ITI membership: Is it worth joining a Professional association?
I didn’t name it as such, but a couple of blogs ago I contributed to the discussion over translation’s status as a profession. Now it’s time to look in detail at what a translator – or any professional – can do to cement their status as an expert in their field.
Anyone operating in a profession will be aware of associations, even if they’re not a member themselves. If they work for a company, their company is probably a corporate member of one.
Associations can be anything from groups of individuals chartered in a specific industry to small, possibly local small business societies with members from various professions.
There are thousands of these bodies in the UK. And there are probably hundreds just in translation, depending on where you are, what you translate and the kind of support you’re seeking. The most obvious for my purposes is the ITI (Institute of Translators and Interpreters).
As a translator, do you need to join one?
The added value of ITI membership to your career
The answer is of course, no – it is not a requirement. But there are a range of benefits to be gained from membership.
The first and most obvious for a self-employed translator is company in an otherwise solitary endeavour. That includes but is not limited to socialising.
More pertinent of late, when close contact with other humans has been restricted, the Institute of Translators and Interpreters (ITI) has been organising online “coffee mornings” for members. Similarly, my local branch, ITI ScotNet, has arranged “Show & Tell” Zoom meetings and the language-specific denomination, the Italian Network, fortnightly “Aperitivi”.
Before we were confined to our own homes, ScotNet was a lifeline to me living in the North East of Scotland: attending workshops in Edinburgh was much more accessible (and less expensive) than larger events elsewhere. I would be one of many to have remarked how nice it is to “chat translation” with other people who “get it”!
Face to face and virtual mingling isn’t all about the social side. The opportunities that professional networks afford to meet with like-minded people is a valuable resource too. I’ve seen (and taken) jobs that have popped up on fora. I have also been approached by fellow members for specific jobs – those word-of-mouth prompts, offers and recommendations would never have been possible if I had never met or “e-met” the messengers.
Both individual and corporate memberships also put businesses in touch with individuals and vice versa. Specifically within the ITI, there is room to grow (more on membership categories later), and as your ranking or qualifications improve, you can be listed on a directory of trusted translation suppliers.
Membership of such organisations usually requires some sort of qualification if not a commitment to continuous professional development (CPD). The ITI requests that members undertake a minimum of 30 hours per year. I have already achieved that for this period, which stretches from May 2020 – April 2021.
Once achieved, the ITI allows you to download your certificate as well as an email banner, so you can show off to clients that you are in the loop.
To take this one step further, with the ITI – as with many such associations – there is room to grow. Members can join as Students or Affiliates and over time step up to become Associates (AITIs have a minimum of a year’s experience), Qualified members (to become an MITI you must pass an exam) and Fellows. The clear-cut categories are likely to already be known among language service provider clients; otherwise, or for direct clients unfamiliar with the field, a quick link to the website is a fast way to prove your level and commitment to continuous training.
It’s part of a professional organisation’s role to gather resources relevant to the work its members do. Continuing with the example relevant to me, the ITI has its own bimonthly magazine, the ITI Bulletin, as well as sending out regular newsletters which contains links to relevant articles and publications.
Representation and support
As a single voice, you may struggle to be heard. As part of a wider group, you become a larger force to be reckoned with. The ITI commits to speaking up on behalf of its members. It proved its mettle by issuing letters to the government demanding reassurances during Brexit as well as during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The financial advantages that membership can deliver
The strongest marketing message for any professional group will be the money it can save its members: it has to be, when the costs of joining can be so high.
Discounts are usually offered on a range of necessary products:
- Professional Indemnity insurance policies taken out with a specific provider
- Attendance at conferences and workshops run by the association itself or by partner organisations
- Software used in your profession, including accountancy packages
So what’s the catch?
My intention here isn’t to tout the ITI or any other professional body for all it’s worth. Particularly because of the significant initial output (£110 annual fee for an Affiliate membership), professional membership isn’t for everyone.
The benefits are limited in scope: now, providers are able to offer their own discounts and I have found that they rarely differ from those given to professional associations. For example, initial free month trials – which most software providers offer nowadays – can work out as the same price as six months at the reduced fee the organisation has negotiated. I recently managed to purchase an upgrade to SDL Trados Studio 2021 for far cheaper than I had seen it anywhere else, on an early bird offer directly with the company. It’s therefore worth knowing the specifics of such deals before signing up on their account.
Honestly, I personally get an awful lot more out of the local ITI branches than out of the national network. I’m not entirely sure my membership pays for itself, but so far I have renewed every year – I really do value those local networks, to which I wouldn’t have access without the national one.
The verdict is up to you
In all, whether it’s worth it depends on your personal circumstances. Especially in the lower membership tiers, it would be hard to ever justify membership purely in numbers (with the few workshops I attend, mostly local anyway, I would struggle to say I make the money back).
But by having my national membership, I have access to those local or language-specific networks. From there, I pick up the odd job and definitely feel the benefit of the opportunity to make like-minded acquaintances.