When speaking of mistakes translators tend to make, most people immediately think of newbies only entering the profession. But is it just so? What about their more experience colleagues? It turns out that old hands aren’t exactly flawless, either.
Common mistakes made by more experienced translators
Mistake #1: Overreliance on experience
Generally speaking, work experience is a precious resource that makes you a worthy and sought-after professional. Such is the case with every profession, translator included. You are able to work faster and more efficiently, can afford to be pickier when it comes to gigs, and can expect higher per hour income. However, there are times when overreliance on your past experience, memory, previous assignments can lead you astray. Just a quick look at a document may make you jump to conclusions that you’ve already done a similar text, worked with similar terminology, etc. And this can go both ways – it can all be true, but it might also lull you into a false sense of security. Changes are you will be less vigilant and attentive to details, overlooking something that might have an impact on your performance. Just beware of the fact that it can be tricky.
Mistake #2: Limiting yourself to your current clients
You’ve worked in the business for xx years, managed to find yourself a bunch of regular clients and a decent, steady income. It feels safe and secure. It feels like something you’ve always wanted. While all this might be true, it’s never good to put all your eggs in one basket. What if your client goes out of business, or (for whatever reason) decides to buy translation services from some place else? A common mistake made by experienced translators is that they forget about self-promotion. And with today’s technology, marketing your services is easier than ever before. Nobody’s going to learn about you and your services, unless you tell them. The more people know about you, the more likely you are to land good clients and interesting projects.
Mistake #3: Sticking to what you already know
A while ago, we discussed the importance of finding a niche, something to remember you by. While this continues to be true, keep in mind, that translation is a kind of profession that demands continuous development. This applies not only to always polishing your language skills, but also expanding the horizons of your knowledge and experience in a broader sense. At some point you might feel less inclined to try out new things, take on more challenging projects, etc. This attitude is a mistake that might eventually lead to professional burnout.
Mistake #4: Ignorance about new developments
When you’re a novice entering the profession, you want to know everything there is to know. You read magazines, books, attend workshops or conferences. You try to gain as much experience you can and try your best not to miss anything translation-related. What happens next? Your initial enthusiasm slowly wears off, you get sucked into everyday life and tell yourself you don’t have time for all that, or no longer need it.
To some extent, it’s a natural course of life. As you gain more experience, you indeed have more work and less time to follow every piece of news. The thing is, that you shouldn’t let go completely. Try to keep up with the industry trends, recent developments in translation technology or news in your specialization field. Don’t just get stuck with what you have, just because it’s something you happen to know very well. That way, you limit the risk that you will miss out on something worthy, interesting or useful.
Mistake #5: Being too nostalgic about the past
We all do that. We tend to look back at the past and think that a while ago, things used to be easier. Your rates used to be higher, clients less demanding and the profession itself was regarded with more respect. Perhaps you think people were less likely to equate your job with something a machine translation engine can do? Or there were less people willing to do a translation job for peanuts?
The thing is, such negative thinking is a fallacy, a cognitive bias that is staggeringly common in many people. This phenomenon is called rosy retrospection – people tend to simplify and exaggerate their memories (much like in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” movie). It’s because our brains are better-wired to store long-term memories, which makes us think fondly about our past, the times when we used to be young, etc.
There’s a risk in such thinking – high chances are you are more focused on comparing things with the past, than on actual work. You fail to see the big picture and notice things that might actually help you. How the industry has grown, the new developments in CAT tools, the fact that it’s easier than ever before to socialize with other fellow translators (making this profession less solitary than it used to be), it’s easier to market your services and to work remotely.