When I first decided to become a freelance translator, I wasn’t sure where the journey would take me. I am not going to talk about how I started, in this post as I have covered how things unravelled for me from working as an archaeologist to becoming a freelance translator, here. I sent in my first test translation to an agency in 2006 while working as an official translator for the Portsmouth City Council, after working as a teacher of Turkish and bilingual teaching assistant. When they accepted my test piece, they also started sending me regular work, which was great as it proved to me that I made the right decision and I could build on my career as a freelance translator from there. Around the same time, I was also working as an official Turkish interpreter for the Portsmouth City Council and just started working for Language Line on an ad-hoc basis. The work from the council was very sporadic and I worked for the Language Line when I had spare time. The pay for telephone interpreting wasn’t too bad back then.
Around the same time I started working regularly with an agency, I was also offered a part-time job opportunity in the local community, working as a project coordinator. It was truly a community post that involved working with local businesses, organisations and charities as I worked with volunteers to run a local café and provide catering services for large community events mainly held on weekends.
I had different jobs going on at the same time and I truly liked the diversity. My job in the community lasted for a year and a half as it was extended for six months, following the first year. I really enjoyed working in the local community, getting to know people face to face, and building tangible relationships. I also enjoyed my translation work which mainly involved translating various texts for different government organisations along with my community and telephone interpreting work.
Portsmouth City Council dissolved their interpreting and translation department in 2007 and my part-time job in the community ended in 2008. So I was only left with translation and telephone interpreting jobs. This meant that I had a lot of spare time on my hands. I signed up with more translation agencies and logged on to the interpreting portal more frequently.
As time went I felt like something was missing for me. Freelancing was taking its toll on me after a good few years of doing full-time freelance work. I had a few projects along the way where I travelled to corporate offices to work as a contractor but this was never the same as working as part of the actual workforce as everyone knows that you are only there temporarily, so you are simply regarded and treated as a guest! I was longing for a job where I could interact with real human beings again!
This led me to consider taking on a part-time job again but I bumped into a completely different opportunity this time: getting involved in establishing a workers’ cooperative. An idea was to get together a core group of people to kick start a project to find premises and establish a workers’ cooperative to run a retail vegetarian or vegan (we went with vegan in the end) wholefood business featuring a takeaway/juice and smoothie bar that also served hot and cold food with an inside and outside seating area. It was an ambitious project and by the time we opened our premises in 2014 we had many people join and leave the project for various different reasons. It took several months of hard work and dedication and the last few weeks were absolute mayhem but thanks to our talented team, we were able to open the shop on time.
The business was thriving as a result of our unique offering with an ethical and professional branding provided by a talented workforce. We achieved nearly half a million pound gross revenue just in the first year of the business. I got to know so many wonderful people, built some lifelong friendships, had so much fun and laughter also became acquainted with so many people in the community and, learned so much about running a business and vegan food! The fact that I was still working as a full-time translator and working part-time, as well as doing voluntary work for the project which was crucial for successfully running the business, meant that sometimes I ended up working 18 hours a day. We all had to share the weekend work so this meant working on some weekend days of the month. This can be hard sometimes as it’s always nice to look forward to a weekend after a hard-working week.
Towards the end of 2018, I decided to quit the Workers’ Cooperative as working too much was taking its toll on me again and I felt like it was a necessary decision in order to focus on furthering my career as a translator. I felt like I wasn’t doing as much CPD and networking as I would have liked and I was not able to focus on getting new or better clients because of lack of time. The decision had to be made.
As much as I enjoyed having part-time jobs at different points in my journey as a freelance translator, if you need to get a part-time job to counteract the effects of the solitude world of freelance working life, I would advise that you choose a suitable job that would help you to do exactly that, not something that would ultimately lead to more burnout in your work life.
Quitting my part-time job as a co-founder of a workers’ cooperative, led me to focus on my professional career which I must admit I had previously neglected because I was always too busy. Since then I became a qualified member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting, attended several conferences and events including the ITI Conference 2019 in Sheffield, re-built my website, started working with different clients, raised my rates, and networked more. I haven’t regretted any of the choices I had made along the way; on the contrary, my choices define where I am now.
About the author:
My name is Ali Yildirim. I originally studied Classical Archaeology at the University of Istanbul, before coming to the UK in 2001 and working as an archaeologist for 2 years.
I have worked in the language services industry in various roles including as a teacher of Turkish, interpreter and bilingual teaching assistant before setting out as a freelance Turkish translator in 2005. I obtained a diploma in translation in 2012 and became a member of the Institute of Chartered Linguists in the same year and obtained a Chartered Translator status in 2019. I am also a qualified member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting and ISO 17100:2015 Qualified Translator.