We start the year with Nicky Stewart-Schmidt, who answered the guest article’s questions, for our great pleasure.
NAME: Nicky Stewart-Schmidt
PROFESSION: Translator, Writer
WORK LANGUAGES: English and French
PLACE OF RESIDENCE AND WORK: France, in the countryside South of Paris
What kind of translation work do you do and what type of clients do you work with?
I have quite varied topics, often related to companies I have worked for.
The most frequent topics, and probably my favourite would be on Theme parks, Tourism and Human Resources.
I try to nurture my network of ex-colleagues as I worked for many years at Disneyland Paris and for the Accor hotel group. Keeping the contacts not only helps me find translation contracts, but also often means I’m working on topics that I really know and understand.
I work 99% of the time with direct clients, in other words I’m not working through an agency. The advantages are that I choose my rates and don’t need to use CAT tools. The disadvantage is that I don’t have many regular jobs, I can’t really plan in advance.
Can you provide a brief description of a typical work day?
I’ll begin by saying that after many years of working from home, about 15 months ago I rented an office 5 minutes drive from my home. This was necessary for me at that time for a few reasons:
– I was finding it more and more difficult to be in “work” mode and wasn’t networking enough to keep a steady work flow
– I also run a sports club in my “free” time, and it was tempting to do all the fun sports tasks rather than working
– My husband is now freelancing from home and a house is only so big
I would have two sorts of work days.
When I’m in the middle of a translation job, I’d be at my desk from 9h until around 12h30, go home for lunch with my husband most days (we get to chat about things that we don’t manage at dinner with the children around) and then return to my office at 14h until between 17h and 19h depending on how much procrastinating I’ve been doing and how near the deadline is.
On other work days I may be doing accounts, sending invoices or building my professional network. This could involve attending seminars organised locally, working for a local business network I help to run, lunching, coffeeing, emailing etc. On these days I generally wouldn’t work very long hours. I’d probably manage a bit of shopping, a work-out…
What aspects of your profession do you enjoy most?
I love constantly learning new things. When I start a translation on a topic I’m not fully at ease with, the going is really slow, but as I get further into the subject I generally begin to enjoy it, and often feel a little sad when it’s over.
I also love being my own boss and working when and where I want to.
Which aspects do you least enjoy?
I don’t feel as though I suffer from solitude. But as a pretty sociable person who loves a laugh, when I recently did an in-house job for a few months, I did really enjoy the company. Meeting new people, being part of a team, etc. So I guess working alone all the time would be a negative point in a way. It’s not lonely, but it’s not much fun either.
How long have you been working as a translator?
I started in 2007, so 11 years now.
Does this work fit with your initial studies? Did you in fact study to become a translator?
No and No.
What is your career path? Why did you make the decision to work as a translator?
I’m Irish, so French was a second language for me. I spent a year in Paris just after school and really wanted to live here. I trained as a Bilingual Executive Assistant to get myself back to Paris as quickly as possible and to start earning a decent salary.
I did various small contracts and then got into the opening team of Disneyland Paris (EuroDisney as it was then). I worked 5 glorious years there, starting as Executive Assistant and finishing up as Event Coordinator.
I then worked for 9 years in Internal Communications for the Accor Hotel Group.
All of my jobs involved some translation, but I didn’t really enjoy it because it tended to be people asking me for favours all the time on top of my own tasks. Translation had a negative element to it for me.
After my third child was born I found myself without a job and as I live 30 kms from Paris and was used to having interesting jobs with decent pay rates, it was really hard to find something suitable nearby, especially as I was looking for part time.
A Belgian translator friend/neighbour encouraged me to try translation. I can’t remember clearly, but I think that back then I had been contacted by some colleagues who needed translations, so I wasn’t really starting from nothing.
I sent a presentation email to the 100 people in my Field Hockey club, and it snowballed out of control and I was really busy in the first few years.
I’ve come to love.
Over the years I’ve sometimes looked into finding other work (during slow periods). But I’ve never found anything I’d prefer to do, or that would earn more money without working/commuting really, really long hours.
Is translation your sole professional work? If not, in what other fields are you involved?
I’ve had a few in-house jobs over the years.
Interpreting for meetings.
There’s always a language element involved.
English and Spanish > French translator
French and Spanish teacher (face-to-face/Skype)