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Our June 2020 Event. Yelena McCafferty: Language Freelancers at the Time of Change

We gathered this time to listen to Yelena McCafferty’s talk entitled Language Freelancers at the Time of Change, followed by an engaging discussion, structured networking and refreshing drinks on what proved to be one of the hottest days in the UK in 2020. We had language professionals tuning in from all corners of the UK as well as South America, Asia and Europe.

Yelena McCafferty is an award-winning Russian interpreter and translator. Her talk was centred around the question:

Is there still business for independent full-time translators now that British companies prefer to hire staff with foreign language skills? What languages are in demand most?

Yelena explored these issues with specific examples from UK companies advertising multilingual positions. 

She showed why having staff who can speak other languages doesn’t always mean that companies will never need to use independent language specialists. Yelena pointed out some situations where engaging a freelancer was not only appropriate but also necessary. 

She then addressed the times we are in, and mentioned that the COVID-19 situation has left no industry unaffected: while some linguists have experienced no change in their workload, for others work has dried up. Feast and famine is a freelancer reality, Yelena said.

‘What can linguists do to survive in these challenging circumstances?’ – she asked, and then looked at some practical examples on how some of us language professionals have adopted to new creative ways of staying in business. 

She shared her price decrease impact matrix and demonstrated why cutting our rates does not make much business sense.

Yelena concluded that companies are increasingly hiring inhouse staff for their language requirements, but freelance work is still out there. We just have learn to adapt to the ever changing circumstances and spot those challenges that we can turn into opportunities.

After Yelena’s talk, we discussed our experiences when it comes to queries to reduce our fees, and how we dealt with those requests. And we had a lengthy conversation on agencies and their working practices – what’s ethical and ok for them to do, and at what point do we feel that they are exploitative or simply unfair.

We also mentioned that it’s great to have a network we can reach out to for when we can’t serve a potential client so we can refer them to a colleague. ‘The Law of the Boomerang’ as Yelena puts it, always works and these favours are returned – manyfold.

After the talk and Q&A, we did the usual 30-sec intro pitch round. It was followed by networking, exchanging contact details, great conversations and a couple of risqué jokes.

Thanks to everyone who attended and contributed to this lively event by sharing their views and stories. We’ll be back in July 2020.

Until then, take care, stay safe. 


About the speaker:

Yelena McCafferty is a qualified translator and interpreter and runs Talk Russian, a specialist language business which she started in 2002. She holds a Winner of Best Performance on an Interpreting Assignment Award by the Institute of Translation and Interpreting. In 2017 she also received a special commendation as an Industry Ambassador. Over the years Yelena has appeared as a language expert contributor in various radio programmes, including the Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2 to promote high standards of interpreting. You can find Yelena on LinkedIn

To read Yelena’s take on our event and her talk, check out this blog of hers.

The proceeds of this event went entirely to Moorfields Eye Charity. Charities now need more support than ever, and we are proud to be able to sponsor Moorfields from our ticket sales. Thank you very much indeed for everyone’s donations.

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