Guest post: Teaching translation project management 2


Nancy’s e-book won this year’s award for best translation-related book.

As promised, I’m happy to present the first installment of our guest blog post series featuring recipients of this year’s community choice awards. First up is Nancy Matis, who won the award for best translation-related book for her e-book entitled How to manage your Translation Projects. The print version, available in French, can be purchased here.

Nancy has been involved in the translation industry for about 20 years, working as a translator, reviser, technical specialist, project manager and teacher, among other roles. She currently manages her own translation company based in Belgium and teaches translation project management at four universities. She has conducted seminars at numerous universities on this subject across Europe, and has also been involved in designing and evaluating training materials for future translators and project managers.

In this guest post, Nancy discusses some techniques she uses in teaching translation project management to her students, and explains why this is a useful skill for project managers and translators alike.

TPM_checklistTeaching Translation Project Management (TPM) is really thrilling. One of the aspects I most enjoy is that the majority of my students are highly interested in this topic. The challenge lies in the breadth of the subject and the wide variety of translation requests it encompasses. Every project is different, every company (whether an end client or a translation agency) has its own management methods, and every project participant has their own concerns depending on the role they play.

The way I approach TPM with MA students is to describe the theoretical life cycle of a translation project, and in-between, to add as many counter examples as I can. The goal is not to teach them just one way of managing their projects, but to open their minds to this vast area while pushing them to know how to adapt to any situation, as project managers or translators, and as employees or freelancers.

TPM is not only useful for future project managers. All participants in a translation project have to manage their own tasks. That’s why it’s essential to include concepts that apply to all of them and to target explanations at specific job profiles.

For instance, the subject that students find the most appealing in the main is pricing. I usually start by showing them several examples of price grids and explaining that, as project managers working in translation agencies, they will probably have to refer to grids to prepare new quotations. This gives me an opportunity to illustrate any rate variations based on source and target languages as well as the project domain (legal, medical, economics, etc.), style (technical, marketing, etc.) and category (documentation, software, multimedia, etc.), and the tasks involved (not only translation and revision, but also desktop publishing, illustration mock-up, testing, etc.) according to their level of
complexity. From there, we explore how translation companies establish their rates and how these future professionals can define their own and present them in a customised price grid. We talk about prices based on estimated costs and briefly introduce the notion of gross margin. Afterwards, we check in detail how to set up rates based on expected productivity. At this stage, we discuss profitability, which gives us the chance to think about what is and is not acceptable. Depending on how much time I have with the class, we can then go as far as drawing up tables with multiple productivity metrics, several expected hourly (or daily) fees and the resulting word rates. We can do this for translation alone, deciding whether to integrate the use of CAT tools (or even machine translation) or not, or we can include other linguistic steps in the calculation, such as revision and LQA (linguistic quality assurance). Sometimes, we repeat the process for some technical tasks, for example DTP (desktop publishing), focusing on rates for units such as pages and illustrations. We can also end the topic by discussing when we should apply extra charges and increase unit rates, or even debating whether the price reductions some clients require are legitimate.

The goals of this approach are multiple:

  • Make the students understand how rates are set up in translation companies.
  • Prepare them to fix rates as freelancers (even when subcontracting to others).
  • Enable them to decide if they can accept the rates imposed by some clients or translation agencies.

During the course, I teach most of the other TPM topics (project analysis, quotation, scheduling, launching, monitoring, closing, etc.) in the same way, i.e. from various perspectives to ensure I cover as many roles in as many project types as possible. I don’t generally limit myself to successful cases since, whenever possible, I share my experience of some project failures too so we can analyse how these situations could have been avoided. This helps students become aware of the importance of risk management. Examining a range of cases is certainly the most enriching side of teaching project management. As I work in parallel on new projects in my other day job, I can constantly update the examples and exercises I give my students. That’s why the Translation Project Management programme is constantly evolving.


Nancy Matis, author of this guest post

Thanks for sharing this post with us, Nancy!

For those interested in learning more about this topic, be sure to check out Nancy’s website, which is dedicated to the subject of translation project management, at:

The How to manage your Translation Projects e-book is also available for purchase in the books section:

Stay tuned for upcoming guest blog posts featuring winners of the 2015 community choice awards. Feedback on this blog post and suggestions for future posts can be made below or tweeted to @ProZcom

Guest post: The lesson I learned as a financial translator Reply

Today’s guest blog post features professional trainer and conference speaker Francesca Airaghi, who was kind enough to share some words of wisdom on her experience as a financial translator and entrepreneur. Francesca provides specialized English-Italian translations to financial companies, asset management companies, investment funds, banks, financial communication companies, law firms and international corporations.

You can find Francesca on the web at, or on Twitter @FranAiraghi

Francesca AiraghiYou probably all know somebody who lost his job, could not pay her mortgage any longer, or lost one big client in the wake of the GFC, the notorious Global Financial Crisis. Many companies were affected by the credit crunch and the economic slowdown in numerous countries. However, some used the financial and debt crisis as an excuse not to invest in innovation, not to pay suppliers, or to stand still.

If there is something I have learned in more than 20 years as a financial translator and entrepreneur, and also in my personal life, is that crises may be hard, but they offer the great opportunity to think about what we wish and want to do in the future. If we are able to change, as an individual and as entrepreneurs, we will succeed. Crises convert into opportunities to innovate, to learn new skills, to open new doors. Companies that are ready to change – adapt, innovate, and look forward – succeed. Those that stand still are poised to struggle.

In business, and specifically in the financial and banking industry, international regulators and national governments set new rules to reduce risk and increase transparency, minimise future bail-outs, make financial systems more stable and resilient. New regulations were introduced affecting banks, companies, taxes, markets. Grexit, Brexit and Quantitative Easing are common expressions in the news we read every day.Quote_Guest_Post

New rules and developments brought about an increase in translation volumes. Companies go global in order not to succumb. They translate websites, leaflets, annual reports, press releases. Consequently, translation volumes in the financial sector increased a lot. Financial statements have also doubled in length over the past 16 years, according to Deloitte. People want to read information in their native language before buying a product, especially if it is an expensive product or services, like investment funds or insurance policies (Don’t speak my language? I won’t buy your financial services).

Financial translation is a profitable specialisation, though it often scares many colleagues. People usually believe it is too complex and abstract. On the contrary, it is down-to-earth, and financial translators must keep constantly informed and up-to-date.

In fact, financial translation is a very wide subject and comprises so many sectors and sub-sectors affecting all our lives. Finance includes investments of course, but also annual reports on the company’s results, as well as economic news, and press releases on the launch of a new product or a new CEO. Risk management, conflict of interest, letters to shareholders, market commentaries and outlook belong to the financial translator’s daily agenda. Moreover, corporate law is strictly connected with many financial documents.

I would say that the 3 key areas of financial translation are:

  1. Economics: regarding production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services
  2. Accounting: communicating the company’s performance to shareholders and the public
  3. Finance: investment funds, capital markets, Stock Exchanges, asset management

Good financial translating requires good understanding of financial concepts. Though this is not enough. The language of finance is a special language, informative and emotional at the same time. You need to move from theory to practice and learn how to write financial news and market reports.

Unfortunately, there is lack of professional training in financial translation, especially in some language combinations. People attending my webinars often confirm that training provided at schools and institutions is often academic, not at all practical. They find it difficult to start as financial translators. Some have a financial background but lack the basics of translation, some studied translation but lack the basics of finance. From the mentoring requests I have received in the last couple of years, newbies report the lack of practical advice to become a financial translator, as for organisation (time management and project management), planning (jobs are always urgent in this niche), and reliable resources (the Internet is full of fluff), while the best way to learn is through exercise and practice.

I believe that expert colleagues should share their “practical” real-life knowledge regarding specialisation, rates and client management, to the benefit of translators’ visibility and the entire community of professional translators. Why choosing conflict and isolation when we can collaborate, share, respect and learn from each other?prozcom_training

If you wish to become more confident in translating finance and economics, you can join me in October and November at my webinar series on!

Join me at the Financial Translation Hub page I have just started on Facebook to develop a community of financial translators addicted to continuous learning.

Many thanks to Francesca for sharing this guest post with us!

If you’re interested in learning more about financial translation, Francesca offers a number of valuable on-demand and live sessions on the subject in both English and Italian:

Francesca will also be a speaker at the upcoming 2015 regional conference in Modena, Italy, with a session on market trends towards “real time” translations. You can learn more about this event and register to attend here:

As always, questions, feedback, and suggestions for future posts are welcome. Just post in the comments section below or get in touch via Twitter @ProZcom

Announcing the new service agreements tool Reply

Good Monday, everyone! The site team is happy to announce the new Service agreements tool designed for site members:

SATballoons service agreements →

The service agreements tool allows members to:

  • create and store standard service agreements that you can use in any working relationship,
  • send service agreements to other parties, discuss terms with them and agree on conditions before any projects are assigned, and
  • keep an online record of agreements you entered into to prevent potential disputes –or solve them quickly– or to simply use them as reference.

Any member can create service agreements. Site users can only be invited to review and accept them (not a member yet? Join now →)

You can check this new tool by clicking on “ service agreements” above or by mousing over the site’s “Tool” menu tab and clicking on “Service agreements”.


More information is also available in the FAQs section.

Hope you find this tool useful and that it helps you to improve the way you work. Feedback below is welcome.

Happy translating!

Platform developed for Translators without Borders now available to corporate members 11

After delivering over 25 million words, the translation center used by TWB is now being offered for use by corporate members in their own work

TWB translation center

“ built and maintains the ‘translation center’ platform for the humanitarian organization Translators without Borders.”

Created as a Humanitarian Tool, then Improved Organically

In the days following the Haiti earthquake of 2010, we at, together with many others in the industry, tried to help in any way we could. The Paris-based organization Translators without Borders had been overwhelmed by an unprecedented number of volunteers (many of them members). TwB requested that we create something to help them process applications. In response we built a screening tool, and it proved useful enough that TwB decided to standardize on it.

That screening center helped right away, but it began to be clear that the manual approach to project management that the organization had been using (i.e. email) was going to limit its ability to scale. We were asked (and inspired!) to do more to streamline operations. One-by-one, in response to requests from Translators without Borders, we added features that enabled them to automate all aspects of their processes: translator sourcing, client communications, and so on were improved.

Now, five years later, the platform that we built — what Translators without Borders calls their “Translation Center” — is somewhat mature. A single Translators without Borders project manager can now handle about ten times as much work as was possible before.

The “Translation Center” is Now Available for Use by Corporate Members

While the objectives of Translators without Borders may differ in some ways from those of translation companies, operational procedures may in some cases be quite similar. Basically, like TwB, a translation company receives work from clients, passes that work along to translators or translator teams, they do the job, and the work gets delivered. There is some form of quality control and ideally, feedback, and the various parties — clients, project managers and translators — are able to communicate as necessary and appropriate at each stage of the workflow.

Given that, it occurred to use that the translation center platform might be useful to others.

Since we built the translation center from scratch for Translators without Borders, and now we have it, we are able to allow others to use it. Given that it is fairly mature, we felt we would be able to do that without incurring a great deal of additional expense. We decided to make the platform available to corporate members of at no charge.

This translation center is not a comprehensive TMS system, but a tool that enables companies to efficiently route work to translators with whom they already have a relationship. One person described it as a “messaging bus”. It does a bit more than that (files can be moved, for example), but that is the basic idea. It has a nice interface and good communications features, project managers and translators, and optionally clients, can all be in one place, and all the information around a given job is centralized. The platform also integrates with profiles. And with the help of some beta testers, we have added some of the accounting features, etc., that companies require (but TwB never needed.)

This platform can save time and hassle for companies that are doing a lot of emailing back and forth with clients and translators. It can be even more useful for translation companies that put clients and translators into direct contact and communication. To describe more about it…

A “White Label” Design

A key concern in the design was that, even though the translation center was powered by, Translators without Borders is the real force behind the whole operation and the organization’s identity had to be carefully preserved.

To this end, a “white label” philosophy was followed in the design of the platform in such a way that all players or visitors to any instance of the translation center will see the name, logo and colors of the organization managing it, thus preserving their corporate image. White labeling means that the whole operation will be perceived by all actors as an integral part of the managing organization.

Management of Translators

The managing organization will invite their trusted translators to the translation center, where individual information can be stored on language pairs, fields of expertise, rates and any other data, in the form of administrative messages. Files can be attached to such messages (for example a signed NDA).

Messages can be exchanged with the translator through the platform, and they will be stored and associated with the translator’s profile, thus avoiding the hassle of sending and tracking emails.

The translation center can support the operation with in-house or freelance translators, or with a mixture of both categories.

Job posters can provide feedback to each task when a job is completed, entering a comment and selecting among the following options:

  • Excellent: Surpassed expectations
  • Good: In line with expectations
  • Satisfactory: Below expectations but usable
  • Unacceptable: Not usable

Average and detailed feedback for each translator is visible to the administrators, and a notification is sent to the support email each time a feedback is posted in any of the two lower levels above.

Work Orders and Jobs

The translation from one source into many target languages is supported by a work order / job / task structure, where

  • A work order (W.O.) is the common section, including source and reference files, deadline, field of expertise required, notes and special instructions, etc.
  • A job is the application of a work order to a defined target language, so a W.O. can include several jobs into different target languages.
  • A task is an individual file offered to the volunteers for translation. A job can include several tasks, both independently added by the client and as the result of the splitting by the PM of larger source files.

Jobs can be posted directly by clients, as is the case with Translators without Borders. This could be useful also for large agencies that need a way of effectively handling many small document that can’t be refused because they come from large clients, but that are processed at a loss because of the heavy overhead of their complex workflow.

An agency will most probably have their own PMs posting jobs on behalf of clients. Client identity and associated documents will still be present in the translation center, but the isolation between clients and translators will be preserved.

Basic Workflow

A project manager from the translation company will post a work order with at least one job. Reference files such as glossaries, translation memories or style guides can be added as reference to a job, or to all jobs of a given client.

Release of notifications to translators can be automatic, or manually handled by the PM. With automatic operation the notifications are sent out in batches, inviting translators to a job posting page, where they can evaluate the tasks offered and eventually accept one or more of them. The first notified translator who accepts a task will receive the assignment. Once all tasks have been accepted or manually assigned by the PM, a job is no longer available to other interested translators.

In a job page the translators with tasks assigned, the PM and the client (if given access to the page) will be able to communicate and to exchange files. All information stored in a single page, no need to send emails or keep track of files.

Translators will upload their translations to the same job page. Once all tasks in a job have been delivered, the job is complete and deliverables can be downloaded by the client or by a PM acting on their behalf.

Editing tasks can be added in the same page once the translations have been delivered, and they are assigned and delivered just like a translation task.

Automatic notifications are sent to the translator and the PM when a task is behind schedule. PMs are also notified when a task has not been accepted 48 hours after being offered to translators.

You are Kindly Invited to Try this Tool

If you routinely outsource translation work, we invite you to experiment with this platform, and to use it within your company if it suits your business. If after trying it out you find you have questions or feature requests, we would be happy to hear from you. You can contact me at enrique at proz dot com.

Market your translation services with the help of a practical marketing plan 3

In this guest post, professional trainer Tess Whitty shares some advice on how to create a marketing plan for your freelance translation business.

You are a freelance translator looking to grow your business and find those ideal clients that you enjoy working with. In order to do that we need to have some sort of a plan, a marketing plan.

In my experience there is no need to create a lengthy business plan (that will just end up in a drawer and never be put into action). Therefore, I recommend working smarter (not harder) and pulling from a variety of other tools such as mind-maps and whiteboards to create your plan.

customerIf your translation business is already up and running, the idea of adding more to your to-do list can easily feel overwhelming. As business owners, particularly when we are a one-person office, it’s easy to get buried beneath the day-to-day tasks of servicing clients and completing projects. I often hear translators say that it’s hard to find the time and energy to focus on implementing marketing tools. I know it’s hard, I have been there.

Now, because your time is scarce and precious, it is critical that you use it wisely. How are we going to ensure you get stuff done? Easy! We are going to create a list of marketing activities that will benefit your business. That way, every time your marketing appointment rolls around, you will know exactly what you need to tackle that day.

Here are the questions you can answer to begin crafting your marketing action plan:

  • How many new clients or projects do you want and in how much time?
  • How much more do you want to earn?
  • Where will you find your new clients?
  • What marketing methods will you use? (Be as specific as possible)
  • How will you market and provide service to your existing clients?
  • Can you offer additional services to your existing clients?

Based on these answers, you can make a master list of marketing actions that you need to take in order to grow your business. This master list should contain every task – big and small – that you need to execute. Then, prioritize all the actions you need to take and estimate approximately how much time you need to spend on each one. Finally, plug them into a calendar of activities you can do every week and every month. If a certain action requires long-term effort, break the task into milestones and mark the milestones on your calendar as well.

Be realistic with yourself and be careful not to try to do everything all at once. Remember that professional chefs don’t run around the kitchen and throw everything into the oven at the same time. Instead, they recognize that every task requires a different temperature and cook time. They plan their tasks strategically and never take on too much at once.

Follow up with yourself regularly to see what is working and what you need to change – perhaps you tried to tackle too much or too little, perhaps you noticed that your priorities were out of order. Don’t be afraid to make adjustments to the calendar, and remember that it exists for your benefit. After a year it will be fun to look back at just how much your business, income and client list have changed over the course of only 12 months.

If you would like to get a template for a one page marketing plan to help you on the way, please go here:

This post is a short excerpt from Tess’s new book, “The Marketing Cookbook for Translators – For a Successful Freelance Career and Lifestyle,” now available in the books section:

Thanks for sharing, Tess! As always, feedback and comments can be posted below or via Twitter @ProZcom


How to succeed in the industry: An interview with Marta Stelmaszak 2

Marta_StelmaszakAn immensely successful trainer in the area of professional development, Marta Stelmaszak‘s advice is sought by language professionals throughout the globe who are searching for ways to expand and improve their businesses. Marta utilizes her vast knowledge of marketing and entrepreneurship – as well as linguistics and translation – to offer freelance translators a unique perspective on how to succeed in the industry.

For the second year in a row, Marta has taken home more Community Choice Awards than any other recipient. This year alone she received five awards in the fields of best blog, website, trainer, conference speaker, and mentor. Her “Business School for Translators” professional development course also received the Community Choice Award in the category of best translation-related training course.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Marta about her success as a trainer, the impact of social media on her own business, some marketing techniques that she employs as a language professional, and the future of the industry.

MK: First of all, congratulations on recently winning six Community Choice Awards! One of the awards that you received this year as well as in 2013 is in the category of “Best Trainer.” Why do you think people are drawn to the advice you provide? How is your message different from that of other industry professionals?

MS: Thank you so much! It’s a great honour to have been entrusted with so many votes. I must admit that I never expected to win as many as six awards. The “best trainer” category award means a lot to me because it’s a great piece of feedback on the work I’ve been doing together with eCPD Webinars for almost two years now.

Throughout my course, the Business School for Translators, I aim to pass on the solid business knowledge I acquired during a number of business courses and a degree in management and then applied it to my own freelance business. Of course, I’m sharing my experience and how I found my clients, but the most important part of the course involves strategic thinking to develop a long-term plan. To do that, the experience of one person isn’t enough. The big strategies and tactics that I share with my students help us navigate through the freelancing landscape and build successful businesses.

Plus, the course has a wonderful community around it. We’re sharing, commenting and helping each other almost every day, and we often meet up at industry conferences. The Business School course led to the creation of a few collaboration projects, partnerships and service exchanges.

I also believe one of the things that makes my course so popular is the fact that I remained a freelance translator and interpreter and I don’t outsource work. This, perhaps, gives students the confidence that it’s possible to be successful and be a ‘true’ freelancer at the same time. It is and it feels great.

MK: How has social media effected your career? What social media platforms do you use professionally?

MS: Overall, social media had a positive effect on my business. LinkedIn was undoubtedly the most useful platform when comes to making contacts and reaching out to potential clients. This social network is a gold mine of information and market research. For Continuing Professional Development, equally important in my eyes, Twitter is my main platform. I think it’s a great way to stay abreast of all industry news and follow events which you cannot attend in person.

MK: Your blog offers practical tips and advice for language professionals at all stages of their careers. To what do you attribute the popularity of this resource?

MS: I’d like to believe that the main reason why my blog is read by colleagues is the fact that it’s based on solid business knowledge, research and careful application of the concepts I talk about to my own business.

As I studied business and management, I’m combining this field with languages. This is why I mainly specialise in translation and language consultancy aimed at small and medium enterprises growing their own activities in Poland or in the UK. But at the same time, I’m trying to bring this business knowledge to the world of translation and interpreting.

I took this approach even further and in late 2014 I published The Business Guide for Translators, the first book aimed at the translation and interpreting industry sharing essentials of business strategy and solid knowledge in economics.

MK: Your professional online presence is associated with the name “WantWords.” How important has branding been as part of your marketing strategy? Is it something you would recommend to everyone?

MS: In my opinion, branding is the way others perceive our brand, or if you like, our business. To have a brand doesn’t mean that you need a logo, a great website or give out gadgets. These elements can help you build the image you want to project but they’re not absolutely necessary. And sometimes the lack of them is precisely the essence of the brand.

My brand was built on careful research into my target market and was then executed following a branding strategy fitting into a wider marketing plan. The current image of WantWordsWantWords is what works best for my potential clients and for my business at the same time.

Anybody considering improving their branding or even re-branding should first think about the target market, i.e. the group of clients they’re trying to reach. Learning about potential clients will make the brand sharper and more effective. I’d also suggest preparing a good strategy of how the brand is going to benefit the business owner.

I would say that every translator and interpreter needs a brand, be it a strong association with quality, indication of a specific kind of work, or uncommon attitude towards work. The way this brand should be communicated is of course a whole other story.

MK: Could you define what it means to have a good online presence, and why is it important for freelance translators and interpreters?

MS: The way I see it, good online presence doesn’t mean being everywhere all the time. I believe that online presence is effective when it allows to reach the right customers, inspire their trust and reflect the business owner behind the online persona. In this sense, online presence is an extension of a business.

Freelance translators and interpreters who’re considering finding clients online should invest their time in energy into establishing the right online presence for themselves because it will definitely make their marketing efforts more effective.

MK: How do you envision the future of the language industry? Is there one piece of advice that you would give to your colleagues to help them stay relevant in this profession? 

MS: In my opinion, translation is becoming more and more integrated with the context in which it appears, and the future will accelerate this trend. My one piece of advice would be to see our work in the wider business context and react to changing business needs.

I hope you enjoyed this interview. To learn more about Marta Stelmaszak and her Business School for Translators, visit:

Feedback can be posted below or via Twitter @ProZcom

Standing out as a translator: A conversation with Andrew Morris 2

Andrew_MorrisIn less than a year, Andrew Morris‘ Standing Out Facebook group has become an active place for discussion and engagement for language professionals around the globe. The experiences shared there by both Andrew and his colleagues – the themes of which center around self-empowerment in the profession, healthy business practices, developing an attitude that fosters a successful career, to name a few – have been categorized and compiled by the group’s founder, and will be released as “The Book of Standing Out” at the end of this month.

You may remember Andrew Morris from the Bright Side of Freelance Translation project, an e-book that he co-authored with Nicole Y. Adams, which took home this year’s Community Choice Award for best translation-related book. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Andrew on his new project, the Standing Out community, how the book evolved from the discussions that took place there, and on some of his personal views on how to be successful and “stand out” in the industry.

MK: To what do you attribute your success as a freelance translator, and how has your success in the language industry carried over into the Standing Out project? What spurred you to create the initiative?

AM: Before I ever developed this recent more public profile, I was already beavering away fairly happily as a translator, and running a boutique agency on top of that, so things were going OK from about two or three years into my practice onwards.

The way I see things right now, I’d attribute that early success to 25% linguistic and technical competence, plus a few presentational skills, and 75% attitude and mindset. The 25% is crucial, if you can’t actually translate you’ll get nowhere, but it’s everything around that basic competence that fascinates me.

And then four years after I started out, the Standing Out project began with a few random contributions to the Watercooler forum on Facebook, which ultimately led to launching my own page, which has now turned into a book.

The whole endeavour was in a sense spurred by an attempt to work out the nature of that X factor that helps people thrive, once they have the requisite skills. It’s a complex set of answers and any analysis is going to include a fair amount of hypothesis. But it’s an engaging quest all the same.

MK: How did the “Standing Out” book come about?

AM: Well after that initial involvement in fora, then on my own page, the initiative gathered momentum and the page itself seemed to attract lots of readers. Meanwhile, the book came about as a result of a chance conversation with my brother, who pointed out the ephemeral nature of all things Facebook and the undeniable prestige and indeed joy of producing a real book.

From that conversation, and a few explorations online, I soon found my way to the Createspace self-publishing subsidiary of Amazon and it was just a matter of weeks before I was holding that real book in my hand.

MK: The Standing Out Facebook page sees a high level of community interaction and engagement. What do you think draws people to participate?

AM: It’s exceeded all my expectations, with readers often writing thoughtful and thought-provoking comments, asking probing questions and, it seems to me, feeling a strong sense of both belonging and ownership. I think a number of things explain this:

First of all, I think there was possibly a need for discussion of what we might call the ‘softer’ side of translation. The 25% is well covered in many books and blogs, ranging from the linguistic to the technical and Standing_Outmarketing aspects, but to my knowledge there was no-one writing in depth about the whole attitudinal dimension. It popped up now and again, with people referring in passing to ‘passion’ or ‘commitment’, but it was never the focus of anyone’s writing in its own right.

Second, the focus is by and large on the more uplifting and motivating aspects of our job, rather than on constant complaints. I don’t deny the existence of problems, but I do question the benefit of circling around those issues day after day and month after month, just for the sake of it. Where we do look at challenges, the focus tends to be on manageable solutions and not on lamentation. The feedback I’ve received suggests that readers like and appreciate this stance.

Third, I set out from the beginning to create a safe, non-confrontational space, in which there are debates and disagreements, but none of the vitriol that characterises certain online discussions. And certainly none of the personal invective. It’s about issues, not people.

Fourth, I respond to each contribution and wherever possible to every single person, so that people soon feel validated and encouraged to write more. And of course they all interact happily with each other, in an atmosphere of support and mutual respect.

Fifth, people tell me they enjoy the way I write.

And finally, my previous career was in teaching, so I have a strong pedagogical instinct and I try to frame my observations and questions in ways that will draw people in.

Those six things put together probably go some way to explaining the growth of the page, but I guess the readers would all offer their own explanations.

MK: Apart from online fora, in what other ways do you maintain relationships with your fellow language professionals?

AM: My whole online life is still less than a year old, but it’s true it takes up a fair amount of mindspace now. Still, I have developed more personal friendships with quite a few readers around the world, and one or two face-to-face relationships too with translators living locally. On a grander scale, the recent ATA conference in Chicago was a fantastic chance to put faces to names, and I have a few more conferences lined up now, including ITI and I’ve been bitten by the bug!

MK: The discussions on the Standing Out Facebook page touch heavily on the idea of having the right mindset and attitude in professional practice. In your opinion, what kind of thinking should one avoid in order to be successful in this industry?

AM: I think the most important thing is to avoid a victim mentality. From my reading of those who seem to be suffering in their careers, they appear to feel powerless in the face of demands from clients. It may very well be that there are other areas of their lives beyond work that need attention, but in strictly professional terms, they tend to express that suffering through hostility towards clients and colleagues, as well as towards the ‘system’ in general.

There’s also a great deal of fear around, of future technology, of falling rates, of exploitation. I have the sense that many people feel disempowered, and that they see the world of translation in a certain way as a direct result of that.

Paradoxically, this means that their experience of the world is the consequence of their frustration, rather than the cause of it.

There are so many realities out there: from so-called bottom feeders to premium clients, but I firmly believe that our perceptions are subjective filters based on our own emotional experiences and beliefs.

Of course in the book I try to address these from all sorts of angles. The content started out as random posts but has since coalesced into an approach – a philosophy even.

MK: Your book will be released at the end of this month. If there is one thing that you’d like your readers to take away from it, what would that be? How is the “Standing Out” book different from other professional development resources for freelance translators and interpreters?

AM: I’d like readers to feel empowered, and to realise how much they can do to affect their own professional destinies. And thus to pursue their own path with even greater conviction, towards a fulfilling working life that leaves them feeling inspired.

I certainly don’t offer a blueprint in terms of what to specialise in, how much to charge, or who to work with (or not). However, I do urge people to take a good look at themselves, start to make decisions more allied to their own characters and needs and sculpt out the career they want and to trust that the rest will follow.

It’s what happened to me and I don’t see what should prevent it happening to anyone else.

I’m just an ordinary translator – I know people even in my immediate circle who are more gifted than me. But when it comes to, self-knowledge, a sense of autonomy, confidence and attitude, I suppose I’m doing all right…

You can learn more about Andrew’s mission by visiting the Standing Out project’s dedicated Facebook page:

The “Standing Out” book will be released at the end of this month, and will be available for sale via the books section.

I hope you enjoyed this interview. Questions or comments can be left below, or via Twitter @ProZcom