Wednesday, 28 May 2008

First Freelance Days

Greetings, all. Just a note to say 'hello', and that Parkbench has the movers in. I'm heading over to Dublin to set up shop, as it's from Dublin that I'll be running the agency. On the assumption that we're all new here, please check out the profile and website links alongside here to learn more about what we do.

This blog will be a space for news, discussions of translation and freelancing in the media and in the blogosphere and general chat. Although I'll be Irish-based, the freelancers on my books will be everywhere, so I'll try to keep the focus as international as possible. There will be some interesting times ahead, and some not-so-interesting times as Parkbench learns to wrestle with bureaucracy and scope out work for its huddled masses of editorial folk and translators.

It's been a busy couple of weeks, as you can well imagine. A freelance editor friend of mine warned me to expect to be balancing my laptop on one knee atop a pile of suitcases, and she wasn't wrong. There was a landslide of work, handovers, last goodbye drinks, work dos and Parkbenching it behind the scenes, but so far, so good - not that I'd want to tempt Fate.

Equally important was my own 'handover' from life in-house in publishing to life out-of-house. I was lucky to have made a good few contacts in London publishing while I was here, so I had to touch base with all of those. Keeping up with even incidental acquaintances is key, even though it's time consuming; I've set up contact lists of people and noted when I should likely get in touch. My existing contacts will be, directly or otherwise, the ones who give Parkbench its first jobs, so this has to go smoothly. It's easy to have these first connections seem casual or haphazard, to approach close former colleagues 'on the offchance that . . . ' but it really pays to be completely professional from the get-go.

What's slightly harder is building up contacts in a new area; though I have a language degree and have made a point to keep up with international types in publishing, it's daunting to enter a new direction in your career. I was pleased to have been invited to the Translators Association 50th anniversary celebration away on down in Chelsea - and very worth a visit it was, too. Expecting to have a glass of wine, mingle a bit, swap some cards and hit the road, I was thrilled by the warm welcome Parkbench received from some of the great and the good of the translation world. As a newbie, and a newbie hoping to shake things up a bit at that, I wasn't quite sure how my plans would be received; would lifelong freelance translators balk at the idea of agency work? Would they question the idea of handing responsibility for reader's reports and sample translations back to the foreign publishers and agents?

The reality was much simpler; not only did they 'get it', they loved it. From one quick chat with a multinational French translator, I was busily propelled around the room, handing out cards and explaining the set-up again and again. The group was older than I expected, but even the most experienced were keen to get involved, and before I left, I had half a dozen experienced, and in some cases, prize-winning translators on the books. Obviously, the proof is in the client list, but it's great to be able to go forth and conquer with the backup of a stellar stable of freelancers. Now to pony up for the membership fees!

Membership of the Translators Association, from what I know so far, gives you an 'in' to a supportive group of colleagues and all the typical lecture series and training that such professional bodies offer. Most importantly, it provides a killer contract-vetting service for members, ensuring that all TAers get the best possible deals for their work. There are, of course, plenty of such organisations to choose from depending on where you're based - I'll certainly be checking out the Irish Translators and Interpreters Association, too, so any top tips gratefully received as I consider my options.