Building Your Network: Tips From Freelance Translator Naoko Orito

This month, we’re featuring reader Naoko Orito, a freelance translator who began her career in corporate communications. MultiLingual contributor Nicolas M. Martin Fontana asked her about how her career has evolved and how she views the opportunities of the coming decade.

Why do you enjoy reading MultiLingual magazine?

MultiLingual magazine is a great source of thought-provoking industry news. Best of all, it comes in a single volume. Nowadays, you can get a lot of information from everywhere, including online, but I still find it valuable to be able to read it in one place. The articles offer a lot of insight for everyone, regardless of role, experience, or age. So I think MultiLingual magazine attracts a wide readership.

How did you get involved in the translation business?

I began my career as a freelance translator 13 years ago. Before that, I worked in the corporate communications department of the Tokyo branch of a multinational company, where my responsibilities included translation. I was responsible for a wide range of translations, from internal newsletters to interviews for the intranet site. I also wrote news articles for the Japanese branch, translated them into English and French, and sent them to the head office.

In short, I had the opportunity to train as a translator on the job for a couple of years. It was a great experience for me to be able to act as a language bridge between the head office and the Japanese branch, and it inspired me to become a freelance translator. I started my career as a freelance translator after moving to Italy, but I was lucky enough to meet good clients early on and build up my experience.

Since you entered the translation industry, how has the business landscape changed?

In my personal experience, the most significant change has been in workflow and communication. In the early years of my career, I mainly used email, but now I can do most of my work on platforms, from accepting projects to delivery. I don’t use email as much these days. I prefer to communicate via Slack. This change has helped me foster a greater sense of team spirit with colleagues who, like me, work remotely. For example, one of my clients organizes online meetings several times a year, so I can virtually meet colleagues who work around the world. And if we have any problems, we can help each other as if we were sitting in the same office nearby. In this sense, the development of technology has contributed greatly to efficiency and better communication.

Could you share your experience working with your first client or on your first project?

The first client contacted me through a platform for translators. It was an Italian direct client who asked me to translate a text in the field of fashion. The person in charge gave me the opportunity as a beginner (even though I had passed the test). I still remember how happy I was! I did the job to the best of my ability, and they became my main client. Everyone has a first step, and I am still very grateful to that client for their trust in me and my work.

Do you believe it’s a good time to enter the translation business?

I think it’s up to you/us. We are living through a huge change, not only for the translation business. It is challenging, but I believe we can find or create our own role. My humble experience has taught me that embracing new technologies is one of the keys, whatever the situation.

Where do you see yourself professionally in the next 10 years?

This is a very difficult question! I want to continue to make my way in the next decade. Looking back at the last decade, there was a period, especially after 2020, when the coronavirus, the war in Ukraine, and other incredible events caused the volume of work to drop dramatically.

After that, the workload gradually picked up, but a lot of things changed inside and outside me. During this transition, I had the opportunity to rethink what I wanted to do and how I wanted to work in the future, and to consolidate my core values. In the meantime, I attended insightful industry webinars and had the opportunity to meet many people virtually. I also used my spare time to get ISO 17100:2015 certification. After a few months, I started meeting new clients. As I wanted, I am working in a better way.

My other challenge was to have face-to-face interaction with different people in the industry and start enlarging an offline network. I attended LocLunch Milano for the first time in June 2022. In October, I attended KTLC in Warsaw for the first time and met Nicolás M. Martin Fontana, who offered me the opportunity to do this interview. In February 2023, I attended Elia Together. All this has given me a lot of insight, and now I want to give something back to the community. I want to do what I can, even if it’s just a small thing.

The next ten years are unpredictable. But I will embrace new technologies and try to be open to different situations. I also look forward to meeting great people and seeing what we can do together.

What predictions do you have for the future of the translation industry?

As there is no doubt there will be an increasing demand for localization, I believe each one of us will work with technologies. At the same time, there will be a need to discuss how to use these technologies more ethically. And everyone will have to cultivate our thoughts for the sake of healthy growth of the industry.

Nicolas M. Martin Fontana
Sales and Marketing Manager at Comunica.

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