When I started a BA course at the University of East Anglia I didn’t know I’d end up as a freelance translator. I hadn’t really thought what I could do with the skills I was about to gain. All I knew was I wanted to study Swedish and Greek. In 2001 I graduated with my BA in Scandinavian Studies with Swedish Honours (and Greek Subsidiary language), and by then I had figured out that I wanted to be a translator. I went to the University of Helsinki with an aim to get my MA (Swedish Translation Studies and Greek) done as quickly as possible. However, things didn’t quite turn out the way I planned. Within a couple of months it was clear that it definitely wouldn’t be quick. They didn’t want to compensate the courses I’d done before, and therefore their estimate for my graduation was 5 years! By Christmas I had quit the university and found out about MA courses in England. Next September I started an MA course in Advanced Scandinavian Translation Studies at the University College London, and it took a year to graduate. Soon after that I found my first translation clients and started freelancing. A few months later I landed a job in a translation agency in central London. I worked there as a translator network coordinator for almost 2 years. That did teach me a lot about the translation business and it was great to see how things work in a big international agency with hundreds and hundreds of contacts around the world.
In 2006 I moved back to Finland and started working as a project manager in a translation agency in Helsinki. It took a bit over a year before I said goodbye to them and started my career as a full time freelance translator. By then I had already several years of translation experience and some established clients. For the first couple of years of my full time freelance career my main passion was in subtitling. I really enjoyed it as there were such a vast variety of TV programs and movies from documentaries about nuclear research to The Simpsons. Unfortunately it soon came clear that it was very time consuming and poorly paid. I had to reconsider my options and decided to focus fully on normal document translations as it would give me much better chances surviving as a self-employed translator. It paid off and at the moment I’m mostly translating IT related marketing texts and user guides for several different clients.
I’ve been freelancing for almost a decade now (6 years full-time). I was meant to find an in-house translator position after a year or so but I still haven’t had time to start looking. This is a peculiar job as you never know what challenges the day will bring, but for sure you learn something new every day. Sometimes it’s very quiet for a while and some weeks are so busy that there’s hardly no time to sleep. I’ve been very lucky to find reliable clients (I’ve had some very bad ones too…) and get enough work to make a living. Working in the translation agencies gave me a good insight of the industry, a good network of contacts around the world and also enough knowledge to make sure I’m not being ripped off.
Although things are going rather well, I am at a crossroads at the moment. Last year was super busy, and long days in front of the computer caught on me. By November and approximately half a million translated words later I ended up in a hospital with a pretty bad slipped disc. That made me realize how important it is to learn to say no to some projects to make sure the days aren’t too long and there’s enough time to exercise and sleep. Now I’ve been forced to think some other career options but haven’t got too far with that yet as I can’t figure out what kind of a job would give me a possibility to use my skills, do what I like and not make me sit still the whole day. Maybe I’ll buy a lottery ticket…
Heidi Vuorinen has been an English/Swedish/Norwegian into Finnish translator since early 2004. She has an MA degree in Advanced Scandinavian Translation Studies and she works mainly on IT related texts. She is based in Tampere, Finland, but dreams about relocating somewhere where it’s warm year round. You can get in touch with her by emailing: email@example.com.