Scaling up: from sole operator to translation co-ordinator

The solo freelancer can only handle a limited volume of work and is in constant fear of losing out to the big agencies. When you reach saturation, how can you boost your income, have more flexibility, combat the isolation of the lone translator and acquire new skills? What are the choices when clients send more work than you can manage, or they see you as the go-to translation person for all languages? Say no / recommend a colleague / send them to the ITI directory . . . and risk losing the client who wants a one-stop-solution . . . But, rather than burning the midnight oil and doing all the translations yourself, or even having to say no, there’s the option of collaborating with peers, training them in the specific needs of each particular client and revising their translations to enable you always to deliver reliable, top-quality work.

The specialist micro-operation is attractive to clients who want a personal service, as long as there is transparency about the way you’re working, the guarantee that their needs will be met and the quality of the translations will be consistently excellent.

Ros Schwartz’s presentation draws on her 30 years’ experience of running a niche translation company. She made the leap from solo translator to managing large-scale projects involving teams of translators and different language combinations by chance, in response to growing client demand. She will be discussing the benefits of this form of career development as well as the challenges and lessons learned along the way, and offering lots of practical tips for making the transition from lone freelancer to translation co-ordinator.

A professional translator from French since 1981, Ros has translated over 80 works from French, both fiction and nonfiction. Her recent translations include a number of Maigret titles for Penguin Classics’ Simenon series, Mireille Gansel’s acclaimed Translation as Transhumance, and Olivier Rolin’s Stalin’s Meteorologist, which was shortlisted for the Pushkin Prize.

Ros frequently publishes articles and gives workshops and talks on translation issues around the world. She was the co-founder and organiser of a translation summer school in association with the Universities of London and Westminster (2011–2013), and of Translate in the City, at City University, London (2014–2017). Ros is involved in numerous translator training and mentoring activities, including Style Matters which she devised with Chris Durban and the Translate in… summer schools. For the past 5 years she has been an external tutor for City University’s Translation MA course.

In addition to her work as a literary translator, from 1988 to 2016 Ros ran a small translation company specialising in stylistically demanding texts in fields such as marketing, trade exhibitions, the environment, aid and development, the visual arts, cookery and tourism.

She was chair of the Conseil Européen des Associations de Traducteurs Littéraires (CEATL) from 2000 to 2009, and is currently co-chair of English PEN’s Writers in Translation committee. In 2009 she was made a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and in 2017 she was awarded ITI’s John Sykes Prize for excellence.