In the past week alone, three of my freelancer clients have asked me this question since the rates go up again on October 16. Let me start by giving you every translator’s favorite answer…it depends. Come on, you knew that was coming! Don’t worry, here’s a breakdown of my thoughts on who should go, when it’s useful, and when it isn’t.
Career stage: Newbie
You just graduated school or you have a couple of years under your belt and the world is your oyster…or something. Do people still say that? But seriously, the ATA conference is almost essential if you’re at this stage of your career.
Our profession can be an isolated one and you’ll gain valuable information about what to do, and more importantly, what not to do as you begin to build your client base. You’re in a perfect position to soak up knowledge and put your name out there to agency clients or other colleagues who may refer you.
Money. If you really can’t afford it, there’s always next year. But the first year I went, I kicked myself for waiting so long so I definitely suggest you do what you can to budget for it next time. Just do it!
Career stage: OK…I’m a real translator now
You have a few years under your belt and you’ve made some good choices…and some not-so-good choices. You have a decent idea of what works and what doesn’t but you may still be panicking every time you have a slow week wondering when the next job will be coming in and experiencing a dramatic wave of relief when it does.
Other translators will tell you that your panic attacks are common but generally not warranted and you’ll go home with a renewed love for what you do and excited to bang out some new marketing material or perhaps diversify your client base. You’ll have the opportunity to network and you’ll end up staying in touch with some truly awesome people.
The above might not be enough reason for you to bite the bullet and drop the money it requires. If you have to choose, I’d say that at this stage, while the conference has a lot of great benefits, you need to make sure that you’re also budgeting for reference materials, conferences and events in your specialization. This is how you turn your specialization into your expertise and that has a way of creating good clients and good translation/interpretation services.
Career stage: Killing it
You’ve been translating for well past 5 years, perhaps even a decade or more, and life is good. You have a decent client base and you’re no longer panicking that your job is over every time your workflow dips slightly. But, perhaps you’re wondering what’s next now that you’re killing it.
This is a great time to look at your workflow and your set of tools, which might be as old as your career (that has a way of happening) and see what’s new that could improve your business or quality of life. Have you tried dictation software? What about the latest CAT tool? This is a great place to test out new tools and talk to the vendors directly and in person. This is also especially the time that networking with colleagues becomes really valuable. You never know when you can make your client happy by having the perfect person to recommend for a specialization or language combination you don’t do, or perhaps you’ll be recommended by someone else.
Money probably isn’t as much of an issue for you since you’re killing it, but at this stage, you may feel that with your business already humming along, the time, money, and effort it takes to go aren’t worth the return. Well, remember that reigniting your passion for your career and reaching out to new friends and old can be a huge benefit and also help prevent you from getting complacent. Also, did I mention that it’s in Miami? In November? Yeah…that’s what I thought. See you there!