What is your name, where are you based, and what do you do?
I’m Isabel Stainsby, I live in Glasgow, Scotland, and I’m a translator. I translate from Czech, Slovak, French and German into English, various sorts of documents from contracts to medical research papers to literature (I’m currently working on a science fiction novel).
Do you have a plan B and can you tell us what stage you are at?
Plan B: yes and no. I left a job in a translation company to become a freelance translator, which is probably something I would have done anyway even if I’d had the kids, though the timing might have been different. But I didn’t, which means I’ve had to make an effort with things like getting out of the house from time to time (this became much easier once I got my dog!) and seeing people so I don’t get cabin fever. Not to mention making an effort to take breaks.
What stage I’m at: there is a certain irony in being Inspirational Member for June, as I am due to have a hysterectomy on 31 May and so won’t be working for a bit, certainly not full-time, though I’m sure I’ll be able to do bits and pieces from bed after the first couple of weeks or so. At the time of writing I’m a long way through my grief and beginning to see some of the positives of childlessness (yes, there are some, though the problem with silver linings is that you don’t get them without the cloud). But this may change after the operation – we’ll see.
What support did you have from family and friends on your journey?
Lots. I am very lucky in my family and friends. The bingos we all dread have only really come from relative strangers and thanks to hearing other people’s stories I have answers ready. My husband in particular has been a tower of strength.
Did you use any professional support resources? Do you have any recommendations to share?
Various translation forums and support groups on Facebook, one of which has become a regular meet up for translators and interpreters in Glasgow. In general I’d recommend searching Facebook (other social media platforms are available!) for groups relevant to you – this may be your specific profession, or a freelancing/working-from-home group in general. Join as many as you can – you don’t have to stay if they turn out not to be helpful.
What app or website could you not live without, and why?
It would have to be Lexilogos (https://www.lexilogos.com/english/index.htm) – invaluable for anyone with any language needs.
What advice would you give to anyone looking for an alternative direction?
Go for it! By all means start slowly if you prefer – I initially went part-time in my job to see if freelancing would work for me – but in my experience it was totally worth it. My only regret is that I didn’t do it years ago.
What are the most notable things you have learnt about running a business, changing your career or about yourself?
It’s actually really boosted my confidence. I can do this, and I’m good at it.
What is your ultimate professional goal?
More novels! I love most of the stuff I do – there’s usually something of interest, even if only linguistic interest, in the dullest contract. But translating a novel is so much fun it doesn’t feel like work at all. Unfortunately literary translation doesn’t pay very well so I won’t be able to rely on it exclusively (I need the dull contracts!).
Tips. If you need a translation, use a professional. Google Translate is fine if you need a gist or to get an idea, but not if you need a translation for anything public-facing. Yes, professional translators are expensive, but you get what you pay for. (And if you need a translation from any of my languages, I’d be happy to give a discount to any other WFIN members!)
Take time off. Schedule it in your diary if necessary.