Downsides of Being a Translator

The life of a translator doesn’t only include the nice things mentioned in the previous post (10 Perks of the Translator’s Lifestyle). In this post, I will be listing some of the downsides of being a translator.



Your income is irregular



This makes setting a budget difficult. However, this is a difficulty that can be easily overcome with a little thought and preparation. All you have to do is estimate your annual income (thus your average monthly income) and then set up the account that receives your translation payments to send a fixed amount of money into your checking account each month regardless of how much or how little you actually made that month. In other words, you are giving yourself a monthly salary. It is especially difficult during the initial stages of the translation business when you don’t have many reliable clients. This is an important and delicate topic that I will deal in more depth later.



You receive work/projects irregularly



It’s a strange phenomenon, but there’s a tendency for work to come in all at once. I’ve seen a few seasoned translators call this phenomenon ‘feast or famine’ or ‘drought or flooding.’ When you’re busy, you’re super busy and then suddenly, you have no work for a while. Ideally, it’d be nice if work came in regularly and continuously. At first, I thought I was the only one to experience this phenomenon and wondered if all the translation agencies were holding secret meetings to plot against me to annoy me. I later found out that this was the case for everybody. It’d be nice if someone analyzed why this kind of phenomenon occurs… This kind of phenomenon brings various kinds of difficulties to translators. If you don’t handle this kind of thing well, you might lose your confidence as a translator, make the mistake of lowering your rate, and become stressed out… This is an issue that you should think about a little more seriously so I will talk about it in more detail later in other posts. (It’s related to a translator’s confidence, long-term growth strategy, time management, etc.)



It’s easy to live an isolated life



Although workplaces are stressful, at the very least, they aren’t lonely places. Working as a freelance translator, however, has the risk of leading to a socially isolated life. Of course, this too is a difficulty that can be overcome. First of all, having a family makes things much easier, and you can also look for other methods such as attending church, social gatherings, fitness clubs, finding a hobby, making friends with other translators, etc. This falls under the so-called ‘work-life balance’. If all you ever do is work, you have no choice but to lead an isolated life. You need an overall plan for this. There is no simple and extraordinary solution to it. As translators, we all want to increase our income, and to do so we have to increase productivity, which requires us to become familiar with technologies like CAT tools, voice recognition programs, etc. We also have to take good care of our clients. I understand that this will keep you busy for a while, but once you have done all these things (that is, successfully increased productivity, mastered various essential technologies, established a good relationship with your main clients, etc.), you have to learn to control yourself and know when to stop working. Don’t be greedy. Don’t worry too much, either. Set a daily limit, weekly limit, and monthly limit and stick to them. This is also a topic that I will continue to cover through many sections in my blog.



As a business person, freelance translators wear many hats



This is a problem shared commonly by all freelancers. In a company, there are other people to do marketing, production, accounting, etc. and all you have to do is belong to just one of the many functions or departments of that company and take care of that one thing for the rest of your working life. However, because a freelance translator is a one-person business, you yourself must do everything that a business needs to operate.


Yet, translators have a tendency to dislike technology, find it difficult to haggle and deal with people in person, and sometimes tend to be bad at meticulously making and sending invoices and checking for payment. I am not an exception. Marketing is especially a problem as it seems that some of you more introverted and humble translators avoid revealing yourselves online. I will cover this in many other posts.


One thing that’s clear is you have to have the entrepreneurial progressive spirit and creativity to take care of everything on your own.


[bctt tweet=”You have to have the entrepreneurial progressive spirit and creativity to take care of everything on your own.” username=””]


This also includes actively outsourcing tasks. I will talk about this further in this blog and try my best to be of help.



There is nobody to counsel you in difficult times



This is partly true and partly a misunderstanding. I had to start from scratch when I started out. But translation is one of the oldest professions and, though not necessarily because of this, there are lots of resources and advice to help you if you look for them. However, the real issue is knowing how to actively use these resources after finding them. I will also continue to discuss this in later posts. (Helpful resources can be found in websites, translator meetings, books, etc. I’d be really happy if my blog could also be a helpful resource for you.)



Nobody presents a long-term strategy or vision for you



It’s hard to call this a drawback of becoming a translator, to be honest. People who say this were probably used to having someone impose their vision onto them in the workplace. If you think carefully, that kind of vision really had nothing to do with you. Your true vision and the long-term strategy for achieving it should ultimately be decided and set up by you, and that is definitely an exciting thing.


[bctt tweet=”Your true vision and long-term strategy should ultimately be decided and set up by you.” username=””]


Or is that just me? Anyway, I like that kind of thing.


However, when you live buried in your work, you will eventually find yourself stuck in the same mannerism, in a slump, or feeling you have lost your direction. It’s because you’re exhausted. When that happens, you should rest, recharge, and then make plans for the future after reflecting on your present situation with a grateful heart. I guess it’s kind of funny to suggest these things as methods, but you should compliment, encourage, and reward yourself. Afterwards, you can start developing a strategy with friends and family or by yourself. I suggest including your strategizing time in your schedule to some extent. (For example, every night from 11:00 to 11:15, every Saturday morning, the first day of every month, from Christmas until January 4th, etc. I made a system of it. I guess I like analyzing what I’ve done so far and then deciding on my future direction. I will explain how I do this in a separate post later on.)


As you can see, there are difficulties in doing a translator’s work. Nevertheless, none of the difficulties are so big or so difficult that we can’t overcome them. We can and must overcome them!!!


If you think these are too big a problem to overcome, perhaps you’re better off not becoming a translator, then. You should look for something else.


If you think you can overcome these downsides of being a translator and are willing to start your translation career, read this post: What You Really Need to Know to Become a Translator.


If you are looking for advice on how to overcome these difficulties and grow your freelance translation business in the long run, check out this e-book: 9 Ear-Opening Tips for Freelance Translators Running Single-Person Enterprises E-Book.


브라이언은 의료분야에서 한영번역을 하는 번역가입니다. 캐나다 온타리오의 작은 시골 마을에서 아내와 둘이 삽니다. 여행과 독서와 음악과 커피를 좋아합니다.

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