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Decluttering and Gratitude

I’ve been doing some major decluttering around our house, and in my office in particular. It’s amazing how much “silt” can build up in one’s desk, cupboards, and shelves! I’m no devotee of minimalism, but there is something very liberating about throwing out old stuff one no longer needs. Decluttering also helps to uncover old treasures. When I turned my attention to a set of shelves in the back corner of my office (difficult to access because they were blocked by a large, framed picture that we hadn’t had the space to hang – a major Feng Shui crime, I’m sure), I discovered a whole range of documents dating back to my first years of self-employment a decade ago. What a delight it was to look back through them, to relive the excitement and trepidation of my first steps into the world of freelance translation, all with the knowledge that my venture had indeed been a successful one! In particular, I found:

  • The files from a wonderful course called “From Passion to Profit” that I took on becoming self-employed, run by the fabulous Corrina Gordon-Barnes (Corrina doesn’t offer this course anymore; she now works as a coach specialised in making difficult relationships easier).
  • A Haynes manual on “Working from Home” gifted me by one of my best friends when I first set up my own home office. What a useful and thoughtful present! (This friend subsequently also set up her own yoga business and her classes help me to keep reasonably limber despite the hours I spend at my desk!)
  • My welcome pack from the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI), which I joined as an Associate Member in 2010 – one of my best moves starting out! The ITI ran a course that I found really useful as a newbie translator (its current incarnation is called “Setting Up as a Freelance Translator”), and over the years I have benefited immensely from membership of its language, regional, and subject networks and the opportunities for training and further development it offers.
  • A leaflet from my local business network. I was a member of this network for a couple of years, and it was a really great way of getting to know local entrepreneurs and finding out more about the perks and challenges of running one’s own business. While it wasn’t a place to find clients, given my own particular profile (there aren’t a great many German-speaking academics requiring translations in Rutland…), it really made me feel part of the local business community, and I used the services of several of my network colleagues (including the designer of my website!).
  • My very first business plan! I was encouraged to write a proper business plan by the tutor of a business workshop run by HMRC (the UK tax office), who even gave me 1:1 feedback on it. Following years of austerity and cuts, I don’t believe this service is available anymore, so I was very lucky to benefit from it back in 2010.

What looking through these files really brought home to me was how, during these first stages of my self-employment journey, I had been held by a big support network. Leaving a steady paycheck and striking out on my own was scary, but every step of the way I had the help of friends and family, translator colleagues, fellow entrepreneurs, and even the government. Ten years on, I am able to look back with a great feeling of gratitude. As Sandra Day O’Connor (the first woman appointed to the US Supreme Court) wrote, “We don’t accomplish anything in this world alone.”

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