there are others in your region (or even virtually!) who would like to do the same. Partner with a colleague to organize an event, and invite others to join you to learn about this topic, share their professional experience and exchange advice on a given topic.

I recently heard about this idea from a colleague in France who attended an event hosted by another colleague as part of a larger T&I association. She told me that it was very well organized, and the topic (Machine Translation) drew several attendees in the area. If you're thinking of organizing an event like this on a specific topic, check out this Speaking of Translation podcast episode to hear about the event Eve Bodeux organized for her local translators association colleagues on technology for translators.

There are countless ways to collaborate with other T&I freelancers. If you find yourself feeling stuck or on the verge of burnout, now might be the perfect time to get that extra boost of energy from joining forces with a colleague.

And if you're not sure who that person could be, put out a "call" on Twitter or elsewhere for another serious freelancer who has similar goals. It's doable! And you might just find that you'll meet new people in this process or become closer to a colleague you've already admired and respected for some time. Win-win!

Have you collaborated with other colleagues before? What was your experience, and would you recommend it to others?

How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome as a Translator or Interpreter

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Imposter Syndrome. Everyone has it at some point in their life and career. Even the most successful translators and interpreters experience imposter syndrome from time to time. It's simply a part of being human.

In case you're not already familiar with this term, imposter syndrome is the fear that we are not good enough at something we set out to do or that we are asked to do, coupled with a fear of being called out as a "fraud". Psychology Today notes, "Not an actual disorder, the term was coined by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978, when they found that despite having adequate external evidence of accomplishments, people with imposter syndrome remained convinced that they don’t deserve the success they have."

Whether it's a tricky translation job or an interpreting assignment that doesn't exactly fit into our typical wheelhouse of assignments, we all have challenging aspects of our work from time to time, as no two days (or assignments!) are the same. Our work is challenging. Heck, if it weren't, then anyone could do it, right? But we know that's not the case. It takes years of training, practice and professional development to become a successful and well established translator or interpreter.

And even knowing that we have these things under our belts, we still fall prey to that feeling of not being good enough at times. So how can we deal with imposter syndrome when it rears its ugly head?

Accept that it's totally normal to doubt yourself at times.

Having Imposter Syndrome is not something that makes you any less of a professional. In fact, it's completely normal to feel like an imposter at some point in your career. Perhaps you want to add a new specialization to your service offerings or study a new language. Perhaps you simply want to market your services better to clients, but you're a bit skeptical about what you could say or do that would feel authentic and not come across as salesy.

Remembering that it's normal to feel like this from time to time is the first step in moving past those bouts of imposter syndrome. In fact, if you ever meet someone who doesn't admit to feeling less than adequate at some point in their career, you might want to start questioning if they are really someone you want to take advice from in the first place. Nobody's perfect, after all.

Choose to be proactive instead of inactive.

Try not to let having the occasional bout of Imposter Syndrome get the better of you. Instead, choose to be proactive. Write down why you feel like an "imposter", whether it has to do with your language skills, your specialization or something completely different. Then, write down what you believe will allow you to feel like less of an imposter, and more like someone who "belongs" or "walks the walk".

Instead of letting Imposter Syndrome take over, you now have the ability to tackle it head on. Keep learning, marketing, and translating or interpreting the hard stuff. Take the items you wrote down that you believe will make you feel like more of someone who "owns" their work and waves their translator/interpreter flag proudly. And continue to nurture those items while you continue your practice.

While recognizing the fact that you feel like an imposter is part of the battle in the first place, the other piece of this puzzle is to keep working and honing your skills as you confront the issues that make you feel like an imposter. The rest will follow!

My top tips for battling imposter syndrome as a translator or interpreter (in no particular order)...

  1. Sign up for more professional development in the area in which you often doubt yourself. This could be a semester-long course in a given area or specialization, or you could take a trip to a country where your target language is spoken in order to immerse yourself in the language on a daily basis. Continue to work while you do these things so that you can immediately apply what you're learning to your work.

  2. Ask a colleague to mentor you. If you're an ATA member, there is a great (and free!) mentoring program you can join. You might also consider paying a colleague to mentor you for a year. When you surround yourself with others who know more than you with regard to an area in which you feel lacking, you can only improve.

  3. Read! Yes, I know you probably read for work, but try to set aside time to review articles by others in your field, topics in your subject matter area(s), etc. The more information you consume related to an area in which you feel less than adequate, the more confidence you will gain.

  4. Make time to think. This is a big one. Don't just accept all the input or information you're consuming without also setting aside some time to produce your own output. It is important to give your brain a chance to think through the information and input you consume so that you can decide what is best for you going forward. This also helps you to keep a check on what you're learning and apply it to your life and work.

  5. Talk to others to discover ways they have found to better themselves in the area in which you feel like an imposter, and surround yourself with these people. Not only is it a good idea to place yourself in the company of others who already do the things you want to do, but it's the best way to learn. And you'll likely have something to offer them as well. Remember, input balanced with output!


In what areas do you feel like an imposter at times? How do you cope with this feeling and turn it around to improve yourself as a professional translator or interpreter?