Every year there appear to be more translation conferences to choose from, often with many of the same speakers and similar sessions. When I first started in the profession I attended a few of these conferences full of hope and after attending various sessions and networking with my fellow translators. I left promising myself I was going to work hard on marketing my services, refuse to lower my rates, and do continuing professional development. However, within a couple of days reality had set in. Potential clients were still refusing to work with me unless I lowered my rates and I was still struggling to distinguish myself from other translators with the same language combinations. I ignored translation conferences, regarding them as a waste of time which promote translation as an insular, secretive profession. I started attending events in my areas of specialisation. There were few translators at these events. Therefore I had the chance to learn about these fields. I was able to market my services as a person with not only expertise in languages but an in-depth knowledge of my specialisations. Thus, slowly but surely, I got better clients. However, I soon started to miss the opportunity to shares stories and ideas with fellow translators which translation conferences provide. I started to attend translation-specific events again and now appreciate their role in my professional development. However, I only attend one such event per year, while I attend as many specialisation-specific events as I can.
What can we do to improve the situation?
Many experienced translators will stress the importance of attending non-translation events to new entrants to the profession. However, I can’t help wondering if there are too many translation conferences. Maybe we should concentrate less on holding so many translation-specific conferences and work more on promoting the skills required for translation to professionals from other industries. One option would be to hold joint events with other industries or to make translation events open to other professions. For example copywriters, proofreaders, editors or designers were invited to the TweetUpAlba launch in 2014 to expand professional networks. Conferences are expensive to attend, especially if you’re just starting out. You have to make an informed decision about which ones to attend to maximise your chances of acquiring new clients. Therefore, perhaps events that combine translation with other industries are the way forward.