Translation Organizations: A Total Waste of Time (Unless You Remember This One Thing)

Translation organizations are a waste of time!?

Heresy you might say.

But it’s true, translation organizations, just like translation forums, at best can be a total waste of time for your freelance translation business. At worst, they can completely destroy any momentum you have, give you a false sense of hope, and set you up for failure.

Translation Organizations: Destroy Momentum

The only thing that will help you move your business forward is you actually working on your business.

In the case of you as a freelance translator, that means finding clients.

Pure and simple.

Anything outside of that is not helping you move your business forward.

So ask yourself, “Is my membership in XYZ translation organization helping me build my business by helping me find new clients?”

If not, then anything you do on behalf of or for that translation organization is destroying your momentum.

And once you lose your forward momentum, it can be twice as hard to start back up again.

Translation Organizations: A False Sense of Hope

You know the thing about real work?

It’s easy to fake ourselves into thinking we’re doing it when we’re actually not.

Writing these articles on

That’s not real translation work.

Doing busy work as a member of a translation organization?

That’s also not real translation work that is going to give you more clients and ultimately more money.

It might be important work.

It might even be fun work.

You might enjoy doing it more than you enjoy translating.

But if you think it’s “real work” that is going to turn you into a successful translator, think again.

Translation Organizations: Setting You Up for Failure

Besides destroying momentum and giving you a false sense of hope, translation organizations ultimately can set you up for failure as a successful freelance translator.

Translation organizations want members.

That is how they strive. That is how they make money. That is how they justify their existence.

And for some organizations, they’re existence is justified, don’t get me wrong.

A lot of them do good work for the translation and language communities.

But most translation organizations tend to always paint a rosy picture for translators without helping them to understand that translation can be a tough business as well.

It takes dedication, smarts, and a lot of times a little bit of luck.

That’s not to discourage anyone. It’s to be realistic with anyone interested in becoming a freelance translator.

More translation organizations need to do that for their members. If not, they’re doing a disservice by setting translators up for failure.

Translation Organizations: The #1 Thing to Remember

As much as I don’t think you have to be a member of a translation organization to become a successful translator, I do think they can be beneficial to translators.

But you have to remember this:

Translation organizations are merely a means to an end,
not the end itself.

You use the translation organization to become a better translator, not the other way around.

Benefits to Membership

So what are some of the benefits to being a member of a translation association?

I see two major ones.

The biggest advantage is being able to network with other translators.

The life of a freelance translator can be very isolating. If you’re not a very social person, it can be hard to get out of the house and meet people.

But I think that when we get to know other translators and listen to their successes and struggles, we become better translators and better people.

Monthly meetings held by local translation organizations or annual conferences put on by national translation associations both serve to help us feel part of a larger community, and we all like to feel like we’re part of something.

If you don’t have a local translator’s organization near you, don’t let that stop you. Why not take the initiative and start your own translation organization? It doesn’t have to be an official organization or one affiliated with any national association.

Instead it can just start out as a monthly lunch with some other translators where you get together to talk about your freelance business. Even something this small can provide a big lift to translators.

The second benefit to being a member of a translation organization is that it provides another venue for you to advertise your translation services.

As part of a translator’s membership, the translation organization usually will include your information in a database of translators so that when someone in the local area needs a translation, they can choose from this list of translators provided by the association.

All right, so if you’re interested, I put together an incomplete list of translation organizations that you can check out if you’re interested in joining one.

International Translation Associations
Here is a list of international translation organizations that you might want to check out:

International Association of Conference Translators
The AITC was founded in 1962 to “standardize the working conditions and terms of employment of short-term language staff employed by international organizations, particularly those belonging to the United Nations system.”

Association of Audio-Visual Translators
Association of union representatives exchanging ideas on the audio-visual translation industry.

European Association for Studies in Screen Translation
Non-profit organization aid those interested in audiovisual translation and promote professional standards in screen translation.

European Council of Literary Translators’ Associations
The goals of CEATL is to exchange information and best practices regarding the literary translation field, and defend translation quality.

European Society for Translation Studies
International society founded in 1992 in Austria devoted to the field of translation studies.

Globalization and Localization Association
An international non-profit association whose member companies specialize in language services, translation services, and language technology.

International Association for Translation and Intercultural Studies
World-wide forum designed to enable scholars from different regional and disciplinary backgrounds to debate issues relating to translation and other forms of intercultural communication.

International Federation of Translators
International association of translators founded in 1953 which works to address translation profession issues such as training, working conditions, and recognition.

International Association of Translators and Editors in Medicine and Related Sciences
A Spanish-language association dedicated to helping medical translators and editors.

Translators Without Borders
A nonprofit organization set up to provide free translations to humanitarian organizations, such as Doctors Without Borders.

Translator Associations in South, Central, and North America (Since I live here)

Argentine Association of Translators and Interpreters
Colegio de Traductores Públicos de la Provincia de Catamarca
Colegio de Traductores de Santa Fe (1º circ.)
Colegio de Traductores de Santa Fe (2da circ.)
Colegio de Traductores Públicos de la Provincia de Córdoba

Asociación Colombiana de Traductores e Intérpretes

Asociación de Traductores e Intérpretes de la República Dominicana

Ecuadorian Association of Translators and Interpreters

Peruvian Association of Professional Translators
Colegio de Traductores del Perú

Colegio de Traductores Públicos del Uruguay

Colegio Nacional de Licenciados en Traducción e Interpretación

Asociación de Traductores e Intérpretes de Monterrey
Organización Mexicana de Traductores

American Literary Translators Association
American Translators Association
American Translation and Interpreting Studies Association
The National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators

If you’d rather not join a translation organization and want to just get busy making money as a translator, check out my Translator’s Market book.

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