“I couldn't see any way to progress from what I was doing.”
What work were you doing previously?
I was previously working as a freelance translator, translating German to English.
I'd studied English and German at university, then afterwards did a proofreading internship at a translation agency in Hamburg. My job there was to proofread translations that had already been done. After a while, I started doing translation myself (having taken a module in it at uni).
At the end of my six-month internship, I carried on doing freelance translation work for that agency and signed up for a few other agencies too. I moved back to the UK and worked remotely with agencies in both Germany and the UK.
What are you doing now?
I'm now working in search engine optimisation (SEO), as Senior Content Executive at a digital marketing agency.
I joined the agency a year ago as a copywriter and have since learned the fundamentals of SEO. I now plan and map out the written content for all of our clients, carrying out keyword research and crafting website text that reads well to customers and helps sites rank well in Google.
I've also learnt some of the technical side of SEO to support this work – coding and using technical tools.
How did you feel in your work before you decided to make the change?
There were aspects I enjoyed about being a freelance translator.
I enjoyed being my own boss, having the freedom to work from anywhere, being able to take a holiday or get up whenever I wanted. I also enjoyed using my German on a daily basis.
However, I often experienced 'cabin fever' working from home. Plus, the financial implications of being freelance could get a little stressful – there might be a week where hardly any work came in, for example.
The main thing that caused me to change careers, however, was the feeling that I'd plateaued in my current career and couldn't easily progress.
Why did you change?
The translation work I was doing fell under the category of 'general' translation – it involved a lot of marketing texts, customer newsletters, etc.
While I enjoyed this, to really make a career, and money, out of translation, you need to be specialised in something such as medicine, law or technology. Most of these niche translators have a background in this area and also happen to be bilingual – after all, there's no shortcut to learning about law or medicine if you only have the language skills.
As such, I couldn't see any way to progress from what I was doing, or to up my earnings. I also missed working in an office and having human interaction on a daily basis! I was doing the same, solitary thing all the time; I wanted a job that was more varied and challenging, with room for progression.
When was the moment you decided to make the change?
It was January last year – I had the 'January blues'.
The short days and sitting at home trying to motivate myself to work were getting me down, so I started looking for jobs online.
How did you choose your new career?
A main component of translation is being able to write well, so I knew that writing was a skill I had.
I'd ended up doing some copywriting and copyediting for freelance clients and enjoyed it, so I decided to go down that route.
I also knew that copywriting could be a good route into a marketing career – something I'd long been interested in but never explored. I've always been a creative person, so the creative side of marketing appealed to me.
Are you happy with the change?
I love working in an office, especially as I get along well with my colleagues, and I like being out and about every day instead of cooped up at home.
In terms of the work itself, I enjoy SEO as well. It's combined my love and talent for writing with more practical, technical skills – I'm enjoying the mix.
What do you miss and what don't you miss?
I miss being able to decide when I do and don't work.
I also miss using my German all the time, although my agency does have one German client, so I get to use it a bit!
But I definitely don't miss the isolation and never knowing exactly how much money I'm going to make that month.
How did you go about making the shift?
Once I'd decided, it all happened quite quickly.
I saw my current job advertised online, applied, did a test piece, interviewed and got the job!
I was worried that people might be put off that I hadn't worked as an in-house copywriter before, but actually my current employers saw the fact that I'd worked freelance as a plus. They knew I could work with clients and deadlines; they also saw the potential for me to progress to being a content executive.
What didn't go well? What wrong turns did you take?
Around a year before, I'd been having a think about a career change.
I interviewed for a job in e-learning – using my writing skills to create digital training courses – but the job and the company just weren't the right fit for me. A year later, I'd had more time to think about what I wanted to do, and found a company where I really fitted in.
How did you handle your finances to make your shift possible?
To be honest, the shift made my financial situation better!
Having a regular pay cheque from a single source was a novelty to me – it was great not to have to send out and chase up invoices!
What was the most difficult thing about changing?
The switch to the 9–5 was a bit of a shock to the system at first, but I'm used to that now.
I did enjoy translation and miss it sometimes, but it's something I've put to the side for now. I feel like it was the right decision.
What help did you get?
Mainly just support and advice from friends and family!
What resources would you recommend to others?
I don't have any specific resources to recommend, but I would say do your research on the industry / job you're thinking of going into.
Talk to someone already doing it if possible, to get a realistic picture of what it's like.
What have you learnt in the process?
I've learnt that different jobs are right at different times in your life.
I enjoyed translation at first but I outgrew it, whereas what I'm currently doing is right for me now.
What would you advise others to do in the same situation?
Trust your gut.
I thought about changing careers for a while, but it hadn't felt like the right time. I felt like I should be doing something with more career progression, but I didn't know what.
I remember my dad said to me that when the time was right to change careers, I would know – and he was right. I waited until I was sure I wanted a change and had identified what I wanted to do. Then I just went for it! I'd advise others to do the same.
What lessons could you take from Rachel's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.