How do you plan your CPD yet remain flexible to make it work for you?

In our next guest post, Lloyd Bingham discusses how to plan your CPD yet remain flexible and responsive to circumstances. We are very grateful to all our guest writers who have taken the time and trouble to share their thoughts and experiences. If you would like to publish a post on CPD (Continuing Education) please do let us know.

Every translator I know loves a good plan. And so they should. We wouldn’t be able to do our jobs without planning. So quite naturally this should apply when it comes to our continuing professional development too. But then it’s not long before a new course pops up that you know would be perfect to help build on your expertise in a certain field or take your career in a new direction that you’ve always wanted to. Unfortunately, this potentially means that you might not have the time or financial resources to fit in the other CPD you had in mind.

This ‘vicious circle’ will probably plague us for the rest of our professional lives. It’s not one that can be broken, because circumstances change and, if you’re anything like me, actions we plan to serve our long-term goals are put on the backburner in favour of short-term ones. Instead of breaking the vicious circle, we can do the next best thing and learn how to manage it.

Planning your CPD

Lucy Brooks’ talk at the Language Show in October 2014 was well timed as I had recently left my in-house job and started my own translation business. Lucy made a very compelling argument in favour of periodically drafting a CPD plan. And I did just that. As far as I was concerned, I had done everything right according to Lucy’s model of reflecting, planning, acting, reviewing and repeating; I had determined my professional objectives, sought out training to achieve them, planned how and when I was going to undertake the training and how the costs would be covered, and set aside time to review whether the training did indeed do what it was intended to do and whether any further action was required on that point.

My plan differentiated between cheaper and typically more regular CPD (such as reading source language newspapers, watching films in a source language and going to foreign language conversation evenings) and pricier, ad-hoc training, from a number of providers including eCPD, ProZ, Alexandria Project, Coursera, Future Learn and even the Open University. So no-one can say I didn’t do my homework.

The problem is that only a few months into the year, the plan went straight out the window. Only now can I identify why: too many short-term objectives, exacerbated by adding any course that took my fancy in the slightest.

Being selective in your CPD

There are probably countless courses you too have come across and would love to do, but they might not quite fit in with current demand from your clients. Or they might help to take your business into a new field, but you need a lot more time and resources to dedicate to that objective. Doing any and all courses that interest you in the slightest, though, would leave little time for translation, not to mention personal commitments, and might just bankrupt us.

CPD planning cycleMaking a flexible CPD plan

In my new plan, I’ve retained the distinction between regular (less formal) and ad-hoc (more formal) CPD. It’s good to have rough plan for the regular stuff, but not one set in stone. I initially planned to watch X number of films in a source language per year or read X newspapers per month. But it was inevitable that I would be unable to stick to this since life takes over, as it does, and we always overestimate how much time we have to do things in general. That said, I am more or less sticking to my commitments to going to fortnightly German-speaking social evenings (in line with my objective to improve my spoken language skills) and brushing up on my Spanish vocabulary each day using Memrise (in order to prepare for a working holiday this summer in Spain), a priority that superseded others when I booked this back in January.

As for the more formal, ad-hoc CPD, this is where we need to further categorise and prioritise our CPD objectives. To ascertain the priority of any training course I might be interested in, I look at a variety of factors, primarily:

  • Is the training time-sensitive? Will this be the only opportunity to take this course?
  • Does it immediately address an objective?
  • Will it have an immediate benefit on my business?
  • Will it have a long-term benefit on my business?
  • Will it help me to steer my business in the direction that I want?
  • Is it cost-effective?

The more times you can answer ‘yes’ to questions like these, the more you should consider undertaking that training over any other. As a rule, a CPD plan should focus on the long-term. But the flexibility comes in by keeping an eye on the latest courses to be released, assessing them against these factors and determining whether a new course takes priority over another one you previously had it mind.

A personal example of this was the Specialising in Legal Translation conference in London in January 2015; I had only come across this course a month beforehand and at £95 for a full day of high-quality content, it was a steal. With further development of legal translation expertise being one of my top objectives, this quickly took priority over others. You should not be afraid to do this. Your CPD plan must be dynamic, not static, otherwise you could pass up valuable opportunities.

This could well mean that you might not get round to some training you identified for some time. This is because that training is likely to coincide with an interest you have, but does not majorly address one of your business objectives or the price does not bear much relation to the benefits. Although this type of training is not a high priority, do treat yourself to this type of training when time and resources allow in order to maintain your work-life balance and make for a happier freelancer.

Giving back with CPD

I am now fortunate to be in a position to give back to the CPD community, having delivered a webinar for eCPD Webinars in late 2014, talks to major UK universities and running Twitter workshops for ITI regional groups across the UK, with exciting new developments on the horizon. And I would encourage every established translator to do the same. Delivering CPD is not just the privilege of the few; every translator has something to teach their colleagues and it is up to us avoid undervaluing our expertise and harness it for the common good.



  1. Thanks for writing this post Lloyd! So much of the time we’re so busy tackling projects that we don’t stop to think and plan our CPD and your bulleted guidelines can offer both newcomers to the industry and experienced linguists a way to narrow-down whether a course is worth investing in. I’ll be applying them, thanks!

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