The ten essentials of freelance translation

September 22, 2011 by Corinne McKay

There’s something about the number 10. Not just the connotation of “perfect 10,” but the number has an undeniable appeal. This year’s American Translators Association Translation Company Division conference was focused on the number 10 (10 sessions that each featured 10 tips on a certain topic), and people really seemed to enjoy the manageable scale of the presentations.

In my non-translation life I spend a lot of time in the mountains, so I’ve long abided by the guideline of The Ten Essentials that everyone should take into the backcountry. Outdoor enthusiasts are advised to equip themselves with a map, compass, sun protection, food/water, extra clothes, headlamp, first aid kit, fire starter, matches and a knife. This got me thinking about The Ten Essentials as applied to other areas of life, specifically freelance translation. What 10 must-have items would you recommend that every freelance translator arm herself or himself with? I’ll go with (in no particular order):

    1. Business cards; the kind without a “Get your free business cards at…” imprint on the back
    2. A reliable computer
    3. A computer backup system and potentially a backup computer
    4. A good office chair, yoga ball or treadmill desk
    5. A separate business bank account to keep business and personal finances separate
    6. A membership in at least one association for professional translators
    7. A high-quality computer keyboard; it sounds like a minor thing, but it’s important when you’re tap-tap-tapping away at those keys for 30-50 hours a week!
    8. A few good dictionaries in various flavors; print, online, general, specialized, etc.
    9. A thesaurus; some days I use mine more than my French-English resources. For those times when you just need another way to say it!
    10. At least one trusted colleague. I realize these aren’t available at Office Max, but I do think it’s hard to reach your full freelance potential without a good network of colleagues.

Readers, over to you! What 10 items should go in every freelance translator’s survival kit?