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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Bell

Continuing professional development reflection: from translation student to freelance translator

Updated: Aug 26, 2022

Author profile

Andrew Bell is a medical and pharmaceutical translator working from Spanish, Portuguese and Catalan to English, trading under the name Bell Johnson Translations. You can connect with him by using the following links:



Twitter: @belljohnsonTR

Instagram: @belljohnsontranslations


As work has started picking up for me over the past few months, I’ve found it increasingly harder to try and find time to undertake continuing professional development (CPD) activities. That’s why I decided I was going to make my first ever CPD plan, but there was one problem, how do I go about doing that?

The ITI’s website quickly came to the rescue and provided me with a really helpful blog post by Dean Evans who discussed exactly this.

Dean recommended looking back over your past CPD logs and identifying what you enjoyed and what worked well for you, as well as what areas you need to improve.

Step 1: reviewing previous CPD logs

I use the ITI CPD calendar which starts at the beginning of May each year.

Year 2019-20

  • Source language skills (80%)

  • Medical translation (5%)

  • Starting out in translation (10%)

  • General webinars about translation (5%)


I had just started my MA at the university of Leeds, and I was very new to translation. I was terrified of becoming a freelancer and decided that I would probably look for an in-house position when I graduated. Looking back, it's obvious to me now that I was also dealing with imposter syndrome, and all of this certainly influenced the CPD activities I undertook. I focused on my source language skills as I thought this would improve the quality of my translations, but realistically, I allocated much more time than was necessary to this skill.

Year 2020-21

  • Business skills (30%)

  • Technology for translators (25%)

  • Medical translation (15%)

  • Source language skills (30%)


My CPD activities were much more varied this year. As COVID-19 ruined my plans of finding an in-house position, I decided to jump in at the deep end and go freelance from day 1, so it’s not surprising that I spent a lot of time developing my business skills. This was time well spent and has certainly helped me get to where I am today.

I also enjoyed a lot of the ‘technology for translators’ webinars that I attended, but in hindsight, a lot of the information these webinars addressed was covered in much greater detail during my MA and so were perhaps not so useful after all.

As COVID-19 shifted all events into an online format, I noticed that I seemed to sign up for most of the webinars offered by CIOL and ITI without truly considering whether they would be of use to me in the long run. While it was certainly enjoyable to attend webinars covering various different topics, I no longer have the time to continue down this unstructured path, nor would it be beneficial for me in the long run.

Something I did take away from this year however was how useful online events can be. As I am from a small town in Cumbria far away from most major cities, travelling to in-person events often has a huge financial burden that would limit the number of events I could usually attend, which is not a problem with online events. However, I did find that it was very hard to concentrate for long periods in front of a computer screen and this is something I should take into consideration going forward.

Year 2021-22 (ongoing)

  • Medical translation (50%)

  • Business skills (50%)


At the start of the new CPD cycle, one of my clients asked me to send them a list of the CPD activities I had undertaken in the previous cycle. That’s when I first realised that my CPD was rather unstructured and could be improved. I was certain that I wanted to increase the amount of medical and pharmaceutical related CPD I undertook, and so I made a huge list of helpful webinars I could access through my membership to professional organisations. Three months later and I have only watched a couple of these webinars, and although they were very helpful, I felt as though I was fitting them into my schedule at the last minute, and I wasn’t undertaking CPD as frequently as I would have liked. This is when I decided to make my own CPD plan.

In summary, I believe I have made a good start this year in terms of content, but as I mentioned above the frequency of activities could be improved.

Areas for improvement

  • Seek out relevant CPD opportunities rather than waiting for opportunities to arrive in my inbox

  • Set time aside to follow up on what was covered

  • Engage in regular CPD activities by scheduling time for such activities

Going forward, in stage 2 of creating my CPD plan, I intend to use my reflections above to make informed decsions about the activities I want to undertake to improve my skills as both a medical and pharmaceutical translator and a successful freelancer. Then I will create a schedule which will help me plan my time accordingly.

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