Market your translation services with the help of a practical marketing plan 1

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

Aproximaciones a la profesión del traductor autónomo Reply

Con motivo de la tercera edición del seminario para estudiantes de traducción y traductores noveles de en la Ciudad de La Plata tres importantes traductoras profesionales argentinas nos relatarán sus experiencias desde estadíos e instancias diferentes en la profesión del traductor autónomo.

Mediante una mesa redonda, estas profesionales de la lengua expondrán las estrategias que han aplicado para llevar sus carreras al siguiente nivel, cuáles les han funcionado y cuáles no, qué objetivos tenían en mente en sus comienzos y cuáles son sus metas ahora, y qué sugieren a la hora de tener éxito en la profesión.


Haydee Incicco

Haydee Incicco es traductora de inglés a español. Es egresada de la Universidad Nacional de La Plata y se ha desempeñado como profesora de inglés en la Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata y en institutos privados. Su carrera como traductora técnica comenzó en 1973 en un astillero argentino. Trabajó tres años en Londres, Inglaterra, para una institución argentina. Desde 1999 se dedica exclusivamente a las traducciones independientes. Desde 2001 trabaja con diversas herramientas de traducción asistida y se esfuerza en seguir aprendiendo sobre herramientas y métodos que la ayuden a mejorar la productividad y la calidad de su trabajo.

Julia Escobio

Julia Escobio trabaja como traductora en su propia empresa, Traductores de la Llave. También trabaja programando en Java para Lotería de la Provincia de Buenos Aires, y es la representante de ventas en Argentina para la empresa canadiense Predictive Maintenance Corporation. Se graduó en la Universidad Nacional de La Plata en el año 2009 con el título de traductora pública nacional en lengua inglesa y está matriculada en dos colegios profesionales. Trabajó como traductora freelance e intérprete para empresas nacionales y extranjeras e institutos de investigación y se capacita constantemente para estar actualizada en las últimas tecnologías e innovaciones aplicadas a la profesión.

Karina Garcia Pedroche

Karina Garcia Pedroche tiene más de 20 años de experiencia en traducción. Está diplomada en la UNLP como Traductora Pública en Inglés y en la Universidad del Este como Profesora Universitaria. Es miembro de la Sociedad Española de Lenguas Modernas y del Colegio de Traductores Públicos de La Plata. Trabajó 15 años como traductora in-house en empresas multinacionales como Miller VP y Azurix Buenos Aires (exsubsidiaria de Enron), y a partir de 2006 se lanzó como traductora independiente. Comenzó a incursionar en la gestión de proyectos, a través de ARG Translations, administrando grupos de traductores para proyectos de gran volumen para agencias de traducción, como Kwintessential Latin America y clientes directos. Obtuvo la certificación como usuaria avanzada y de gestión de proyectos de Trados Studio y actualmente desea comenzar a capacitar traductores en el uso de herramientas y recursos de traducción.

El seminario

El seminario tendrá lugar el día sábado 16 de agosto de 2014 en la Ciudad de La Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Para ver el programa completo, haz clic aquí. Para anotarte, visita la página del evento y haz clic en “Sign up now”.


Evento regional de en La Plata, BA, Argentina para estudiantes de traducción y traductores noveles (3ra edición) 2


¿Sos estudiante de traducción o interpretación? ¿Estás comenzando tu carrera de traductor o intérprete y tenés muchas dudas?

Esta es tu opotunidad de obtener respuesta a muchas de las preguntas que se hace un traductor o un intérprete al comienzo de su carrera.

Te invitamos a participar del evento que se llevará a cabo en la ciudad de La Plata, en el Hotel del Rey, el día sábado 16 de agosto.

El costo de participación en este evento es de $120 pesos argentinos (ARS), e incluye:

  1. Acceso a todas las charlas durante la jornada de día completo,
  2. Descuento en la compra de membresía full profesional de,
  3. Desayuno,
  4. Apuntes y material de refencia,
  5. Certificado de asistencia.
  6. Acceso gratuito e ilimitado a un curso online a elección (el costo de participación en estos cursos incluídos gratuitamente con la participación en este evento, es normalmente de 50.00 USD). Podés elegir entre:
  • Business skills for translators
  • Marketing techniques for translators
  • Translation Project Management

La participación no incluye almuerzo ni alojamiento.

Para mayor información del evento, inscripción, medios de pago y ponencias consultar la página del evento

Translator training: Olga Arakelyan on the power of social media Reply

Olga_ArakelyanOlga Arakelyan is a freelance translator, teacher, and professional trainer. The courses she offers are centered around the power of social media marketing for freelance language professionals, and are geared specifically towards her Russian-speaking colleagues.

In this interview, Olga shares a little bit about herself, explains how social media marketing has worked for her, and tells us why you should be using Google Plus to promote your business.

MK: Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you decide to become a translator, and what lead you to become a professional trainer?

OA: Hi Maria! First of all, thank you for inviting me for this interview! As you already know, I am a freelance translator and ESL teacher. I am married and have a 9 year old daughter. Since I was about my daughter’s age, I wanted to become an English teacher. It was my dream. So I pursued this dream and went to study at the foreign languages department of our local teachers’ training university. But during my second year in the university I also started working as a translator and interpreter at a local non-profit organization and I just never stopped translating (though I eventually stopped interpreting). I still like both teaching and translating and would never be able to choose one of them above the other. So I guess becoming a trainer was a natural step for me because I love teaching. Besides, I believe that with time I have gained valuable experience in the subjects I teach, and I am happy to help my students promote their businesses through blogging and social media marketing. There are quite a few social media courses and webinars for English-speaking translators, but there’s a definite lack of information in Russian about SMM specifically tailored for translators (our business is unique, so we have to test everything those SMM experts teach to see what works and what doesn’t, and adapt their recommendations to our reality and way of doing things). I thought my 4 years of SMM experience could be helpful to the Russian-speaking colleagues and the encouraging feedback I get from my students proves that I was right.

MK: The themes of your training sessions revolve around social media marketing for translators. Why should language professionals use social media to promote their services?

OA: When I was preparing for my first webinar on social media marketing for freelance translators, I came across some interesting statistics:

  • 81% of companies in the USA and Canada use social media.
  • In 94% of cases, the company managers consider their social media marketing a success.
  • 60% of entrepreneurs confirm that they find clients through social media.

And guess which businesses are the most active in social media? Exactly: it’s small and medium sized companies experiencing fast growth. Those are perfect clients for us freelancers! Large companies mainly work with translation agencies, but smaller businesses often prefer to work with individuals. So if they spend a big chunk of their time in social media, shouldn’t we? You know, to make it easier for them to find us? I’ve been promoting my translation services mainly through social media and blogging since 2010, made tons of mistakes and learned a lot of valuable lessons in the process. Social media marketing is now an inseparable part of my marketing and I am impressed with its results.

MK: Which social media platforms have you found most effective in promoting your business?

OA: My absolute favorites are Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (I put them in this order based on their effectiveness for me. The situation can be different for others). I am also learning to use Pinterest and especially Google Plus and I can say that I like the latter network more and more each day.

MK: Anyone can use social networking sites to market their services. How can clients distinguish if these translators are actually suitable?

OA: Thank you for the question! Actually, that’s one of the concerns I hear over and over again from colleagues, especially experienced translators who have been marketing their services for a long time. Many of them think that social media marketing is evil because bad translators can turn out to be good marketers and can end up getting new clients. They think that our great work should be our best marketing tool. And I agree! I always say that we should all work like crazy on the quality of our work and never ever stop! But at the same time I want to ask my experienced colleagues: Do you know any good translators who hardly make ends meet because they don’t have enough work? I do, quite a few. So if my courses can help these great colleagues to make more money and build long-term relationships with new clients, I will be very happy. That’s why I am providing the training.

As for the concern that bad translators can also start marketing themselves and get jobs, I don’t worry about that. It’s not hard to spot a bad translator in social media by the content they curate and by their grammar and spelling. And vice versa, true expertise always shows itself by the content the person publishes in social media and by the way he or she writes. Oh, and by the way, even if a bad translator markets him or herself well and wins a project, I don’t think it should bother good translators. It won’t take long for a client to figure out that he or she was the wrong choice. Yes, these translators can use social media to win isolated projects, but they would never be able to build a long-term relationship with their clients. And how long can a person stay in the translation business if he or she is a bad translator? Maybe they can stay there for a long time, but I doubt that their business will flourish.

MK: In one of your upcoming training sessions, you’ll be discussing how translators can use Google Plus to promote their services. Why is Google Plus an effective tool for translators?


  • First of all, anything under the umbrella of Google should interest us. It’s a search giant and everything it does reflects on the search rankings. So if you aren’t on Google Plus, it’s high time to register! It’s more than just another social network, it’s also a platform, as well as the basis for all other Google products (or at least the majority). So your Google Plus activity impacts your search engine ranking. Which is surely good for you!
  • Google has developed useful tools for authors, like Google Authorship. It’s not hard to make your photo appear in Google next to your content, but it adds credibility and a personal touch to the search results, which can often help you win the trust of your colleagues and potential clients (that is, if you publish great content of course).
  • There are Google Plus Communities! It’s the service similar to groups on LinkedIn, with their own notifications and events, and forums to discuss different issues. I am a member of a couple translation-related communities and I like the level of activity I see there, so I am planning to become more active there, too.
  • There are Google Plus pages for brands and companies. So if you have established your own personal brand, setting up a page on Google Plus would be your next logical step! It allows you to post content not as a private person, but as a business entity. Plus your Google Plus page can have a physical address that is added to Google Maps! I think it is really neat.
  • The most obvious thing I haven’t touched upon yet is Google Plus circles. You can build many different circles and share your content with everybody, with all of your circles, or with specific circles of your choice. Thus you can be sure you share the right content with the right people. And the better content you share, the more people will add you to their circles because they will want to read what you post!

So yes, if you ask me, I’d say that Google Plus is surely worth our attention as freelance professionals. It is definitely a helpful tool in building our businesses, growing professionally and building relationships with colleagues and potential clients. And that’s what I am going to share at the upcoming webinar for Russian-speaking colleagues.

prozcom_trainingFor Russian-speaking professionals, Olga will be offering an upcoming course on Google Plus for translators. You can learn more about this session and register to attend here: This training course is scheduled to take place on May 22nd.

You can also connect with Olga via LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, or check out her blog at

Looking at the Bright Side of Freelance Translation: An interview with Nicole Y. Adams​ and Andrew Morris​ 6

bright_sideSome translators live in a world full of problems. It can sometimes seem as if things are very grim indeed, and it’s tempting to sit idle, whinge and complain.” Such is certainly not the case for freelance translators Nicole Y. Adams and Andrew Morris. In preparation for their upcoming e-book, The Bright Side of Freelance Translation, the two have been gathering feedback from fellow freelancers on the positive aspects of working in the industry. In today’s post, I had a chance to speak with Nicole and Andrew about The Bright Side of Freelance Translation, the motivation behind the project, and, based on the responses they’ve received so far, if they envision a bright future for the translation industry.

MK: First things first: How did you two get started in the translation industry?

AMI started out as a language teacher then a teacher trainer, spending 20 years in education, but as I moved up the ladder and found myself one day at a desk-job at the Ministry of Education in Bangladesh, I realised I had strayed too far from the things that make me tick. A change in life situation also meant it was time to reassess. Some bright spark suggested translation, so I applied to do an excellent online distance course while still in Bangladesh (focusing on the art of translation itself rather than the business side) and found I was hooked. The day I arrived in France in May 2009, I had lots of enthusiasm but no clients, no leads and a CV that was totally empty.

NYA: I originally studied law, but realised fairly early on that I wasn’t meant to be a lawyer. I went on to study linguistics, politics and history, and worked in corporate roles for a number of years. Then in 2003 I stumbled across an ad by a translation agency looking for a document to be translated, which I was promptly tasked with after contacting them. At that point, I had no idea that there was such a thing as a ‘translation industry’ and that you could make a living from translation. But once I had completed that first translation (and the cheque, much to my delight, had promptly arrived in the post), I was hooked immediately and started to do a lot of research – and I mean a lot!

I built my business part-time for a couple of years and took the plunge to full-time once my part-time earnings were higher than my income in my full-time job at the time. After a couple of years in the business, I flew to Germany to take the state exam as an external candidate in order to become a certified translator, because I thought it was important to back up my practical experience with a recognised qualification. Today, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else but translating.

MK: What prompted the creation of The Bright Side of Freelance Translation, and how did you two decide to collaborate on this project together?NYA

NYA: Last year I published Diversification in the Language Industry, which features almost 50 translators from all over the world. When I read their contributions, it struck me how successful and content they were with being translators, and how different their (and my own) experience was from the many horror stories and complaints I was reading in translator fora and mailing lists every day. It seemed that the negative experiences, which no doubt exist, were given so much more attention and air time than the positive aspects of our profession that the new generation of translators was at risk of getting the wrong impression altogether. I felt strongly that more focus needs to be given to translators’ positive experiences and success stories to demonstrate that translation is and will remain a very viable career, and that it is up to us to make that happen.

When Andrew burst onto the scene at the end of last year, it was clear immediately that were on the same wavelength and that he shared this positive outlook and can-do attitude. We decided that something needs to be done to give a voice back to those content and successful translators who do not identify with all the woes we hear about every day – and the idea for The Bright Side of Freelance Translation was born.

AM: For this we need to fast forward 5 years to 2014. I think it was a natural coming together of like minds. We both noticed each other in the virtual world. I’d bought Nicole’s book (see above) and had already begun to experiment with diversification, particularly in the area of what might broadly be called training, exploring the idea of webinars and making frequent posts on the Watercooler forum on Facebook. Nicole picked up on what I was posting and felt we were on the same page. We then got in touch initially just to express that shared attitude. Over the weeks it began to develop into a need to balance out what seemed to us to be a dominant focus (in certain quarters, if not in the heads of most translators) on problems and complaints.

MK: What kind of response have you received so far from the translation community about this project?

NYA & AMThe response has been overwhelmingly positive. Many translators have made very encouraging comments on various fora on Facebook, Linkedin (including the group) and Twitter. There seems to be a shared sense out there that our hunch was right, there is a need for an alternative voice and many translators have felt, so they say, underrepresented in the vital virtual fora because of the predominance of prophets of doom.

On the other hand, there have been criticisms too, and we welcome those, as they help us to reposition and clarify what we are doing.

One such criticism has been to compare our project to some kind of ‘Disney’ approach, ignoring very real problems and painting everything in bright and infantile colours. While useful, such comments display a fundamental misunderstanding of what the project is about. At no point does it attempt to say there are no problems. What it does is to focus on solutions and the empowerment of individual translators to position themselves as agents rather than victims in their own lives and start to make changes in their attitudes and their working practices.  

AMMK: What do you two hope to accomplish through the Bright Side project?

AMThe initial aim has already been achieved. To give a voice to a more balanced approach to our job which celebrates the freedoms, the privilege of being to work with a tool we love (language) and on fascinating texts. Momentum has been generated and I think a certain balance has been restored even at this early stage, in the collective mindset. Even commentators who have previously thrived on pointing out the downsides of translation are now forced to position themselves in counter-distinction to something, rather than simply ruling the roost. They may still criticise the project of course, but they cannot ignore it.

The forthcoming e-book will further crystallise the project and represent a collective project which focuses attention on what can be done. It’s the result of a considerable investment of time by all the contributors and of both time and money by Nicole and me. But it’s free of charge of course, as we felt it was important to avoid any accusation of making money out of this. The ultimate reward is the groundswell of support and the profile the project has achieved already.

NYA: It is important to reverse the current trend towards negativity and doom and gloom. We want to showcase the success of many of our colleagues and share their positive approach to the profession. We certainly don’t want to sweep problems under the carpet, but simply complaining without taking any action to resolve the matter is pointless. We’d like to focus on solutions to challenges freelance translators may be faced with at one point or another in their career, and foster a stronger community spirit. I feel strongly that it is important to support one another, share information and most of all maintain a positive, professional vibe in our industry. I would like clients to look at translator fora and be impressed by the professional discussions, positive outlook and mutual support among translators, rather than witness in-fighting and endless complaints about themselves (the clients), because this is potentially damaging to the businesses of freelance translators anywhere.

MK: Some might say that rates and other working conditions of freelance translators today are not under their control. Do you think that is true? 

AM: No I don’t. My own experience in 5 years, having started out with an empty CV, has shown me that ultimately, everything is under your control. It is certainly true that there are agencies out there which are unscrupulous, cheap and bad payers. And that there are bulk market industry players which impose low rates. But the beauty of freelance life is that you are free to choose whether or not to work with such players. I can’t speak for translators in China or Egypt, where conditions may well be different, but the vast majority of translators we interact with are in Western or Westernised countries, and they have choices to make. It may take time: you cannot set up on Day 1 declaring you will only work with premium clients. Or rather you can, but you need a healthy bank balance as you establish yourself. But as you learn the ropes, and assuming (and this is crucial) that you are good at what you do, everything from your clients, your rates, your specialisms and your working practices are up to you. The problem, it seems to me, is that for reasons which go way beyond the translation world, a number of translators are unable or unwilling to realise that. Facing up to the choices you have to make entails facing challenges, taking responsibility for your own actions and realising you are in control, which isn’t always comfortable, as there’s no-one left to blame once you head down that road.

NYA: Absolutely not, unless you choose to work for fly-by-night ‘agencies’ (or rather ‘translation brokers’) at the bottom end of the market who are focused on nothing but price. For anyone else, that is professional translators, rates and working conditions are entirely up to them. As freelance translators, we are professionals who set our own rates, and clients are free to take them or leave them. The biggest problem lies within our own ranks. It is not the big, bad agencies who drive prices down, but our colleagues who are willing to accept low rates or even offer them on their own accord.

Just recently, a colleague here in Australia quoted a very reasonable $40 for a certified certificate translation, and the client declined, proudly stating that another translator had quoted only $15! So who is to blame here, the client or the other translator? That’s why ‘colleague education’ is so important, and I feel The Bright Side is a step in the right direction, as it shows new or doubting freelance translators that it is possible to charge decent rates and work in favourable conditions. Sometimes it just takes the courage to go for it – and reading about others’ success stories might just give them the nudge they need.

MK: Do you see a bright future in translation for freelancers? If so, what indications do you see of this?

AM: I see a bright future for freelancers who realise the power they have in their hands and work hard on their skills, knowledge and attitudes. Translators who take risks and are prepared to face up to challenges, even despite occasional setbacks, will always survive and even thrive, as those are life skills which transcend any bright_side_1particular industry. We need to be aware of changes, to move with the times, but above all we need to focus on the freedoms, the ability to make decisions, the autonomy that we enjoy. To be freelance is a great gift. It’s a maverick position and it’s a power to be respected, not thrown away.

NYA: I am convinced the future will be very bright for those colleagues who position themselves appropriately in the market and establish strong reputations as specialist translators in a certain niche. Generalists will fall prey to the increased level of automation, the crowdsourcing and the decreasing focus on quality at the low end of the market that we have started to see. But specialised translators who present themselves strongly and forge long-term relationships with companies and boutique agencies will become very sought after and enjoy thriving businesses. Translation buyers will appreciate the high-end service at the top end of the market and be willing to pay for it. As Andrew said, it is up to us as individual translators to rise to the challenges along the way and recognise that success lies in our own hands.

MK: What advice would you give to someone considering a career in translation?

AM: I’d say for the first year or two, take on a variety of projects. Try out different clients and agencies and see what fits. And use the plethora of advice available on the fora to find out about going rates, practices and taboos. And then, when you begin to find your feet, start to shape your job so that it begins to reflect your own unique and individual situation, needs, skills passions and inspirations, working towards the point where your job is a close reflection of you, and where you enjoy what you do on a daily basis.

NYA: I’d recommend gaining in-house experience first; preferably not as a translator, but as a translation project manager to learn all the tools and tricks of the trade, or in your (future) area of specialisation (e.g. as a marketing assistant if you plan to specialise in marketing translations). It’s also essential to do your research and read as much as you can about running a translation business. Today there is no excuse, as there are so many fora, courses and mentoring schemes for freelance translators all over the world. I’d also start networking, and join a professional association and attend its events. Then of course it’s a couple of years of very hard work to establish yourself and build a solid client base. In my experience, the key is to gather testimonials from happy clients as soon as you can. After that, look after your existing clients and try to form long-term relationships. This will allow you to reject any offers that are not in your area of expertise, that don’t match your rate expectations, that come from clients you don’t gel with, or that you simply don’t feel like doing. The result will be a thriving business that you love, with very happy clients.

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