What do you do?
I am a Spanish to English medical research and pharmaceutical translator.
How long have you been an independent worker?
I started my company about 3 years ago, in 2012. I have been on my own ever since!
Did you always intend to go out on your own?
No, in fact I thought I would work as an interpreter in-house somewhere. I decided to go out on my own when I realized that oral interpretation is so high stress. I switched to translation (written translation) and started my company shortly thereafter.
What prepared you to go out on your own?
I was fortunate enough to be able to get my Master’s degree in translation. The program I attended at DU was very heavy on business practices, so I learned quite a bit about the nuts and bolts of sole proprietorship from them. Other than that, I started networking with the Colorado Translators Association, and I got to talk to others who had already done what I was about to attempt.
What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned since starting your business?
Profit isn’t enough on it’s own, you have to manage your cash flow well in order to truly succeed. At least, that’s very true of my line of work, where clients may pay net 90 in some cases.
Do you have a good life/work balance? How did you achieve that?
I do! Creative Density was actually the key for me. I was originally working at home, and even though I had a separate office with a door that closed, I was never able to relax at home. I was always “at work”. Now that I work at Creative Density, I am able to leave work at work while still maintaining the flexibility I like. That happy balance is also a direct result of what I do. I can translate from absolutely anywhere with an internet connection. So I find that I can go on longer trips, see my family more often because I can take my work with me.
What aspect of working do/have you hate(d) the most?
Well, I used to LOVE the business side (invoicing, cash flow, analysis), but lately it’s become my least favorite thing. Now translation is truly what fascinates me. Starting the business was exciting, but once you are set up (at least in my field), it becomes rote management. Since I work in the medical and scientific field of translation, I literally learn something new on every project. And it isn’t surface knowledge either, I have to understand the subject material about as well as the author, so I get deep into research on HIV, new cancer drugs, rare fungal infections, you name it! That’s by far my favorite part, and it’s what keeps me going and engaged.
Have you done anything to eliminate or reduce what you hate doing the most?
I set aside time each month to do the “business stuff”, and that seems to keep things under control. I also have a CPA, so I don’t have to wade through taxes every year. It’s worth it for the quality of life I get for the money.
What’s your favorite software tool that you use?
I use a tool called Wordfast, which is a Computer Assisted Translation, or CAT tool. It starts as a blank slate, and then as you translate, it remembers how you did it. If you run into a similar phrase in the future or the same terminology, it provides it for you. It makes everything way more efficient. Most translators use at least one CAT tool. I have three, but Wordfast is my baby.
I have also gotten into Goalscape, which is a visual goal tracking software. It helps me stay on track throughout the year, and it can get pretty detailed, which I like.
What piece of advice would you give people that want to transition to your line of work?
Specialization is the key to survival in this industry. There are thousands if not millions of Spanish to English translators out there, but I rest easier knowing that less than 1% of them can do what I do, which is extremely technical scientific research translation. Learn everything you can about a specific field and launch into it. Learn as you go, you will not know everything. Research is key when you specialize.
If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you do?
Good question! Actually, I would probably go back to school for some kind of medical degree, either a nursing degree or P.A. I love my field, and if I could do school all over again knowing what I know now, I might be a doctor or a scientist.