Feature Life

Freestyle: Translator Christianne Vachon

Christianne Vachon (Image: Submitted)

All across New Brunswick, people are using their skills sets to make a living – while at the same time being their own boss.

According to the 2016 census, 8.5 per cent of the provincial workforce (31,785 people) reported that they were primarily self-employed. Whether you call them “freelancers,” “consultants” or simply “self-employed,” there’s no doubt they play a significant and growing role in the province’s economy.

In this series, Freestyle, we take a look at who they are and what they do.

Last time, we touched base with Saint John-based Elaine Shannon, of  Shannon Multimedia Productions.

This week, we chat with, Christianne Vachon a translator and owner of Spique:

How did you get started?

Twenty-five years ago, I was working in Vancouver on a French language magazine for immersion kids and planting trees when my life exploded and my marriage ended. I was very sad. My Mother bought a puppy to console me and my Father asked me to help translate on some projects he was working on. Disraeli the dog was the perfect therapy and the work was life-giving. It captured my interest.

Vachon’s dog, Disraeli. (Image: Submitted)

What made you want to go freelance?

One single thing. It can be very scary being freelance. You have a quiet week and you’re terrified, you hesitate to refuse work even when you need a rest, you get super frustrated trying to deal with the numbers, but when push comes to shove you can say: “You know what? No.”

What’s your skill-set focus?

Well, firstly I’m an autodidact. I am self-taught. (Do not try this at home kids). I’m a voracious and wide-ranging reader. My biggest skill is honed daily by the nature of my work: I have to be a pantomath to do my work and doing my work makes me a pantomath. I have to know or find out as much as I can about whatever I’m translating. It is deeply satisfying to me to learn new things.

Secondly, I adore words. I speak two languages and I have to keep up in them both constantly because language changes all the time. My formal education was all in French. Everything I know about English, I taught myself. But English surrounds me every day. I have to consciously read, speak and listen to French every single day.

Who is your client base?

Energy companies, tourism projects and companies, advertising and public relations firms, IT firms, local events, seafood conglomerates, restaurants, law firms, manufacturers of everything from hardware to batteries, professional associations, art galleries, non-profit organizations and government initiatives at all levels. I work and have worked for clients here in Saint John, around the province, and in Ontario, Nova Scotia and Quebec.

My best thing is creative adaptation. When it’s vital for the message to be the same in English and in French. The same meaning, the same tone, the same freshness and vitality. When I nail that it is the most satisfying thing in life to me. These days I have a few clients for whom I write a text or an ad in one language and then I translate it. That’s super fun.

How do you go about finding work/clients?

It’s all relationships. They’re of the utmost importance to me personally and professionally. If I work with someone, it’s because I like them.

How is working freelance in your profession different from other fields?

It’s very subjective and sensitive. I need to make a text sound like my client said it. Feelings come into it a lot more than you’d think.

What’s your favourite tool/app/website you use for work?

There are a few, but in the end, it’s an ability to research that makes or breaks my work.

When do you start your day and when do you end it?

Part of the reason I work at the office with Duke (besides the jokes and the camaraderie) is that it makes me work a normal workday. Otherwise, work seeps into every minute. You have to guard against that.

What’s your favourite thing about working for yourself?

See: “No”, above.

What’s the biggest challenge of working as a freelancer?

The accounting. I hate it and I’m bad at it.

When do you take a vacation?

Very seldom, but I do make myself take time off. Even a mini-break is better than none. I try and do as little as possible when I do take a break. Sitting and staring somewhere pretty is kind of what I aim for.

One piece of advice for someone looking to break into the freelance economy?

Okay, two: 1. Love the work. 2. Don’t do your own accounting.