I joined New York Circle of Translators about two years ago at one of the NYCT’s annual meetings. I remember my first time coming there. It was so exciting to meet like-minded people, share my experiences and feel that I am a part of the huge New York translation community. Like a sponge I absorbed this friendly, inspiring energy and learned so much while attending networking events, seminars, conferences and mingling with the Circle’s members – translators, interpreters, editors, and transcribers. Needless to say, the translation industry was not new to me. I had been translating for a number of years as an in-house translator, part-time and online in my home country, Russia. I knew the rules and procedures, and how the translation process and the provider/client relationship worked. But after moving to the United States, I had to start all over. Fortunately, I already had my specialization which was legal, business and marketing translation. With time I found clients, had projects and everything seemed well. However, the volume was inconsistent and, on top of that, the relationship between Russia and America worsened. Consequently, I started receiving less work. I joined professional organizations, attended seminars and webinars, and worked on my marketing. But I knew that something was missing. I needed guidance to move forward.
It was very important for me to find an organization which could help me grow professionally and give me opportunities to build connections within my field. The Circle offered me what I was searching for. This remarkable group of people provided me with an enormous amount of support and knowledge. After I joined NYCT, slowly things started to shift, but I still wanted significant progress. Therefore, when NYCT offered to participate in their mentoring program, I signed up immediately.
I was paired with Angela Benoit, an English <> French translator and interpreter, who was also a member of the NYCT. Angela was offering translation services on a freelance basis and had an impressive experience in the translation field not only as an in-house translator/interpreter but also as a project manager. She was also very active and energized and I knew that she would be a great mentor for me.
Since we lived and worked quite far from each other and had busy schedules, face-to-face meetings were out of question. Therefore, we agreed on communication via email and Skype calls every other Thursday. We also decided that to make this experience more efficient and productive, we needed to set a timeframe and made it a 6-month program with two follow-ups in 3 months each. Angela took a very professional approach and suggested that I think about the goals for our mentee-mentor relationship, and reflect on my professional and financial goals for the period of the program. It gave me an opportunity to think about what I expected from this experience, to analyze where my business was at the moment and what I wanted to achieve within 6 months and after. It also allowed me to see the perspective and what I would like to focus on. Based on that, we drew up a plan containing goals, detailed steps and deadlines I needed to follow.
For example, one of my goals was to gain a certain amount of regular clients and consistent work. To reach this goal, I had to find and contact new clients. Also, I needed to follow up with the clients I contacted recently as well as in the past, and we agreed on a number of these contacts per week. Also, my mentor gave me some guidelines on creating a new resume and a cover letter. I needed to remove less relevant information and focus on my skills and experience in my specialization areas. Since Angela used to work as a project manager, she was able to give me a few valuable tips on how to make my resume look concise and professional, and attract attention of the project managers. As a result of this cooperative work, I had a great cover letter and a resume that stood out and emphasized my professional strengths, credentials and experience in specialized areas. Other goals I set for myself referred to marketing, establishing a new specialization, increasing my level of income and other areas, very important to any freelancer.
Our Skype meetings consisted of two parts: my progress and Q&A. During the first half of the meeting I shared about what happened during the last two weeks, how many clients I contacted and followed up with, who of them replied back, and if there were any issues. Then we would discuss a certain topic, such as contacting potential clients, CAT-tools, professional development, time-management, online presence, marketing tips, advertising materials, etc. Sometimes we would talk about a complicated situation with a particular client and together we would try to find a solution. If I had a question I needed Angela’s opinion on off the schedule, she would always do her best to help. Without any exaggeration I can say that her support was tremendous.
Certainly, there were times when I had very limited time to fulfill my commitments as a mentee. But I knew that if I devoted at least half an hour a day towards developing my business, eventually it would all pay off. I continued following the plan and learned a few valuable lessons along the way. For instance, I learned that the best way to establish connection with a potential client is to have a face-to-face meeting. The more meetings I initiated, the more opportunities for long-term business relationships I had. It was quite a challenge for me at first, and it definitely helped me leave my comfort zone and practice my communication and negotiation skills. Another critical lesson was to carry business cards with me at all times.
As the mentoring program was coming to its end, I started to see the results of my hard work. I was receiving better job offers, by “better” I mean interesting projects at the rates I was comfortable to work with, gained new clients and had consistent work from the current ones. Contacting perspective clients and follow-ups became my daily routine. I updated my website and was receiving calls and emails from agencies and direct clients. I developed a new specialization and added it to my new resume. My time-management significantly improved, as well as my income.
Participation in the program gave me an opportunity to receive a fresh perspective on my business and to see how to improve it. Regular meetings with the mentor helped me challenge myself and do what needs to be done, without procrastination and overthinking. It also helped me overcome my limitations, re-think the value of my time, and see different ways and possibilities for my future professional development.
In conclusion, I think this program will be helpful to anyone who just started off as a translator or whose business is not developing as successfully as they want it to. My advice to the NYCT’s members who need guidance and professional opinion – sign up for the Circle’s mentoring program.
Again, I would like to thank my mentor, Angela Benoit, and the NYCT’s team for this insightful and valuable experience.
English to Russian translator specializing in legal, business, marketing, and healthcare
Note from the mentor:
From this experience, I learnt that for a mentorship relationship to work its magic, mentor and mentee must be well matched. Anna and I were an exceptional fit: the areas she sought to improve matched my experience. It was a pleasure to share this 6-month experience with her. I am proud of her progress, her dedication and the milestones she reached on her quest to improve her freelance practice.
The NYCT mentorship program offers several interesting features: a local relationship, a formal commitment in a casual setting and the ability for the pair to set their own terms. The success of the program wholly depends on the individuals that participate, which is why I encourage both mentors and mentees to come forward. If you have experience in a particular area and are looking for ways to volunteer or give back, tell someone at the Circle. If you are looking for guidance, tell someone at the Circle!
Angela Benoit is an English<>French translator and copywriter focusing on marketing, business communications and brand image.