Maple World Translation

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Nerdy Graffiti, Toronto, September 2013

Nerdy Graffiti, Toronto, September 2013

Two years ago, I barged into a local accountant’s office, slightly panicked. “I need to incorporate”, I said. “Whatever that means”, I added sheepishly.

I had just quit my position as an English-to-French translator at the Liberal Research Bureau, and I had the opportunity to work with my first big client, a Crown corporation. The caveat? I had to “incorporate”, i.e. set up my own company.

This meant that I was taking the freelance plunge.

I had always toyed with the idea of being self-employed. I didn’t grow up in a family where mom and dad were going to the office from 9 to 5: my father is an artist and my mother, on top of raising the three of us, held various temp jobs throughout the years.

I tried to work in an office environment. In all of the positions I held, I loved the work and the tasks… but I didn’t like office politics and the predictable routine I invariably settled into after a few months. I thought, maybe somewhat naively, that I would be more efficient as a freelancer, that it would be more challenging.

So I incorporated—the paperwork turned out to be easier than I had thought. I formed “Maple World Translation Ldt.” and started to work as a freelance translator, editor, copywriter and proofreader.

Little by little, I learned to deal with my new status, its perks and downsides.

When I say I “work from home”, some people assume I’m doing some kind of borderline legal stuff, such as multi-level marketing. Other may even assume I am a sex worker (the French accent, you know…). “I’m a translator,” I usually explain if I see that look in their eyes.

“How lucky you are to be able to work whenever you want!”

Well… what can I say to that? Sure, I could “work whenever I want”. These days, it’s actually more a matter of “working whenever I can” with Mark. See, if I don’t look for clients, network, complete assignments or stay on top of things, I don’t get paid. I don’t get benefits either—the fact I wasn’t going to be eligible for maternity leave freaked me out when I first learned I was pregnant. But it turned out that Mark was fairly happy to nap in the sling while I was working on the laptop. I even did some translation work when breastfeeding when he was a newborn!

Did I take a pay cut? Hell, yes. Some months were awfully quiet and finding new clients is tough—this business is mostly word-of-mouth and with Mark, I don’t get much free time to socialize and network offline.

Do I regret the move? Hell, no. I love freelancing.

First, I am not “locked” into a specific job or into a specific task. I work as a translator for some clients, as a bilingual copyeditor and proofreader for other, and even as a copywriter in both official languages. I also did some transcription work and I had the chance to be part of major projects. I feel lucky to be able to put my skills to good use.

I do feel more efficient than when I worked at the office. Some days, I am swamped and I barely have the time to eat or sleep. But some days are quieter and I can take time off to travel, relax or take care of Mark. Feng is also self-employed so we don’t care much for weekends or bank holidays. We work when it’s busy and relax when it’s not. I don’t have to sit at the office until 5 p.m. even if there is nothing to do but surfing the web.

Freelancing requires self-discipline, a sense of initiative, flexibility and creativity. These are my strengths, this is my realm. Managing people, office politics and fitting a specific position description aren’t.

I think I finally know what I want to do when I grow up. I think I am finally grown up.

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

24 Comments

  1. So inspiring! I’m thrilled that you have found your place and that you are doing what you love. I’m hoping to one day be able to make a living by freelancing (writing for now, but I could also do translation and editing work!). I’ve never been one who wants to sit in some office and work for “the man”.

    Wishing you happiness and success for your professional future 🙂

  2. Of course you knew I would respond to this post.

    Working as a freelancer certainly does have its advantages and whenever I am struggling I remind myself how much I dislike working in an office and having to deal with colleagues and office politics.

    Why I like being a freelancer: I can travel when I went without having to ask anybody’s permission, can get up when I want, can work late into the night when I enjoy the peace and quiet, the work is intellectually stimulating, no commuting and I work where I want.

    Sure, it’s hard dealing with clients sometimes, but whenever the going gets tough, I go over the above list and it quells my worries.

    • Amen to all the “perks” of the job you listed! I absolutely hated having to “budget” my vacation time when I worked in the office. Especially considering how little time off we have in Canada… and most folks take a day here and there, not a week, two weeks or more!

  3. I don’t understand why, but often when I tell people I am a translator, their eyes light up and they exclaim, “Oh, which books are you translating?” I also often hear, “So you work translating literature because there’s a lot of work in that field, right?”

    No, no and no. I don’t work in literary translation and I don’t think I ever will. Maybe this is a French thing, but the first thing people think of here when they meet a translator is literature. And I don’t understand where people get the idea that there is a lot of work in literary translation. Literary translation is a very limited specialization and there is very little work for a French to English translator. Perhaps you (since you are French) have an idea why people here immediately think about literature?

  4. I was also über surprised at how easy it is to create a company in Canada. It’s a good thing!
    Regarding working at home, it has its good and bad points and that’s probably why it fits some people and not others. I feel more in control of my own life and of what I do (even though it’s not like total freedom. We don’t choose what clients want, right?). On the other hand, it is HARD and you have less financial security. You need to get those clients, make them happy, be responsible for any problem in their projects. Lots of people seem to think we can do what we want when we want, but actually I feel like it was easier to take holidays before: I just had to fill a form. Now I have to prepare that we won’t work and won’t be there AT ALL, make sure we’re not leaving some projects pending in a critical moment, etc.
    So, it’s great and rewarding, but there are also some days I felt a bit overwhelmed 🙂

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