How I became a Translator – Part 2

In my previous blog post, I talked about what lead me to major in translation. I was a fresh graduate and the obvious next step for me was nailing my first freelance translation job and working on establishing a good client base. But before I did that, I had to do what all newbie translators do: apply for all jobs I come across!

I knew there was a librarian vacancy at a banking company, so I applied. I went to my interview and the HR manager seemed to want to hire me. The company was going through some rescheduling so I had to wait for a final answer. In the meantime, I kept myself busy subtitling a few movies and documentaries, although my father kept telling me not to do it, given that the subtitling business in Lebanon (and the Middle East in general) is very underrated and poorly paid.

I waited even more, and while I was still waiting, I got my first real client and my first real freelance translation project. I had to translate a website’s content (around 40 pages), and then the translation of homepages for the same client followed.

I also managed to work on a huge project along with a few of my classmates, which kept me busy for around 2 months.

What also helped me was that my family owned an internet café, which was very popular back then. Being a translator himself, my father offered his language services there, so I did the same. I was able to handle a few small projects.  I wanted to make it on my own and I wisely thought of the internet café as part of my marketing strategy and not more than that. When you’re a newbie, you should make use of all the opportunities that are presented to you.

I also figured that I can’t wait forever for the banking company to reply, and there was a vacancy in another company and I went for the training session. Among the job requirements was great command of French, which was a piece of cake for me, but the thing is it was not a translation vacancy. During the training, the head of the department realized I was actually a fresh translation graduate, and it so happened that they had some documents that needed to be translated. At the end of the training day, she called me in and asked if I could help with the translation of said documents. Long story short: that company was my second real client.

All of this happened while I was waiting for that call, which eventually came. I was called back to the banking company for a final interview, and the HR manager asked me the question that forever changed my perspective:

“Where do you see yourself five years from now?”

I’m known to wear my heart on my sleeve and to be spontaneous. So without thinking twice, I immediately answered:

“Definitely not in this company.”

Thinking about it now, I should have probably put it in other words. Yes, I was young and had no experience, but at least I was honest! The manager understood that I would like to establish my own business, so she answered:

“But think about the career you’ll be building with us. You can’t just go with your instinct and a couple of clients who might not send you projects regularly”.

At that moment, things were crystal clear for me. I politely declined her offer and went back home. Not long after, I met my third client, and one thing led to another, with clients recommending my services to other clients. I also started taking interpretation jobs, which is one of the things I love the most.

7 months after my graduation, I had enough work to survive. I established my own business, had my own clients, set my own deadlines and rates, and was my own boss. My teenage dream was coming true, just with a tiny difference. I got the best of both worlds, and I couldn’t have asked for better.

I don’t know if I would call it luck or perseverance, but there were endless nights of hard work, and I spent hours and hours sending emails and CVs to numerous companies and agencies, but it all paid off in the end, at least for a given period: we all know what it’s like to be a freelance translator and how we struggle to have constant work, and my case was no exception.

In the third and last part of this series, I will be writing about all the ups and downs I faced as well as where I am at right now in my career, so make sure to come back to my blog!




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