Case study

Freelance interpreter and translator — Cindy Schaller

Despite studying languages at university Cindy believes her MA in Interpreting and Translation has been vital to finding work as a freelance interpreter

How did you become an interpreter?

I tried to gain as much relevant experience as possible so that I had something to show potential clients when I started to work freelance. This included a simultaneous interpreting work placement at the United Nations in Vienna and public service interpreting work.

I was also a coordinator for the National Network for Translation (NNT) and events facilitator for the National Network for Interpreting (NNI).

I proactively created a portfolio and contacted many translation and interpreting agencies nationwide.

How relevant is your degree to your job?

I could not be a translator and interpreter without my MA.

Although I had been studying languages for several years at university, this more practical course was essential in gaining an insight into what working as a professional translator/interpreter involves.

It also gives credibility when contacting prospective clients.

What are your main work activities?

The job is so varied. When interpreting, I get to travel locally, nationally and internationally - assignments have taken me to Morocco, Switzerland and Malaysia.

When translating I spend a lot of time working from home in front of my laptop, preparing an interpreting assignment, dealing with administrative matters and marketing myself.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

The increasing volume of work is the main aspect that has changed. The fact that I have enough work means that I tend not to work weekends or evenings as much, which is a welcome change.

My ambition is to do more interpreting and a little less translation and also to specialise further in environmental and social issues (e.g. forestry, climate change, energy), which are personal as well as professional interests of mine.

What do you enjoy about your job?

Variety is the best advantage of my job. I have to learn about different topics and as I am curious, this suits me well.

I also love the fact that one day I could be working with a dozen (or more) colleagues on a big conference and then working alone from home the next day. Needless to say, being your own boss is also a bonus.

What are the most challenging parts of your job?

Freedom comes at a cost; I cannot always plan ahead as I could be called for work at any point. It also means that I never know how much money I am going to earn, so I have to be very sensible and save up for upcoming outgoings such as tax, etc.

I have to be very self-disciplined as working from home still means working. I try to align my hours on more traditional working times but I do have to work unsociable hours occasionally.

I also dislike anything to do with administration: filing, invoicing, accounting, etc.

Any advice for someone who wants to get into this job?

Do not underestimate the importance of mastering your own language (after all you will translate into it and usually interpret into it at least half of the time) and keep abreast of current affairs in all the languages you intend to work with.

Make sure you know your strengths and weaknesses, as it's very easy to accept an assignment even if you are not 100% comfortable with it.

Finally, don't forget that word of mouth is a powerful tool that can make or break your career, so act in a professional manner with everyone at all times.

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