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Going it alone: A freelancer check-in

Kalle Jelen
Diplomierter Fachübersetzer FH
  • 15.02.2022
  • 4 min
When presented with the opportunity to write a profile, I wondered whether the endeavor wasn’t premature. Writing a startup story without the benefit of hindsight is hard – if not impossible – especially when there is little substance to embellish and few glory days to humble the beginnings. But several weeks have elapsed since I began drafting this piece, and events have started unfolding in my favor. So now is as good time as any to share a little something about my time working in the language industry so far.

My gateway to the language industry was a master’s degree in Applied Linguistics at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW), specializing in professional translation. Before that, I completed a BA in philosophy and contemporary history, which really honed my analytical capabilities. I was apprehensive when the summer rolled around and my time at the ZHAW gradually came to an end. The last few months felt like being sucked into a washing machine stuck in a frenzied spin and spit back out again. Writing my thesis had been both immensely rewarding and incredibly nerve-wracking, and when the dust had finally settled, I knew that that fulfilling career as a language professional that I had always imagined was not going to pursue itself.

 

My first few weeks/months working on a freelance basis can most aptly be summarized as a period of stocktaking, reflecting on what precisely had been drilled into me those last couple years and what skills I could reasonably hope to monetize. I began sending out resumés and applications – at first, my consistency in this area was spotty at best – without knowing where they were ending up and who was reading them. Self-promotion, too, became less alien. Saying I’ve discovered something of the salesman in me would be pushing it, but as in most other things in life, skin and myelin gets thicker, I suppose.

 

I was able to check a few items off my list early on: coming up with a domain name, getting a batch of business cards printed and letting them roam free in the wild, joining the translator/interpreter associations DÜV and ASTTI. In the meantime, I’ve also been able to land several subtitling and translation assignments. Accepting my first brief was exciting, even though it was one I eventually realized I was being criminally underpaid for. In the beginning at least, it helps to think of experience as its own reward. And while I’m not yet backlogged with briefs, I can say that my prospects are in fact rosier than I cared to let on for dramatic license. Budding linguists can rest easy knowing theirs will be, too – with just a little patience!

DÜV – Dolmetscher- und Überesetzervereinigung

Agentur DÜV  – die einzige Dolmetscher- und Übersetzeragentur mit angeschlossenem Berufsverband. Ihre 230 Mitglieder sind allesamt Masterabsolventen der ZHAW beziehungsweise einer anderen anerkannten Universität oder Ausbildungsstätte. Die Sprachprofis sind in der Schweiz wohnhaft, kennen die wirtschaftlichen und politischen Verhältnisse in der Schweiz sowie die lokalen Sprachfeinheiten. Sie bezahlen hier ihre Steuern und unterstützen die einheimische Wirtschaft.

 

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