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Between 2012 and 2016 I published articles amounting to around 92,000 words, all on my
Business School for Translators blog. Structured in lessons, theyre a good source of business
knowledge for translators and interpreters. Sometimes I even give you homework assignments!
This ebook is a compilation of 139 lessons in business, marketing, branding, economics,
networking and other freelance essentials. In this format, it may be easier for you to navigate
through the lessons, work on them offline and make progress through the different areas
This collection has a huge value to me. On average, I take about an hour to write 250 words. This
means that the next 300 pages took me some 460 hours to write over the period of four years. It
will also take you a considerable amount of time to read all these lessons. I promise its going to
be time well invested, as long as you dont just read, but also act.
I hope this ebook will help you advance your career as a freelance translator. Use it, share it and
recommend it to others.
All the best!

Marta Stelmaszak


Marta Stelmaszak is a chartered linguist and a PolishEnglish
translator and interpreter helping SMEs in Poland and the UK
grow their businesses through better online communication.
Marta runs the Business School for Translators recently turned
into an online course and published a book.

I would like to start with introducing two interesting
translators: Marta and Magda. Theyve been friends for
years, share the same interests and went to the same
school. Now they both live together and they are both
decided to do their own businesses in translation. Everyone
say hi to Marta and Magda! (just to make sure: these are
both my names, Im not referring to anyone else than
Now, we will have a closer look at what girls are like and how they see their businesses.
1. Communication skills
Marta loves writing and always tries to personalise every message or at least show a bit
of her style in it. She always responds fast. When she has any questions, she just grabs
her mobile and call. Shes a born networker: every other translator in town knows her,
shes active in two professional organisations. She also runs her own blog.
Magda loves writing as well, but she doesnt consider writing an e-mail any true sort of
writing. Its just plain business communication. Before she responds, she takes her time
to think what to write and to show them shes not on every call. She takes phones, but
only if they last over 3 ring tones. Networking? Well, only with people that she already
2. Financial management
Marta decided not to have an accountant, but she did some reading on book keeping to
be able to deal with the paper work. Shes also monitoring her income and expenses and
planning her money throughout the year.
Magda doesnt have an accountant either, but she is all mess with papers and she hates
doing that. When comes to dealing with the tax people, shes always stressed for a few
days and cant work. She usually spends all the money she has.
3. Services management
Marta is constantly monitoring her competitors and her clients. Shes adjusting her rates
to be more competitive, but she also asks her clients about possible improvements in
her services. Only recently she introduced a new SEO Translation service and it won her
lucrative clients!

Magda doesnt want to be like everyone else, thats why she doesnt even go to her
competitors websites. Shes been doing translation and proofreading since she
graduated, thats what she knows and thats what shes going to stick to.
4. Business planning
Marta has a detailed, 6-months business plan that sets goals and allows her to develop
her business. She knows how much she can translate per day to keep the same quality,
how much time she needs to do proofreading and when to do marketing. Shes also
being selective about jobs and she never accepts assignments that make her actually
lose money.
Magda lets her business drive her. When she has plenty of offers, she accepts them all. It
very often ends up in stress and missed deadlines, but at least she has a lot to do. Shes
not really sure whats her daily turnover, but once she managed to do 7,345 words one
5. Marketing skills
Marta spends some of her working time reading about marketing techniques and she
experiments with new marketing ideas. She usually spends half an hour a day writing to
agencies, potential clients and other translators. Shes keen on IT, new technologies and
creative solutions.
Magda is convinced that a single freelancer doesnt actually need any marketing.
Marketing is something for companies, but not for freelancers. Besides, she always says
that she doesnt know how to do that anyway. And theres thousands of other
translators out there doing that already.
We will be watching how Marta and Magda are doing with their businesses. They have
also helped us to identify essential business skills that make the difference between an
overworked and underpaid translator and a really successful freelancer.
6. Homework
Try to identify what areas of your business skills for translators need improvement and
how do you plan to go about that. If you need any further help, get in touch!

You know what marketing is, dont you? Almost everyone
linked to doing business knows some basic details or blurry
definitions. Lets assume all marketing activities have one
common goal: to attract potential clients.
Freelance translators and translation agencies spend quite
a chunk of time on devising marketing strategies and
tactics, establishing their position and creating a huge
WOW around their services. And doesnt matter how much time and money they spend,
all that very often has no results whatsoever. Frustrated translators give up and stick
with their existing clients, and agencies finally slow down.
But well, there are people out there who are extremely successful with their marketing
strategies. Why?
Lets go back to our general goal of marketing: to attract potential clients. Whats the
point in doing the attract bit if you dont know your potential clients?
I know what youll ask now: How can I know who is going to need translation? You cant
know that, but you can try to predict that using simple market analysis methods.
1. What are the three broad categories of clients?
Its easy: everyone in translation sells their services to private clients, corporate or
governmental clients or agencies. Knowing that you are actually targeting three
completely different groups of people is essential. Certainly you wont convince your
one-off private client with the same methods as an agency. Take three pieces of paper
and write down your groups one on each. Then circle them.
2. Who are your translation clients?
Having in mind your specialist areas, think who will buy your translations. If were
talking about private clients and you specialise in legal translation, simply write down
anyone who comes to your mind that may need translations in your language pair:
international lawyers, migrants, law students, Criminal Justice System, people subject to
contracts, etc. Write as many potential clients as you can for each group, and draw a
bigger circle.

3. What kind of services they need?

Think what do they actually need to translate or interpret. Lawyers will need contracts,
agreements, perhaps even some previous cases translated into other language. This step
may require a bit of researching, but youll end up with a comprehensive list of your
clients needs. Time for even a bigger circle.
4. What do they value in these services?
The next step is to get in their shoes and think what qualities about your service are
most desired. Id say that lawyers will value professionalism and accuracy the most. Do
the same for all your potential clients and you will know which chords you have to
strike to make them want your services.
5. What does it mean to you?
After youre done with your circles, its time to summarise the analysis. Try to write
down what actions to take result from all circles. Just to be clearer: youre translating
legal texts and you know that your potential clients love clarity and accuracy in
language. Next time you advertise to them make sure that your copy is very clear and to
the point. Impress them with your grasp of legal language. And so on, until you end up
with a valuable market analysis!
The secret of some people is that they actually know who their potential clients are and
they know who they are trying to sell their services to. Time to join these successful
Here comes a case study!
Marta is a Polish to English and English to Polish translator and interpreter in London.
Shes an energetic and enthusiastic person. She had quite a few good deals with other
service providers, but recent changes introduced by the Ministry of Justice hit her
wallet. Marta decided that shell try to market her translation services to Polish people
living in London. What does she need to know about this group to market her services?

Im not educated enough. I have to wait at least to my MA!
There are a million of other translators in my languages.
How can I ever get through? I dont even have a website. It
will take a lot of time and money to get one. I know
nothing about running my own business, including
sending invoices. What if its too difficult for me? I dont
know how to get any clients. What if I will never get any
clients? What if agencies dont want to work with me?
What will I do when I run out of money? I dont want to earn less than now. I will
never be able to buy a house or a car making my living of freelance translation. Other
translators out there will eat me alive
Does that sound familiar? Fears about freelance translation like these keep you back
from growing, developing and being happy. Funnily enough, fears dont actually come
from the outside world. In other words, fears are generated by our inner doubts and
insecurities. You can let them overrule you and stop you from going freelance. Or you
can learn how to harness them and use in your favour. Ive asked some translators that
you may know from Twitter, all of them having great and successful careers, what were
their biggest freelancing fears and how did that turn out.
How to deal with your fears?
1. Make a list of your fears. Simply write them down, as I did at the top of this page.
Very often this simple step helps a lot. We dont usually use any logical means to cope
with our fears, while formulating them and writing them down is a way of pronouncing
them and pinning them down. Its much easier to fight your freelancing fears when you
know your enemy.
2. For every fear, identify the cause.
If you cant find any reason for having a particular fear, this should help your mind fight
it rationally. And if you actually can find a cause, working on it and removing it will be
much easier.
3. Think of actions you have to take to remove the basis of each fear.

After you identify your fears, it is essential that you think of actions you can take to
remove them. If you feel that youre not qualified enough, find a certification course that
can help! If youre struggling with business administration, find online resources to
learn from them. Every fear disappears as soon as you start doing something about it.
4. Take a piece of paper and draw a plan of implementation.
Having a good plan, or a calendar of implementation is a must to get rid of your fears.
Every action has to be planned and organised.
5. Concentrate on points from your plan and make them happen here and now.
Most of our fears are linked with what happened in the past (and we fear it will happen
again) or with what can happen in the future. Its very easy to realise that HERE and
NOW theres nothing to be scared of. If you wish you started your own blog, but you fear
that people will laugh at you, theres nothing to fear about now. If they will laugh at you,
they will do it in the future. But the only thing that matters is what you can do in this
moment. And when you have no fears that hold you back, you can do anything. Even
start as a freelance translator!
Over to you
What are or were your biggest fears about going freelance in translation? How did you
manage to overcome them?

The decision is made, or there is no other choice, and you
become a freelancer. In this important moment of your life, it is
very easy to either start running to fast and miss some essential
points, or to go too slow to make any progress.
The first week of a freelancing career is essential. If you get it
wrong there, it will take ages to set things right. Going freelance
really is the same as setting up your own business. Would you
launch a company with no preparation whatsoever?
Things to do to get started as a freelance translator:
Day 1: Enjoy and embrace the moment
Going freelance is a brave and life-changing step for any translator, especially if youre left
without any full-time or part-time job. After months or years of being an employee, you deserve
a celebration. Do whatever makes you happy and relaxed, and keep reminding yourself that this
is the first day of your new life as a translator. Concentrate on good emotions and your
Day 2: Assess your situation
Take a piece of paper and write down all that you already have: education, certifications,
courses, webinars, experience, CV, good network, translation software, reliable PC. Also, make a
list of things that youre missing: website, marketing plan, brochures, self-employment. Making
such a list shows you that you already did the most time-consuming part of preparing to run
your own business, and quite a lot of things to do can be outsourced.
Day 3: Write up a development plan
You cant drive too far if you dont have a steering wheel. One could say that running a business
without a clear direction is a bit insensible, isnt it? Write down what do you want to achieve by
the end of this month, in the next 6 months, after one year and in two years time. And then
simply add what do you have to do to make your goals happen.
Day 4: Arrange your office
Going to work is an essential part of being a freelancer. Really. If you dont have a designated
work space, you will not be able to work. There are people out there who literally eat their
breakfasts, get dressed to work, walk out of their homes, walk around for 2-3 minutes, come
back and go straight to their work spaces. This makes your brain think youre actually at work.

It also makes you more disciplined and you dont waste that much time pretending that you
If you have to, get a new desk. Remove all private and distracting items. Buy folders and files. Go
through old papers and documents that youve dashed away months ago. Clean and arrange
your hard drive into folders, and make sure to keep your data tidy.
Day 5: Get a structure
We are all bound to have our lives structured on various levels. These frames of what happens
and repeats every day keep our minds sane and teach us how live. If you decide to be a freelance
translator, your structure will have a great impact on your life. Decide which days you work (for
example, I never take Sundays off, I always to the most boring and nasty stuff then), how many
hours per day you work, what time you start, when is your lunch break, when do you do your
marketing, when do you learn, what time you go to bed. Why is that so important? Imagine a
shop, or a cafe, with no set opening hours. All employees come whenever they want, do
whatever they want and dont really keep their duties. Would you buy in this shop?
Day 6: Get rid of the things that hold you back
All these monsters from the past that you never had time to do, or simply kept forgetting for
ages (like I did with my electricity bills, until they wanted a mountain of gold from me), its time
to deal with them! Write back to people whove waited too long, pay back your loans, call this
engineer to fix your fireplace, talk to your mum.
Things that we feel we should have done but never did, they have a great impact on our
wellbeing and productivity. Theyre always somewhere under the skin, making us worried and
troubled. Sort them out and youll feel the pressure go away.
Day 7: Launch
Officially and openly confess that you are an independent professional from now on. Change
your online profiles, update your CV, tell everyone you know that from today you are a business
person. You can even make a small startup campaign online, just to make everyone know about
you. Chat with people on Twitter, post your update on Facebook, ceremonially like your change
of status. Write to your close friends and tell them that youre now running your own business.
It will make you feel proud and brave. But also, you will be surprised how much good energy
youll receive, and how much support youll get from everyone around you. Couldnt imagine a
better start!

Freelance translators spend most of their time alone, locked in
their offices in front of PCs. We are lonely, in fact. If something
goes wrong or if were stuck over a problem, or if we made a
terrible proofreading mistake and feel worthless, theres no-one
around to wipe our tears. Or simply to make us feel better. The
only people who will understand why writing complementary
instead of complimentary makes us sad are other translators.
We do need each other and we should support one another.
Help other translators today:
1. Tell them you appreciate them
You definitely know other translators that you admire for this or that reason, but you never tell
them that. Well, today is a good occasion to write to them. You can use the International
Translation Day as an excuse.
2. Comment on their blog
If you were only reading their blog up till now, change your habits! Give something back, even if
you comment is a simple thank you note. It still matters!
3. Recommend them
Jot down just a few words about them for others to see. If you cant recommend them for their
translation services, find another thing: brilliant customer service, quality proofreading, good
time management.
4. Follow them on their social media profiles
Connect with them everywhere: on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn Show attention, tell them that
theres someone out there who takes care!
5. Share your resources
If you have a nice collection of glossaries or reference materials, share it with others! They will
love you, but also the profession will gain in general.


6. Talk to them
Find someone to talk to, or chat on Twitter. Exchange thoughts and points of view, even with
someone you dont know and just met on Proz conference.
7. Answer their question
Take some time and write down a comprehensive answer. If you share something you know, its
two people making use of it!
Over to you!
Make a list of 5 colleagues you can help in the next week. What is that you can do for them?


Ok, so you walk into a supermarket to do your shopping. Heres
your list: bread, hummus, baked beans and washing powder.
How do you do your shopping? Do you know your way to these
products by heart and you mechanically take the same as
always? I bet you do. Now, how on Earth is anyone able to
choose 1 type of washing powder out of at least 20 on shelves?
Why you dont stand there and you dont compare them every
single time you do your shopping? Have you ever been abroad
and had to pick products that you were not familiar with? Strange packaging, weird labels,
confusing names. How could you tell which product you should take?
Thats what brands are for. We use brands (carefully crafted by producers, of course) to:
Recognise products: Oh look, they have these beans that we liked so much
last time!
Associate qualities: This washing in a blue box with flowers smells really
nice and leaves fabrics so heavenly soft!
Buy the same product: Weve tried this hummus and it was delicious. Why
should we look for anything else?
Now, give me one logical explanation why you dont have a brand even if you know you should
develop one. I know you wont come up with any reason good enough, so wed better move on
to working on your new shiny brand this is introduction to branding for freelance translators.
Brand is
1. What you think about yourself?
As a freelance translator, you are your business, and your business reflects who you really are.
Isnt it a bit spooky to realise that your clients get to know you? That they see who you are and
they get to meet you? You are not invisible; you are really there, as a part of the product. Your
personality, your approach and your attitude are the packaging for your services. How youre
going to use that?
2. How do you see your business?
Go on, you can be just a freelance translator from X to Y, charging basement rates and hiding
behind your screen. But you can also turn your world around and be proud of your business
(yes, you have a business), enjoy it and engage in it. And your clients will feel that.


3. How do you present your business to others?

Come on, be honest with yourself and examine your own brand. Be your own client for a
moment, and have a look at these aspects of your presence:
Online profiles
Business communication
Business cards and stationery
How does it feel? Do you have a convincing brand? What does your brand tell your clients?
Would you hire yourself as a translator? If not, at least you have a starting point to work on your
Over to you
How do you think freelance translators could benefit from having their own brands?


So you thought youre going to be a freelancer and youll be free
from any managerial stuff? Is this why you left your full-time
job? Well, bad news today. Every freelance translator is a
manager. Have a look at this list of managerial skills and audit
your own staff!
1. Relevant professional knowledge
You have to know your stuff better than anyone else. You simply
have to know what youre doing. If you translate, learn about your source and target cultures,
habits and traditions. Develop your knowledge and understanding, hone your translation skills.
As a manager, you always need to know better!
2. Command of basic facts about business
Apart from your professional knowledge on translation, you need to know how to create and
send invoices, what to include in your terms and conditions, how to operate your brand new fax
machine. You also should find out what are the biggest agencies around, who are their managers
and where to meet them.
3. Responsiveness to events
You need to be open and watchful, as there is a lot of opportunities out there. Successful
freelance translators know whats going up in their language pairs and learn how to analyse
events. They plan the future based on whats happening now.
4. Decision-making skills
Face it: you are wholly responsible for all your decisions. If you forgot to invoice a client and
now you have to wait another light years to be paid while bills cant really wait, theres no-one
else to blame for that. You must develop your own system of judgement and decision making to
be able to carefully select projects, clients and go about rates.
5. Social skills
Translation is, after all, about communication. You need to know how to communicate with your
clients, how to talk to them on the phone explaining delays, how to negotiate. These days when
translators could be these antisocial alienated creatures are gone. Time to prepare your
socialising kit!


6. Emotional resilience
No, freelance translation is not this easy, stress-free job you do in your pyjamas. You actually
need much more emotional strength to be able to cope with various situations managing selfcontrol and not panicking. Do you know how would you react if your client tells you that your
translation is rubbish and wants you to spend another 2 days on it? Or when they refuse to pay?
Or when another translator undermines your reputation just for the sake of it?
7. Proactivity
Successful freelance translators perform. They are always planning and getting the best out of
every situation. Theres your regional shop opening in the area? Go there and talk with the
owner, suggest co-operation and help with translating documents. A conference somewhere
around on the topic of interest, but you cant be a speaker? Volunteer to help with organisation
and take your business cards with you. Managers dont just sit and wait.
8. Creativity
Competition is tough, but creativity is what makes you stand out. Have ideas, share them, talk
about them. Ever wanted to translate a book? Think of some marketing tricks you could suggest
to the publisher. Want to be more recognised? Start doing something unique and special. Take a
new approach!
9. Mental agility
Multitasking is the pillar of any freelance profession. In translation, you cant be just a decent
translator. You have to be a good accountant, sales person, marketer, manager and strategist.
You need to have brains for that! Train your mind to act quickly and to switch rapidly from task
to task. Anyone can do it.
10. Self-knowledge
Be aware why you are here as a freelance translator and where do you want to go in your
career. Make sure that you understand how your values, feelings, strengths, habits shape your
professional profile.
Over to you
How do you feel about these skills? Do you need to work on any of them?


Lay people tend to have a whole lot of weird, unsubstantiated
and simply harmful opinions on translators. Taken away all
wrongful misconceptions (like earning much for not doing
anything, etc.) theres still plenty of myths about translators that
you can come across. Those listed below are taken from my own
experience: believe it or not, at some point of my career Ive
actually heard (or seen) people making these statements.
1. Translators are female.
Only women can be translators, because they are gifted in languages. Men are to crude and
rough to carefully play with words and meanings. And women are much more patient! Even if
there is one or two male translators, they did it just to use their natural advantage in the
profession and they must be earning much more.
How to fight that: if youre a male translator, advertise that. Be proud of your profession and
dont let anyone tell you that youre less predestined to work with languages. Perhaps set up a
network for male translators?
2. Translators wear glasses.
Translators read and write a lot, so they must all be wearing glasses! Perhaps those of them who
dont are less experienced and educated? Your sight has to deteriorate after that many books!
How to fight that: If you dont wear glasses, publish your photo and write a blog post!
3. Translators dont talk too much.
They spend most of their time with their books and computers, so they dont have too much
time to talk. In fact, they read even in their free time and try to avoid talking with their closest
ones as well. Letters, e-mails, sms yes, but not a real conversation.
How to fight that: If you are a translator and love talking, record some friendly podcasts or
presentations and advertise them around.
4. Translators must be at least 40.
Come on, it takes years to get educated, learn languages and get enough experience. Most of
translators enter the profession when they are at least 40!
How to fight that: If youre a young translator, tell everyone about your young age and success
in the field. Your energy and enthusiasm will count in your favour!


5. Translators wear old-fashioned clothes.

Since translators dont go out too often, they have no interest in clothes and fashion. They all
wear black or grey suits and white, shapeless shirts. Thats all they need when they go out.
How to fight that: Dont be afraid to share your style, publish interesting photos or run a fashion
blog if you like it. Also, dont try to hide your style when meeting clients professional doesnt
have to be boring!
6. Translators speak many languages and know all words.
Well, if you translate, you do it from many languages into many other. Youre not really a
translator if you know just 2 languages.
How to fight that: Come up with a witty response, like: youre not really a doctor if you can do
only paediatrics, or youre not really an artist if you do only sketching.
7. Translators dont like people.
Translators? They spend most of the time with books and documents because they dont really
like people. For them, words matter much more than human interaction.
How to fight that: be active in your professional organisations, meet and network.
8. Translators wanted to be someone else, but it didnt work out.
Who would like to be just a translator? Translators must have surely tried in other professions
and they couldnt cope, so they just turned into medicine or law specialised translators.
How to fight that: if you wanted to be a translator since you were born and learned languages
and studied to be a translator, hands up! Show that to others to prove that being a translator is
not just a plan B.
What other harmful clichs have you encountered?


Ill start with a background story.
For some time now, apart from translating, I have also been
working with some translators (hi!) to help them establish their
freelance businesses. It involved working on their branding,
marketing and websites. I know this and that on PR and selling,
but I had to get a team to deal with websites. I knew quite a lot
on that anyway, but I wanted to work with professionals.
My dad, my brother and my uncle all work in the IT. So is my
best friends father. Weve been playing with the idea even before I became a translator (it
started somewhere in high school), but we never got the right angle and never thought of taking
it further. And here it comes: the opportunity was there and we grabbed it. Weve quickly had a
cosy network of dedicated and passionate web people to do websites from time to time,
whenever any of my dear freelancing friends decides to have one.
It was the most recent project when someone actually asked: Why dont we do it for real? And
thats how I got a company: Websites for Translators (heartily recommended, go and visit the
My point here is to prove that just because we are translators, it doesnt mean that we cant do
anything else. We are talented, and we learn a lot while we translate. If we only want to, we can
make use of our long forgotten talents.
Why would you want to do it?
For others: Can you do something to help a case you support?
For your development: Do you feel stuck with what youre doing now? Would a change boost
your motivation?
For money: You can develop a complementary service to win more clients.
How to do it?
If you would like to start off with something else than what youre doing now, dig out all your
talents and assess them. Decide which of them you would like to use. Then either simply start
doing something about that step by step, or find people who are as enthusiastic about the idea
as you are and start building a bigger boat with them. Things just start happening then.
After a few years of successful collaboration, in 2013 I parted ways with the company. It now
remains in the hands of Meg.


Meet John. John runs a successful local vintage clothes store and
he wants to invest in his business. One of the steps John wants to
take is to translate his online store and precious product
descriptions into several languages. John doesnt want to give
this job to an agency, thats why he tries to find reliable
freelancers to work with. As a pro-active and business-minded
person, John came up with a list of service quality points he
expects translators to meet.
1. Time
Dear translator, I know that you are a busy person, but you cant really expect me to wait a week
or two for 1,000 words. Im not asking you to work all evening, you can simply tell me you are
not able to take this project on. Were all in business and TIME is the only thing we cant buy. Be
prompt and timely, as my company needs to act fast.
2. Completeness
If I do clothes, I do clothes, I dont know anything about languages and I dont have time to sort
out some linguistic problems. You are the expert here, so use your expertise and make decisions
to deliver a complete service. Im not asking my clients what sort of strings I should use in their
3. Courtesy
Just be nice! Our B2B relations need both of us to be kind and courteous. Dont just get angry or
irritated, dont treat me like an idiot just because I sell clothes and youve translated a thesis on
quantum physics.
4. Consistency
My business would die if I my dresses had an on-and-off relationship with quality. I am
expecting you to be always good, no excuses.
5. Accessibility and convenience
I need you to be available: online, on Skype, via e-mail, over the phone. You cant just lock
yourself in your office and stop replying to my e-mails. I have to know whats going on with my
texts and if everythings ok.


6. Accuracy
I care about my business and everything has to be just perfect. I cant read Spanish, French or
German, thats why I expect you to be accurate and faultless.
This is working with SMEs for freelance translators. Could you do business with John? Do you
have these steps incorporated in your freelance business strategy?


So you want to start a blog on freelance translation, or you want
to try to translate a book and get it published, or you want to
write an article to a renowned translation journal, but
Whenever you sit down to do it, your mind is completely empty,
youre struggling to get anything on paper and when you do, you
throw it in your bin. Theres something that stops your
translation creativity. Have a read through these most common
barriers to creativity and you may very well sort your problem
1. Searching for the one right answer
After we leave the school, we have to realise that there is no one right answer to every question
or problem we encounter. If you want to set up a blog on translation, there is no magical
formula to run one, there is no strict format you have to follow. Instead of trying to narrow your
thinking down only to looking for one answer, reverse the system and start generating as many
ideas as you can.
2. Trying to be overly logical
The process of creative thinking requires you to let your thoughts fly. Its not a good time for
finding lapses and disadvantages, or even for trying to structure your idea. Logical thinking is
the opposite of intuition, and intuition is an irreplaceable component of creativity.
3. Blindly following the rules
If they all run their blogs that way, it means its the best and only way to do it. So you start your
blog which is exactly the same as 20 other blogs on translation. But very often creativity
depends on our ability to break the rules, to question the status quo, and being inventive.
4. Constantly being practical
Not everything has to be useful from the beginning. Sometimes suspending practicality and
playing with ideas is the only way forward. Try to take your concepts and place them in
impractical what if scenarios.
5. Having too little fun
If you take a too serious approach to your creative process, youll end up hating it and treating it
like yet another annoying chore. Have fun, learn from it, evaluate your new knowledge and
corroborate it with other things you know.


6. Becoming too specialised

When your profession requires you to specialise (as very often in translation), youre at risk of
becoming too specialised. You forget how it is to think outside your box and simply cant
generate anything creative. If everything is centred around your legal translation field, try
taking a more general approach. Look for ideas in your hobbies, private life, outside your
7. Avoiding ambiguity
The good thing about ambiguity (hated so much by translators!) is that we really have to
consider at least two different options. In ambiguous situations we have to use our minds
outside their normal boundaries. Try to have more than one option open when youre trying to
come up with something creative.
8. Fearing looking foolish
The truth is youre not going to get a creative idea if youre trying to stick with your safe
environment. The creative process requires doing new and risky things. You may end up being
ridiculed by some, but you may very well end up being admired by dozens.
9. Fearing mistakes and failure
Being wrong is as dreadful to humans as being dead. Death may be more certain (depending on
your beliefs), but mistakes are never the end of the story. Making a mistake is only a proof of
doing something and there is no such thing as an ultimate failure. If the formula of your blog
didnt work out, just think of changing it.
10. Believing that Im not creative
The most lame excuse anyone can come up with. Everyone has the potential to be creative, but
not everyone is going to admit it. Why, they should start doing so many important and creative
things then. Its better to leave it to Einsteins, da Vincis and Beethovens.
Are you guilty of any of these blocks? Are you ready to work on them and develop your own
creativity? Do you think creativity is important in doing business in translation?


Most of the time when you get a project, you translate it, send it
within the deadline and wait for payment. Thats the 90% of
cases. You learn how to plan your professional life, you know
how long it will take you to translate or proofread. And then the
10% comes, ruins your routine and you enter the emergency
mode. Believe it or not, I had really unforeseeable 2 weeks full of
emergencies, surprises and challenges.

Access problems

The first thing that happened was the internet. Having way too much devices around, I dreamt
of having a better and faster connection. Called them, arranged for the new broadband, got a box
and forgot about it. 4 days later they decided to disconnect my old broadband without even
letting me know, and I woke up 6:15am to revise and send my project. No, it wasnt going to
happen. I reported problems to my client and waited till all cafes were open. In the meantime, I
was preparing for my interpreting assignment for business people visiting London; we were
supposed to meet 10:45am. 9am I run to the caf, where they tell me they dont do wi-fi
anymore. I live in a rather quiet area with not that much wi-fi places around. 9:30am Im on the
tube. 10:10am Im in one of the biggest shopping centres in Europe and I simply want to use
their wi-fi. No, my laptop wouldnt connect with BTOpenZone. 10:20am I try to use my 3g to
create a portable hotspot, but my phone wouldnt connect to the internet. 10:33am I catch the
train to meet with my clients. 1:40pm I get to the library and send the files, 2 hours overdue.


No, not just being cold and using too many tissues. Sick like enslaved in your own bed and
feeling dizzy anytime you want to go further than a toilet. I tried to put myself together and start
work at 10am. No, 11am. Well, Id better get rest first, lets make it 12. By 3pm I still couldnt
even read because all letters were blurred. I ended up moving the most important things around
and I managed to cope, but 3 days are lost. Cant do anything about that, can I?

No resources

A funny little translation that was all very simple and should have taken about 2 hours took 5
because of a bunch of technical words that appeared in the legal text. Im not a technical
translator, I had no resources, no dictionaries, not even a specialist at hand. Ive spent one hour
trying Google Images, then I was trying to describe this item in my own words in Polish, I tried
generating label translations, then I moved on to reading tons of reference material. I got it, in
the 5th hour. 3 hours lost.



Family crisis

Sometimes you just cant tell your family to have their problems later, after your deadline. They
will come up to you partly because they think you work from home so you can be flexible.
Especially if you work over the weekend because you were sick during the week, your family
wont wait. Yes, I had a crisis that was about me working too much over the weekend and whyoh-why I cant do it any other day. And it always ends up in a few hours lost.

Reviewing work

One of my clients has this annoying habit of sending me my work back for review with his notes.
He is entirely happy with my translation, but he only has a few suggestions to make the text look
better. Suggestions such as: could you make this bit sound more modern? or We decided to
use different terminology on this occasion, please refer to my comments not to the glossary. I
usually allow some time to implement suggestions, but re-writing takes much more time than
any translator would wish for.

Too much work

Theres the interpreting assignment for 5 days, 3 other deadlines (translated earlier, only
waiting to be signed off), also on Monday you get a call from your friend to translate something
for her (a small thing, just a few pages OF MEDICAL REPORTS), on Tuesday you get an offer
from a new agency and they want you to apply as soon as possible, on Wednesday the
interpreting assignment takes you much longer than expected, on Thursday you have to write
something creative, on Friday theres this informal meeting with people youre going to work
List all possible emergency events that can ruin your work schedule. And then prepare a plan B
and do some translation problem-solving.
What other unforeseen situations happened to you and how did you cope?


Translators very often suffer from creativity deficiency, tired by
thousands of thousands words that need their logical abilities,
but not necessarily these of imagination. After some time, we all
end up (temporarily or for good) too fed up with our profession
and desperate to go out there and paint a chapel, or write a 3volume novel. In fact, translators usually suppress their
creativity to translate faithfully and accurately, becoming more
and more deprived of the ability to think outside the box. This
limiting of creativity leads to deteriorating of quality of work. Why? Because creativity is much
more than painting Picassos or composing Mozarts. Creativity is about coming up with ideas to
solve problems. And translation is all about problems, isnt it?
Grab these useful tips on letting your creativity free step by step every day.

Allow yourself to be a creative translator

As paradoxical as it sounds, set some time aside to use it for you creative endeavours. Sundays
work well with me, as Im usually not able to do any serious work then. Or half an hour every
morning, before you sit down to work? Dedicate regular amount of time to be creative, tell
yourself you are going to be creative and do whatever your right hemisphere tells you to.

Give your mind something fresh every day

We are all locked in our offices for most of the time. Regardless of their Feng Shui and
cleanliness, we are all tired of them from time to time. It is essential to get something new: go
for a walk, read an article on new areas, go to a gallery, and so on.

Watch others

Well, you can treat other translators as competitors, but you may well simply use them to
generate your creative ideas. Get inspired by them, learn from them, enjoy their articles and
blogs, talk to them on Twitter, list down things you like about their education and website.

Record your thoughts and ideas

Do know this feeling when youre doing research for one of your translations, something
inspires you and you feel the urge to pursue it, but you scold yourself and go back to work? All
these promises to follow up are in vain, as you simply forget what the whole thing was about.
Always, always have a piece of paper at hand to note down these flashes of ideas.

Keep a toy in your office


Or something that reminds you of your childhood, the most creative period in your life. If its a
toy and you can play with it, thats even better. Talking to a child also works.

Take time off

It is essential to have time off when you dont really use your brain (learning French or going
through articles on translation doesnt count!). It is somewhat ironical that brain works best
when we dont think, but when our thoughts wander in different directions. Our brains need
this time to subconsciously deal with problems and generate ideas. Having regular breaks is as
important for translators as having regular working hours.
How do you boost your creativity? What do you do to be more creative?


Ruined nights, tones of e-mails sent to clients with apologies,
family life in pieces, no time for yourself, empty fridge, stress
overload. How many times did that happen to you? (It must have
happened at least once to everybody, so be honest here!)
Were all busy, trying to meet deadlines and still provide quality
translations. How many times last week did you tell someone
that youre too busy/awfully busy/terribly busy? Do you see how
negative that became? And we are all envious when we meet
someone who is also busy, but can still stuff more things to do every day. Do they sleep less? Do
they eat fast food? Do they give up their free time? No. There are translators out there who
know how important it is to plan their time.
Time planning leads to proactivity
By planning your time reasonably and carefully, you can take a more proactive approach.
Instead of just letting your tasks feast on your time (making you oh-so-busy throughout the
week), you can write down everything you have to do and how much time it should take you.
Youre no longer just reacting to whatever comes your way, but youre consciously planning
your work. When I first started planning my time, I was amazed that I could do some things in 2
hours (instead of 5) just because that was my schedule. And I can do much more now, with
everything planned in my calendar!
Time planning for translators gives you control
If you dont plan your work, it will plan you. And youll end up frustrated and tired, working 1214 hours a day. Tell yourself that youll spend 4 hours doing that translation and just plan
something else for later. Believe me, you will spend 4 hours doing that translation. Its your
time, so youd better act so!
Time planning lets you work on several projects
Well, you cant really multitask if you dont plan your time. It is possible to work on 3 or 4
translation projects during the day, if only you make the effort and prepare nice time slots for
them. Without time planning youll never be able to move on to another project.
Time planning lowers stress
Say bye to tight deadlines and racing heart rate! With all tasks planned, you know exactly how
long it will take you to translate, proofread and send your project. No need to panic. As simple as


Time planning improves your performance

Youre not that stressed, you sleep better, you eat, go to the gym. You dont make that many
mistakes, you have enough time to proofread. And thats how you become a good, successful and
happy translator!
A bunch of tips
At the end of the day plan tasks for tomorrow
Prioritizing is the key to getting things done
Plan your tasks even it is obvious for you how to get it done
10 Common Time Management Mistakes
How Productive Are You?
10 tips for time management in a multitasking world


Your situation may be different from mine, but I keep getting all
the same questions every year starting from the mid of
November. Friends and family keep asking me what do I want to
get as my Christmas gift. I dont blame them for the fact that they
cant choose anything themselves. I do admit that translators are
picky and unpredictable when comes to gifts. And to be honest,
most of my Santas think that I dream only about the newest
dictionary or a notebook.
True, it is much easier to buy something for a singer, a designer or a painter. I kept on sending
links of books I wanted, but it makes no sense anymore. I can buy books myself, and its no such
fun! My idea for this year is to save my dear friends some trouble and give them some ideas on
gifts for translators. And you can use it also, just to get something else than yet another
Dear Santa

Fountain pen

Even though I work with computers, I am pretty classy and getting me a beautiful set of pens is
always a great idea. Most of the translators I know have this thing for fountain pens, so go and
pick one.

Unconventional reading accessories

I do read a lot, and I appreciate the structure of paper. I have quite a lot of bookmarks already,
but there are some unconventional accessories Id never buy myself, such as booklights or

Good espresso machine

As a freelancer, Im deprived of usual office coffee breaks. But I still need coffee! Getting me a
coffee mill and a bag of quality coffee from Peru can do as well (Fairtrade, please), but if you
want to go bold, get me one of those!

Bed table

Thats a real gift! Its always so difficult to find a good reading position in bed, with all these
pillows behaving really nasty. A bed table is a touch of luxury and comfort Ive been craving



Ebook reader

Ok, I have all these computers, laptops and Macs, but I dont really have an ebook reader. And
believe me, sometimes I really do want to read a book fullstop. With no browsers, skypes and
facebooks in the background.

Massage session

Thats one of these things I keep promising to myself to do after this project. And it never
happens. If you want to make me really happy and relaxed, get me a massage session, with all
these fragrant oils and calm music
What are your Christmas wishes? Do you like getting translation-related gifts, or do you want
something not work-related?


We work in the distant mode, we live in the distant mode, and
were starting to learn in the distant mode. In my home country,
distance learning is not even in its infancy. But the United
Kingdom is passionate about distance learning. And guess what?
More and more translation courses, trainings and degrees do
offer distance learning mode.
That comes as a surprise, but for a few years you even could do a
DPSI preparatory course online (I dont even want to know
how). Today, you can quite easily find distance learning DipTrans courses, MAs in translation, or
a wide range of webinars and presentations. So why should you consider distance learning?
If you live in London and want to do your MA in translation going to uni 2-3 days a week, you
have to be prepared to spend at least 6000. If you live in London and you want to do your MA
in translation in distance learning, youll spend a half of that sum, and youll make huge savings
on travel. Not to mention the fact that distance learning fits into your workload almost
Most distance learning courses allow you to decide how much time you spend on reading,
practicing and expanding your knowledge. You can easily go back to previous materials and
redo them. Or you can divide the whole material into suitable chunks, instead of having a 3hours long session.
It happens all too often that the same uni offers drastically different learning experience for
readers of the same course. E-learning offers a consistent message and doesnt depend on
tutors ability to deliver on time or to spend half of the lecture on telling stories about one
conference in 1998 when
Distance, or e-learning, courses are the most up-to-date ones. Any changes to materials can be
introduced immediately, and discussions on various topics can take place. Even traditional
universities open on-line discussion forums for students to exchange views on certain topics
(some courses even mark you for your discussions).


Global access
Well, translators work from all these weird and fascinating locations with wild orchids,
waterfalls or polar bears around. Thats one of our perks. And there may be no option to do a
specialist course, or to carry on with your CPD, locally. But you can always access the internet
and simply do your MA in the meantime
It makes sense
The most important benefit of distance learning for translators is, in my opinion, that it reflects
our profession. In distance learning we dont see many people, we just get bits of material to
work on, we just need to deliver our exercises on time. We can do research, we can write, and
we dont need the university environment to do that. And most of all, who if not translators can
be determined and motivated enough to keep up with the freedom of distance learning?
Do you know any reliable distance learning options worth looking at?


We work in the distant mode, we live in the distant mode, and
were starting to learn in the distant mode. In my home country,
distance learning is not even in its infancy. But the United
Kingdom is passionate about distance learning. And guess what?
More and more translation courses, trainings and degrees do
offer distance learning mode, including eCPD Webinars.
In our work as translators we have to deal with numerous
problems every day. Heres a sentence we dont understand,
heres a word we can translate into 15 different equivalents, heres a mistake we have made.
Solving problems is our specialty, and one of our most precious tools. However, we dont really
pay attention to all different thinking processes we can use to tackle our problems. Ive
prepared this short synthesis concentrating on different thinking processes hoping that a
reflection on our abilities will make the problem-solving process faster and more efficient.

Translation and thinking

Practical thinking
This type of thinking focuses on the actual process of happening. You use your previous
experience in translation and you try to solve practical problems based on your existing
knowledge. It happens very often, doesnt it? We use our experience to tackle new translation
problems; we compare new problems with our library of already tested solutions.
Convergent thinking
This kind of thinking uses all information and thinking processes from different domains and
brings them to a common point. It is most commonly used when there are too many possible
solutions and differing ideas, while you need to come up with only one choice. Its like with
some translation problems we come across: theres so many procedures we can use, so many
differing theories, while we have to find only one equivalent.
Divergent thinking
Its the other way round. You start with a translation problem and you move further away from
it to find more and more creative and diverse solutions. This type of thinking lets you leave
traditional (practical) ways of solving problems (that didnt work out for some reason) and look
for new ideas and perspectives. So, if youre stuck with a really tough translation problem, start
harvesting ideas from different domains or areas of your experience.
Critical thinking
It uses convergent thinking as a starting point, but then uses our experience, context, and
criteria to assess ideas and choose the most appropriate solution. In critical thinking, you


actually have to take a stand and be able to explain why you assumed that this solution is the
best one. It happens very often during our translation degrees: were asked to translate and
then critically explain our translation choices.
Inductive thinking
In this type of thinking, we start with parts of the issue and we work our way towards the
whole. Its like with understanding a complex sentence in legal English (my oyster): you cant
get it in one attempt, you need to go bit by bit in order to understand the whole sentence.
Deductive thinking
This one works the other way round. It very often happens that we read a text were supposed
to translate, we understand it all in general, but then we move on to analysing specific problems
or solving particular dilemmas. And we solve them in the light of the whole text, using the most
appropriate translation method.
Comprehension thinking
This is our most commonly used type of thinking. It relates to understanding what on Earth the
text is about. We concentrate and use all our powers to understand.
Reflective thinking
Reflective thinking concentrates on what we know and believe. Being reflective makes us weigh
up the reasons for our choices. And it also helps us in assessing our development, leads to
improvement and introduces change.
Investigative thinking
Well, from time to time something goes wrong. If you delivered a text with an unusual number
of mistakes and its been sent back to you, you need to act as a detective and investigate why so
many things went wrong.
Social thinking
Its related to emotions, thoughts and beliefs of others. And this is what translation is largely
about, isnt it? We translate for certain audience and we need to know at least a bit about them
to prepare a text that will fit into their society.

Which one do you use most in your translations?


Would you be able to drive to your destination if your car had no
steering wheel? You have it all: a strong engine, enough fuel,
comfortable chairs, but for a steering wheel. How far would you
go? Would you even start? When would you crash? Its the same
with our careers in translation. If we dont have a steering wheel,
well never reach our goals. Here comes a list of essentials to do
to be in charge of your own professional development and steer
your translation career.
1. Maintain an up-to-date CV/website
Your CV, or as some argue your website, is very often a first point of contact with potential
clients. A CV is a marketing document, and youd better start treating it like that! It is essential
that all particulars of your development and experience are always in there. Plan regular
updates, depending on how fast your career develops. I update my CV every three months.
2. Become a member of your professional association
In freelance professions, such as translation, belonging to a professional association means
having an umbrella body with years long reputation. As a freelancer, you cant shine with your
past employment, but you can impress with your memberships. Not to mention how much youll
learn from them
3. Scan the market
Not doing your research can cost you priceless years of your career. Dont even start writing up
your CV or adding content to your website before identifying major agencies or clients in your
specialist area. Dont try to guess your rates research your competition (some translators even
call their competitors pretending to be potential clients to spy on rates what do you think
about that?). Stay on top of news in your area of interest. As I told some students yesterday,
following the information on economy and development of your language pair countries is
essential to know which way to go. Try checking out public procurement or tenders websites
they are usually full of foreign companies competing for your home market. Also, look for
networking events around.
4. Hone your skills
I am discovering the importance of CPD more and more every day. Translation is not like riding
a bike (and even that need constant practice and hardware upgrades) or reading skills. If you
ever stop in your CPD, your career will stop as well.


5. Look out and plan learning opportunities

New Year is a perfect occasion to go through all learning opportunities around you and to
decide which of them youre going to take up. Learning makes sense only with a strong
curriculum. Were not at school anymore, so we have to develop our own plans.
6. Record your CPD
Most of the translation organisations make us do that anyway in our CPD files, but if you dont
have one, youd better start straight away. Even a simple document with all the events that
helped you in developing your skills can do. Having a written history of your learning and
experience is very rewarding and motivating.
7. Develop relationships
Not only with your clients. Translators need to have meaningful relationships with their peers. I
would be a very poor and miserable translator but for my long-term relationships with others in
my language pair. It brings intellectual stimulation, rewarding discussions, and healthy
motivation. Dont forget about your relationships with others who influence your business:
accountants, IT, coaches.
8. Prioritise
We need, or is it only me?, to understand that we cant get it all at once. Career is a process and
we have to understand how to organise it and prioritise these actions that will be most
profitable for us in this particular moment. Im struggling with putting off some ideas, because
they seem to be so great. And here they are, written down on a piece of paper and stuck in my
Thinking Box.
9. Invest in yourself
Plan how much time and money you need to spend to get to your goals and get over it. You are a
company and you cant just accept your status quo in anything. If you had a restaurant, would
you dare not to buy new plates, cutlery, or table linens? We dont own restaurants, but we have
to invest to maintain a desirable level of our services. And its not particular to translators. Its
what developing career is about.


Translators are still scarily passive when comes to terms and
conditions we keep signing them (hopefully, after reading) for
agencies, we do that sometimes for bigger direct clients, but only
a very small percentage of us actually have their own terms and
conditions. Well, are you wondering why would you need them?
When Ive stumbled upon a poll about terms and conditions, I
was shocked that 51% of respondents dont have their own T&C.
Terms and conditions regulate the business between you and
your customer. They protect your rights, limit your liability and provide you with security. For
some time in my career I was thinking that a verbal agreement or a few words here and there in
emails can do. I never had any problems with non- or late payers, no cancellations or no
disputes. I was usually sending my direct clients my invoice that also contained some points on
payment and complains, or with bigger projects I had a contract with more comprehensive
But doing business is not only about getting paid on time or agreeing on delivery format. I soon
realised that I needed terms and conditions for translators to protect myself from these
unpleasant situations that hardly ever happen. But when they do happen, youd better be on the
safer side.
In general, terms and conditions cover the following aspects:
Costs (how much they have to pay you)
Cancellations (what happens if they decide to cancel the project when youre
half way through)
Delivery arrangements (what if they suddenly change their mind and want it
in Trados when youre almost finished)
Payment terms (what if its a 50,000 word project and you want half of your
money before you start)
Credit limits and periods (what if they want to pay you within the next 150
Managing late payments (what will happen if they wont pay you when you
asked them to)
Disputes on quality (what if they are not satisfied)
Copyright (so who owns that translated text)


Confidentiality (youre not going to tell the whole world what they want to
do next)
Liability (what if they want to blame YOU for their failed 1,000,000
It may seem daunting, but hey great news! There are model terms and conditions prepared
specifically for translators out there. ATAs website contains a Model Contract for Translators
which can be used as it is, or changed into a terms and conditions document. Also, the Institute
of Translation and Interpreting issued their recommended Model General Terms of Business for
commissioned Translation Work. You can use them as they are, or adapt them to your own
So you have your brand new shiny terms and conditions ready, but they wont be of use if you
dont communicate them to your client. Remember that they need to be aware of your terms of
business before they accept your offer. How do you do that?
Send your terms and conditions to your client as a separate document with
your quote and make them aware that theyre bound to abide by them on
accepting your offer
Attach your terms and conditions to your invoice
Have your terms and conditions on your website and make your clients
aware that its their responsibility to read them
Present your own T&Cs to agencies before you agree to work for them
Over to you! What about your T&Cs? Do you have them in place?


During my recent webinar with eCPD webinars, I mentioned that
Ive seen tons of CVs as a project manager in my last in-house job. I
was then asked by one of attendees what to do to become a project
manager. Just one sentence of warning before we start: project
management has very little to do with translation.
Project management seems to be the Lost Paradise for many
freelance translators. Some of us really believe that project
management is a step higher in our career. We keep being
translators until we are experienced and mature enough to become project managers. This
thinking is so wrong. Im not saying that a translator cant or shouldnt become a project
manager. Im only suggesting that if you are a good translator, you wont necessarily make a
good translation project manager. And you may even hate the job!
What does a translation project manager do?
Before you even start dreaming about becoming a project management, take into account your
future responsibilities. Youll have to negotiate with the clients, issue quotes, assign jobs to
translators, punish them for typos or late deliveries and find good excuses for your clients, give
answers to any questions translators may have, call here and there, have a broad smile during
skype conferences with clients on the other side of the world. If youre lucky enough, youll get
to read or revise the final text, but very well you may end up managing a project into a language
you have no idea about.
Ive browsed some PM job offers in London, and here are their responsibilities:


Its not that theres anything wrong about management skills. Theyre just different from those
that you need to become a translator.
What are the requirements to become a translation project manager?
Surprise! In 80% of cases a translation or language degree is not required! Why? Because
project managers dont translate too often. Have a look at these requirements posted online:

How to become a translation project manager?


Dont be a translator to start with. Go and do your management or business degree, get a couple
of years of experience in any kind of management (ok, apart from your local coffee shop. But
wait! Customer service counts.). Speak another language, but proficiency is not required.
Practice your customer service, as well as all soft skills (everything that ends with management:
time management, office management, self-management, people management, etc). Be a good
manager, develop your managerial skills. Then try in translation.
How much will you earn?
Apart from security, 9-5 working hours, and tea with your colleagues, you can start with
something between 18,000 to 25,000 pa in London. Dont we get roughly the same (or more)
translating from home?
Is it that bad?
There are still decent agencies out there that want project managers with translation
background, and they are prepared to pay at least 30,000 pa. If you are a manager, and happen
to be a translator at the same time, you have best chances to get a respectable project
management position.
How did I feel about it?
I had almost no time to translate at all, or I had to ruin nights. I didnt enjoy the ok-its-10:30lets-have-a-coffee atmosphere and the fact that I had to stay in the office even after Ive finished
with all my duties. I am used to making the most of my time.
About a week after I quit I told my friend: If I have to do that once more in my life, it will be for
my own company.
What are your views on translation project management? Do you see it as a natural
consequence of becoming a better and better translator?


I was sitting and staring at a blank piece of paper for some time.
Around 5 weeks, to be precise. Its not that I didnt know what to
write, I just had to translate. But believe me, even though I am just a
translator, I have just experienced the longest and most terrifying
writers block I ever had. And its time to admit that translators do
get their blocks as well.
Wikipedia says that a writers block is a condition, primarily
associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the
ability to produce new work. It can manifest as the affected writer viewing their work as inferior
or unsuitable. I dont see any reason why it couldnt apply to translators. A translators block
definitely applies to me.
It all started with my Christmas holidays, the rush and hassle around it, and the fact that it was
the longest time off I ever took in my life. After a week without translating I started thinking:
What if I forget how to do it?, what if I lose my skill? I came back from holidays and I had to
catch up with all too many things, with deadlines, illnesses, and personal dilemmas. I tried to
forget about my superstitious (or insane) thinking, but I couldnt ignore the fact that something
was wrong with my inner translator. As a responsible and caring manager, I started
investigating what can cause the translators block. Here are my notes:
Causes of translators block:
Lack of inspiration
Whatever they say, translation IS a creative activity, and you need at least a bit of motivation or
flow to make it tick. I didnt have my inspiration, and I knew I was totally flat and boring in my
translations. And it was the first time in my life I wished I didnt have to translate. Oh, just to be
a lawyer or an accountant (even in January), or just lock myself up in a cosy chalet with no
internet at all
Not enough experience or skill
I still do get it sometimes, despite a few years of experience. I receive a new project, open it
and I simply dont know how to do it. It usually goes away, like stage fright. But what if it
doesnt? What if you keep thinking that youre not good enough, that this text is too difficult?
What if you start thinking like that about every second text you get? I dont translate texts I cant
translate. At least that keeps translators block in a healthy distance.
Personal problems
Stress, illness, finances. Perhaps that has no influence on solicitors or accountants (I doubt it),
but translators suffer a lot. And its all connected. If youre sick, you cant work. You cant work,


you dont earn. You dont earn, youre stressed. Youre stressed, so your immune system cant
It doesnt work with me, but I know a few people who get their blocks with short deadlines.
What about possible results?
Low quality is one of them. And its not so much about proofreading, or mistranslations, but
about boring and mediocre texts. And it drives me crazy that I cant do better than that!
Stress. During this dreadful period I wanted to die at least once a week. And I couldnt work too
much either, as I was sure that my translations are too poor.
Thinking of changing careers.
Neglecting your blog.
How did I deal with that?
Well, I started with planning some nice and creative things to do that had nothing in common
with translation. And I worked on changing my website. And I talked to people, a lot. And I
decided to apply for my MA (keep fingers crossed its conference interpreting!). And I asked
my colleague for an honest peer review (as you could guess, my texts were not flat or boring,
they were perfectly fine). Im getting better now.
Have you ever experienced a translators block? How did you deal with it?


Rated People for quality, local tradesmen. Ive seen it for the first
time while enjoying my morning gym session about 2 weeks ago,
happily entertaining me on a treadmill. I bothered to think of
sending them a note about the lack of political correctness, but gave
up the idea in the end. Then it popped out somewhere online, and
back again today at the gym. Well, I thought that I will check it out
anyway, perhaps it truly is just a rating system. No, it isnt. Its just
yet another online marketplace.
That started me off thinking about our favourite translation marketplaces, including Proz,
Translators caf, or GoTranslators. There is also a whole range of non-translation specific
marketplaces, where freelancers of all sorts can compete for outsourced jobs. For the purposes
of this article (and out of my personal interest in online marketplaces and translators), I decided
to create my profiles on a number of them. Heres where you can now find me (apart from Proz,
Translators Caf, GoTranslators, and Language123):
Translators Town
(the rest was too dodgy to register)
How do online marketplaces work (based on PeoplePerHour)?
Business-to-business and business-to-customer marketplace, match buyers (mostly businesses)
with sellers freelancers, using the electronic brokerage effect (in other words, the internet is
to blame!). The factors behind the success of e-auctions are mostly linked with worldwide
exposure, lower cost, no time or space constraints, and added multimedia and database facilities
to help buyers choose).
Why is that bad?
All these factors lead to the potential for more aggressive bidding, thus creating a heavily buyerbiased marketplace. PeoplePerHour has over 141,171 freelancers registered, and only 47,640
clients, which amounts to almost 3 sellers for every buyer. In wider economy, any marketplace
in which there are too many sellers leads to lower, lower, lower prices offered. And bidding on
price is not a good strategy for translators, is it?


I was contacted by a nice lady from a small or medium enterprise somewhere in the United
Kingdom. She said she found me on PeoplePerHour and kindly sent me a sample text and asked
about my rates. Well, she never replied after I gave her my estimated charge for 5,000 words.
This very same evening Ive received a digest e-mail from PeoplePerHour and her job in there.
She wanted someone for 120-180 (for 5,000 words). She already had 5 bidders.
Besides, non-translation specific marketplaces rarely have relevant jobs posted. I usually come
across Polish translations once a week.
By the way, have you ever heard of solicitors competing on price at GoSolicitors, Solicitors Caf,
or Solicitors Town?
Why bother?
Ive set up my PeoplePerHour account ages ago, when I was looking for someone to practice my
Norwegian with. Importing all data from LinkedIn took as long as 10 seconds. After about half a
year I was contacted by someone who needed 25,000 words translated in my language pair. I
offered him my normal rates thinking that it will be a massive deterrent, but the client agreed
and secured a few hundred pounds on the deposit account. We no longer use PeoplePerHour, as
our relationship grew and we started to trust each other. One in a million.
With a reasonable amount of time and energy invested, you can hope for:
One in a million best client
Direct business clients
Link exchange
Payment security
Non-translation exclusive environment
Potentially longer relationships
Sample jobs



Your experience?
Ill keep you updated on jobs posted and my success with offers. I am definitely not going to
agree for anything lower than my usual rates, but I may well meet another client ready to accept
them. What is your experience with online marketplaces? Are you registered with them? Have
you ever received any jobs through them?


Usually, I am really strict when comes to my rates. I have them set
and I hardly ever agree to work for less. Recently one of my old
colleagues asked me to get a diploma translated from Polish into
English in a you-know-I-always-liked-you kind of style. I was
asked about my rates, and then if I could do it cheaper. No, I
couldnt. I said Id rather do it for free.
It started me off thinking why Id rather do it for free and how I
could make it beneficial for me anyway. I didnt want to give any
special rates, because translating for less than I value myself is disrupting and destructive. And
people like friends and family should know how much it cost you to get the qualification, how
much effort is needed to be good in what youre doing. If I lower my price, they can start
thinking that my translations are not that good after all, and that Im just making heaps of
money for nothing. Dangerous thinking, and I may get infected with it as well.
So I told my colleague that Ill do it for free, but hell get 10 business cards from me that hell
give out to his friends. And I also need a written recommendation. Deal.
Why would you translate for free?
Personal preferences translating for friends and family. For the closest ones, I wouldnt
hesitate to translate free of charge. I always tell them I do it in my free time, and that I do it with
more diligence and caution than for anybody else. Potential pitfalls: if I am not careful who can
be considered a friend or family, I may end up being exploited.
Feel-good factor translating pro bono. There is a number of charities or NGOs out there
struggling to have their texts translated. Id be able to do that, having in mind that Im doing
something good to help others and it makes me feel better (and it proves that we do charitable
stuff just to comfort ourselves). Potential pitfalls: About a month ago one of the Polish
translation forums was wrecked by an NGOs offer to translate 60 pages of a market report in
14 days. We know the deadline is tough, but youll get invaluable experience while translating a
challenging text and well give you wonderful references. Theres a limit of pro bono no-one
should ever cross.
Experience particularly important for students or recent graduates. I did heaps of free
translation for experience only, I just always tried to make sure that my client is not going to
financially benefit from my work. Potential pitfalls: being exploited or cheated on.
References anyone struggling to substantiate or prove their experience when references are
needed (for example of you do translation for agencies only) could consider translating for free
and asking for references. Potential pitfalls: getting exploited.


CPD If for any reason my stream of translations stops, Id turn to charities and translate for
them, just to keep my skills sharp. Even though for free, Id still translate without feeling useless
or abandoned. Potential pitfalls: getting into pro bono translation and missing out on paid
How to find pro bono work?
Ive run a Google search and found a number of cultural and educational organisations in
London that I could send my CV to. Then there are charities Im personally interested in, or
organisations I find appealing. Theres also a list of charities that welcome translators, just to
name a few:
International Childrens Digital Library (ICDL)
Translators for Kids
Translations for Progress
Translators Without Borders
Global voices
United Nations Volunteer Program
Rosetta Foundation
Apart from those, look for charities that interest you and that youd simply like to support. Send
them an e-mail with your CV and cover letter.
My most important determiner in finding pro bono assignments can be encompassed in
one question: Is my end client going to financially benefit from my translation? If he or
she is, then I dont do it.
Have you ever translated for free? Do you think its a good way to build your expertise?


Usually, I am really strict when comes to my rates. I have them set
and I hardly ever agree to work for less. Recently one of my old
colleagues asked me to get a diploma translated from Polish into
English in a you-know-I-always-liked-you kind of style. I was
asked about my rates, and then if I could do it cheaper. No, I
couldnt. I said Id rather do it for free.
When I first started as a translator, I had bits of background
knowledge in economics that helped me run my business. One of the
things I knew back then was that, in broad terms, all companies can compete between each
other on price, service, time of delivery, or quality. Of course, I knew that its always the easiest
to offer a tempting price tag, perhaps with quick delivery (youll know what I mean if youve
ever been to Primark on Oxford Street, London). I was also aware of the fact that with lots of
practice and dedication I can improve my service and time of delivery. I then decided, and
would recommend the same to any translator, to use quality of translation as my competitive
Right, so I want to sell quality Polish English translations. My first thoughts back then was that
Id simply use it in my tagline everywhere around and everyone will believe me. In the
meantime, my knowledge in economics developed, and I began to understand markets. I also
realised that somewhere about 90% of Polish English translators used quality to sell their
translations. Fine, I can easily prove the quality of my work in test pieces, or send my portfolio
over. Unfortunately, that thinking left out a great deal of private clients who would never be
bothered with reviewing test pieces or going through portfolios.
Today I know that quality is just an empty slogan if it is not communicated properly. If I dont
convince my clients of quality, they will never believe just one word in my slogan. So how do we
communicate quality?
I made a list of all instances where my clients meet me and where theres some place to tell
them about the quality of my work. In your case there may be more opportunities, but the
following is good to start with (order of importance, I think):
CV/Business profile
Whichever of these two you prefer, they are usually going to make the first impression. How to
communicate quality here? Thorough proofreading, by another pair of eyes, a bit of knowledge
on CV-writing (as in my e-book), and no funky fonts. You may also consider having a designer to
set the layout, colours, and suggest a logo. Professionally-looking CV will be a good start to
communicate quality.


If you dont have one yet, youd better visit and get
one as soon as you can. If you do have a website, make sure its up to the professional standard.
Its a good idea to think of services immediately conjuring up an image of quality, such as law
firms, jewellers, banking and finance institutions. Go and browse their websites. What
communicates quality there? Great content, impressive portfolio, professional design, certain
colours, and pictures with glass buildings. Not all of that will work for translation, but at least
we know which areas to consider. On my own website, I went with minimalism and vivid red
colour. A bit shocking, but same as a few banks and quality airlines.
Quality in e-mail relates not only to spelling mistakes, but also to promptness, relevance, and
politeness. Dont forget about your e-mail signature: it should contain as much information on
your professional profile as possible, at least state your name and surname, professional
headline, and means of contact. Replying within reasonable time and answering to all questions
will communicate that you are thorough in your translations as well.
Professional picture
If you have a picture taken by a professional photographer in a studio, it screams quality! If you
care enough about your image, then you probably care enough about your work. Not to mention
the fact that you look much better than on a DIY portrait (like me!).
Online profiles
Sharing quality content instead of rubbish, or even private stuff, tells every client that you are a
professional who is truly devoted to quality. Anything you share, say, write, like, follow, will get
back to you sooner or later. All scandalous pictures or blog posts from when you were 17 will
jeopardise any attempt at communicating quality.
Business cards
Definitely worth investing. Only last week I have received a business card oh it was somewhere
in my bag, Im sure, all tattered and with a handwritten phone number. On the other side it
invited me to get some business cards from VistaPrint. I would not ever believe this person
provides high quality service. Cheap yes, but not quality. Still, I could forget that because it was
a newcomer to the profession, young and not really experienced. But what on Earth thought that
guy who sent me a cheque for an interpreting assignment who simply crossed out old e-mail
and website addresses from his with compliments slip? I mean, youve been in business for a
while you should know better than use cheap paper and cross out mistakes on your business
Dress code
People dont judge by appearances in romantic relationships, or so they say. But business is
much more cruel than that. Id always be rather overdressed than underdressed, but plain
minimalism has never betrayed me yet. If you do happen to meet your clients, or you do


interpreting, or you have a conference on skype do dress properly. And never fall into thinking
that youre just a translator, you dont have to look like a business person.
Ive just ordered a pack of extra-thick luxurious business cards, and Ive sent my brochure to a
designer. Im planning to approach high quality direct clients and I want them to know that I can
perform to their standards. In these cases, I dont think that my CV and portfolio would make
any impression on prospective clients. These business people out there are real beasts, and
theyll laugh in your face if you dont support your statement of quality with facts.
Quality, as any other marketing slogan, has to be communicated and enforced, not just written
down. We cant just rest hoping that our clients will miraculously notice how brilliant and topquality our texts are. They may not even be able to speak our target language.
It just reminded me of a shabby food place with old plastic chairs, paint flaking off the walls,
dirty floors and a huge blackboard saying: Quality organic food! I didnt buy that. Would you?


Theres a number of websites and articles online providing tips and
trick for translators, and advising on growing freelance businesses.
A vast majority of them suggests really useful solutions, like having
your own website, or proofreading your CV one hundred times
before sending it out. Its not uncommon to learn that one of the
very first things to get is your own, branded e-mail account,
something like, or Using free e-mail accounts is frowned
upon and treated like a serious professional misbehaviour. If you
use Gmail, Yahoo mail or Hotmail, youll surely lose trust and never make serious business
connections. So, should translators use free e-mail accounts?
Nothing. Ive had my Gmail account since I was 13 or so, I got an invitation from my tech-savvy
Dad, who learned about Gmail from his geeky programmers. My Gmail account has been there
with me in 4 different countries, on about 6 different computers, and I have never had any
problems getting clients. And today, I am going to be an advocate for Gmail.
Come on, its from Google!
I dont know any other company that did more to facilitating communication online. Also,
Google is a landmark of geekery, and a home for the most brilliant minds of our times. What is
wrong with being associated with them? Google is a brand like any other, and offers seemingly
free service to their loyal followers.
Its not just an e-mail account
Whenever I log to my account (ok, I never log off, but thats another thing), I have this handy tab
showing other Gmail users who ever wrote to me being online. Now thats great for a quick
follow-up, or for just being nice and small-talking. Gmail takes e-mail further, allowing for closer
I cant possibly imagine my translation business without Google Calendar and Google Docs. And
thanks to synchronisation with Android, I have my calendar and docs available on my mobile
and tablet, so I can carry my office around without any fuss. I do get enquiries when Im on the
go, and I cant imagine remembering about them all, or making notes in a paper calendar. Its so
easy with Google Calendar! And Im always reminded about my deadlines as well. Google Docs
saves so much time when Im co-operating with someone on a project! Google Reader is more
than handy as well: I can keep all my subscriptions in one place.


Ease of access
I was visiting my family some time ago, but as a compulsive workaholic, I wanted to check all my
e-mail accounts when I was away. I thought: nothing easier than configuring Outlook on my
laptop. Wrong. When I did configure it, apparently only some accounts worked, the others
didnt. And one account was fine to download e-mails sent to me, but wouldnt let me reply (no,
because no, because you cant even my Dad didnt know whats wrong. It was probably due to
a huge difference in location and sending protocols). I dont want to think how I would end up if
that was my main translation business account. Luckily, Gmail works everywhere. It may ask
you about your phone number to confirm that its really you whos logging from another
Im Marta, Im not info@
The other thing I like about my Gmail account is that its really me. Its linked with my G+, it has
all my history and friends in there, I never lose any e-mail. And Im not a great fan of impersonal
e-mail addresses starting with info@. Im a successful freelancer, heres my name, this is who I
am, thank you very much. I dont want to hide behind a vague info@, because we already have
enough of depersonalisation online. I was considering setting up, but
that would suggest that theres more people here than me, and I may not be the boss. If I ever
change my e-mail to that one, it means I just became a company.
What do others get wrong?
One has to know how to use free e-mail. I wouldnt go for Hotmail, because hot is one of these
adjectives I dont want my clients to associate with me. Or anything with free. Id also never
use, or anything as vague as that. Not to mention using a
truly creative username you got yourself when still in high school Its also a shame to have an
account with Gmail and not to use the breath of their applications. Or not to have a signature
Gmail features I couldnt do without
Priority Inbox lets you decide which mail is important, and what doesnt need your immediate
Calendar you can organise your time and synch your calendar with others, so that they can
see when youre busy and what youre working on.
Mobility I can take my Gmail everywhere, without the need to configure an e-mail client.
Applications Gmail allows me to keep a lot of business things in one place. Add Dropbox and
you can work anywhere!
What do you think? Are you in favour of free e-mail accounts? If not, why?


One of most significant and potentially life-changing advice Ive ever
received in relation to my work as a translator and interpreter came
from an ex-actor. She said that she knew lots of conference
interpreters making a similar mistake that a lot of actors make: they
dont trust their basic skill, and instead of delivering outstanding
performance, theyre too stressed thinking not to get one word
wrong. What she said then was: Come on, they know how to
interpret, they have already graduated, so they have the skill. They
know the lexicon, because its never only one word that fits this
context. Stop thinking about that and start delivering like a star, using your tone of voice, your
charm, your personality. Now if that makes the difference between a good actor and a brilliant
actor, it will surely make the difference between a good linguist and a really outstanding one.
What are the rules?
Accept the fact that youve been trained as a translator and interpreter, therefore you simply
know how to do it. If you still have serious doubts, find a mentor who will happily assess your
work and cheer you up. Or find translations done by professionals that you know you couldve
done better. You know how to translate or interpret and you should take that for granted.
How that will make the difference?
My ex-actor was right: its easy to spot an actor whos still doubtful regarding his own talent.
Hes uneasy on the stage, he lacks this confidence to approach great directors, he doesnt have
enough power to turn peoples heads around. Hes still an actor, but hell never make it to the
The same rule applies to languages in action. You can be a hardworking translator, going
through texts over and over again, constantly being unhappy with the words chosen, never
approaching serious LSPs because youre not good enough. Or you can be a celebrity
translator, landing great projects with little effort, confident in who you are and what you do.
Why not?
How does confidence work in practice?
1. If you trust your skills, you make fewer mistakes. This may sound paradoxical, but if youre not
too obsessed with double-checking every single word, youll have more time to check for typos,
numbers, and instructions. Just accept the fact that your translation is fine and concentrate on
perfecting it.


2. If you accept that you can do it, you do it better. Works great with samples sent to you by
prospective clients! You can either approach this task fearful of failure and fail, or just do your
job, as usual. Dont question your basic skills and dont take one no as a proof that you cant do
it. Actors are rejected dozens of times. Does that make them worse actors?
3. If youre confident, others will sense it. Be proud of your achievements, be impressed by your
own CV, enjoy your work. Whenever you send your application to a new client, visualise them
opening your e-mail, reading your cover letter, and being impressed with your CV. Your
confidence will convince them of hiring you.
4. Be proud, and business will come your way. Confident and optimistic people attract more
business. Since I started trusting in my ability to translate, Ive gained a few wonderful clients
and met interesting people out there.
5. Confidence enhances your USP. We all know we need something to stand out from the crowd.
In business, its called a Unique Selling Point the differentiation factor. If youre confident
enough in your basic skills, you can concentrate on growing your business and earning more.
Youre not just a translator anymore, but youre someone worthy of attention.
Even though there are no Oscars for translators and interpreters, I still think theres a lot to win
in our profession. And if confidence in our basic skills is the factor that makes the difference, its
better to have it and deliver confident translation and interpreting. In the end, you do have
these skills anyway, dont you?


Most of the time I work on shorter and easier to digest projects. I
like this mode of work: its more dynamic, less boring and equally
rewarding. I can translate for some time and spend the rest of it
perfecting my work, polishing the surface and rounding up the
edges. But larger projects do come in, and keep me engaged for days
and days of the same text.
It just happened about 2 weeks ago. I got trapped with the same text
for 7 hours a day from Monday to Friday (almost 9 to 5!), and I
noticed that my brain starts to slip. It doesnt happen that often if texts are different, or if you
can be more flexible and move your activities around. But how to deal with block translating?
How to really take care of your translating brain?
1. Breaks
It was very tempting for me to spend the first couple of hours translating all the time, thinking:
the more I manage to translate now, the sooner Ill finish. Not a great idea. It is much better to
take a break every hour and to let your brain breathe for a while. I translated for 55 minutes,
and then took a 5 minutes long break, closing my eyes and listening to my favourite, soulbrightening Norwegian music. Thinking about green slopes, calm fiords and white sheep
Anything but policies, regulations and penalties for infringement.
2. Water
I used to think that a quick coffee in a morning is a must to start me off. Well, one cup sounds
fine. But in my own experience, problems start when youre trying to stay awake after 2-3 hours
of translating slurping yet another large black. Coffee worked against me, leaving my brain fed
up and my translating self bored and dumb. Water works much better, with a slice of lemon.
Keeping my body hydrated allowed me to keep my hourly turnover steady.
3. Food
I avoid large and heavy on a stomach food anyway, but you may want to try eating light while
you work. I usually eat fruit and nuts to get more sugar and energy, instead of eating bread and
dairy products. Oh, and chocolate really helps.
4. Planning
For large projects, I always have a daily planned turnover and I know I have to keep up to
translate according to it. Make sure that it is reasonable, and that youre not left with too much
time on your hands. At first, I estimated Ill translate much slower and I ended up cheating: if I
can do it in 5 hours, not 7, I can spend these 2 hours killing time Wrong. Im sure that a habit
like that would impact my overall capacity and after some time Id end up translating a half or a


third of what I can do now. My best tactics: plan to translate enough to rush a bit. If you have
time to check your e-mail or Facebook, that means not enough work. (By the way: checking email during small breaks is a NO GO. Before you realise, youll end up wasting away at least half
an hour).
5. Exercise
Dont laugh at me, but I couldnt work without that. A quick series of stand-ups, or energetic
dance (to the very same Norwegian music), or a healthy stretch can do wonders with your levels
of concentration. I also try to go to the gym every other day, and I find it really beneficial for my
translation work.
6. Diversity
Long projects taking days are mind-bogging. I was getting mad in front of my computer, so I
used crime stories and thrillers to exercise my mind. Dont let your mind get too engrossed in
one topic, or youll end up completely exhausted and brain dead by the end of the project.
7. Gratification
Were all only human and wed do everything for a treat. If youre struggling with a project and
you wish you studied accountancy or law, think of a nice motivational bonus. Sometimes little
things work, and sometimes we need massive gratification. I made an official promise that if I
manage to keep up with my plan till the end of June, Im going for my great Scandinavian trip:
Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, Turku, Oslo, and Bergen. Playing Norwegian music in the
background reminds me of my bonus. But again, chocolate works almost equally great!
I appreciate this certain stability that long projects provide us with, but I may suffer from a sort
of professional over activeness, and I cant imagine myself translating the same texts for longer
than 2 weeks. It becomes too mechanical, taking away my most favourite part. But well, no-one
can be too picky nowadays.
How do you take care of your brain? How do you deal with large and heavy projects? Do you
have any secrets that keep you carry on for ages?


Even though I don't particularly enjoy the tube, crowded buses, and
long queues, I must admit that living in London has huge advantages
for active professionals. In my opinion, this year is filled with
interesting and helpful translation events, and I'm trying to squeeze
in as many of them as possible. I do recommend attending various
kinds of events to every translator and interpreter!
1. Continuing Professional Development events
There's plenty of CPD events available for translators and interpreters in London. Usually
organised by universities or translation organisations, these events are always in my calendar.
CPD events vary from high profile courses (like interpreting in courts or English legal system for
translators), through workshops (EU Translation Workshop), to regular CPD events held by
professional organisations (Meet the Client). Prices of such events usually vary from as little as
10 pounds to 200-300 hundreds. It's also a good idea to think of other, related courses or events
you could attend to add extra skills. For example, I did a course on creative writing. Not directly
translation-related, but I managed to practice writing and I'm sure it helped my blog.
What are the benefits of such events?
additional skills
CV looks better
2. Translation conferences and language shows
Every year there are several conferences around the world I'd love to attend, and it's so difficult
to make a wise choice. The main issue with conferences are costs. Two or three such events can
be more expensive than 2-weeks-long holidays. I don't want to be cheeky here, but that's one of
these great advantages of living in London. Language shows or exhibitions are a great source of
What are the benefits of such events?
conference atmosphere
being close to recent developments in the field
extensive international networking
inspiration and motivation


3. Specialisation-related events
I can't imagine a better place to network and build relationships! I know it may be hard to find a
law-related event, but I'm sure there are plenty of events held among professionals in various
fields. There's nothing wrong in you going to an IT or programming event and being "just an IT
translator". As an outsider, you will surely attract attention and people will talk to you.
What are the benefits of such events?
knowledge, knowledge, knowledge
contacts to experts in the field
potential clients
4. Business events
There's nothing out there to prevent you from grabbing a handful of business cards and leaflets,
preparing your elevator pitch, and joining other business people in your area. Translators tend
to be shy or coy, and they think that the great world of business is not about them. Well, you
don't have to employ people or have several retail points. But they do. And they may already
know they'll need translations, or you may convince them why translating a website may bring
huge Return on Investment. Business events and networking meetings are usually free of
charge, and the benefits are great.
What are the benefits of such events?
networking with direct clients
developing a brand
making local contacts
low competition
5. Online events
On the 30th of September, the Institute of Translation and Interpreting together with eCPD
Webinars organised a virtual coffee morning for translators and interpreters. Sometime later
there was a virtual conference held on Translation Process Research by Aston University. Online
events are becoming more and more popular!
What are the benefits of such events?
easy to attend
convenience of your own home
international networking
accessible even from most remote locations


6. Networking events and meetings

Either organised by institutions, or just a few colleagues meeting up for a quick coffee, informal
networking events are great. Its so hard to meet a translator by chance, and sometimes we all
crave for a friendly soul to complain about low rates or tough deadlines.
What are the benefits of such events?
friendly atmosphere
chatting with colleagues
newest industry gossips
coffee and cakes
I'm trying to plan at least one of those events a month. Having said that, I must warn you all: if
you're not selective enough, or you're too enthusiastic and visit them all, you'll soon end up
having no time left to work (been there, done that). There's a wide range of events available, and
we all should strive to find our best mix. What kind of events or meetings do you find most


I love words, same as you. I was never particularly gifted when
comes to drawing or painting, or designing. Id rather write a short
novel than express the same concept visually! I think we all have
that in common. However, we just cant do without logos anymore.
Its business time, even for translators. And logos make us be
recognised, remembered, and hired.
There are some logos out there which I think are particularly great
(among others!). Here are some examples for inspiration:
1) Rainy London Translations: It's very modern, and I love this subtle reference to one of the
most iconic tourist attractions in London. The name and graphics go together great.

2) Lingua Greca: Fresh, light, and modern. Suggests that people behind it are professional and

3) Franco American Quill: I like the classy simplicity of this logo: very little colour, but tells you
so much about the business!


4) Ignacio Hermo: Simple and clean typography, intense and energetic colour. This logo is a
great example of minimalism in action!

5) SFM Traduction: a word tree? Genius! Clever and subtle logo with a great colour scheme.

6) Babeliane Traductions: Subtle, compelling, and wonderfully simple. I also like its delicate and
feminine character, goes great with the way "Babeliane" sounds!

Why should you get a logo when you start a translation business?
To be recognised: its much easier for a human brain to digest and store images, as
opposed to text. Potential clients will be more likely to associate your services with a
graphic element, rather than your name.
To be more professional: with all this competition around, being more professional
than others may win you a number of clients. Consistent branding is a must.
To be more motivated: when you get a logo, theres no turning back. You have to act like
a full-time business person!
To stand out: any logo is a plus, but a creative and catchy one will definitely make the


Where to put your logo?

Business cards
Gadgets (cups, mugs, Oyster card holders, pens, mouse pads...)
Invoices and quotes
Social media

So now you're wondering how to get a logo? If youre happy with nice typography (as I am at the
moment), you can design something all by yourself. I found mine here - you can pick and choose,
and it's all free! All you need to do is to download a font and install it on your computer. Then
just open MS Publisher (or PowerPoint), type your business name, add colours, and hit "Save as
picture". You can also get one done professionally, but it's not a definite must. The professional
solution saves you time, and is great if you want something more visual and creative.
What are your favourite logos used by freelance translators? Add links in comments!


I'm happy to share this practical guide to social media, where I
present my personal experience and some truly practical tips on
how to use Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for marketing. Please,
go through it and tell me what you think!
Practical guide to social media for translators
View more documents I have published.
And by the way, it's been quite popular on SlideShare when I uploaded it: Your document
"Practical guide to social media for translators" is being talked about on Facebook more than
anything else on SlideShare right now. So we've put it on the homepage of SlideShare (in the
"Hot on Facebook" section).


I met one of my translation friends for a coffee, and she quite openly
admitted she was struggling due to recession. Agencies keep
lowering their rates and it's either accept it or go somewhere else.
And whenever I send my CV to a new one, they start at half my rate.
Well, why don't you try with direct clients, or why don't you
diversify, I asked. Diversify? I'm no economist to know such terms.
And how do you want me to get direct clients? You could, for
example, have a leaflet designed and send it to local multicultural
companies. Or go to a couple of business events. Business events?
Do I look like one of those daredevil entrepreneurs? Should all translators become
Translation and business still too often go together only in terms of specialist fields. There is
only a handful of successful entrepreneurial translators (a number of them setting up agencies
as soon as they can), but I believe that it's not due to the fact that it is difficult to succeed. I am
deeply convinced that too few of us even try.
There's been a survey conducted in the USA asking people: what is the easiest way to become a
millionaire? Some 40% believed the easiest way is to win a lottery, some considered robbing a
bank. Only about 4% answered that the easiest way to have a million dollars is to set up own
business. Surprisingly, another research showed that the number of millionaires in States
oscillates around... 4%. Something tells me that if we counted the number of the most successful
translators, we would get a similar proportion.
Since there seems to be a direct relation between entrepreneurship and earning millions (or at
least a decent salary to start with), why so many of us, translators, just don't go that way? Why
so many of us see ourselves separate from daredevil entrepreneurs?
The world changes, my dear friend. We can no longer afford to be these geeky and detached
linguists convinced that our intelligence and subtle knowledge will prove to be enough. We are
used to be one step behind, or in a booth, or never mentioned on a cover. But the world doesn't
hire shy but studious secretaries anymore. Clients don't want coy but diligent proofreaders.
Agencies don't contact proud and always-too-busy to respond translators. Recession means that
everyone becomes competitive, everyone needs to have business cards, everyone needs to dare
to be entrepreneurial. Is it really everyone?
Theres much talking about entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship at the moment. Who is an
entrepreneur and can every translator be one? There are some qualities we have in common by
definition, such as:


Search for new ideas and innovation

Accepting constructive criticism and rejection
Strong work ethic
Good organisation

But that doesnt make an entrepreneur. There are some dangerous areas, skills we would have
to work on, such as:

People skills
Selling skills
Leadership qualities
Strong belief in ourselves

If that's the only strategy that can keep you afloat in the translation business, would you become
one of these daredevil entrepreneurs? Or are you going to stick to your usual translator-self?
Where do you stand: no place for traditional translators, or entrepreneurship is good for


Im generally a healthy person. But just because I havent broken
anything yet, I wont give up my medical cover. Why? I could save so
much money every month! Or take a car. If you havent had an
accident yet, why on Earth would you pay for your insurance? Same
with translation. If no-one ever heard of a translator being sued, it
means that it will never happen and we dont need any translator's
professional indemnity insurance. Logical, isnt it?
Well, not really. This fallacious thinking could be dangerous in case
of our health, or car, or even translation. However, a shocking number of translators use this
precise argument: if it hasnt happened to anyone, it means that it never will.
Here are my arguments why we should get professional indemnity insurance.
Peace of mind
First and foremost, we dont want to be even more stressed. At least we know that whatever
happens, were covered. Apparently, a lot of interpreters strongly believe that professional
indemnity is essential. Why? Because if they participate in multi-million negotiations they
simply wouldnt be able to sleep properly for a couple of days after the assignment.
Accept responsibility
No-one (hopefully) makes mistakes on purpose. But we have to accept the fact that were just
humans and something can go wrong. In that case, it is our responsibility to react and redress
the loss. For the very same reasons building owners are insured against falling tiles. Nothing
they can take control over, but they accept their responsibility.
Lost documents and confidentiality
Imagine that youre translated the file, and your laptop was stolen overnight. Youre not able to
re-translate the files within the deadline. Offer an apology, but youd better be covered in case of
serious problems. Confidentiality is becoming more of an issue as well, especially with Google
and ever-present indexing. Why take the risks?
I specialise in law and business, and I know that my insurance is an added value for my clients.
In terms of working with law firms, they do start co-operation with asking you for insurance.


During one of business courses I attended Ive been told that anyone who would like to provide
professional services should get insurance. Good practice!
Marketing matters
Were all trying to figure out how to be better than our competitors, and how to attract more
clients. I thought that if I had a choice between an insured accountant and one without any
cover (can they do that, by the way?), I wouldnt hesitate for too long. And I have a feeling that
some direct clients may think the same in terms of translation.
Insurance seems to be an important issue if you work for direct clients. But what about
agencies? We would like to assume that if we work for an agency, it will be its responsibility
when things go wrong. But this is not always the case. Some agencies, in their terms and
conditions or agreements, include a part where they cunningly shift the responsibility to get
insurance on their suppliers (meaning: translators). If were dealing with more honest
agencies, they will require their translators to be insured openly and overtly. And some agencies
dont care.
For further reading, heres a link to a blog post on this topic by the Translation Journal and an
academic article on the translators responsibilities and liability in the Journal of Specialised
What are your views? Have you ever heard of a translator being sued? Do you think that
insurance is necessary? Do you need to have insurance in your country?


I have a colleague whos just starting out as a legal interpreter. Shes
not too experienced, but shes trained and shell make a good
professional in this field. She admitted to me some time ago that there
are nights when she wakes up terrified and frightened, because in her
dream, she was interpreting in court and she didnt know a word. Yes,
she does get paranoid nightmares about court staff being angry with
her because she couldnt interpret a word.
Her confession was funny for me in the beginning. I mean, I thought it
was just her being too stressed. Or too inexperienced. And then I realised that I also have these
paranoid thoughts. Im not scared about not knowing a word, but sometimes I have to check
deadlines 3 or 4 times, because Im sure I mixed them up. I started asking.
Its either the fact that translators (and interpreters to some extent) are lonely and therefore
prone to irrational fears, or we all care too much. Either way there is a link between translators
and paranoid thoughts.
Ill make a mistake
Think of a situation in which you diligently check terminology, find parallel texts, leaf through
dictionaries. And no matter how many times you re-assure yourself, youre always in doubt. It
must be the fear of making a mistake, a genuine mistake, not just a typo or omitted sentence.
Sometimes there seems to be nothing worse than making a MISTAKE. It hardly ever happens,
but when you do, when you use a wrong word, thats the end of the world.
Some time ago Ive heard, or read, that were constantly trying to be right because from our
spiritual point of view being wrong is like dying. Trying to extend that metaphor, translators
think that if they make a mistake, their professional self dies.
And its even worse with perfectionists. If you are one, you know how hard it is to finish and
send off a job. Youre followed by this feeling that something must be wrong, that you made a
mistake somewhere. When you dont get any complains, you start making up weird scenarios,
like they were so upset with my mistake that they wont talk to me again.
Ill never be as good as
It gets almost everyone at some point of their careers. You come across a website, a CV, a Proz
profile, you skim through experience and clients, and here you are feeling low for a couple of
days. Because SHE has so many clients, because SHE graduated from a better university,
because SHE knows more languages, because SHE charges more. You grow your little obsession
and research this person online, trying to find something to help you, to let you say ha! Shes
not that good in the end!. But you never find anything like that.


There always will be someone more experienced or more educated. Accepting this fact is
necessary to be able to develop your own career. Believe or not, there isnt a closed circle of
good translators and the rest is not admitted. Neither there is a benchmark to show that that
much experience and this university is required to become a good translator.
But we keep comparing. Its in our blood. And its not essentially bad, as long as its not
destructive. The same colleague of mine I mentioned above almost gave up interpreting because
she discovered Proz and developed low self-esteem. She asked for help, and I told her not to
look at Proz, or not to research other translators until she gets a couple of clients. She did,
despite the fact that she wasnt the best one.
Ambition, is that what causes this irrational thought that we have to be better than someone? I
dont think so. You can be an ambitious translator, and never suffer from this self-esteem issue.
Id say that we want to be better than others simply to survive on the market. We think that only
the best ones will be spared, and were struggling to be in this circle. Wait, there is no circle of
the greatest of the greatest translators.
Ill lose the ability
We all suffer from worse days, when were trying hard to translate and this textual creature in
the other language is just a disgusting pile of random words. Theres the translators block, and
we cant force ourselves to ignore it (unless you do legal translation). Ok, it happens. But then it
happens tomorrow as well, and the day after
And then it starts. The paranoid thought, or the heart-trembling feeling that youve lost it. That
whatever made you translate, its gone now. The Muse of Translations abandoned you, youre
forsaken and youll never be able to translate a single word again. Done and dusted, start
looking for another job as soon as you can.
The good news is that it doesnt happen. You may be overworked, overstressed, or too tired. But
once cursed with the ability to translate, you cant just simply be salvaged and relieved from
your eternal duty. Youd sooner lose all your clients due to paranoid thinking rather than losing
your skill.
Ive talked about these three paranoid fears, because they all touched me at some point. There
are many others, like I wont have enough work when youre booked for the next two months,
or Ill lose all my documents. The common thing of all these assumptions is that theyre
completely unfounded. How to get rid of them? Rationalise! And read this lesson.
What paranoid thoughts you had to deal with? How did you manage to leave them behind? Do
you think theyre linked to some turns of our careers?


Everything is being translated: from flashy product descriptions, through church brochures, to
nuclear plant designs. Some of these domains give more pleasure to
translate, and some of them bring more money. This is why the
decision a specialised translator makes on what area to concentrate
on may be crucial to the whole career. Not specialising in anything
is no longer an option in translation.
What to take into account when considering specialist areas?
Not everyone could be a literary translator, try as they may. Not everyone may do well with
legal texts. Some people, like me, could never become medical interpreters (tried once, no thank
you). Theres nothing shameful about being good at one kind of text, and refuse the other. Our
own skills and predispositions are crucial.
Rates are not equal across the domains. Generally speaking, the richer the area of business, the
more money there is to spend on translations. With this assumption in mind, its not hard to
identify potential leaders in terms of high rates. If we dont want to end up complaining about
low income, we should keep this factor in mind.
Personal interest
We cant go against our own preferences, can we? If I had to translate a text I didnt enjoy, or on
a subject I find unpleasant, or even something that goes against my beliefs, Id struggle. I would
be able to deliver correct translation, but wheres the flair? Wheres the little ingenuity that I
could be proud of? It must have stayed with the texts I like.
Personally, I decided to mix these two when choosing my specialist areas. Theres something I
do for money (legal), something Im skilled in (business), and something I really enjoy (IT).
Thats a good starting point, and I have the balance I need.
How to get specialised?
It is a real issue for recent graduates, or for people entering the profession. They seem to think
that they start with nothing, since they havent translated much within a certain domain. Well, I
think that we should know what our specialist areas are before we gain experience within them.
Its like with doctors: they study for their specialisation first, and only then they start work. Not
the other way round! So, lets assume that youve just graduated from a degree in translation
and you want to start working. What do you do?


1. Plan
First of all, think of these three factors Ive mentioned above and try to come up with ideas on
your specialist areas. Dont forget to consider them against the demand in your language pair
and in your country (for example: not every country exports or imports oil, while gas and oil
industry pays well).
2. Portfolio
You should have your specialist areas in mind when creating your portfolio of translations. Then
youd be able to support your claims with hard evidence. Also, it will be a chance for you to
check whether you can really cope with these domains.
3. Education and development
You have your degree in translation, fine. But if you want to specialise in law or IT, you stand
more chance to get your foot in if you have an additional qualification in your specialist area. It
doesnt have to be a degree. Look for courses, webinars, conferences, presentations, industry
certifications. Why not joining subject-related professional organisations?
4. Read on the subject
Read, in both (all?) languages. Subscribe to professional publications within the field, read
professional blogs, sign up to newsletters. This is the best way to become an expert within the
field. You get subject-related knowledge, but also you build up your terminology base.
5. Target customers
Try finding clients who would appreciate your specialist areas and dont be too scared to say
that you work only in these domains. Even agencies are now far from having a bunch of
translators doing everything for everyone, and you can negotiate a higher rate as an expert in a
How did your journey to being a specialist look like? Did you have to plan for it, or it just sort of


Translator is not only and not always just a translator. We take on different professional hats,
we are flexible and we look for opportunities around us. This is a
good starting point for todays discussion.
I always try to differentiate my services, and to take part in a
number of language-related endeavours. Be it a local Polish library,
a traditional restaurant serving pierogi, or a Toastmasters event, Im
there ready with my elevator pitch. And I do meet other translators
and interpreters, quite a number of them, to be honest. It is in my
nature to talk with colleagues and suggest having a cup of coffee to
discuss business issues.
On the last occasion I was confronted with a surprisingly honest answer, translated roughly as:
Youre the first Polish translator I meet whos not turning her back away, looking down at me,
or rushing away scared of competition. In this particular translators experience, it was normal
to treat every other colleague as a dangerous competitor. My only reply at that time was: Why
would I do that?
Obviously, I know many reasons to be scared of competitors, even more if they work in the
same language pair. I can imagine people being scared of others taking their jobs, or having their
skills confronted with another professional. But I was still shocked.
I asked for your opinion on my Facebook page, and I got some reassuring answers. So how is it,
really? Do we compete or co-operate? Or both?
Co-operating can take many forms: from sharing posts that help other translators, through
posting info on Twitter, to presenting and giving webinars on professional topics. Co-operating
is also the support we give to each other, both emotional during tougher periods, and practical
when problems arise. Co-operating also means joining our forces for the whole profession, as
opposed to working on our own and discrediting colleagues.
And competition? Have you ever witnessed or experienced competitive behaviour from your
colleagues? Or maybe competition is not always bad? What do you think, translation
competition, co-operation, or both?


We had a lovely meeting with translation and interpreting
colleagues in London. It was 15 of us, all coming from different
backgrounds and doing different languages. Meeting so many happy
and satisfied colleagues left me really warm-hearted and made me
think with a lot of optimism about the profession.
It also made me think: what does it mean to be a successful
translator? How do we measure and define our success?
Perhaps it is easier to measure professional success in other
domains. Imagine a successful lawyer, or a doctor, or a business person, and you have a clear
image of their lives. The definition of their success is clear. But I know a number of successful
translators, and their success looks completely different from one person to another.
What is it then that makes someone a successful translator? What do we take into account when
we talk about success, and how do we measure it?
1. Money
Money is important when talking about professional success. But I find it hard to determine the
scale. Someone could work too long hours and make decent money is that still a success? Or is
there a certain cut-off point of income that helps us determine if someone is successful or not?
Or should it rather be our per word/hourly rate? And how much money should we make to be
successful compared to other professions?
2. Time
If we were considering time as one of the factors of success, what would we consider successful
then? Im not hiding the fact that I love my profession and I dont mind committing and
dedicating a lot of my time to work. My work is my passion and my life, and I end up working on
Sundays, like today. But I know colleagues who decided that they will work only 8 hours a day
and have weekends off and they are still successful.
3. Types of texts
Maybe it is about what do we translate and interpret? If we get texts we like, we are successful
then? But then, from time to time we all get our hands on texts wed rather leave and we still do
it. What if the ability to translate less exciting texts is one of the ingredients of success?


4. Recognition
Someone may suggest that recognition and approval among colleagues is the measure of
success. Is it really? Is recognition necessary to deem someone successful? I think its the other
way round: recognition comes after success.
5. Self-perception
This point is the most troublesome for me, and crucial to our profession. I know many
translators who are simply miserable in their professional lives, complaining about poor rates,
long hours, no weekends, and little respect from clients. This is the opposite of success.
It seems to me that success in translation depends on mind-set. Problems like market
saturation, low rates, long payment terms, and astonishing discounts for repetitions are
obstacles, but not excuses. It is always down to us whether we think of ourselves as successful
translators and we do all we can to get there, or we just stand by and watch rates drop. Money,
time, types of texts and recognition may help to measure ones success from the outside. But I
strongly believe they all are just effects of our success-thinking.
Now question over to you: What does it mean to be a successful translator to you?


For the first time in my life I went on working holidays, which in
total lasted just over a month. Imagine translating from a sunny
terrace over a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice served by
friendly staff. For days. Isn't translation the best profession in the
world? It surely can be something to be envious about, but it's not
impossible. It's also not as carefree as it sounds.
In general, I enjoyed my working holidays. I went to see some places
I always wanted to visit, spent time with friends and consumed
masses of delicious food. I also learned that Finnish is extremely difficult, and that my poor
German is better than non-existent. I rested, I got a new perspective on my life, I found new
sources of inspiration. I also received a valuable business lesson: how not to manage your
business on working holidays. So here come some notes to remember for the next time.
Reliable laptop
You can't work without a laptop, can you? I recommend checking it up, updating and running
scans before taking off. Believe me, realising that your battery is permanently dead on board of
a plane is not too nice, especially if you assumed you will spend these three hours translating to
deliver the file on time. And if you use Trados, just run it once before departing, as it has the
annoying habit of breaking down just like that. Anti-virus scans are needed, the same as antivirus software. Another point to remember: if you're used to your two 22 inch screens, wrist
foam and sensitive mouse pad, you will be much slower on a 13 inch laptop with a touchpad.
Cloud solutions
Make sure to upload your essentials to a cloud storage system. USB keys or flash drives get lost
or damaged, or yeah you took the wrong one. This year I used my mobile as an emergency drive,
but stored all my files on Dropbox. Convenient, but see below.
If a hotel in Wales states they have wi-fi, expect it in the lounge only. If the connection breaks
down for no reason and you ask the staff where free wi-fi is available, you will surely get a
difficult explanation how to get to a place with free wi-fi that's only 20 minutes by bus from
here. Oh but it's Sunday evening, there are no busses there today. Don't expect even the most
globalised places to have wi-fi. Berlin train station doesn't, or am I just so unlucky? I
recommend using wi-fi wherever possible, but also check data roaming packages with your
mobile operator. Mine had a cheap and convenient package covering whole Europe. If only there
was signal in Wales...


It is very useful to decide how much time a day you are going to spend on working. Because Im
an early bird, I didnt mind waking up at my usual 6 a.m. and working until 9 a.m. in peace. I had
it all planned and knew how many words I had to translate each day to deliver on time. I had no
mercy for myself and I really did work when I was supposed to, even if it meant missing out on a
dinner, or an early morning walk. You also have to realise that holiday time is different from
office time. Every minute spent translating runs either two times faster (when youre really
close to the deadline) or ten times slower (when you just want to be done and stroll down the
beach). I was dreadfully slower in just about anything during my working holidays.
Most of you are freelancers as well, so you can understand me. I cant just go away for 3 or 4
weeks without doing any work, checking my email or answering calls. Im a business, I cant
casually disappear from the translation horizon and then rebuild my professional connections.
But try explaining that to your partner, who conveniently left his business phone behind, or
your friends and family, who are all in the holiday mood. Be ready to repeat and educate.
Survival mode
Because of the reduced working hours, you have to be very selective about what youre going to
spend your time on. I call it a survival mode. It explains no blog posts and scarce updates online.
At some point you have to make a decision what is essential for you to carry on with your
business (accounting, invoicing, replying to enquiries, emailing, translating), and what can wait.
You should also have a plan for your return, in order to be able to cope with all these things that
were put on hold for so long.
Business cards
You would be amazed by the variety of settings and situations you can use your business cards
on working holidays. For example, you can meet a Polish family near the Snowdon summit, or
realise that your acquaintance wifes friend is doing some business in Poland and struggles to
communicate with his business partners.
Summing up
Ive always been rather a 3-days-away-holiday fan, and I think Ill stick to this model. The
amount of issues to deal with after my return was overwhelming. And I simply missed


In any sort of small business, looking back at what youve done is
crucial. Sometimes its the only measure of your achievements,
success and development. On a micro scale, I summarise every day
of work when I call it a day. I check whats been done, what hasnt,
whats been planned and what was postponed. By doing so, I have
this powerful feeling that I am moving forward day by day.
On a macro scale, I summarise my business every three months,
when each quarter ends. I look back and check what I have done,
what I havent, what Ive planned, and what will have to wait. Here it is, my honest summary.
What have I done?
Holidays I had a few holiday breaks and I managed to get a fresh view on some of the most
important things in my life. I also realised some things about our job, and how important
translation is. I also practiced working holidays. May come handy next year!
Rearranging the office I finally had the right circumstances to set up my office the way I want
it. I have a lot of space now: two desks, 4 bookcases, a sofa, two whiteboards and a fireplace. My
productivity has already increased!
Redesigning branding I worked closely with my designers to reflect what I think about
translation and how I want to provide my services. Some aspects are still being developed, but
the major change is from red to brown. Thats it, I like it this way.
What havent I done?
Networking A bit hard to do when everyones on holidays! But I planned to do things I didnt
manage to do in the end. And I think my online networking couldve been better.
Learning CPD during holidays is a real challenge! First of all, there are very few events and
opportunities for development in summer. And with this weather its really hard to keep your
motivation and self-discipline up to the same level.
Blogging I found it difficult to keep to my routine and write one blog post a week. Why? I
guess it was the summery atmosphere out there, and spending much more time outside.
Unexpected trips didnt help either.
What have I planned?


Qualifications I decided to take DipTrans. Im also starting a Postgraduate Certificate in Law.

So far so good!
Presentations and webinars Theres a lot of them planned! Follow my Facebook page not to
miss anything. The first one is about social media 25th of September.
Learning Im doing two or three free courses at Coursera, and I cannot recommend them
enough! I was very disappointed when I had to stop one of them last year due to other
commitments. Im determined to keep up with them this year.
Business development some nice things on the horizon here! Ive planned a serious business
development strategy and prepared a real marketing plan.
What will have to wait?
Languages Originally I was supposed to be taking some language exams in September. Sadly, I
dont see it happening this year. I tried very hard to spend Saturdays working on my French and
Norwegian, but theres always something more pressing. If its not the right time, Ill wait.
Moving I really wanted to move this year, but it is very unlikely now. I will have to stay where
I am for now, even though its not the best location business-wise (I should move closer to the
Polish cultural centre!).
Why dont you look back over your shoulder and summarise the last quarter? Track your
translation business development!


This year is rich in translation and interpreting events, and Im not
going to miss any of them! I was asked to present at some of these
events, and I would like to invite you to join me and learn
translation. In a chronological order, the best ways to learn more
about marketing your services and collect some CPD points.
25 September
Social Media for Translators (online)
In this webinar, together with a colleague Katarzyna E Slobodzian-Taylor, we will be talking
about the influence of the social media on our profession. We will discuss various types of social
media platforms and their potential. We will also cover using social media to develop expertise
in our respective languages and areas of specialisation. You can expect us to cover not only
marketing, but also professional development and marketing.
Who's invited: Enthusiasts and critics of the social media. Why dont you sign up and challenge
1 October
Working Successfully as a Freelance Translator series: Marketing, networking and social media
for translators (London)
Im a guest speaker at a well-established series of workshops run by Karen Stokes and offered
by the Chartered Institute of Linguists. The first part of the workshop covers marketing your
services through your own website and the professional bodies, and also how to develop
professional profile and branding. My part is all about using the social media techniques.
Whos invited: Freelance translators wishing to learn more about marketing in the real world
and online. (Psst Booking deadline is on the 17th of September)
6th October
CIoL Members Day (London)
If youre in London, dont miss this great event! Its a perfect way to celebrate the International
Translation Day. Come over to attend the prestigious Threlford Memorial Lecture, this year
given by The Baroness Garden of Frognal, and to participate in a selection of seminars, including
mine: "Using Social Media in the Languages Industry: Tips, Strategies and Best Practice".


Whos invited: Everyone related to the languages industry.

19 21st of October
Language Show Live (London)
Have you ever been to the Language Show Live? If not, this year is a great occasion to give it a
try. Ill be there all 3 days and I will give two seminars. The first one, on Saturday, covers online
marketing, blogging, social media and branding. In the second one, on Sunday, I will cover social
media exclusively.
Whos invited: Its a great family event, and weve seen everyone from professional
interpreters to high school students. Its always good to learn more about marketing, isnt it? (PS
Its all free!)


As you can see, WantWords new identity is now introduced on
every platform (here on the web,
on Facebook, Twitter,, and everywhere else). I thought
that I could share some of my ideas behind this change. I had some
doubts about changing the identity and find strong arguments in
favour of it.
First of all, I was anxious that introducing such a great change
would confuse my audience. People know me for being brightly red
and having a strawberry here and there. What if I lose the recognition and loyalty I already
Secondly, as they say: if it aint broke Old branding worked just fine. I gave a consistent and
strong image on every platform and through all means of communication (including my
invoices). Why would I ever need anything else?
Thirdly, I had to deal with a natural stress related to changes. Weighting up pros and cons was a
never-ending nightmare. What if I dont like the new design? What if others dont like it? What if
it doesnt work with my clients? At some point, I was about to call the whole re-branding off.
Im glad that I didnt.
I realised that WantWords is my own business and its always up to me how it looks like and
what it does. Its all about the person behind it. A change of colour cannot confuse my audience
or my clients, because its only the colour that changes I stay the same. And because I am my
business, it should please me. If I like brown and old typewriters, I should use brown and old
typewriters. If I changed and grew up, I can leave bright red and strawberries behind. And in the
end, business is never about the colour or the logo. To a certain extent it doesnt matter if you
have your website in shades of red of brown. Youll translate equally well.
Im happy with all the changes, and I would like to talk you through them.
The idea is to create the image of old-school reliability and professionalism. You know, these
days when translators used typewriters, knew spelling by heart and went to libraries to do
research. Something was telling me that were missing these roots in the offline reality. I
decided that I would like to use the feel of the past and combine it with new technologies. I also
want to promote my country.


Brown is not popular online. Im well aware of it and I know why. Back in the old days, when I
received my training in public speaking, we were told that if we want to attract attention to
ourselves, we should wear flashy colours. Thats how people stand out. But if were delivering a
workshop or a training session, we should wear brown. Brown attracts people to what youve
got to say. Besides, brown is serious, stable and structured. Just like me.
The essential part of the logo stayed the same. Sometimes youll see it with a typewriter, like on
my business cards, just to add a bit of spice to it. But no major changes there. I really like it the
way it is.

Surprise, surprise: my slogan is partly in Polish. Its a part of a wider campaign Im rolling out
trying to make people interested in my native language by facing them with words they can
make out of the context. Its also a great hook. Whenever I meet someone new and give out my
business card, they try to read the bit in Polish and always make jokes about their
pronunciation. Po polsku is easy enough to learn it in 3 seconds, and I can always congratulate
my interlocutor on being such a fast learner. Does the trick for me.


Business cards
I wanted to have two versions with reversed colours. I like
my choice and I know that I can always go either with a
more serious brown, or with a clear-cut white background.
A real highlight of my business! Stickers are fun and
everyone just loves them. Ive already distributed some
among my friends and theyre dutifully sticking them
everywhere around. I must admit, I have them for fun.
As a minimalist, I wanted my letterhead to be just a touch of
my brand. And here it is a classic watermark.
I love fountain pens and Im using them all the time. I
thought theres nothing better than a reliable Waterman
and a stock of black ink. Well, there is. Brown ink :) And Im
deadly serious about it. Have a look yourself:

Do you have your own translation business branding ideas?


Its been some time since I published my How to write a
translators CV and taking into account the number of downloads a
day you still think its relevant. Im very happy that I could help
some of you with my advice.
But the industry changes and were bound to try new things to get
more clients. I always review my CVs (yes, more than one!) every
three months, and this time they called for a major overhaul (yes,
you can overhaul your CV). I jotted down all my ideas and Id love to
share them with you now. To do that, I printed out a copy of my CV and I recommend you to do
the same. Well go through them at the same time.
Lets start with the structure. Make sure that you have all of these sections on your CV. I have a
pencil in my hand and Im ticking them off as well.
1. Name mine is there, together with my titles
Do you think that adding all your BAs, MAs and other WOWs just behind or in front of your
name is a good idea? Ive seen various cases. I decided to add them after I read a CV of one
translator who just by the end of the document revealed she was in the middle of the PhD in
translation. Now that is something you want to tell your clients right away. I wouldnt like not to
get the job just because they didnt know I have some qualifications. What are your views?
2. Contact details present!
Translators put a whole range of details on their CVs, from obvious telephone numbers, through
addresses, to places of birth. I use a simple rule to determine which details should be there: does
my potential client need this information? My clients need my telephone number, my email
address, my website address and a rough idea about my location. Id never ever include: my
exact address, my date and place of birth, my photo and my marital status on my CV. Why? Im
concerned about identity thefts and I think these details are not relevant at all. Do you agree?
3. Headline happily standing out
A professional headline is a must. If you have one, youre already way ahead of your
competition. Identifying your language pair and stating what you do is essential to handle your
CV properly in a multi-language agency. Just imagine youre a Project Manager and you receive
dozens of CVs every day. Wouldnt it be much easier for you to deal with them if you could
identify the language and purpose straight away? And we all know that a happy PM is a good


4. Summary tick.
This part is a summary of you as a professional. Dont forget to mention all the good things
about you: experience, abilities, knowledge, USP, maybe availability and daily output? And I
think its a good place to mention your areas of specialisation. I use bullet points to make them
more visible.
5. Key Achievements on my CV
This bit may be quite controversial. Not every translator agrees that it is relevant. I think its a
good pitch. Well, you start with telling your reader that you have something called key
achievements it subconsciously says youre good. And its a good place to show your
involvement with the profession. All bloggers, Twitterers, or Facebookers can mention their
activities here. Why not? It counts as long as it makes you stand out.
6. Experience of course!
This section of our CVs is always crucial. In there the reader decides if youre up to the job and if
theyre going to give you this project. Make sure that your experience is relevant, rich, and
impressive. If you dont want to or cant mention your clients (privacy, NDAs, confidentiality),
you can always list your most recent (or most relevant) projects in a given domain. I also add
word count of my projects, because I believe that numbers work best with convincing clients.
7. Memberships done
Is it just me, or do you always try to find peoples memberships as well? In my opinion it is a
very important point in a freelancers career, because it shows that youre affiliated with a
regulatory/advisory/statutory body and youre representing similar values as these
organisations do. Im not that sure of putting logos of organisations on your CV. What do you
8. Education as well
Some of you may disagree with listing education so far down on your CV. However, in
translation more than in any other domain, its not our education that is the decisive aspect. It is
relevant and sometimes required, but in most of the cases were assessed based on our
experience. In my education, I always try to give some examples of modules I took.
9. Software not on my CV
I still think its a very important issue on our CVs, but I decided to leave it out for now. I mention
that I use Trados in my summary and thats it. The rest is mentioned on my website, but I
assume that my clients know Im a proficient user of MS Office, Windows, some Mac knowledge,
etc. Were bound to be tech-savvy, arent we?
10. Skills and interests on some versions of my CV
Right, so theres no way I can keep to 2 pages if Im going to add all these details. I decided to
have an abridged version of my CV for specific domains and a longer, 3-page CV covering
virtually everything.


11. Professional development carefully selected

I picked those events and training sessions that are relevant to the domain on which a specific
version of my CV concentrates. To make it simpler, my legal translation CV gives only my legal
CPD. Clear, easy, and works wonders.
12. Publications yes
Just in case someone gets to the end of my CV and is still hesitant, I add a section on my
publications and presentations. Wouldnt you hire someone whos giving talks? Everything
counts, from an article written to a language-related publication to a presentation on just about
anything. Try to impress them!
13. References not quite sure
I add: References available upon request because I feel that I have to close my CV somehow.
But I feel its the weakest part of my CV. How do you go about it? Do you add contact details to
your referees or short testimonials?
Online CV tips
If its an online CV, what about adding links?
What about your social media presence? Do you link it to your CV?
Ever thought of linking your samples to your CV?
Visual CV


Theres no one single way to make a living from translation. We all
come to the industry from many different paths. Some of us take the
unexpected route: we suddenly discover that translation is
something we love doing and well never do anything else again. Or
the long way: we work for a number of companies for 20 years and
then go back to our college dreams to work with languages. Theres
also the planned way: A-levels from languages, BA in modern
languages, and MA in translation. Some people I know living off
translation take the ethical way, making sure that everything they
do is good for the profession. Then there are people who have other jobs, but they translate
from time to time because theyre passionate about it.
I guess there are many of you out there whose ways into the translation business were different.
But we all have some things in common: some qualifications, some experience, some dedication,
and some rules we never break.
But imagine theres an easy way. Much easier than you imagine, and it could potentially bring
you much more money. I am going to share this secret with you now, and you should read
carefully until the very end to make money in translation.
1. Do you have what it takes?
You absolutely mustnt have any translation qualifications. Languages are ok, but still look
suspicious. If you accidentally have any language-related background, you better erase it from
your CV and forget about everything youve learned. You must be an entrepreneur and a born
marketer, preferably thinking only about your business. Youve got to be passionate about
networking, talking to people, and making good impression. Be great, good looking, and smart.
2. Setting up a company
The first and most important aspect of setting up your company is to make sure that it looks
bigger and more complex than it really is. Pretend that you have five departments and a whole
team to support you. You could even create imaginary personalities and make your clients
believe that someone elses on Twitter, someone elses dealing with invoices, and you as the CEO
- you work only 5 hours a day.
3. Defining your products
You must stress that youre providing top-quality translations in 170 languages both ways,
complex services, telephone interpretation, video conferencing, transcreation, subtitling, voice
over, private tuition, translation certifications and all these other services you have no idea


about, but youll be able to find a freelancer who does. When describing your services, use the
following adjectives: professional, outstanding quality, native-only translators, 24 hours a day,
top quality, in-house proofreaders (tip: meaning you), etc.
4. Setting prices
If you think theres a healthy business model to tell you how much to charge to your clients,
youre wrong. The easiest way to do it is as follows (and its really easy because it allows you to
do two things at the same time). Find a directory of translators online, write a dull email that
youre expanding your base of providers and youre recruiting freelancers in this language pair
(please note: use recruit freelancers again and again it doesnt make sense and is a great
example of an oxymoron, and never try to specify the language pair it could get you into
trouble because youre sending this email to all language pairs on earth). Ask for the best rate
and invite them to send their CVs. Dont forget to send this email from a gmail or any other free
mailing service. Oh and by the way: always, but always start your emails with Dear Linguist.
Youll receive a range of replies, so just find the lowest possible best rate offered. Thats how
much youre going to pay your service providers. Now multiply this fee by 8.852 (thats the
translation income rate I just invented) and there you go. Thats how much you charge your
5. Finding providers
But you already found them! All these emails you received to find out the lowest prices did the
job for you. Without looking at CVs, delete these emails that state a fee twice higher than your
minimum. Still without looking at CVs, create folders for different language pairs and copy the
documents there. Create a mailing list to all people whore in your folders and congratulate
them on joining your successful company and agreeing to work for your rates. Job done!
6. Marketing
As I said, you must be smart and good looking. Your website has to be brilliant. Dont hesitate to
invest loads of money in making your company look international and global (nice words to add
to your copy, by the way). It doesnt matter what colours are used, or if your copy makes sense.
Just be there and remember about SEO and social media. You could have someone blogging, but
its much easier to use this funny piece of software that changes some words in existing articles
online to give you a brand new text. If you dont like the hassle, simply steal some articles from
freelance translators.
7. Enjoying the profits
Now imagine. The only thing youre doing is some marketing and forwarding jobs to your
service providers. And you make so much money on it! Isnt it just great? Oh, I forgot to mention
something earlier. Your business name has to have solutions in it. Its so catchy theyll think
you can solve their problems! If youre really good at what youre doing, you could even win a
government contract and sell your company as soon as you can. Believe me on this one.
I don't have to mention that it's a satire, do I? The number of agencies/companies operating this
way is increasing. Im always fishing for dodgy websites, but Im under the impression that


theres more and more of them popping up. People who call themselves entrepreneurs use the
slimiest, ugliest, and easiest model to earn some money and then get rid of the body. This model
stands against everything we value in our profession and is insulting to our skills. Theres one
thing we can do to stop it: never, never agree to work for the bottom feeders and their
ridiculous rates.
Even if thats far from easy, Im prepared to take up the challenge. Are you?


The Chartered Institute of Linguists event Ive taken part in not so
long ago was full of interesting seminars, networking opportunities
and professional debates. I also managed to talk to a few colleagues
and I added some new business cards to my collection. While I was
filing them in my business card holder (by language, of course), I
started to appreciate how different they are. Some of these business
cards also started me thinking that we dont always get it right.
But we should. Let me share some of my views (not unsupported)
on creating and giving out an effective translator's business card. Disclaimer: Im not saying that
mine is the best.
I know that its an ordeal for some of us to order business cards from a printing company. In the
end, were just translators, right? Wrong! Printing business cards on your own printer is not
such a great idea because you dont want your business cards to crumple within seconds. And
please if you really have to print them at home, dont use scissors buy a guillotine. If youre
ordering business cards from a printing company, it doesnt really matter if its thick or thin,
glossy or matte. Were not CEOs of multimillion companies. Unless you want to make a
statement and use 100% recycled paper because you translate about recycled materials.
Id recommend against anything of non-standard size. Of course there may be slight variations,
but if you go for something really different, youre risking not fitting in any business card holder.
If your business card is causing problems, it may be left somewhere loose in a drawer and
forgotten forever.
Front and back
Back in the old days (and for some printing companies still), printing on both sides of a
business card was quite expensive. Luckily, these days are over. Were now free to print on both
sides and we should use all space thats available. I have all my details on one side and my logo
on the other. Some of the business cards I have slogans at the back, or a list of available services,
or photos from interesting parts of the world. Everything is better than blank space. Oh well,
everything apart from Free business cards at.
So what should we have on our business cards? The absolute essentials are: name and surname
(almost everyone got it), professional headline (what do you do), languages (something not to
forget), telephone, email and website address (if you have a website). Some people give their


postal addresses. I dont, would anyone care to tell me why I should? Regarding additional
information, most of the business cards Im looking at right now contain details such as degrees
obtained, qualifications gained, memberships, etc. Good!
I support adding some life to your business cards. Even a small graphical element brings some
life and spice to your card. As long as its relevant. You can only imagine whats not relevant and
Im not going to give examples, as I dont want anyone to recognise their business cards here.
The safest move is to add your logo.
Im a traditionalist and minimalist when comes to colours. My business cards are brown and
white and thats it. Always dark text on bright background and no funky colours. But I know
some of you arent! You love experimenting with colours, and I have nothing against it, as long
as I can read the text.
How many business cards do you use a year? Do you think we still need business cards at all?


In one of the previous articles, I encouraged you to attend all sorts
of professional events. I'm a huge fan of online presentations,
webinars and chats, but I must admit that meetings in person are
irreplaceable. Apart from the obvious aspect of professional
development, all face-to-face events give us great opportunities to
network with our colleagues and other specialists in our fields.
We're approaching the Language Show Live and the ATA
conference, not to mention all smaller events. Some networking
knowledge is essential for all of us now, especially when were just
starting up in the business. We all know the word. But what is really networking and how do we
carry it out? And most importantly, what are some doubts we may have and how to go about
talking to strangers? How to make networking less daunting? I have compiled some basic tips
on networking for translators.
Networking is, in simple terms, building your network of connections. In the simplest terms,
getting to know people. You come to an event and meet new people. That's it. I used to be a very
lousy event attendee. In the past, I would just listen to the presentation and then run home as
soon as I could. Terrible, I know. But I made significant progress since then, and now I know
how to use these events to the fullest. So here are some of my doubts I managed to get rid of and
pieces of advice about what to do before, during, and after each networking event.
Before the event
How do I know if I should attend?
Every meeting I go to has a purpose in my professional life. Some of them are strictly CPD, other
meetings are to talk to potential clients, and some of them are to meet my colleagues. With so
many events to choose from, Im always trying to decide which one is going to bring me most
benefits (or return on the time Ive invested). I went to a legal exhibition because I wanted to
meet lawyers, and I didnt mind explaining to everyone there that Im neither a solicitor nor a
barrister. In fact, Im ready to attend a gas and oil conference if its close and at reasonable cost.
Because, why not?
How to get used to a new place?
It is extremely important to prepare for each event. Start with long-term preparation. Research
the event, the venue; try to find out as much about it as you can. It will not only make you feel
more confident, but you'll also have some anecdotes to relate to your colleagues.


What should I take with me?

Make sure that you have enough business cards and that theyre suitable for this kind of event. I
have two types of business cards: One specifically for my colleagues, inviting them to visit my
blog and Facebook page, and the other one for my prospective clients, giving my essential
details. I always carry both of them with me. On average, I'm giving out between 5 to 15
business cards on one event; unless, of course I'm presenting. Then I need many more of them. A
camera is recommended to take pictures and share them with colleagues later. You could also
consider taking your smartphone to tweet and update your Facebook.
What if someone wants to know something about me?
Before the event you have to think of your pitch, or introduction. Just visualise the venue, think
of a situation where a couple of co-attendees approach and greet you. They'll inevitably be
interested in you and they will ask questions (if they don't ask, you're bound to tell them
something about you anyway). But let's suppose someone asks you what you do. You have
about 20 seconds to introduce yourself and your services in the most professional and
appealing manner. It's your chance to make the first impression, so you better get it right.
Creating such an introduction requires some preparation and rehearsals. Write down a
sentence or two about yourself and your services. It's good to mention whether you're a
translator, an interpreter, or both, which languages you do, what areas you specialise in. And
then comes the spice. In your introduction, you should mention something that will make you be
remembered and recognised. What's that special thing about you? After you get your pitch
written down, practise it at home. And I'm not joking: Stand in front of a mirror, smile, and
repeat until you become completely confident and know your introduction by heart. And you
get bonus points if your introduction invites to ask more questions about you.
What should I wear?
A few days before the event think of what you're going to wear. I have a few classics that I'm
comfortable with and I know nothing can go wrong with them. Unless it's a very short event, I'm
not wearing too-high heels. The crucial point for me in terms of clothing is feeling good.
On the day
How do I start a conversation with a person I don't know?
When you arrive, try to look around and find some faces you may already know. It's good to
have a friendly chat, and you may get introduced to others through colleagues that you've met
before. Listen to the presentations or speeches carefully and make some notes. You'll be able to
refer to something that's been said while having a chat. You should also think of a list of safe
topics, such as the subject of the presentation, general research in this area, your ideas about it,
the condition of the translation industry. Try to avoid controversial issues, as you never know if
your critique of something doesn't hurt a colleague you've just met.
Now for the trickiest bit. The presentation has just ended; everyone's standing up, about to
drink their coffees. They all seem to know each other, but you. That's the impression you may
get. But there are always people like you around. Just have a look and you'll find a handful of
other translators not knowing how to approach anybody. Take a deep breath and come up to


one of your colleagues. Try some of these conversation starters: How did you like this
presentation? Do you agree with the speaker? Are you into this topic? And you'll see how easily
it flows. Of course, don't forget to introduce yourself.
How do I know if and when to give my business card?
Giving business cards always provokes a lot of thoughts: Should I give her or him my business
card or not? What would they need it for? What if they find it irrelevant? Just stop thinking, get
your business card out of your cardholder and suggest staying in touch. Its as simple as that.
And believe me, you'll always regret not handing in your business card after the event. There's
one important thing to remember: Always give your business card with your details facing up.
You can mention that your contact details are there and that you regularly write a blog for
translators. It's a good idea to ask for your colleague's business card as well.
What if I want to talk to someone else?
If you feel that you've spent enough time with this particular person, you'll naturally want to
talk to some more people. There's nothing wrong in saying that it was great to meet this person,
that you'll stay in touch and that there's someone else you wanted to talk to as well.
What if there's a whole group chatting?
If a person you wanted to meet or talk to is chatting with a whole group of colleagues, you can
definitely approach the group, listen to the conversation for a while. Usually one of the persons
in the group will notice you and try to interact. If they don't, you can wait for a pause in a
conversation, say that you're sorry to interrupt, but you really wanted to thank the speaker, or
ask them a question.
After the event
What should I do with all these business cards?
I recommend having a digital filing system to store all details of people you meet. You can also
look up your new colleagues on social media, find their blogs, connect on LinkedIn or follow
them on Twitter. Its a great idea to write a thank-you email and to state that it was pleasure to
meet and that youll stay in touch.
Do you have some good strategies or points to add? Or perhaps questions? Write to me and I'll
try to answer some of them!


The Language Show Live 2012 is behind us. Three days of
exhibiting, talking, presenting, exchanging ideas and business
cards. It was great and Id like to thank everyone who listened to
my presentations. I hope youve enjoyed them and youve learnt
how to use online tools to make your business even more
successful! Many thanks to Meg from Websites for Translators for
inviting me to talk at her Online Marketing for Language
Professionals together with Valeria Aliperta of Rainy London
Translations and Megan Onions of Speech Marks Translation. Im
also very grateful to the Chartered Institute of Linguists for allowing me to present on their
You can have a look at some photos in here and you can like the page as well!
Language Professionals! Youve got to mark your presence
It was great to talk about online marketing and social media for translators. Valeria covered
branding (no wonder why!), Megan presented on blogging (expert knowledge), and I covered
websites, social media and CVs.
Meg also prepared a handout with some very important points, and she gave some guidelines to
preparing and executing online marketing strategies. Grab a copy!
Online marketing handout from Marta Stelmaszak
Career boosting social media for linguists
My presentation on behalf of the Institute covered marketing, learning, and networking with
social media. Thank you to translators, interpreters, students and teachers who gave me their
quotes. Your opinion helped me convince the audience. You can view and download the slides
Language show live career boosting social media for linguists from Marta Stelmaszak
I was also giving handouts with essential resources on social media. Make sure you get your
own copy below!
Handout - social media for language professionals from Marta Stelmaszak
Enjoy and share the materials!


The Chartered Institute of Linguists event Ive taken part in not so
long ago was full of interesting seminars, networking
opportunities and professional debates. I also managed to talk to a
few colleagues and I added some new business cards to my
collection. While I was filing them in my business card holder (by
language, of course), I started to appreciate how different they
are. Some of these business cards also started me thinking that we
dont always get it right.
Popular freelancers have more work. They are well-known, recommended, referred to when
needed. This sense of professional popularity, or fame, boosts productivity, self-confidence, and
in the end: income. Who wouldnt like that?
The best news is that we all start from zero. We all come to the profession at some point and
have to work hard to gain recognition. We need some courage, good branding, and a list of
things we have to do. Below you can find a list of things I did and I recommend every freelance
translator should do, inspired by this article on Freelance Folder. The best thing about items on
this list is that theyre all interconnected: one causes the other. A colleague inspired by this
lesson run a survey among translators and interpreters and presented her results in a great
infographics. Have a look!
1) Attend an event
Theres much to be said in favour of attending events. The general rule is: go to as many events
as you can without negative impact on your work. Appear here and there, network with some
people, look out for opportunities.

What I did: I went to an event organised by the Interpreting Division of the Chartered Institute
of Linguists on interpreting for the media. It led to 4, 6, 8 and 9.
2) Volunteer to help out at an event
Being on the other side of an event is a great experience. Youll learn how things work, but youll
also meet many people behind such events who are always worth knowing. As an organiser,
youre also perceived as more experienced and more knowledgeable.

What I did: Only recently, I volunteered to help at Websites for Translators stand during
Language Show Live. It led to 8, 5.


3) Join an organisation
Becoming a member of an organisation is a very wise step. Youre joining a group of like-minded
people and you can add your expertise to their experience. It doesnt have to be a translation or
language-related organisation. Perhaps you could add an extra angle to other markets?

What I did: Ive just joined Chartered Institute of Marketing. Im hoping to do 1, 2 and 4 with
them to start with.
4) Write an article
By researching a certain field needed to write an article, you already become richer in
knowledge and experience. It becomes your field of expertise. When the article gets published,
youre also acknowledged. It drives publicity. Theres a wide range of options, from online to

What I did: I wrote an article for The Linguist on social media following 1. It lead me to 8, 9 and
5) Write an ebook
Whether you want them to pay for it or not, writing an ebook is a great marketing opportunity.
There are so many unexplored areas of translation (or working as a translator), that writing a
short text can be exciting! Youll also be able to prove that youre an expert in your field.

What I did: I wrote an ebook on CVs for freelance translators. It led me to 4, 7 and 9.
6) Join a committee
Many organisations rely on help of their members. By joining a management committee you get
involved in important aspects of the profession, you can bring change and have impact on your
industry. It also makes you look more professional in the eyes of your clients.

What I did: I was invited to become a member of the management committee of the
Interpreting Division of the Chartered Institute of Linguists following 1 and a co-head of the UK
Chapter of IAPTI. So far, it led me to 1, 2, 8.
7) Write a guest post
If youre not blogging yourself, writing a guest post to be published on somebody elses blog can
bring more traffic to your website and more attention to you. Its an excellent way of showing
that you know what youre doing. In the end, someone else published something you wrote.

What I did: I wrote a guest post for Wordyrama lately. Considerably more traffic on my own


8) Give a presentation
It has a range of benefits to a freelancer. First, you become recognisable. Second, they take
pictures of you that you can use to market yourself. Third, you practice public speaking (boosts
confidence needed to talk to clients).

What I did: Following 1, I approached one organisation and gave a presentation on social media
in the languages industry. It led me to even more presentations, 4, 9 and 10.
9) Run a seminar
Running a workshop or a seminar is a great idea to earn more money. Theres nothing bad or
wrong about monetising (or capitalising) on your skills and knowledge. If you have unique
knowledge or experience, share it.

What I did: I run a few workshops on social media in the languages industry, both online and
offline. It led to 8, 10.
10) Get interviewed
After youve done things from 1 to 9, Im sure someone somewhere will notice you and want to
interview you. Its a brilliant opportunity to present your whole profile and experience, and use
it later in your marketing. Well, I dont know a client whod turn down a translator who has
been INTERVIEWED by someone.

What I did: I was interviewed last week in a Rock the industry series. Im still thinking what to
do with it, besides bragging about it to my clients!
Now you tell me, what did you do to become more popular and capitalise on that?


What makes clients chose one agency over another? What makes
them go to an agency in the first place? Were all wondering about
that and were trying to find our own marketing advantages.
Competing with giants is much easier on the internet. You get
yourself a website, spice it up with custom-made design and write
some texts. Yes, Im going to talk about texts agencies and freelance
translators use on their websites. Im not interested in SEO, because
its for the crawlers. I just want to have a look at words that people
read. What if that is our secret weapon?
Believe me, Im a linguist. I compiled a corpus of 10,000 words taken from home pages of 40
translation agencies. Texts excluded menus, footers and blog posts. The agencies are all fairly
well-known, mostly UK-based, not page 1 on Google, but the agencies that I and my colleagues
work for (i.e. mostly not bottom feeders). I then used Word Counter to check for word
popularity and I used roots (variations together, i.e. translate, translator, translation, translating
will be listed as one word). Then I used another tool to check what the most frequently used
words on whole websites are, not only home pages. Im not claiming its academic research, or
that the findings deadly accurate, but they may be helpful. This lesson on agencies' websites will
be followed by the analysis of freelance translators websites, and the final post will cover the
And the winner is
Translation. It shouldnt come as a surprise to anybody, but translation was used 302 times
out of 10,000 words. The second most popular word was service 188 times. The third most
popular word was language a total of 157 occurrences. Pretty good as for home pages:
translation, service, and language identify what the businesses are about.
Nouns about translation
Apart from translation, service, and language, other high-ranking nouns were: company (44),
business (43), interpreter (40), work (40), translator (35), client (27), project (26), time (26),
(market). When I switched the variations together option, I was surprised to see that top 5
words used on home pages were nouns: translation, services, language, interpreting, service.
And theyre all quite long!


Its very interesting. First verbs appear further down the list, and its already quite telling:
translation may not be seen as a process or action, but as a product. We dont like this approach
too much, do we? Well, it turns out that provide (49) and offer (40) win. Other verbs used
on home pages: need, help, train, include, call.
Now, thats an interesting one. I asked my colleagues on my Facebook page about their guesses.
We, translators and interpreters, assumed that agencies would use: fast, reliable, affordable,
good, great, cheap, professional, accurate
So, what do they say? Professional is an absolute winner 67 appearances. Quality is next,
with 37 hits. International has 28 occurrences. Experienced popped out 23 times, and
cultural 23 times.
Grammatical words
I also went hunting for non-content words to check if theres something interesting happening
there. And was used a whopping 388 times, followed by the 317. We was used 197
times, our 150. I dont want to draw any conclusions too early, but its not a great marketing
strategy to concentrate on we or us on home pages. Your was used 133 times and you
Whats the most frequent word on a whole website?
Then I moved to looking for the most frequent word on each website. Now I know that SEO
attempts may influence the results, but we can still learn something useful. I analysed 10
websites and looked at first 5 words.

Agency number 9 is the biggest out of all that I checked, and you can see that 4 out of 5 top used
words are content words relevant to our industry. Now, thats quite telling! Number 10 is a wellknown localization company. All of the agencies I looked at got their first content word right.
Some of them, like number 2, 4, and 5, didnt get it quite right there are too many grammatical
words on their websites.
Having said that, I used the same tool to analyse my website.


Well, time to work on your texts, Marta!

Heres the link to the checker I used. What about running your own website through it and
writing down the top 5 words?


What makes clients chose one agency over another? What makes
them go to an agency in the first place? Were all wondering about
that and were trying to find our own marketing advantages.
Competing with giants is much easier on the internet. You get
yourself a website, spice it up with custom-made design and write
some texts. Yes, Im going to talk about texts agencies and freelance
translators use on their websites. Im not interested in SEO, because
its for the crawlers. I just want to have a look at words that people
read. What if that is our secret weapon?
In the last lesson I had a look at agency websites. This lesson I repeated the experiment,
concentrating on websites owned by freelance translators in different languages. I created a
smaller corpus, consisting of 3,500 words taken from home pages of 13 translators' websites. I
used Word Counter again to analyse the words we use. Then I tested a few most popular
freelance websites to see what the most used words on them were.
We all translate
Translation popped up 61 times. But surprise surprise translator appeared 42 times. It
means that freelancers identify themselves as professionals more than providers of translation
services. Speaking of which, service was on the third place with 24 appearances.
Its all about me.
When I checked the corpus against grammatical words as well, it turned out that the most
popular personal pronoun was I (70 repetitions) and my (58 repetitions). The results are
quite understandable, since were all freelancers. But according to the golden rule of marketing,
our advertising (including web copy) should be for them (clients) not about us (providers).
You appeared only 30 times.
How do we describe our services?
Professional was used 18 times. Freelance popped out 11 times. Experienced was used 11
times. And thats about it. Id have expected us to do a bit better
How to do it well
I checked some websites that are popular both with people and search engines. Look at that:


So many keywords related to our industry!

It turns out that the most relevant keywords are: translation, needs, business, projects. I also
looked at some websites that werent appealing either to me or to search engines. The checker
found that lower ranking websites use grammatical words much more frequently than content
words. One website that I looked at had 12 grammatical words before translation even
appeared. Certainly something worth working on


In this lesson, Id like to draw some conclusions from the agency
approach and sum up my findings regarding translators websites.
But Im sure that what youre really waiting for are the copywriting
tips. Why dont you read this article and work on your web copy
and other communications over the weekend?
What agencies do wrong and right
The majority of agency websites concentrate on SEO (Search
Engine Optimisation) values, rather than greatcopies (texts); their websites are stuffed with
keywords and rank higher. Fair enough, but at the end of the day, people are the ones who
decide, not machines. So if you have two translation companies ranking 5 and 6 in Google,
youre ultimately going to base your decision on what you read, not on the search engine result.
However, its fair to say that agencies make sure their copy is relevant. Frequent repetitions of
key phrases work with human brains as well. Just one remark: do people really look for
translations using translation services as a keyword, or are they more likely to type something
like translation to English? Agencies seem to be doing better with adjectives describing
translation. Theyre also generally better in creating a rapport with the reader: a weyou
approach in the copy is much more frequent than on freelance translators websites.
What freelancers do right and wrong
I was rather happy to see that the majority of freelancers realise the power of an individual
approach. Most of us are open and honest about being freelancers and hey, thats great! We
cant compete with translation agencies, so being individual is our true benefit. Freelancers
quite naturally adopt I and dont use weird third persons or plurals.
However, freelancers seem to lack some basic copywriting knowledge. Almost 9 of 10 pages
start with Welcome, Im a Swahili to Hindi translator with 66 years of experience. Ive been
translating for various industries. Having lived in etc. Its all fine and impressive, but your
client doesnt care. Really. The only thing they care about is if you can translate their document
and for how much. One of the other striking examples is trying to explain what translation is.
The home page is not the best place to elucidate the intricacies of our profession, or to say that
translation is not only the transfer of words from one language to another, but it also involves
the cultural and pragmatic aspects of the message. Lets not do that.
But how to make a copy look and work better? Here are some basic copywriting tips for
translators to improve your own web copy, and other communications.


1. The audience
You really cant start writing without analysing and defining your audience. Whos going to read
your website? Its not likely to be a PM in a translation agency they dont have that much time.
It can be a direct client: a company or an individual. Depending on your areas of specialisation,
various people will be looking at your website. If youre working in legal translation, just
imagine a lawyer browsing through your pages. Whats the language this lawyer would use?
Whats going to appeal to him or her? How do you impress a lawyer? You know all that anyway
youve been translating their language for years! If youre working in the creative industry,
youre more likely to gain a client if youre equally creative. If I were translating for the music
industry, Id probably try to tell my story using songs and musical metaphors. Keep your
audience in mind when writing, or even pretend that youre talking to a potential client. Imagine
that youre at a trade show, theres this one lawyer who works for an international company and
whos in charge of translations. Imagine the way hes dressed, the way he moves, how he talks to
others, and then imagine that you approach him, you introduce yourself and start a
conversation. And start writing this conversation down now.
2. The purpose
While writing, dont ever stop thinking of what your ultimate goal is. Every sentence of your
copy should take you closer to the goal (which is, Id presume, getting a client on board for more
than just one translation). Check every sentence for achieving your purpose.
3. The needs
After youve established who is going to read your copy, think of their needs. To a certain extent,
it is about the types of documents your clients may want to get translated, but most of all its
about everything around the service. Lawyers are very likely to need something certified, very
accurate, in compliance with regulations, etc. Marketers will need something for yesterday, but
creative, something to impress their clients. I know that its heart-breaking, but your client
wont probably care about your translation, but about their own job. Maybe their boss told them
to have it translated and they dont want to fail? Or is it a nervous speaker who needs copies of
his presentation translated before the speech so as not to look like an ignorant? Learn as much
as you can about your audience and their needs.
4. The benefits, not features
Now, this is a very difficult one. Ill use my own profile as an example. Im a Polish English
translator living in London. Ive been translating for more than 6 years in law and business. I use
SDL Trados. Im a member of CIOL and ITI. Im also a member of the Chartered Institute of
Marketing. Oh, and I graduated in translation. These are all features; just a pure (and quite
boring) description of my professional profile. Nothing in here is really useful or even
convincing for my potential clients. The greatest task you have when writing about your
services is to talk about the benefits to the reader. Just a little example:
Feature: Im also a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.
Benefit: Your marketing copies are likely to be very effective in Polish, because I have
experience in marketing gained from the Chartered Institute of Marketing.


5. Everything is a copy
A final point I want to make is that every piece of communication is your copy. The principles I
talked about above apply not only to websites, but also to emails, cover letters, brochures, social
media, or even invoices.
I know I have plenty to improve on myself. Changes are good both for human readers and for
your SEO.


January is the best month to plan new strategies, implement radical
changes, or enforce our resolutions. I dont remember where, but I
encountered this question: Is 2013 going to be the best year in your
life? It was a title of a self-help article, aiming to motivate us to
change our destructive habits and behaviours in the new year.
Interestingly enough, a number of steps that are supposed to fix our
lives could also work in our business. Is it possible to make 2013 the
best year in translation?
There are some steps that we can make that will obviously help us:
have clear objectives, know your goal, or develop skills. The article I read recommended three
steps that I think are the most productive, though.
One: Identify what you didnt like about 2012.
Celebrating our successes, exams passed, new clients acquired, or helpful colleagues found is
important. But it seems to me that its equally important to realise what made 2012 worse than
it could be. My personal dislike list is as follows:
1. I didnt like low rates. I had a number of offers I had to turn down because of insulting rates.
We all know that.
2. I didnt like long payment terms either. For me, NET45 is really the maximum I can stretch
to. I had to reject a few offers because they thought NET60 was fine. No, it wasnt.
3. I didnt like the way I was treated by my clients. From dear linguist emails, through not
bothering to confirm the receipt, to very forgetful accountants Id do without all that.
Of course, there are other points I didnt like too much in my professional life, but the rest of
them was purely my fault (if I agreed to work long hours or do a rush job, theres only me to
Two: Find the reason for the things you didnt like about 2012.
The second step that the article recommended in relation to things that bothered us in the
previous year was to find their cause. It occurred to me that the sole reason for all the things I
didnt like in 2012 was that the industry is no longer in our hands. I know its nothing groundbreaking, but when you think of it We, translators, do the translation. Its not our clients, not
the agencies, not CAT-tools, but translators. So how did we end up handling the steering wheel
of the industry over to people who dont even translate?
Three: Have a plan how to fix it.
Again, its not rocket science or a Nobel-winning invention, but if we manage to give the power
back to translators, maybe we could fix the things we dont like about the industry? If we want
2013 to be the best year in translation, why dont we just make it so?


Ive been blogging on WantWords for some one year and a half,
sharing my experience as a freelance translator and giving tips to
other freelancers out there. Then, in the beginning, I had a
conversation with a colleague, telling her that Id love to establish a
business school for translators. In fact, thats how I called my blog.
But it has never been a real school. Until now.
I decided to give the Business School for Translators the space and
framework it deserves, and here it is. Id like to talk you through the
First of all, the School is now available at, and Im no longer
going to write new posts at directly. Ive changed the RSS for you, so no
matter how youve been subscribed so far, youre going to receive all updates.
Instead of a simple email notification when a new post is published, youll now start receiving
newsletters every two weeks. The formats going to change, too. Each newsletter will direct you
to a new lesson and new interview, but it will also contain some business tips and resources.
Lessons stay the same, but it will be easier to navigate around, for example to find People who
rock the industry interviews. Its also much easier to find events.
But the main reason for the Business School to grow was this online training that its now
starting again for the second time. The success of it, and very encouraging feedback, gave me
motivation to work even harder. There are still some places left, so have a look!
Id love to hear your feedback on the changes. Why dont you tell me what you think in
comments below?


I often get asked how to make a CV stand out from the crowd of other
applications. And I always say to get some basics things right (take a
look back on Lesson 41), including the headline, profile, or some dataheavy bits. But I know sometimes its not enough. Thats why I think
visual CV can be useful, definitely when you want to catch some direct
The biggest advantage of having a visual CV for translation is that you
can highlight your experience and achievements much easier. They also
have the benefit of being innovative and are much more personalised. You don't need much
more to stand out! So have a look at a few options of getting a visual CV.
1. Get it designed
Its the most expensive and time-consuming option, but hey, have a look here. Arent they just
amazing? And you dont have to be a graphic designer to use one. Copywriters and editors use
them, too.
(One of our colleagues on the Facebook page, Ftima Lpez Sevilla, brought this post to my
attention, where a great example of a translator using a visual CV is used. In Spanish, though).


2. Turn it into an infographic

The more adventurous translators and interpreters may want to try turning their CV into an
infographic. In here you can have a look at what Im talking about. This one talks about nurses,
but why not come up with something similar about your own translation business? If you like
one of their designs, you can get in touch with the author and work on visualising your CV.
This tool is free and allows you to turn your LinkedIn data into a visual CV. Like mine in
here: (and you can even add a badge to your website!). What I like about it is that I can
customise the background and the colours, and I think experience looks much better, too. And
the map of languages you cover is brilliant in our profession!
This is a startup for student builders and doers, but Im currently looking at its potential to
showcase our experience. allows you to put up projects youve worked on online and
add some details about them. I think it would be great to put some projects up there and link to
them from my CV.
Heres another useful tool, and you may appreciate it even more if you dont have your own
website (yet). allows you to upload some details about you and keep them online.
Heres how Valeria Aliperta uses it. Looks cool!
What do you think? Are you going to try getting some new clients with a visual CV?


Some time ago I spent three days in Germany at one of the biggest IT
fairs in Europe CeBIT - together with Rose Newell from The
Translators Teacup (lingocode). The event was co-hosted by Poland,
with over 200 Polish companies exhibiting. Apart from networking
and chatting with potential clients, I also picked their brains about the
ways they are getting translation and localisation done. Below are
some of my observations that I drew from conversations with small
and medium companies. So, this is how they go about getting things
translated and what that means to us.
1. Translation and localisation handled by the parent company
A number of companies I talked to are subsidiaries (or local branches) of bigger American
parent companies. A fair proportion of them told me they get their translations and localisations
done in America and local branches have access to the files prepared for them. In such cases, the
big American parent company usually works with an agency to handle the various multilingual
projects. The results, according to the exhibitors I talked to, are not always satisfactory and they
end up amending texts in-house using people without any linguistic background.
2. Translation and localisation outsourced locally
These exhibitors said they receive texts in English from their parent companies and then they
look for people to translate documents into their local languages. These companies usually use
translation agencies without putting much thought into their choices and often end up
dissatisfied with end results.
3. Marketing department handling translation and localisation
For some companies, translation and localisation are part of marketing. I think its important to
find out who handles translation and localisation at a potential clients company, because the
approach wed take to pitch to a marketing person would be slightly different from trying to
convince a CEO. Another positive side to dealing with the marketing department is that we can
offer more services.
4. Bilingual in-house staff does the translation
What struck me most was the fact that plenty of companies were so dissatisfied with the quality
of translation provided by agencies that they resorted to using their in-house bilingual staff
UNTRAINED in translation or localisation. These companies are not usually happy about that,
because their staff should be doing something else, but they feel they have no other choice.


5. In-house professional translator does the translation

Finally, some companies appreciate the value of translation so much that they hire in-house
translators to cope with the workload and ensure quality. Exhibitors working with in-house
translators emphasise that they are happy with the quality and are ready to reward their
professional translators accordingly.
What does it mean to us?
I can see plenty of ways we can broaden our offering or tailor our marketing to appeal to
different direct clients. It's important, though, to find out more about their modes of operation.
One way of doing that is attending trade fairs. Here's a video I recorded with Rose to help you
out a bit.


I know that many readers are translation students or translation
graduates. And this lesson is for you! Youll be sitting exams soon, and
then theres the dissertation I thought that you could do with some
motivation to carry on. Maybe even those of the readers who graduated
a while back will find some useful ideas here.
Now that the introductions are done, heres the reason for this lesson:
instinctively we know that if weve graduated in translation or have a
translation-related education were offering something more to our
clients. But its often very difficult to describe this more and use it to convince the clients why
they should choose us (and pay more). And honestly speaking, sometimes its even hard to
understand what the whole translation theory has to do with our professional lives. Thats why I
decided to share this collection of benefits linked directly with translation modules covered at
universities. The headlines below correspond to the modules that I came across when doing my
degree and how I talk about them now with my clients.
Translation theory
Understanding different translation theories helps me grasp the variety of approaches to source
and target texts. I can also better understand the expectations translation users had throughout
the ages and I can identify which broader cultural trends have impact on your text.
Characteristics of non-literary texts
As a translator, I also study the way texts are written and what makes them achieve specific
purposes. It means that I not only know which words and phrases are used in legal texts, but I
also understand what makes them be legal. This is very important for your texts, because they
have to have the same effect on your readers when translated into another language.
Translation tools
Contrary to the popular belief, translators need much more than just pen, paper and dictionary.
Studying translation tools makes me better equipped to do the job for you, and as a result, I can
translate better, faster and more consistently.
Translation research project
As a part of my degree, I was asked to look at existing translations and compare them with the
original text. I found this exercise very helpful because it made me wonder why certain things
have been translated this way and not another and I had to find explanations to these problems.
It means that whenever you have any questions regarding your project, Ill be able to tell you
why I translated it like that.


Intercultural communication
I was also lucky enough to study the basics of intercultural communication. I know the cultural
dimensions and main differences between the cultures I translate. It means that your texts are
not only correct from the linguistic point of view, but my translation also covers cultural
Translation process
Of course, I also studied the process of translating, from the first reading, through research, to
polishing the final text. It means that I am competent enough to handle your translation because
I know whats involved in producing the final text.
Translation procedures
I am aware of different translation problems and I also have the right tools to solve them. It
means that if your text contains words of phrases without direct equivalents in the target
language, I will be able to use the correct translation procedure to find the best solution.
I hope you now feel more confident talking about what you learnt as part of your translation
degree. Think about your education and see if you can turn it into benefits for your clients.


One of the tips Im giving at the Business School for Translators
course is to start using case studies to talk about the work were
doing and promote your translation business. The whole idea of
using case studies came to me when I realised that clients very often
dont see the real value of translation and thats why they treat it
more like a chore rather than a wise business investment. I tried to
figure out how to present this value to convince clients to buy
translation and pay more for my services. A couple of ideas struck
me, and Im still testing some of them, including getting the right kind
of testimonials (anybody would like a blog post on that?), showing lists of benefits, and using
case studies.
I decided to talk about case studies because someone asked for it in questions
for #WantWordsTV, but I thought a post could be even better. So, here it goes.
Why would you want to have a case study?
As freelance translators, we usually have a range of marketing materials to promote our
businesses, such as our CVs, portfolios, websites, and thats all fine. The only problem is that
they usually talk about us, not the benefit that the client gets from using our services. Case
studies turn it all around, and thats why so many businesses in other industries use them. A
case study is a document that communicates tangible results and real benefits of using your
translation services. And nothing works better with clients than telling them: look, I can do that
for you and this is how it works.
For example, if you do website localisation, you could send a case study to your potential clients
showing Google Analytics results regarding the localised version. Or if you want to target clients
with your marketing translation services, you may want to show them the effectiveness of a
piece of marketing text youve translated. It makes sense, doesnt it?
Where to use case studies?
Once you get it, you can put it up on your website, send to your prospects, or host somewhere
online (, or In my experience, case studies are particularly effective
with direct clients.


How to create your own case study?

1. Pick the right client to turn into a case study
I know this is going to be the most frightening part of the whole game. Very often were not even
contacting end clients, and now Im telling you to reach out to them AND invite them to become
your case study. Right.
There are no shortcuts here, but I have a couple of tips on how to pick the right client to do it.
First of all, think strategically of your case study: which sorts of clients do you want to convince
to buy more translations from you? To use an example, if you do medical translation, create a
case study with a client who has something to do with this field. Write down a handful of
potential case study material clients.
Then just write to them explaining what you want to do and what theyre going to get in return,
which takes us to
2. Make a deal with the client
A case study of your services will be of course mostly your marketing material, but you want to
make it look appealing to the client youre pitching the idea to. So you need to come up with a
good deal, offering something in return. Here are a few ideas:

Youll help the client promote the translated material in the target language

Youll offer a discount on your services

Youll do some market research in the target language country for them

If the client sees the benefit in taking part in your case study, theyre more likely to agree to do
it. Youre more likely to be successful if youre really genuinely willing to help the client out, for
example youve noticed a great offer they have and you think that people in your target
language may be likely to buy it, or be interested in reading it.
3. Structure your case study
Ok, Im sure that by know youve already started wondering what to put in your own case study.
What I think is very important is to present it from your clients perspective, so rather than
talking about what youve done, show the impact on the clients business. In your case study,
you also want to present a specific problem or a challenge, for example: how to increase
exposure in your target language country. One of the good strategies to do it is to use before,
during and after snapshots.
Before: use client testimonials or data (such as Google Analytics) to present the situation in
their business before using your services.
During: describe the process of translation/localisation/interpreting from the clients
After: present the proof and real data on how translation impacted their business (for example,
Google Analytics data related to their localised website or article).


You also want to add some screenshots, or an infographic of the process of translating and
mention all the additional services youve provided. Dont forget about a call to action inviting
your prospects to try it out themselves.
4. Learn from other industries
I do suggest having a look at how others prepare their case studies, for example in web design
or development, or in copywriting. I also wanted to share a few links to some resources I found


Im sure that by now youve learned Im fascinated by grand ideas and
big questions, also in business. And it turns out Im not the only one.
One of my long-standing fascinations is related to a concept of The
Golden Circle by Simon Sinek. Before I go any further and try to apply
it to the translation business, like Ive done during Traduemprende
and in Porto, have a look at this video. I recommend watching it from
the beginning up until about 4:30. Its less than 5 minutes and I
promise it will change a lot in your business.
Right, so by now you know that my big question is why we translate and what it means for us.
When I started translating, I was quite good at communicating the what. Then I learned a bit
about marketing, and started communicating the how. And were all pretty much there. We all
know that its not enough to talk about our services or products, but we need to add adjectives
like professional, high quality, timely, etc. But the concept of why really changed the way Im
doing business.
Repeating what Simon Sinek said in his video, clients buy why we do it, not what we do. Only
this is the first reason why you should work on defining the why behind your business today.
But its not the only reason. Knowing your why also gives you this enormous confidence and lets
you believe in what you do. And this may be an abstract concept, but when translated (pun
intended!) into the real-life business, replying to clients, negotiating, or even marketing make
more sense with this why in your mind.
I gave this example of my why: Im fascinated by the language that changes the reality, and legal
language has enormous powers to change lives. I want to make sure it always works right.
Because so many things are at stake when dealing with legal language, I have to be very precise
and research terminology. Always. And I happen to translate between Polish and English. Its
not perfect, but I believe in it and stand firmly by it.
I also asked others about their whys. Ive received over
250 replies on Twitter and in-person. I like collecting
them and looking at them for inspiration. Here are
some of them.


What I would like you to do now is to draw these circles (or use this worksheet), listen to me
talking about The Golden Circle and define your why.
A couple of weeks after I published the post this lesson is based on, I received the following
Dear Marta,
I thought you might appreciate some feedback on your post Why do you translate?.
As you already know, I was so inspired by your post that I threw everything over board I had
prepared for my class and decided to ask my students exactly this question: Why do you translate?
Why do you want to be translator? And not a plumber? Or an economist?
As you had done in Spain, I gave them five minutes to brainstorm and begin to answer that
question and I was overwhelmed by the result. Please have a look at the attached picture and see
what my beautiful, creative and talented students have done. You cant actually read the texts (and
its in German), but I think it is clear from the mere picture that they were excited about the task
and the answers they gave were incredibly accurate bearing in mind that we are talking about
first and second years here.

I told them I would send you a picture of their work. Do you think you could post it on one of your
pages? I would be great if they could see how easy it is to connect with other translators and, above
all, that their opinion and contribution (however small) to the community does matter. They know
that you did a similar exercise in Spain and seemed to like the idea that they were part of a bigger
picture. It would be great if we could encourage them.
Actually, this task inspired them so much that, when we moved on to work on a text, they were
more enthusiastic than I had ever seem then (and I had thought they were showing some
enthusiasm before; boy, was I wrong!) and we went on to have the best class of this term so far
lots of discussion, great vibe, extremely active. Thank you so much for inspiring me so I could
inspire them.
I was very moved when I received this email and the photo. Thank you for being so involved. It's
great to know we're connected by ideas, even if we live and work far away.


Previous ebook
When I wrote Curriculum Vitae that works in the translation
industry back in 2011, I never expected it to be read by over 25,000
colleagues. Its a great honour and Im happy that so many have
found my publication useful.
Since then Ive also helped over 500 translators and interpreters to
improve their CVs. Many wrote to me saying that they saw a real
increase in positive responses and projects as a result. This revised
guide reflects what Ive learned in the past two years and will hopefully help you get a CV that
works. I believe that with a large number of clients, CVs are still our most basic marketing tool.
Its better to get this right rather than lose a project.
The long-awaited (by you and me) updated version of my ebook on CV-writing in translation
industry is finally here. Apart from a section-by-section review of what to include on your CV,
you'll also find tips and suggestions from translation companies and some most troubling
questions answered.
In this guide youll find information that will help you to:
Ensure your CV reflects your professional profile
Increase your chances of landing a project
Work well with clients within the translation industry.
Here's a preview (first 11 pages!) of my ebook:
Apart from the preparation and planning, you'll have a chance to look at CV section-by-section,
language that works, the benefit of online CVs, layout and design, tips from translation
companies, questions answered and a printable CV checklist.
How does that sound?


The ebook I mentioned in the previous lesson on CVs for translators
and interpreters resulted in a number of very important questions
and discussions which I want to tackle in the next few blog posts.
Thank you for being so responsive and productive, providing me
with so much food for thought in your comments.
This lesson will concentrate on discussing the format of our CVs. In
my ebook (and in fact on my own CVs), I use the chronological
format. Ive always found it very useful and it certainly reflects my
structured and analytical way of processing information. When I look at a chronological CV, I
can quickly assess the candidate because I know where to look for specific qualities. If you read
my ebook, however, you will note that Im also underlining the importance of mentioning our
skills and then supporting them in the chronological experience.
There is another approach and I know many colleagues using it successfully. Skills-based CVs
for translators emphasise the range of skills acquired and mastered by a translator or
interpreter, manifested in supporting, contextualized pieces of experience and past projects.
And some of you will say this is the right format. Lets look at both options in detail.
Different formats, different approaches
First of all, a chronological CV (or better said: reverse-chronological) shows certain continuity
and development. If youd like to emphasise how you grew your career in the profession, or how
you slowly were entrusted with more important translation assignments, its likely that this
format is best for you. Normally, youd include a profile statement summarising your profile
(including key skills!), then talk about career highlights or achievements, move on to talking
about your experience, then education, etc. Within these sections, youd always use the
chronological order.
The benefits of this format include:

Chronological order is easier to process by your readers

Chronological CV helps you to emphasise your development and progression
The majority of people are used to seeing this format
You can draw upon your past experience

On a skills-based CV youd come up with a few main skill sets (what about: translation, editing,
project management) and under these headlines, youd include bullet points explaining specific
skills that you have and how youve developed them. Quite clearly, within this format youd
include both bits of experience and education under specific skills. You should still include a


section on education and employment (if any), but you may move it almost to the end of your
CV. This approach will help you to highlight the extensiveness of your skills.
The benefits of this format include:
Skills-based CVs emphasise your skills
Skills-based CVs allow you to support your skills not only with experience, but also
education, interests, and courses
This format gives you more flexibility
Who should go for a chronological CV?
It seems that this format is more suitable for linguists for life, i.e. those colleagues whove been
working with languages forever and their education is linked to this field of work, too. If this is
your case, youd agree that it actually makes sense to show your career pathway in an ordered
manner. Your past experience will act in your favour and strengthen your profile.
Who should go for a skills-based CV?
I appreciate the fact that translation is a very multidisciplinary profession and we all come from
different backgrounds. And in these cases, skills-based CVs may come handy. You can consider it
if you have a number of short-term positions or internships completed, which all may be quite
similar. Its also a good format to avoid mentioning any career breaks (for example due to family
commitments). You may also want to use this format if youre changing careers and coming to
translation with a comprehensive background in another industry. In this format, you can also
draw from your interests and hobbies to support your skills. And a shout-out for students: this
format will be extremely useful for you if you dont have much experience.
How to draft a skills-based CV?
Im actually convinced to give it a try and I started doing some more research on drafting a
skills-based CV. Lets have a look at what we need to do, in case youre convinced to work on
your skills-based CV, too.
First, we need to pick our skills carefully. Its advisable to pick three to four broad skill sets
directly relevant to translation or interpreting.
Then, we need to write up bullet points to support our skills. They should take the form of
statements that describe our experience with each skill. Its not important to mention specific
companies, agencies, or projects. Its essential to concentrate on what weve learned and
Below, we should include a short summary of our work history, giving just the company name,
job title, dates and places.
I started playing around with it, and heres what Im planning to include on my skills-based CV:
Polish English Legal translation
Translated over 1,000,000 words of legal texts, including contracts, agreements, articles
of association, witness statements and cautions.


Worked on criminal and civil law cases with top UK-based lawyers.
Currently working towards an MSc degree in Forensic Linguistics which focuses in
particular on spoken and written legal language.
Polish English Marketing translation
Recently completed a large transcreation project for a multinational brand which
included localisation of a product website, translation of print advertisement,
copywriting for the TV ad (aired nationwide), supervising voice-over production and
SEO keyword research.
Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and active participant of professional
workshops and events on the use of language in marketing (including copywriting,
creative writing and persuasion)
Thats my first draft. What do you think? Are you planning to work on your skills-based
CV? If youre not convinced yet, read the next lesson where I discuss whether we should be
using CVs at all and what the alternatives are.


When I published one of my ebooks on CVs in the translation
industry, I also invited all readers to answer a few questions in an
online survey. Apart from feedback from my publication, I also
wanted to know your views on the importance of CVs in our
profession - do translators need CVs? It seems to me that there are
two different approaches to this topic.
Some of our colleagues say that CVs shouldnt be used by
translators when trying to land projects. According to this
perspective, translators are professionals who should be chosen on the grounds of the samples
of their work, their websites or brochures, but not really on their CVs. One colleague suggested
sending a more comprehensive document:
I never send a CV. Instead I send a Resum with a description of services provided; project
references and financial and legal terms and conditions. This always accompanies a detailed
offer for the requested work. This gives a client a clear idea of what they can expect.
Its an interesting approach, I agree. Another colleague underlines the importance of profiles:
As a translator, I am opining that I do not need a CV. This is my very personal and quite extreme
opinion - I know-, and I respect every other opinion. My profile (LinkedIn, AIPTI) must be enough,
and until now, I have enough work no to change anything to my politics. I do not even have a
website either as a translator (I think I would have one if I had more time to deal with its creation)
and I am not to find on ProZ.
According to my personal experience, I think that CV is not as important as the actual translation
samples, whether of translation tests required by companies/direct clients or samples from past
projects. However, the CV is necessary as a tool for introducing ourselves to our prospective clients.
In the other view, which I share, if we use our CVs in the right place and time with the right
clients, they can be a great marketing tool. Of course, we need to remember that a freelancers
CV is totally different from an employees CV and that we should have more than one CV. I
believe that a clearly written CV can help us showcase our experience and background better
with clients who are used to seeing CVs. Some colleagues agree with me:
I think it's pretty important to rely on your CV. It gives owners of translation agencies and
possible clients a clear overview of the translation experience you have


I think Cvs are important for translators, but we have to adapt it to our needs, the type of
vacancy/job and even to the area in the translation industry. I created my own "style" or
type of CV and some months ago I was invited to have an interview because of the
originality of my CV. So, I really think it is very important to rely on a (good and original)
My opinion is, whatever you work with, CVs are our presentation to the work world.
Another thing to remember is that many of our clients are simply used to selecting based on
CVs. As I explain in my ebook, the CV format is a mental shortcut to help assess the person for
his or her suitability to do the job well. This is certainly true with translation companies, and
with a number of direct clients, too. Sending a well-crafted and convincing CV to a client whos
been assessing others on this basis forever may help you land the job.
But Im sure some of you will say: if you go to a doctor (or a lawyer), you dont ask for a CV.
True, you dont ask for it, but they certainly have their CVs. In a discussion I had with a good
colleague of mine who also happens to be a lawyer, he said that we should make a mental shift
from thinking about employees CVs to directors CVs. In other words, we should stop
thinking that were asked for our CV because the person on the other side of the relationship
doubts our skills or wants to have a proof of our experience (both cases implying the lack of
trust) and start thinking that our CVs are there to help the other party make an informed
decision by showcasing our background, we may. No doubt, CEOs have CVs, so whats wrong
with translators having them, too?
In the survey, I asked "What is your opinion on the role of CVs in the translation industry?
Should they serve as a basis for considering?" and I had a few responses. You can see them
below. If you click on the image, it will become bigger and easier to read.

Other comments included:

I do think that resumes are important in this profession, especially because it needs to
reflect your personality as well as your skills and experience. However, I feel like nothing
works better than word-of-mouth and networking.
I have already downloaded your e-book, and I find it very useful, as writing a CV is a vital
issue, specially for translators, whose CVs must have their own features to work, as you say
in your ebook. Indeed I think that having a good CV is massively important for a translator.
I think CV is very important to reach at the people for work. But it's not all. CV shows years
of experience, various fields where you already work, all these points impress the new
client to give you a new translation project.


I really think the CVs are one of the most important marketing tools. I think that it is the
best way to demonstrate skills and experience and CVs address more clients as it is the
most traditional way.
CVs should be considered very important because they reflect how professional translators
I think Cvs are important for translators, but we have to adapt it to our needs, the type of
vacancy/job and even to the area in the translation industry. I created my own "style" or
type of CV and some months ago I was invited to have an interview because of the
originality of my CV. So, I really think it is very important to rely on a (good and original)
As I am still a translation and interpreting student, so little water has passed over the
bridge so far, but I think a cv is really important for all professionals and especially for
translators and interpreters. Through this one, we show our skills, capacities, competences
and all what we can do as human beings.
What is your opinion on CVs for translators? Are you using a CV? Do you think there are other,
more effective tools?


Ive been concentrating quite a lot on CV-writing recently,
discussing whether to take a skill-based or chronological approach
(Lesson 58), and whether we need CVs at all (Lesson 59). Theres a
reason to that. I strongly believe that our CVs are the first
marketing tools we use with a number of clients. I, for that matter,
send my CV to translation agency clients, marketing and creative
agencies and some law firms because I know theyre expecting to
see it somewhere within the assessment process. Knowing that a CV
may very well be my only marketing material theyll ever look at, I
want to make it as strong and convincing as possible.
But there are some situations, if not the majority of cases, where a CV doesnt work for a
translator. It may not be fit for purpose for a number of reasons, for example because its not
customary to make decisions regarding suppliers based on their CVs in this sector, or where
competition is extremely high.
Lets look at the first situation. Direct clients, in particular, arent really expecting to see CVs of
their suppliers. Regardless of the size of a direct client youre offering your services to, youd
better position yourself as a business partner and concentrate on explaining what your client
can gain from getting texts translated or interpreted by you. And Im sure youll agree with me
that its difficult to talk about benefits for clients on your own CV.
In the second situation, where competition is very high, we may be facing dozens or hundreds of
other suppliers essentially providing the same service and they all will be submitting their CVs.
In this scenario, using other documents than a CV can prove to be a significant competitive
What are the alternatives (or supplements) to CVs, then?
I may be preaching to the converted or stating the obvious, but LinkedIn is *the* network for
professional networking. I constantly rely on my LinkedIn profile and I refer my prospects to
my profile, instead of sending my CV. To me, it feels that Im being equal with my client if I can
tell him or her to visit my profile to learn more, rather than sending my CV and feeling that Im
being examined.
Who does it work with? Using LinkedIn instead of a CV certainly works with other sole traders,
for example lawyers or trainers.
More and more freelance translators and interpreters invest in websites and its certainly a
decision that brings good return on investment. Almost two years ago, I wrote a blog post


outlining the reasons to have a website and these reasons still remain valid. You should have a
strong profile page on your website and refer your clients to visit it, rather than sending your
CV. You could also consider having targeted landing pages for your client segments.
Who does it work with? Just about anybody.
In high competition, something off the beaten track, for example a short video where you
present your profile, may be the thing to win you a project. Ive seen quite good videos where
freelancers sit at their desks and present their background, or alternatively, short clips
advertising their services. As a word of caution, these videos should be professionally shoot.
When I looked at professional studios in London, it was a cost of about 60 pounds per hour plus
an artist to produce the video. Research shows that people will only watch between 20 and 40
seconds if theyre coming across the piece randomly, or up to 5 minutes if theyre actually
expecting to watch a video (thats why I keep my WantWords TV clips under 5 minutes). If your
video isnt professional, it can only harm your reputation.
Who does it work with? Videos will work in all things creative. If youre pitching for a specific
marketing translation project, recording a short video explaining why youre the best person to
do the job may be the right thing.
Slideshare or Google presentation
Ive seen some of our colleagues preparing slides about their businesses and uploading them to
Slideshare, Google or other hosting service. You can then embed a presentation on your website,
LinkedIn profile or just include a link in an email. A presentation gives you more scope to play
with words and images, for example photos from your past assignments. However, you should
be aware that its difficult to keep your potential clients concentration if theyre supposed to flip
through slides by themselves.
Who does it work with? It certainly works with clients in business, media and IT, in other words
with people whore accustomed with seeing presentations.
Presentation with voice over
As an alternative to a standard presentation, you may want to record a screen cast where you
talk about your business with a presentation in the background. I played around with Camtasia
studio in the past (it has a 30 days free trial), using a good USB microphone. This format may be
more effective than a standard presentation, because youre actually guiding your client and he
or she feels talked to. The degree of interaction and relationship building is higher.
Who does it work with? People who have enough time to look at it. As watching such a
presentation is already an investment of time, you may be scaring some of the most pressed-fortime clients off.
When I participated in a workshop on writing effective leaflets, I was told that a leaflet should
contain as little information as possible to convince a prospect. In other words, a good and
catchy slogan, outline of the problem or clients need, benefits for the client and your services as
a solution. It was explained to me that a leaflet is not the right medium to go into details or


present your background. Its only purpose is to make the client think they cant possibly
continue running their business without you, and I quite like this purpose, I must admit! Dont
forget that a leaflet should contain a clear call to action. Take a look at these two resources for
writing leaflets as a starting point: article, presentation. In the majority of cases, youll be
sending your leaflet as a PDF, so the only investment is actually related to the design.
Who does it work with? Small and medium business owners like leaflets. Their suppliers usually
communicate with them on leaflets first, so thats something theyll appreciate.
Whats the difference between a leaflet and a brochure? A leaflet is a short (usually one page)
document which attracts interest, while a brochure is a longer document containing detailed
descriptions of the company and products (or services) offered. Some useful resources for
brochure-writing: article, article.
Who does it work with? If your prospect, usually a direct client, expressed interest in your
services, its a good moment to send them a comprehensive brochure. It will also work with
bigger companies who may not immediately need your services, but would like to have a piece
of literature to refer to in the future.
Business profile
This is a new tool for me and Ive spent some time researching it. SMEs use business profiles to
offer services to each other and these profiles are primarily intended for slightly bigger
companies. Can freelancers make use of business profiles, too? Im definitely designing one for
myself this autumn and Ill feed back to you. A business profile should contain:

Basic contact details

Capability information what you do and what you are good at
Track record
Risk management (Quality Assurance!)
Customer service and market response
Working with industry and others

As you can see, its a more elaborate document outlining your profile and your relations with
other stakeholders on the market. More resources here: PDF document, article.
Who does it work with? Ill be sending my business profile to bigger companies who are used to
seeing them.
What do you think of business profiles? Do you think they could be useful?
And next lesson, we'll be discussing the benefits and threats of uploading your CV online!


In the past few months weve been witnessing an increasing activity
of translator CV scammers and thieves. As a part of this scam,
scammers may pretend they have a project for you or would like to
include you in their database, while in fact theyre harvesting your
CV, replacing your email address (and sometimes your name and
surname) and impersonating you, stealing your potential clients.
This is a fact and its been described in detail in the Translator
Scammers Directory published by the Translator Scammers
Intelligence Group.
The scope of this problem is indeed huge and impersonation can be extremely dangerous and
damaging to your reputation, not to mention lost clients. You know that Im dedicated to
improving CVs and making them work for freelancers, so I decided to look at the ways of
protecting our CVs from translation scams.
Ive carried out a lot of research, both in our industry and elsewhere, resulting in compiling a list
of preventive measures you may want to introduce. However, lets start by looking at three
broad CV threats first.
Identity theft
Despite many warnings from a variety of sources, people are still amazingly careless about their
details shared online. Almost every day I receive a translators CV with a date of birth, place of
birth, full address, etc. It is extremely dangerous to reveal such personal details to strangers, not
to even mention including them in a document available online. Providing as few as three pieces
of personal details, youre running a risk of ending up with unwanted credit cards, loans or
cleared bank accounts. Just dont do that. More info in this article and this presentation.
Agency unethical use
Some time in 2012 we were alerted to a potential unethical behaviour presented by agencies
participating in tenders. Allegedly, some agencies were harvesting CVs to win a tender but then
they would outsource the projects to cheaper (and potentially providing lower quality)
translators whose CVs were never included in the tender documentation. I believe I might have
been affected by this behaviour in the past. In order to avoid it now, I simply work only with
selected agencies whom I trust (and vice versa) and I refuse to participate in bulk tenders
offered by complete strangers.
CV theft and impersonation
However, the most burning problem now is caused by CV thieves and scammers who
impersonate genuine professional translators and steal their work, very often damaging their


reputation. I must admit, Ive been careless about this issue in the past, but now Im much more
aware and alert. Below, Im presenting a number of measures you can introduce to protect your
work and reputation.
How to protect your translator CV?
1. Research the sender
When you receive an email with a potential project or an offer of collaboration, even basic
research can help you establish if its a genuine opportunity. Start with verifying the website,
then ask your colleagues or professional circles if anybody has worked with them before. Try
looking them up on all translation forums and boards. Call them, or add them on Skype. Joao
Roque Dias recommends looking up the senders IP and running a geographical search just to be
sure this person is a genuine representative of an agency. If somethings just not right, dont
send your CV.
2. Use common sense
If an offer looks suspicious, its better to be careful than fall for a scam. Unprofessional offers,
free email accounts, too few details in a signature, too high rate or poor English (or the other
language) should raise an alarm. If youre not sure if this is a genuine offer, you can always
exchange a few emails with questions before supplying the sender with your CV.
3. Keep records
Set up a simple spread sheet where you can keep records of who youre sending your CV to,
when and with which result. By doing that, youll not only have a better control over who has
received a copy of your CV, but youll also be better at following up.
4. Encourage clients to contact you on skype with a webcam
As recommended by Joao Roque Dias and others, you should encourage your prospective clients
to confirm each others identify on Skype via video chat. To do that, you should place an up-to
date photo on your CV.
5. Remove personal details
As I mentioned before, dont add your date of birth, place of birth, full address, or marital status.
This is way too dangerous.
6. Include information specific to you
To protect your CV from being used by others (changing your name and surname in the
headline), include bits of information specific to you that can easily be verified online, for
example awards or published translations.
7. Add links to external URLs
To fight CV theft where your name and surname is replaced, include links to external URLs
directly pointing to you, for example your website, published translations, articles or online
8. Time and name stamp your CV


Adding a line saying: Marta Stelmaszak. Sent to Sample Agency, London, 01/04/2013. Void
after 01/06/2013. Not for further distribution or reproduction without consent. (as
suggested here).
9. Add a watermark
As suggested by Rose Newell and in a few other sources, you may want to add a watermark to
your document, for example containing your logo. More info from Microsoft here.
10. Include an email statement
It is advisable to include a short statement along the lines of Only the following email addresses
are genuine and authorised: and I will
never contact you from any other email address. If you receive an email from another address,
please do contact me as it may constitute a potential scam. You may want to add this line to
your website, or as an annotation on your CV.
11. Save your CV using your name and surname
As simple as that, dont save and send your CV as resume but add your name and surname to
the file.
12. In Word, add your name and surname in the author box
When working on your CV, check the Properties of your document and make sure that your
name and surname are added in the author box (more info).
13. Save your CV as PDF
It is now possible to convert documents into PDFs in MS Office with just a few clicks and we
should be doing that with our CVs. This is the most basic form of protection. If youve added
your name and surname in Word, the same properties will be carried over to the PDF. (more
14. Save your CV as a non-editable PDF
If youre using Adobe Acrobat Pro (and if youre not using it yet, you may want to consider
investing in it), you can save your CV as a non-editable PDF and change the security settings,
restricting editing and printing of your document.
15. Password-protect your CV saved in PDF
It is not a bullet-proof method, but password-protecting your CV saved in the PDF format can
increase your security. You can distribute the password only to vetted recipients, for example
genuine enquirers, separately from your CV. You can do that in MS Word, no need to buy Adobe
Acrobat Pro.
16. Remove your CV from online platforms
Dont make your CV easily available through online platforms or on your website (Ive been
guilty of the latter until recently). Its better to upload another document inviting clients to
contact you, or even a bold statement explaining youve removed your CV for security reasons.


17. Use brochures or leaflets online

Instead of a full CV, you can always prepare a short brochure or a leaflet and upload it instead.
They will be more secure, and can even help your marketing!
18. Set viewing only but no download
You can ask your programmer to change settings on your website allowing visitors to view
content, but prohibiting them from copying or downloading it.
19. If your website is Wordpress-based, use protected download
Wordpress users can use password-protected download of their CVs. Heres a video explaining
how it works and how to set it up.
20. Make clients aware
Raising awareness of the issue among our clients can help our efforts. If our clients know about
this issue, they will be more careful and alert themselves. You may want to blog about the issue,
or just add a short statement explaining the problem on your website.
How do you protect your CVs?


When I was doing a business course a while back, one of the first
things the tutor asked was whether weve done some research
about our intended markets. At that point, many of the start-up
entrepreneurs who were participating in the course with me had a
number of ideas, limitless passion and willingness to work hard to
make it work. But we all lacked something and Im eternally
grateful to my tutor for pointing it out at the very first step of my
business journey.
The situation of start-up entrepreneurs is quite similar to this of freelance translators. We have
an idea, we dont lack passion, and we just want to jump at sending our CVs or offers out. This
eagerness and enthusiasm is of course a good thing, but we cant forget were in business and
were not here alone.
My tutor introduced me to market research for translation business, a quite time-consuming
and tedious task. Having done it slightly post-factum, I am now teaching the same principle to
my Business School course students: do your market research first.
This is why I decided to dedicate the entire September to discussing the issues of market
research. This is the first post on this topic, so treat it as an introduction. Many of you will be
starting out, or will have graduated by now, or will look at what to do in the remaining few
months this year. Lets dive into market research, then!
What is market research in business?
Market research definition: The process of gathering, analyzing and interpreting information
about a market, about a product or service to be offered for sale in that market, and about the
past, present and potential customers for the product or service; research into the characteristics,
spending habits, location and needs of your business's target market, the industry as a whole, and
the particular competitors you face.
In other words, market research is all about collecting information about your market and your
clients. Its like looking at a map before setting off on a journey. The purpose of market research
is to equip you with the knowledge needed to run your business successfully and efficiently. And
who wouldnt want that?
Why is it important for freelance translators?
In my career, I came across a number of freelancers whose careers started from saying I want
to be a literary translator and they just went for it. Of course, some of them succeeded. But such
examples of spontaneous and under-researched business decisions shouldnt take place. As


freelancers, we never exist on our own. Were always linked to, or we even depend, on our
markets. Wouldnt you agree that its very dangerous, or even impossible, to enter a market
without knowing a lot about it first?
To give you an example, when I was still toying with the idea of becoming a Polish English
translator, I wanted to translate Polish poetry and literature into English. Apart from being very
nave, I was also very careless. I just had this idea for my business, with a beautiful literaturethemed website and candle-lit photos, without any serious insights. I am very grateful I never
had to fail to realise you cant really be a successful freelance translator or interpreter without
any (even subconscious) market research.
By using market research methods (which Ill describe in the upcoming posts), I managed to
discover the most lucrative areas of specialisation in Polish and English translation, and I have
also identified sources of good interpreting clients in the UK. But most importantly, market
research has helped me to make informed business decisions, based on solid data. And Im
happy with the results.
What do you gain by researching your market?
Apart from not failing as a freelancer, you can get a range of very important insights, including:
1. Identifying potential customers
Who may need your services? Where to find these people? How to convince them to buy
translations from you?
2. Understanding your existing customers
Why do they choose you over other translators? What do they value?
3. Setting realistic targets
Based on the collected data, youll be able to set realistic targets for your freelance business.
4. Developing business strategies
Youll be better suited to price your services, to decide which channels to use to sell them, or
whether you need to specialise or diversify.
5. Examining and solving business problems
By researching your market, youll have a clearer view on why youre always getting less
assignments on a given month or why a certain customer stopped using your services.
6. Identifying opportunities
In the course of researching your market, you may discover a lucrative niche or an undersaturated area.
7. Analysing competition
Youll be able to see what other freelancers are up to, as much as I hate to call them competition.
What are the risks of not researching your market?


As I said, the biggest risk is failure as a freelancer. We cant technically speaking go bankrupt,
but we can simply not make enough money as freelancers. Researching your market will help
you ensure that you dont invest your time and energy into a business which will fail.
Moreover, by looking at your competition, youll be able to provide better services and get your
pricing right.
What are the areas worth researching?
This is the first lesson in the whole series, so I just want to touch upon the areas worth
researching. Ill dig deeper into them in a couple of lessons. For now, you may want to look at
the following areas and start gathering resources:

Clients (Who buys translation and who may want to buy it?)
Demand (Should you specialise in this area?)
Competition (Who already translates?)
Rates (How much can you charge?)
Professional organisations (Who's representing your interests?)
Qualifications (How to deliver better services?)

What else? What would you add to this list?


In the last lesson I tried to convince you why doing a proper
translation market research is an important step for your business.
This week, were digging deeper! Id like to look at eight areas that I
found necessary to research and talk about them a bit more in detail.
And next week well discuss where to find reliable information.
Market trends and demand
Perhaps the most important area for a freelance translator or
interpreter to research is market trends. By looking into whats happening in a wider business
context, you can make predictions of where the market is going to grow, in other words, which
sectors and businesses may need your services. For example, I know that the Polish IT industry
is booming and reaching out to their English-speaking clients, so I can be pretty sure that the
demand for Polish English IT translation will continue to grow. What are the trends in your
markets? Which sectors are developing and growing? Which are not the safest bet? Answers to
all these questions will help you build a sustainable business.
Of course, clients keep your business going. Market research should look at your existing clients
and prospects. When comes to existing clients, you may want to find out if theyre getting the
right level of service, whether they need anything else translated or maybe if they appreciated
additional services. Researching your prospects means finding out who they are, what they do
and what they need. By looking into this area, youre more likely to know where to find clients
and how to convince them to use your services.
By saying competition, I mean healthy competition, in other words other suppliers providing
similar services to your potential clients. It doesnt always mean theyre enemies (and I think
this calls for a separate article, dont you think?). By researching your competition, you can find
out what theyre up to and even more importantly what they ARENT up to. This knowledge is
likely to help you improve the scope of your business. When looking at competitors, you can
often find
Im sure youll agree with me: as freelance translators or interpreters were not always able to
provide to our clients just by ourselves. There are bigger projects, multilingual projects,
requests in other directions, or even other languages. By researching potential partners, were
building a network of reliable co-operators we can turn to. For example, I know who to refer for
medical translation, sworn translation, websites, SEO, etc.


Rates and charges

From a more practical perspective, market research can be truly enlightening when comes to
rates and charges for translation and interpreting services. You can look at existing resources
(more about them next week), or you can try to do your own little research. To learn whether
youre charging enough, take a look at websites of colleagues or agencies, or even arrange a
Mystery Shopping experiment. All you need to do is to set up a simple Excel spread sheet to
compare the data.
Professional organisations
I strongly believe that researching all professional organisations (translation-related and in our
fields of expertise) is a must. Its important to look at the costs involved, benefits, events Just
to make sure youre not missing out. When I was starting in the profession, I felt the urge to join
every professional association I could find. It was only because a very structured approach I
forced myself into that I actually wrote down all pros and cons of each organisation and got
myself a plan of action.
Qualifications and CPD
You may have already noticed that Im a real CPD addict and a qualification maniac. Im always
searching for new courses, qualifications, exams, webinars, seminars and more. I think its a
good strategy, but what Im still missing here is a mechanism by which I can choose what to
concentrate on (but thats entirely my fault!). However, I do recommend keeping track of whats
offered. An Excel spread sheet seems to suffice. If youre just entering the market, you may want
to find out which qualifications are required or necessary to work as a translator or interpreter
in your country.
Legal/regulatory/tax requirements
Even if translation or interpreting seemingly doesnt expose us to lawsuits, its essential for
every business and in every domain to do a basic research on the legal, regulatory and taxation
provisions. This includes business formation, insurance, tax-deductible expenses, etc. When
comes to these serious matters, I do recommend you actually get professional help, but Ill be
exploring this topic more in detail next week.
Right, so these are my essential market research areas. What would you add?


As promised, in this lesson Im looking at market research resources
for translators and interpreters. The main aim of this article is to
collect resources or suggestions where to look for them that you can
use when researching your particular markets. But before we move
into specific examples, lets look at the scope of resources we have
Firstly, its important to distinguish resources and business
intelligence about our own industry, that is, translation and
interpreting, from domain- or field- or trade-related resources, i.e. resources about the
industries we specialise in. Increasingly, newcomers to translation invest time and effort into
finding out the ground rules, but many still are unaware of the variety of resources. I think its
essential to read up and study about the industry you primarily work in, so I decided to include
some of the most useful and comprehensive resources I came across. But lets not limit
ourselves to reading about the translation industry. We want to (or have to) specialise,
therefore knowing our field-related markets inside out is as important as knowing how to
translate. And I do encourage you to invest even more time and energy in discovering other
Then, Id also like to explain a bit of theory about market research, which I will explore further
on in the next post. All we need to know for now is that there are primary and secondary market
research resources. Primary resources are basically these that you collect yourself, by way of
conducting a survey, or arranging a focus group. It is much less likely (but not unheard of, as
youll see in the next lesson) that translators or interpreters are going to engage in primary
research. Secondary market research resources are already existing resources which describe
our markets. Sounds much more approachable, doesnt it?
Lets take a look at where we can look for data, then.
Market trends and demand
Secondary market research can be particularly useful when comes to researching market
trends. As a good starting point, I recommend this Study on the size of the language industry in
the EU. It contains a good outline and plenty of country-specific resources. Mapping best
multilingual business practices in the EU is another important report, though again only EU-wide.
I also do recommend looking into The Status of the Translation Profession in the European
Union report.
Looking outside our own industry, you may want to look at your international Chamber of
Commerce. These institutions, apart from organising promising events, often research and


survey their members and bilateral business relations. In terms of our fields of specialisation,
look into industry-specific publications, trade directories, governmental reports and studies on
these specific fields, export reports, or even commercial market research reports (still related to
the field you specialise in). Examples of resources are listed here and here.
To learn more about competition, I recommend the same EU reports to start with. Many more of
them are available here. Youll find plenty of information on websites of translation agencies or
other translators in your language combination, for that matter. You may also want to look at
internet fora for translators or LinkedIn discussion groups. Youll find plenty of news
on ELIA, ATC and GALA websites (for example member surveys).
As I mentioned in the last post, it seems to me that finding reliable partners in providing our
services is one of key areas of running a business. The best way to do that Ive discovered are
industry events, where you can meet people face to face. If you cant, internet fora or mailing
lists are a good solution, too.
Rates and charges
The best and most reliable sources of researching rates and charges are primary resources
which Im going to discuss in the next post. However, there are some secondary resources
available that are very helpful indeed. I suggest starting with professional translation
organisations which often conduct member surveys. For example, take a look
at BD, SFT or CIOL/ITI surveys.
Professional organisations
A thorough analysis of translation-related professional organisations is contained in The Status
of the Translation Profession in the European Union report. However, its equally important that
you look into your regional associations, too. What Id like to underline in this point is that we
should be researching associations related to the fields of our expertise, too. They are a good
starting point for familiarising ourselves with the markets we operate on, and often contain
invaluable market data on our potential clients.
Qualifications and CPD
Perhaps the best sources of information about qualifications available are translation-related
professional organisations and universities. In terms of CPD, I found the International Calendar
of Events very useful, MultiLingual as well as ELIAs calendar and networking with colleagues.
It's also vital that you keep up with qualifications and CPD events in your areas of specialisation.
Legal/regulatory/tax requirements
Professional organisations are again quite reliable when comes to providing legal, regulatory
and tax information. However, I do recommend looking at official governmental sources, too,
like for the UK.
What are the important resources that Ive missed?


To wrap up the market research for freelance translators or
interpreters month, following a series of posts on the importance of
market research in translation to market research resources, lets
look at how to conduct market research if you are a freelance
translator or interpreter and cannot really pay thousands of pounds
to a market research company. Well also discuss how to act on
your findings.
Step one: determine the scope of your research
When we start conducting market research, its very easy to become overwhelmed with the
wealth of resources and simply start feeling lost rather than in the know. The first step to
market research is to define your own objectives, i.e. what do you want to find out? I suggest
brainstorming some market research questions and writing them down on a piece of paper.
This may include anything youd like to know about your industry, areas of specialisation,
clients, competition, etc. When all the questions are written down, group them under similar
Step two: gather existing information
Once youve determined what you want to find out, start by digging and discovering existing
market information (also called secondary resources). Some examples of resources you may
want to look at are included in my previous blog post. Youll be amazed how many resources
and publications are available out there for free, and they should be your first bet.
When researching, youll surely come across paid-for secondary resources, either about our
own industry (such as market reports or surveys) or about your fields of specialisation. Paid-for
resources may be a good investment, but often are more expensive than a freelancer can afford.
However, the majority of market reports start with executive summaries, often available for
Step three: your own research
The third step in conducting your market research is looking at primary market research
resources, in other words market research that you gather yourself from people. Primary
market research is usually associated with costly telephone or in-person interviews or even
focus groups, but you dont necessarily have to spend thousands on it.
One of the ways of conducting your own primary research is running surveys among your
existing or potential clients. eCPD Webinars is offering a webinar with Michael Farrell on
creating a client satisfaction survey for your translation business in December and I think its
an excellent idea to learn about surveys on a budget. If you conduct a survey among your


existing clients, youll surely gain eye-opening insights, while asking the right questions to your
potential clients can help you understand their needs better.
Mystery shopping is another way of doing your own research. The idea is to shop around for
quotes for translation services to assess what others are charging, how they are selling their
services, or how their customer service is like. While sometimes debatable or questionable, this
exercise will surely help you benchmark your offer against others, especially agencies. This may
be a real eye-opener.
As a freelancer, you can also invest a bit of time and money into organising a focus group. Its
just a matter of getting people who could be your potential clients together and ask the right
questions. In a focus group, you also get to listen to the language your potential clients use and
the way they behave. There are many advantages to that!
Observing people and asking questions on LinkedIn groups related to your areas of expertise is
a cost-effective half-measure when you cant run a survey or set up a focus group.
Step four: action!
Insight without action doesnt do much difference, so after youve gathered your business
intelligence, its time to turn information into action. The best way to go about taking action is
to go back to the questions youve asked in step one and answer them based on the data you
found. These answers will help you determine your SMART objectives and goals. SMART stands
for goals which are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound. In other words,
each market research question that you asked should be followed by a SMART goal that will
change or improve the way you run your own business.
Im an enthusiast of SMART goals and theyre something Im encouraging my Business School
students to do. SMART goals motivate me to act because I can see specific, measurable and timebound objectives that I have to reach to improve my business. Its much easier to obtain 5 new
SME direct clients by the end of year 2013 rather than gain new clients.
What do you think?


Having spent a month looking at market research, I decided to talk
about value and value creation in October. My intention was to post
it in the beginning of the month, but as you may know the fabulous
IAPTI First International Conference was taking place in London
and I couldnt concentrate on anything else than the event. But this
extra time provided me with some space to think the idea through
and talk to others at the conference. I have reached the conclusion
that we can make translation more valuable in the eyes of our
The reason why I wanted to explore the idea of value creation and value proposition is because
in my experience (shared by many colleagues) our clients (meaning: direct or end clients) very
often undervalue the importance of translation or tend not to look at the possible return on
Having said that, I strongly believe we could look at our clients in three broad categories in this
respect. We have clients who translate because theyre obliged to do that (for example EU
bodies), and they dont look at translation in terms of its value. Then we have clients who
translate because it makes them look better (for example all multinational company websites
where language versions are supposed to signal global outreach), and who treat translation as a
tiny element of their whole marketing effort, but they could live without it. And then, my
favourite group, are clients who translate because they see a genuine business opportunity that
can only be reached through translation. Id like to focus on the third group.
Some of my clients (and Im sure some of your clients, too) are just like that: they know they
need top-notch translation to achieve their business goals. Working with them is a pleasure,
because they really know the value of translation. Having experienced a few clients like that, I
started thinking that theres more to be done in this respect. Perhaps some clients whore
already translating but belong to the second group could be shown what the real value of
translation is? Or companies that dont translate anything yet could see the benefits of investing
in translation too?
The solution to this problem I propose is to explain the value of translation to our clients. If we
keep communicating consistently and explaining why its worth getting things translated and
what is the ROI, we can surely end up with new, lovely clients, but also just genuinely help them
grow their businesses. But how do we do that? How do we explain the value of translation to
our clients?
Know your client
The starting point of creating a Value Proposition (thats how we call this stuff in marketing
speech) is getting to know your client. You might have heard me talking about Ideal Customer


Avatars and Im certainly exploring it in my Business School course. If not, let me just introduce
this concept briefly: based on market research, we can build models that reflect our desired
customer profiles which then lead to easier and better identification of their needs and
motivations. To be able to present translation as a valuable investment, you need to know your
client first: Who is he or she? What does he or she do? What problems does he or she need to
solve? What are his or her values?
Know your service from your clients point of view
Look at what youre offering from your clients perspective: what theyre getting out of it? Hows
translation solving their problems? How are they going to benefit from it? What value and hard
results does translation offer to your client? To answer these questions in a most attentiongrabbing manner, use percentages and numbers (which you can get by analysing and surveying
your existing clients), for example: how many more people visited their website since you
localised it?
Know others
Of course researching other players in the market is important, but the key point here is to find
out how your offering is different from others. How does your translation create more value?
Step into your clients mind
The final step is to step into your clients mind and start thinking the way they do: Why should I
buy translation at all? or Why should I buy this more expensive translation?. What I
recommend doing is to spend some time in your clients mind and note down as many questions
(or objections) that you can think of. Then as a translator or interpreter you can try to address
these issues, coming up with good answers.
You may want to consider finishing the following statements:
I want to get my website translated because it will
The things I value most about translation are
This translators offer seems to be better because
If you take them all together, you can start turning these arguments into a Value Proposition
a piece of text you can use to convince your clients that translation is worth it.
Any attempts at Value Propositions?


In the previous lesson, I argued that to attract the most promising
prospects and turn them into loyal clients, we need to present the
value of the work were doing. This attitude requires a shift in the
way we think about translation and interpreting as a profession we
engage in, but also a change in the way we describe our services to
potential clients. One of the most basic and easily achievable ways of
doing that is to outline the benefits of using our translation and
interpreting services, i.e. presenting the benefits to translation
If you look at the majority of freelance translators websites (including mine for the time being),
we tend to concentrate on describing our background, education, experience, services in other
words, our features. For example, I go on and on about a range of business courses I completed,
or the skills that I have. The reason behind it is that we feel obliged to talk about ourselves. In
the end, its my website, so its about me and what I do. Ask just about any marketing
professional and theyll admit that this is not the best approach if you want to sell your services.
The key to writing effective copy (on a website, in emails, on brochures) is to make a move from
describing the features to outlining the benefits to the client. How do we do that?
How to identify the real benefit?
The biggest struggle for me has always been to transform the inherent features of me and the
services I offer into a range of benefits to my clients. But Ive learned that theres a hack to that.
Its called the so what or and that means exercise.
Its quite simple. Take any feature of you or your services, say Ive never missed a deadline in
my whole career as a Polish English translator. Then look at it from the clients perspective and
ask yourself: so what? or continue this sentence with and that means. My so what in this
example could be you can have peace of mind because your translation will be delivered on
time. This is a better benefit for my client, but if you ask another round of so what questions,
youll come up with an even better line: because your translation will be delivered on time, it
wont unnecessarily delay your business goals.
Moving up from features to benefits
Following this so what warm-up, lets look at the stages of moving from features to benefits.
The first step is to outline the features of our services. These are the fundamental aspects and
characteristics of us as freelance translators or interpreters and the services we provide. If you
dont have a list of features yet, Id recommend jotting them down.


The second level is to look at the advantages that these features give you, i.e. what features do.
To give you an example, if I say that Ive never missed a deadline (a feature), the advantage to
my client will be that theyll get the translation on time without the hassle. Hardly a benefit, is
Level three is all about creating benefits, where we related the feature and advantage to the
clients own situation or concern. According to some marketers, its fine to get a bit emotional
here (and by that I dont mean crying or shouting, but appealing to emotions). To do that, we
have to know which emotions motivate our clients choices. I, for that matter, know that my
business clients are obsessed with their business goals and delivering them on time, thats why
a translation that doesnt delay these goals has a benefit that appeals to them. If I wanted to be
even more emotional, I could say that with my Polish English translation delivered on time,
youll avoid the risk of failing to meet your quarterly business goals and having to explain the
problem to the board.
How to prepare an outline of benefits?
The easiest way to go about it is to create a three-column table in Word: Feature, Advantage,
Benefit. List all features of you and your services in the left column. This may require some
brainstorming with colleagues or friends, but try to come up with as comprehensive a list as
possible. Then look at each feature, identify its advantage and keep asking so what until you
get to the benefit.
When I did this exercise in a preparation for the new copy for my website, I came up with 13
features that I then turned into benefits. Youll be able to see the results soon, when the new
website is released. Of course, the next step is to use these benefits in our copy on the website
and in our marketing materials.
I hope that this short article has inspired you to take another look at your copy and see it
through the eyes of customer benefits! Do you think that this technique is useful?


In this lesson Im going to look at Value Innovation in translation, a
concept further explained as a part of the Blue Ocean Strategy (an
amazing tool, calling for a separate month just for itself).
The general assumption of this strategy is that cost savings can be
made by eliminating and reducing the factors an industry competes
on with lifting buyer value by raising and creating elements the
industry has never offered.

But why do we need new value?

You probably know by now that in order to survive and grow within the freelance translation
market, you have to find something that makes you different (say, a USP). Value Innovation is a
tool that helps you find (or design) a set of features that will differentiate your business from
other players in the market definitely from the bulk market. Having said that, I must admit
that Value Innovation (or value creation in general) is a strategic tool, i.e. it can help you get the
right direction but it wont give you solutions to use in your business. But that holds true for all
strategies: theyre here to form the principles of the way we run our businesses.
So how do we do that?
This tool is based on four actions: eliminating, reducing, raising and creating. When thinking
about Value Innovation, we have to ask ourselves the following questions:

What factors can be eliminated that the industry has taken for granted?
What factors can be reduced well below the industrys standard?
What factors can be raised well above the industrys standard?
What factors can be created that the industry has never offered?


Im sure that just by looking at these questions, youre already beginning to think about how
youd reply in relation to your own business. This exercise calls for a quite detailed analysis of
the environment you work in, dont you think?
Answering these questions will help you come up with a Four Actions Framework to create a
new value curve to apply in your business.

How does that apply to my business?

When I did this strategic exercise a while back, I collected all I knew about the profession,
contrasted it with my businesss vision and put it on the Four Actions Framework.
Some of the factors I thought could be eliminated were: CAT tool discounts, bidding for jobs. I
thought I could reduce: reliance on per-word as a unit, payment terms, response time to
requests. I thought it was a good idea to raise: pre-purchase and post-purchase support, followups and updates, number of complementary services, partnerships for provision of
complementary services. In terms of creating, I wanted to: introduce DTP as an additional
service (provided by partners), strong brand image, direct association between translation and
return on investment.
Of course, these are just examples which may be applicable to my business only (however, I
think theyre true for many of my colleagues). But just by looking at my examples you can see
how I started to create a new value curve to make my business different from other freelance
Polish English translators (different, but not necessarily better just different). Based on these
answers, I started working on my USP.
What are the benefits of this approach?
The Value Innovation tool forces you to look carefully at the entire profession and discover the
range of implicit (or explicit) assumptions which are at play. Plus, it provides you with the
opportunity to break away from these assumptions and work on a different business strategy.
However, the main benefit of this approach in my opinion is the fact that it provides the scope
for differentiating (or competing) on factors other than price.
How can I use it?
I suggest you draw a grid similar to this ERRC grid (as provided by the authors of the Blue Ocean
Strategy) and start thinking about these four actions.


There's plenty of additional reading here, here and here.

This strategy is relatively easy to use and it can provide you with immediate benefits. Would
you agree? In the next lesson we're going to look at a complementary strategy.


As the last element in the creating value theme, I would like to look at
a tool which is directly related to what we discussed last week. This
tool is called strategy canvas and forms a part of the Blue Ocean
Strategy (which Im a big fan of, as you may know). Let me explain the
way it works first, and then well look at some examples and how it
can be used in our profession.
Whats strategy canvas?
The translator's strategy canvas consists of the horizontal axis, capturing the range of factors
that the industry competes on, and the vertical axis which illustrates the level of presence of
each factor across all competitors. Heres how it looks like when analysing YouTube and
ordinary web hosting services.

As you can see, the canvas maps out different factors and how theyre present in the ordinary
web hosting provider (red) and how is YouTube different (blue). The line connecting the dots is
called the value curve.
How does it work?
First, you have to identify the factors that the industry competes on to put them on the
horizontal axis. Some of the obvious ones in translation may include: price, specialisation,
payment terms, etc. I go into detail on that in my Business School for Translators course.
Then you look at how other players on the market engage with these factors, from high to low.
For example, you may notice that the majority in your slice of the industry offer long payment
terms, or that theyre not really specialising. Use one colour to mark all the appropriate dots and
then connect them with one line (value curve).
Finally, look at your business and how it relates to the value curve of other players. You may
find that it runs very closely to everybody else in the market, or that some points in the way you


run your business are different (for example, your payment terms are significantly shorter or
you specialise only in a selected range of areas). Mark your dots with another colour and
connect them to form the value curve.
This is how it's used in another industry, as presented by the authors of the Blue Ocean Strategy.

What does it tell me?

The canvas tool can be used in two ways. If you do this exercise as I described above, youre
looking at the as is perspective, so you have a clear answer of how youre positioned in
relation to other players. But you can also use this tool to introduce the as it could be
perspective, where you look at what you could change in the way you run your business to set
yourself apart from the rest of the market (back to the eliminate, reduce, raise and create
When writing this lesson, I discovered an amazing online tool to help you play around with your
own strategy canvas. Try it out for yourself!

And why would you want to use this strategy, or even want to engage with value creation? By
doing that, you're better equipped to create services which are compelling to your clients and
different from what others are offering as well. For example, I was able to identify what other
Polish English translators were not offering, but also where I could stretch the clients a bit more.


As Ive already mentioned to my subscribers earlier on this week,
November is going to be all about competition and making
competition irrelevant. Again, many thoughts and ideas Im going to
share have been inspired by the Blue Ocean Strategy, which is an
amazingly powerful tool to transform your business (and I dont
have any vested interests here). I just think its a great framework.
The reason why I wanted to talk about competition this month is
that Ive been hearing claims that translation is a very competitive
profession quite often recently, or Ive been asked how can I
compete against others question once too much. Lets debunk competition then to start with.
What is competition?
Reading a few definitions of competition may be quite helpful. I do believe that we all know
what it is, but reading closely, we can identify some presupposed qualities of competition that
we dont think about on a day-to-day (or project-to-project) basis. OED says competition is the
activity or condition of striving to gain or win something by defeating or establishing
superiority over others. So you can already see that competition implies fighting, defeating and
an enormous power struggle. Merriam-Websters definition (the act or process of trying to get
or win something (such as a prize or a higher level of success) that someone else is also trying to
get or win) places a similar emphasis on competing and defeating as the previous one. In a
more business-oriented dictionary, we can read that competition is rivalry in which every
seller tries to get what other sellers are seeking at the same time: sales, profit, and market share
by offering the best practicable combination of price, quality, and service.
All these definitions assume rivalry, competing, fighting and defeating. The most basic form of
competition is direct competition, in which providers of the same product (or service) fight to
obtain buyers. Indirect competition, however, assumes that providers offer substitute
(different) services to cater for the same need.
How does that relate to translation?
In the view of the majority of colleagues (or at least thats my impression), translation
profession is a market in which many providers provide the same service to win buyers (there
certainly are many other Polish English translators and interpreters on the market). In this
perspective, translation agencies are also our competition, because in the end of the day they
provide the same service (yes, I know its a broad generalisation).
Were then also exposed to indirect competition, where some machine translation providers
want to provide substitute products to our buyers.


We could add many more examples of both direct and indirect competition, but you get my
point. If we look at the profession this way, the first claim in the title certainly holds true:
translation is a very competitive profession. But theres an alternative way of looking at the
whole situation.
Translation as a non-competitive profession
Finding out how to think differently about the profession, the market and competition took me a
few years of business knowledge. In the beginning, I was convinced that translation is an
extremely competitive profession where you have to constantly fight with others to get
assignments. But now I propose an alternative view, a view which has shaped the way I run my
Acknowledging competition is one thing. We have to be aware of what other translators are
doing, what services they provide and how they run their businesses. In fact, we have to be very
aware of all that. Collecting information (and doing market research!) is essential.
Entering into a competitive situation is a totally different thing. If we claim that translation is
a very competitive profession, wed have to agree that we either all provide the same service
(within our language pairs of course) or that there are clear substitutes to what were offering. I
dont know about you, but for me, no other Polish English translator can provide the same
service as I do because we have different experience, education, background, writing style, you
name it. I also dont believe that MT can be a substitute to what I provide. Its a matter of a mindset. In my mind, I have no competition.
Getting the right mind-set is the first step to making competition irrelevant, a topic well be
discussing in detail over the next four weeks. You can find three good resources
here: article, article, article.
What do you think about that? Can you make competition irrelevant in your case?


In the previous lesson, I looked at the definition of competition and I
argued that in fact translators hardly ever are competitors, because
they provide distinctively different services.
This time, I want to look a bit more in detail at how translators can
make competition irrelevant. I encourage you to give it a go!
The core to making competition irrelevant is the understanding that
were all in fact providing different services: the core of your business
is you, and nobody else out there can replicate exactly the same
education, experience and skills as you have. Our different backgrounds are reflected in the
services we provide and in the way we run our businesses. Lets take a look at how we can
leverage that.
Broadcast your Unique Selling Point
Unique Selling Point (USP) is the factor that differentiates you in a very clear and basic way from
all other translators in your language combination or even specialisation. Discovering what
constitutes your USP is indeed a challenging process (perhaps I should blog about it sometime
soon?), but if you browse a few marketing resources and blogs, youll get a better idea on how to
craft it (or you can wait until I write about it).
Once youve identified your USP, infuse your whole business, especially marketing, with it it
creates the identity of your business and services. Dont be afraid to play the card of being
Add value to services
Im a big fan of all value-add strategies, as you could see in the past month. I recommend you
browse through my articles on this topic, especially "Value innovation in translation: what can
you offer that nobody else does".
By adding value (or creating new value), youre yet again differentiating from your competition
and delivering a service like nobody else does. Hows that for making competition irrelevant?
Innovate in your business
Earlier on this week we hosted The Freelance Box event on innovation in the language industry,
where we talked about what innovation is and how freelancers can apply it to their translation
and interpreting businesses.
Innovation doesnt mean you have to go all technology, or ditch the way youve been doing
business until now. To innovate means to improve your processes and offerings to introduce
new ways of delivering value. This calls for another blog post, too, dont you think?


Discover new ways of marketing

Another approach to making translation competition irrelevant is to discover and engage with
new ways of marketing your business. Look across other industries to look for inspiration. How
lawyers are marketing their services? How do accountants do that? What about web designers?
By discovering new marketing tools and channels, youre yet again escaping your competition.
For example, when I started using Twitter a few years back, there were hardly any Polish
English translators or interpreters using it regularly. I worked hard on gaining visibility there,
which in turn brought me a number of good clients and many more leads.
Join forces
Sometimes making your competitors irrelevant is a matter of looking at them from a whole new
perspective. We all know some freelance translators and interpreters working in co-ops and
loving it. Maybe you can team up with a colleague to be able to reach to clients who are out of
your reach now?
Set up cross-industry partnerships
Entering into partnerships with freelancers or small businesses providing complementary
services to translation, or sometimes just targeting the same audience can dramatically increase
your visibility, leading in turn to making competition less relevant.
I have colleagues partnering for example with publishers, magazines, online portals and writing
articles for them in return for advertising or access to client databases.
Expand your target market
The final approach to making competition irrelevant I wanted to discuss is related to one of my
favourite business strategies the Blue Ocean Strategy (which calls for a separate month to talk
about it!). One of the principles of this strategy is the need to reach outside of the existing
market and capture new demand for translation.
In other words, its all about reaching to potential clients whore not translating yet. This is the
ultimate approach to making competition irrelevant. By talking to people who dont know and
have never met your competitors, youre basically creating an unspoilt market just for yourself.
And who wouldnt like that?
I hope that this brief overview of approaches to making translation irrelevant will help you start
working on your differentiation strategy. Which of these approaches you think youll be able to


In the past weeks I tried to explain my point of view on competition:
that in fact, freelance translators shouldnt compete with other
translators. I talked about making competition irrelevant and
avoiding competing on price.
However, not all competition is wrong. In fact, it is owing to some of
my greatest competitors that I managed to take my business where
it is now. A healthy form of competition can be extremely motivating
and drive growth.
Another way of looking at competition is the fact that there may be some factors where healthy
competing makes perfect sense. In this article, Im trying to look at these factors and argue for
competing on them for our individual benefit, but also for the benefit of the entire profession.
Specialist knowledge
By competing on specialist knowledge I mean going deeper and deeper into our areas of
specialisation because there are others out there who have more of this knowledge. If I look at
my career, I know that there are Polish English legal translators out there who know more
about the law or have even completed law-related degrees. I want to compete with them in
terms of this specialist legal knowledge and Ill be studying more to bring up my understanding
of this area to their level and beyond. I want to compete with them in terms of how much I
know. And then my clients can choose.
Hows that beneficial for the entire profession? If we compete on specialist knowledge, were
quite naturally increasing the level of professionalism and education in the entire profession.
Were raising the standard overall.
Customer service
Im a big fan of perfecting customer service and doing more for my clients, in pre-purchase,
during purchase and in after-care. I like hearing that my clients are delighted and I believe that
customer service is a factor we could start first benchmarking against and then trying to match
what our competitors are doing. It can only be good for me: happier clients bring more clients,
even if thats not my sole motivator.
In a macro-perspective, raising the levels of customer service will eventually benefit the entire
profession. Excellent customer service is something we can use to justify (even if
subconsciously) higher prices. Isnt thats why were prepared to pay more for a better service
at a five star hotel?


And no, in here I dont mean competing on our personality traits, but on the level to which we
infuse our businesses with our personalities. Ive been advocating for that forever, and Im not
the only one saying we need to let our personalities shine through. Putting my personality in
how I run my business is satisfying for a number of reasons. First, I feel closer to my business
and my clients. Second, I work with clients who understand and accept my values and I dont
have to deal with those whore guided by other principles. Third, Im having much more fun in
business. So what about competing on getting this personality in business thing right?
On the level of the whole profession, I dare say that the more personality we see, the more
personalised the service becomes. If we have more translators and interpreters showing their
personalities in the way they run their businesses, we may end up educating clients that
translation is not just about chunking out words which could be done by anybody.
I dont necessarily agree with competing on deadlines and delivery dates, but maybe competing
on flexibility could be a good idea. Im still trying to get my head around it, but maybe the fact
that I can work on a Saturday could help me compete with translators who dont work on
Saturdays. Or maybe an hour or two of overtime in the evening could help me win a client.
Maybe increasing flexibility (not only in relation to deadlines or working time) could be a good
way of differentiating from competition? However, the reverse could be true as well: maybe by
decreasing our flexibility in comparison with the industry standard could work.
In terms of the overall profession, increased flexibility could improve the image our clients have
of translators and interpreters. If we, collectively, become more flexible, the clients may stop
thinking that translation is this weird service delivered by people wholl always find an excuse
not to do it (Ive heard that for a number of times).
This is a whole new concept in my understanding of business. There are companies out there in
other industries that managed to build their businesses only on the grounds of increasing (or
conversely decreasing) exclusivity around their products or services. So for me, I could try to
say no (even) more often and become a more exclusive service provider, as compared do my
competitors. In fact, Ive been instinctively doing that for a while now.
Im not yet sure of the impact of increasing exclusivity on the entire profession. On one hand, if
we all start being a bit more exclusive and say no more often, we may redefine some of the
recurrent problems (low rates, poor treatment, tight deadlines). But partial exclusivity could
lead to even a wider division between what we now call the bulk and premium markets. Is
that something that we want?
Additional services
If we want to compete, we may look into offering additional services that not many other
professionals offer. I keep repeating that its worked great with me and using Adobe InDesign to
do basic DTP for my clients. This is not something that is widely offered by my competitors.
Maybe finding an additional service you could offer would win you some clients over your


competitors? And it doesnt have to be about offering as many additional services as possible. It
can be simply about offering the right service that your clients may need.
On the industry level, this could result in diversifying our portfolio and pulling other services
under translation, yet again justifying higher pricing.
What do you think about these factors? Is there anything you compete on that I havent thought
about? Id love to hear your thoughts!


In further lessons, were going to talk about business planning, in
other words planning to develop or grow your translation business.
You usually either consciously or subconsciously think about how
your business is going to evolve in the next 12 months, and this
inherent business planning usually takes place in January. Its a
good month to plan: a new year starts, we have our resolutions,
more energy is around, however you can start this process anytime
you want! I decided to write up on business planning now, so when
youre reading the next lessons youll have a few ideas to benefit
from this productive period as much as you can.
As mentioned, for the majority of freelancers or small business owners (who are less likely to
have a formal business plan), the process of business planning happens spontaneously and
resembles more a thought exercise rather than a business tool.
For many years my business planning was just sitting down with a cup of coffee on the first or
second of January in my office and jotting some ideas down on my whiteboard. They were
rather rough ideas of what I wanted to achieve in the coming year: get more direct clients,
complete a course related to marketing, etc.
While this thought exercise gave me the feeling of freedom and an illusory perception that I was
doing something to plan my business development, it didnt work too well. You may be
struggling with similar results, especially now, in December, when looking back at all the things
you wanted to achieve this year but somehow never managed to. A couple of years ago I was
tired of this slow development and constantly failing my own expectations. I did some reading
on getting things done and heres a simple, three step formula that has helped me move much
faster in my translation business.
Write business ideas down
One of the biggest mistakes Ive been making in the past was confining too many ideas to
memory. Its easy to fall into this trap: since you got this idea once, it will come back to you
when you sit down to think about your business. The sad truth is: it wont. Perhaps the first
thing Ive learned about doing business was writing ideas down, from a sentence to put on your
website, through an intriguing marketing idea, to potential clients.
Whenever an idea to do something with my business comes to my mind, I write it down and put
it in a small box I keep on my desk. This box has moved three countries with me and once kept
every idea thats now forming my business (this blog, this website, some of my direct clients).
Having my idea box has helped me in a number of ways. First, I was forced to write stuff down
and I stopped forgetting all these great business ideas. Second, by writing them down, I was


decluttering my mind and allowing myself to concentrate on the work at hand. Third, it was all
in one place when I was opening the box in early January to plan for the upcoming year.
The idea of a box is quite powerful, and thats why The Freelance Box is called the way it is and
thats why were giving out boxes to our participants. Maybe you could get a box for yourself,
Resources: Article, Article, Article.
Set SMART goals
So youve been writing stuff down and keeping it in your box throughout the year, and now its
the right time to open the box and do some business planning. Heres another truth that Ive
learned: even the best idea will never take off if its not planned smart. SMART is a mnemonic to
help us remember some principles of goal setting and planning. According to this set of criteria,
every goal should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic (or Relevant) and Time-bound.
This is how my goals looked before I started using smart:
1) Get new direct clients.
2) Get a new website.
3) Take a marketing-related training.
And heres how they looked SMART:
1) Get 5 new direct clients in IT or software localisation located in Western Europe by attending
a trade show in March and following up before April.
2) Get a Wordpress-based new version of my website by contacting Websites for Translators in
January with a list of my requirements and setting a schedule for the website to be completed
no later than May.
3) Take a course in copywriting provided by the Chartered Institute of Marketing in the second
quarter of the year depending on their courses scheduled (to be released in February).
Im sure you can already see how this change in how I write stuff down may have a direct
impact on actually doing these things. Just by changing how you set your business goals youre
more likely to achieve them. And it has certainly worked for me.
I recommend you go through the following resources on SMART:
Using SMART technique to achieve your small business goals
SMART technique
SMART criteria
Add SMART goals to your calendar
The final stage of this process is to add your goals and business ideas to a calendar. This may
seem obvious, but if its not planned, it doesnt get done. Adding tasks to your calendar will help
you schedule enough time to implement your ideas and make sure you work towards achieving
your goals. Its basically the same what you do with your translation projects, but applied to
your business. Dont just assign downtime or spare time to work on these goals, but take them
seriously and plan them in your working day.


A few years back I heard somebody say that adding things to her calendar prepares her
mentally for the task to be done: more subconscious thinking takes place and when you sit
down to do the task, youre in the right mindset. I definitely agree and what Id also add to
support the idea of adding business goals to your calendar is that doing things always takes as
much time as you plan for it (ok, within a reason). If I plan to write a blog post in one hour, it
will take one hour. If I plan to write it in two, the task will expand (with me procrastinating
more and reading more articles as I go), and take two hours indeed. The real problem occurs
when we dont plan how much time we intend to spend on a task thats when things go on and
on and we never finish them. Go, calendars, go!
I use Google Calendar to do that and Im very happy with it. Because I often work with others,
and with my assistant on a day-to-day basis, I also use Teambox (free for up to 5 projects),
where I can plan things, assign deadlines and see the progress. I even have a theory why
Teambox and Dropbox are called the way they are: it all links back to the idea of a box.
So what I encourage you to do is to start writing things down (and putting them in a box, of
course!), using the SMART technique and then adding SMART goals to your calendar.


The topic of business plans for freelancers has always been raising
doubts and causing controversies. In the beginning, when I was
learning about the principles of setting up a freelance business, Ive
always been confused by conflicting pieces of advice: yes, you
absolutely need a business plan, or on the other hand no, business
plans for freelancers are a waste of time.
Im a big fan of planning and scheduling, but I could see the
disadvantages of business plans for freelancers, too. The same question came around again now
when Im getting ready to plan for 2014. I thought Ill share my doubts and arguments with you,
and then Ill present my way of business planning for freelance translators. Im looking forward
to your input as well!
Why a freelance translator doesnt need a business plan?
1) Its a real hurdle to write it
Sitting down and writing a 20- or even 30-page long business plan may be a real problem. First,
it takes a lot of time to simply write it. Second, getting enough time to collect all ideas and put
them together may take days. The only period where I could actually allow myself the luxury of
spending 4 or 5 days on writing a business plan would be my holidays, but thats a bit like
missing the point. Third, you really need to spend some time learning how to structure a
business plan. Wouldnt it make more sense to spend this amount of time on actively promoting
your business?
2) The scope is overwhelming
A business plan consists of a series of important questions and topics applicable to some
businesses. But many of the issues covered dont really apply equally importantly to freelance
professionals, for example calculating how much money you need to set aside for contractors. In
the past, whenever I was sitting down to write my business plan, I was constantly feeling that
many of the things Im writing about will never apply to my business and I felt overwhelmed
with the amount of detail.
3) It can hold you back
Now, what if you plan a whole year for your business and you just stick to the plan, quite rightly
so, and there are other opportunities out there? Setting up a plan for a year or longer will keep
you restricted to what you thought about your business in January 2014. What if it no longer
applies in May 2014?
4) Its useless in the real world
Many freelancers argue that business plans have no real application to what they do in real
lives, because the dynamics of freelancing work differs from large businesses. For freelancers,


things change on weekly basis, and generally a business plan may not allow for so much change.
This is when it becomes useless in the real world which it no longer reflects.
5) Its an excuse to keep you from doing
One of the arguments against business plans that I came across suggested that spending time on
working on your business PLANNING actually keeps you away from DOING. Its certainly
happened to me in the past, where I was so attached to the idea that I had to plan everything
that I wouldnt dare to do any marketing before coming up with a marketing strategy. In this
view, a business plan serves as a perfectly fine excuse to keep you from working.
Why a freelance translator needs a business plan?
1) It gives a structure
A business plan will certainly help you get a proper structure for your business. Youll have a
clearer idea of how youre planning to acquire clients, how moneys getting into your business,
and how youre planning to grow. These are all essential elements of building a sound business.
2) It gives a feeling of security
Having a business plan gives you a similar feeling to setting out on a long journey with a map (or
a GPS). You feel more secure because you know whats around you and how you can get to your
3) It helps to cope with change
Though this may contradict points made earlier, carefully crafted business plans that
incorporate changes that can be predicted actually help you cope and manage these changes
affecting your business. For example, knowing about the change in court interpreting
contracting in the UK and incorporating it in my long-term planning, I was able to orchestrate a
major change in my business structure without panicking.
4) It forces you to put your business hat on
Perhaps most importantly, getting a business plan makes you think more seriously about your
business. Ive actually started feeling more responsible and I had the impression of being forced
to act along the plan I came up with. It was as if I told myself now that I have a business plan, I
have to live up to it. And things really happened.
Do you need a business plan?
If youre doing great in your business without a business plan, perhaps you should invest this
time and effort into continuing doing things right. However, if you feel that youre not quite
there yet, or that you could do better, or even more so if you feel totally overwhelmed by the
whole business thing, sitting down to put something down on a piece of paper may help you.
How to get a business plan that works for you?
Having said that, I do agree that there are some elements in business plans that just dont apply
to freelance translators. In the course of growing my business, I developed my own way of
business planning. Heres what I do every year:
1) Identify what I really want to and need to plan
2) Modify business plan templates to get rid of sections I dont need or pointless details


3) Use mind mapping and many drawings to identify the areas I want to plan
4) Rather than having one very formal document, I play around with text, images, drawings,
maps and sticky notes.
5) Find the right time to work on different parts. Usually, I spend a couple of hours here and
there to put ideas on my whiteboard and let them stay there for some time.
6) Use SMART goals to make sure that my business plan is actionable.
You'll find an example of a translator's take on a business plan here. Sensible advice on business
planning for copywriters (not too far from translators) is given here.
How do you do your business planning? Do you do it at all? Do you think freelance translators
need business plans?


This month we looked at how freelancers can make the most of
business planning through SMART goals, writing everything down
and carefully selecting how and when to write. In the last post under
this topic, Id like to discuss what sections you may want to include in
your translator's business plan of course if you decide you need one
and how to come up with a good structure.
Executive summary
Even though this section is usually in the beginning of your business plan, you should write it
last. Executive summary should contain a summary of what does your business do, what do you
want to achieve with your translation business, what is the reason why youre translating and
whats your vision for the future.
General description
In here, you want to write as if you were presenting your company to outsiders. I found this
exercise very useful because it forced me to think about big questions about my business and
then I could use some of the ideas or even sentences in my marketing copy. This section should
contain your mission statement (what is the reason for existing of your business?), your goals
and objectives, and business philosophy. Apart from these statements, summarise your client
segments, the translation industry and your strengths and competencies. Of course, youre very
unlikely to have to show this document to anybody, but it will help you clarify these points for
Owners background
Because youre a freelance translator or interpreter, its very important that you outline your
key competencies and background, rather than talking about staff, operations and management
(as often present in traditional business plans). Use this section for your own benefit: write
down everything that acts in your favour, turn features into benefits, do a SWOT analysis.
Describe in depth what youre offering as if you were talking to somebody who knows nothing
about translation or interpreting. Doing that will give you ready-made answers to some of your
potential clients questions. Look at factors that will give you competitive advantage and think
about the best way of showcasing them in your services. What is your pricing strategy?
Market: customers
For the purposes of your business, not only your business plan, identify main segments of your
customers, their demographics, geographic locations, and as many characteristics as you can
find. If youre translating or interpreting for individuals, try to find out their age, location,


income level, occupation, education, etc. If youre working mostly with businesses, describe
their industry, locations, size, quality, etc.
Market: competitors
The way I went about this section is as follows. I prepared a simple table where I listed my main
competitors (or, as I prefer to call them, other players on the market), added their website
addresses and noted the main things I think theyre doing right. You may also compare yourself
against competition according to the following criteria: services offered, price, quality, customer
service, reliability, expertise, reputation, location, or image. Is there anything theyre doing that
you could be doing better? This section of a business plan will help you identify that.
Marketing plan
In this section, analyse how youre going to let your prospective customers know youre here.
Start by identifying low-cost methods you can use to promote your business. When comes to
expenses, try to justify every investment and estimate how much business it has to bring you to
make it worthwhile. Plan your marketing for the whole year.
Financial plan
This is perhaps the most challenging section of a business plan that many freelance translators
struggle with. I suggest you go about it in the following way. Estimate the worst case scenario
for the whole year, writing down all the expenses and minimum income you have to bring in to
make sure you stay afloat. It will give you a feeling of security, so much needed for freelancers.
By estimating what is the lowest amount of money you have to make a month, youre going to
feel much more confident and youll sleep better. Then make the desirable financial prognosis
where you actually see how much money youd like to be making. In turn, this may act as a
motivator and youre quite likely to start thinking how you can reach this goal.
Business plan template
Sample business plan for freelancers
How to Write a Business Plan for a Freelance Writer
Sample business plan
What to include in a business plan


In the recent years, you mightve noticed an explosion of blogs written
by translators. It feels like theres a new one launching almost every
day. I write mine quite regularly as well. All this may lead to some
confusion and perhaps even a feeling of being behind if you dont write
a blog, for a change. This is precisely the reason why one of my
students asked me, quite frankly, if blogging is necessary to market
her translation business successfully. Lets look at what arguments she
put forward and how I replied.
Theres certainly a case against blogging. I do agree that blogging, first of all, is time consuming.
Even if you dont blog on a regular basis, you have to find the time to actually write your blog
posts. And its such an easy thing to procrastinate and end up feeling guilty you never actually
find the time to update your blog. It ends up being a chore.
If you find the time and commit to write, another problem pops up. What to write? It may be
difficult to find the right topics that would actually make interesting posts. This is by far one of
the biggest obstacles to writing a blog.
Even if you know what you want to write about, youll find that there are others out there
whore already covering this topic. Its very difficult to be original and find something totally
new to say.
Perhaps the biggest question mark related to blogging from the business perspective is the
doubtful return on investment. You spend your precious time on blogging rather than working
and you can never know if its actually bringing you any clients, or any benefits at all. Its easier
to measure the effectiveness of your website, or your direct mail campaign, than your blogging
I do agree with all that and thats why I replied: no, you dont have to blog to market your
translation business successfully. I know many busy and successful translators who dont blog
and yet they manage to find more clients than they can handle. Blogging is yet another tool in
our marketing, and you have to decide for yourself what works for your business (and your
However, there are a number of benefits that come with blogging. You may want to consider
them before you look at your business and decide whether to blog or not. The majority of these
benefits can actually be achieved if you make the right decisions about your blog (which Ill talk
about in the next blog post). Blogging will also depend a lot on your business goals. How can you
benefit from blogging then?


Build a professional network

If you have a good blog, people will want to read it and inevitably, theyll get to know you.
Blogging is good if you want to build a network (but its not the only way you can do that). Your
blog can become a focal point for a community of like-minded people.
Improve Google ranking
Blogging on your website will improve your Google ranking dramatically over time. It took me
about 18 months of blogging to jump to the first page for certain phrases but now I get to reap
the fruit. If your goal is to rank higher, you should consider blogging.
Low-cost marketing
Out of all marketing tools available, blogging is a relatively low-cost solution to promote your
business. You only need to invest your time.
Showcase your skills
Especially for translators, blogging in your target language can be a great opportunity to
showcase your skills. First of all, you get the opportunity to show that you can write well, an
essential feature for all translators. But if you blog about topics related to your areas of work,
you get to show your clients you really know your stuff. Like the one client I got because I
blogged about market research.
Generate leads
A well-written and, more importantly, well-targeted blog will generate leads (i.e. potential
clients). Its true that you cant measure it very easily, but one good, long-term, repeat direct
client is likely to make up for all hours you spent writing your blog, believe me on that.
Help others
On a more human level, your blog may actually help others. If you write valuable, thoughtthrough articles that result in positive actions for others, youre helping the community. Hows
that for a benefit?
Do you think blogging is a must?


Some of the questions I received related to blogging about translation
covered the more technical aspects of setting up, running and
analysing a blog. Lets deal with them first.
1. Where to set it up?
One of the first questions regarding blogging is where to start
blogging. If you have your own website (or planning to get one in the
near future), Id recommend blogging under your own domain, just like I do. Setting up a blog on
your own website gives you full control over it and has enormous SEO benefits.
However, if youre not thinking of getting a website just yet, there are plenty of blogging
platforms out there. The main differences between them are related to user bases and interface,
so Id suggest trying a few of them first to see what works for you.
How to Choose the Best Platform for Your Blog
The 15 best blogging and publishing platforms on the Internet today. Which one is for you?
Which Blogging Platform Should I Use?
2. How to be found?
After setting up your blog, its important to make sure that its actually found by people youre
writing for. When I was starting out, I made sure that my content was interesting for other
translators to increase the likelihood of them sharing it. I also made sure that my posts were
SEO-friendly, using the right keywords among others. I shared my posts on social media
(especially Twitter, Facebook and Google+). Commenting under posts on other blogs will also
draw attention to your own blog.
If youre interested in making your blog more popular, you should definitely check this
article out. Youll find some great tips there, including adding a link to your blog in your email
signature, signing up to Help-a-reporter-out, or using business cards to promote your blog.
21 Tactics to Increase Blog Traffic
5 Ways to Make Your Blog Appear in Search Engines
57 Ways to Boost Your Blog Traffic
3. How to capture readers?
Once you manage to get the readers see your blog, its quite important that you capture them. In
other words, dont let them browse away without subscribing to your blog. Now, Im assuming
that you want to blog for your business. If its a hobby, capturing your readers is not essential.


But if you blog for professional purposes, you want these leads to subscribe so you can stay in
touch with them and remind them of the services you provide every now and then.
On my blog, you can either subscribe through an RSS reader or sign up to my newsletter with a
monthly digest of posts. I used Feedburner for my RSS, and I use Aweber to handle my email
Setting up Feedburner RSS and Email subscription for your blog
How to Convert Casual Blog Visitors Into Dedicated Subscribers
How to Get a Ton of New Subscribers to Your Blog
20 Simple Ways to Generate More Blog Subscribers
4. Which add-ons and plugins to install?
Every blogging platform, including self-hosted solution, allows you to install add-ons and
plugins. These are the little extra bits that make your blog work better for your readers. For
example, Im using social media sharing buttons, about author box, and a SEO plugin.
Other options you may want to consider include a translation manager plugin (if you want to
blog in different languages), a Twitter feed, a back-up plugin, and similar.
10 Must Have WordPress Plugins of 2013 Every Blogger Should Know About
30 Must Have WordPress Plugins For Bloggers
5. How to manage an editorial calendar?
Blogging for professional purposes requires consistency and regularity which can only be
obtained if you follow an editorial calendar. I started with writing blog ideas down on pieces of
paper and then digging them out every week to write a post. When I started using TeamBox to
manage other projects, I also moved my editorial calendar there and hooked it up with my
Google Calendar.
You can use a simple document and a calendar to manage your blog editorial calendar, or you
can use some of these tips:
Essential Content Marketing Editorial Calendar Template Every Marketer Can Use
How to Put Together an Editorial Calendar for Content Marketing
Download the Template: Blog Editorial Calendar
Improve Content Strategy with an Editorial Calendar: 14 Free Downloads
6. How to run analytics?
Again, if youre hobby-blogging, youre probably not going to care about your blogs analytics.
But if youre using blogging for professional purposes, you want to know where your readers
come from, how much time they spend on your blog and which articles are more attractive than
others. Im using Google Analytics and Alexa to check which other sites are linking back to mine.
20 Analytics Tools For Blogs
10 Blog Metrics Bloggers Should Track Through Web Analytics Tools


7. Where to take images from?

A real problem for some bloggers, finding images youre free to use on your blog doesnt have to
be difficult. There are many resources where you can find images for non-commercial use. I
recommend finding free images with Googles advanced image search.
There are other resources, too:
Flickr Creative Commons
5 Places to Find Free Images for Your Blog
Top 6 Sites to Find Free Photos to Use on Your Blog
I hope you'll find these resources useful!


Now that we went through the most troubling issues around
blogging and we discussed the technical side of setting one up, its
high time we talk about some important decisions related to starting
a blog.
I wish Id thought about all that when I first established my blog
having all the answers back then would have saved me time and
energy. This is why I do encourage you to look at these aspects now,
if youre thinking about setting a blog sometime soon.
Professional or hobby blogging?
The first question that you have to tackle is whether you want to engage in hobby blogging, or
are you doing it for professional purposes. Of course, theres nothing wrong with hobby
blogging, i.e. writing what you like, when you like, on whichever topics. However, this type of
blogging is unlikely to work for your professional image or marketing efforts.
If you decide, however, to start blogging for professional purposes, its important that you see
your blog as a part of your marketing, business and brand strategy. Youll need to have a plan, a
calendar and some commitment to work on it.
What do you want to achieve with your blog?
Every business-related effort should have a goal, in other words it should lead to achieving
something for your business. I talked about the benefits of blogging in one of my previous posts,
and any of these potential benefits could be your goals.
Be careful, though. Depending on your blogs goal, its audience will change, too, as well as the
range of topics youre covering. You could be blogging to market your services, to showcase
your skills, to help others, etc. All these goals are of course great.
Who is your target audience?
Depending on your blogging goal, your audience will change. The majority of translation blogs
are written by translators for translators. And while theres nothing wrong in helping others or
sharing your insights, you will find that such a blog is unlikely to attract potential clients.
Theyre not interested in the ins and outs of the translation industry, and definitely dont want
to hear that rates are falling and agencies dont pay (and we really shouldn't be saying things
like that too loud, either).
If you want to market your services through your blog, blog for your potential clients. This is by
far the most common trap that many bloggers fall into. We feel naturally inclined to write about
what we know and feel comfortable with (i.e. translation), but this kind of blog will attract more
colleagues, not clients.


What youre going to write about?

Of course, if youre blogging for translators, it will be much easier for you to come up with ideas
for posts. We all have interesting insights or different angles that we could turn into a blog.
Thats exactly what I did.
However, when comes to blogging for your (potential) clients, discovering what interests them
should be your first step. Our prospects are generally unlikely to be interested in the issues of
translation, so we should rather concentrate on what translation may give them (i.e. the
markets they can access) or on a wider business context they exist in. My new client-focused
blog is all about doing business in Poland and doesnt sell my translation services directly.
Finding out what to write will involve some market research and stepping into your clients
Whats your editorial calendar?
An inherent part of blogging for professional purposes is taking your blog seriously and
managing it as any other marketing collateral. Once you figure out what interests your potential
readers, write the ideas down and put some dates against them. You should blog regularly, on
the same day if you can.
Where to host your blog?
I do recommend that you host your blog on your website. Its not too difficult with CMS like
Wordpress and there are many benefits, including increased SEO and control over the way your
blog looks like.
However, if you dont have a website yet, you may decide to start blogging on an external
platform. This solution is not ideal, especially if your blogging goal is to market your services,
but its a good starting point.
How youre going to let the target audience know?
Once youve got all the previous points established, you have to get a promotional plan for your
blog. Think about all these places (offline and online) where your potential readers hang out
and try to promote your blog there. Of course, were not talking about spamming, but about
finding people whore genuinely interested in your writing.
Think about getting mini business cards advertising your blog you could give out to potential
clients at networking events, or which fora or LinkedIn groups you could mention your new
blog in. Social media is also a powerful tool to spread the word.


Now that we finished talking about blogging, I thought it was a good
idea to discuss another means of promotion, both online and offline.
Ive been using leaflets and brochures for about two years now (mostly
digital versions), and I found it a very good investment. There are some
other colleagues out there whove been successfully marketing their
translation businesses with similar documents, too. If youve been
using them, please leave a comment below wed all love to read about
your experience and perhaps even take a look at your collateral!
This is precisely why I wanted to draw your attention to using leaflets or brochures to promote
your translation business. Lets first discuss some common misconceptions about using
brochures and leaflets, then we can talk about differences, and finally analyse what is their
First, lets do some brochure and leaflet myth busting!
There are so many leaflets and brochures out there that its practically spam.
I think that it is true in a way, but were not talking about spamming your whole street with
leaflets promoting your freelance business. If targeted right at the right people, leaflets or
brochures are a very sensible way of reaching out to those who are interested in your
translation services.
Leaflets are very intrusive.
Of course, if youre forced to take one or if they land on your doorstep, you can surely consider
them intrusive. But then again, if used right (and well talk about it later this month), by making
sure youre giving them to people whore genuinely interested in your services, youre not being
A leaflet or brochure is expensive to design and print.
Not true anymore, designing leaflets will cost you a fraction of what you pay for your website.
Its not only something big companies can afford. Moreover, leaflets or brochures can often be
used online, without the need to print them. And if you do need hard copies, its not going to
break the bank either.
Lets now discuss whats what and how theyre different.
Flyers are the most basic and cheapest promotional documents in this category. Theyre usually


A4-sized with some text and plain images or icons, often printed in black and white. They serve
an informational purpose.
Leaflets are more complex documents with more design elements, usually smaller than A4,
combining images, graphics and text with different typography. Theyre mainly there to grab the
readers attention and raise interest.
Longer, 2 or 3-fold pieces giving more information than flyers or leaflets, yet still combining the
advertising edge with informational purposes. While flyers or leaflets are meant just to be
looked at (and often thrown out), brochures are there to be kept and referred to when your
services are needed.
If youre into longer documents outlining your services, values and offering in detail, a booklet
will serve this purpose. Usually containing more text than images, a booklet is a good point of
reference for your clients who want to have all information they need in one place.
Why should you consider using leaflets?
While CVs or online profiles work well with agency clients, direct clients especially businesses
operate at a Business-to-Business level, where a CV is no longer appropriate. Other businesses
are more interested in learning what you can do for them and what benefits you can offer,
rather than studying the details of your profile.
Brochures or leaflets are a great way of showing the client why they should go for your services,
and in a B2B context theyre even expected. Whenever youre meeting a prospect face to face,
remember to bring some documents about your company with you. Your clients have been
doing the same thing since the moment they got into business.
Online leaflets or brochures are a good way of showcasing your professional approach to
running a business. When replying to an enquiry or approaching a prospect, simply attaching a
leaflet or brochure which contains the main information they need and outlines the benefits to
them is an order-winner.
Take a look at these useful articles:
Between flyers, brochures, leaflets, pamphlets & newsletters
Designing a flyer or leaflet
Six ways you can use leaflets
For some examples of how Im using brochures and leaflets, visit my main website.


After the first introductory article on using brochures and leaflets to
promote a translation business, this week Id like to concentrate on
discussing what should be included in a leaflet or brochure promoting
your translation services. While there are no set rules and often
breaking the usual pattern will grab the readers attention, we still
should include some basic elements.
The specific layout and order of the contents will depend on the format
you pick. For PDF brochures, you may very well go with A4, while
printed brochures will often be smaller and tri-fold.
Below Im presenting what you should remember about when preparing a basic outline of your
Front cover
If youre going for a tri-fold design, your front cover will be the first thing the readers going to
look at. It is recommended to limit the amount of text on the front cover to the absolute
minimum, preferably just containing your logo, slogan and an appealing graphic or image. If
youre designing a one-page leaflet, make sure that your header follows the same principle.
The goal of this section: to make your reader interested enough to open the brochure and read
the text inside.
Slogan and headline
All the authors and trainers that Ive listened to agree that slogan and headline is by far the most
important part of your leaflet or brochure. A slogan is usually in a form of a question or a bold
statement while headline provides more information to follow up on the question.
The goal of this section: to hook the reader and anchor his or her attention.
Features and benefits
Usually inside a brochure, features describe the characteristics of translation services provided
while benefits concentrate on outlining whats in it for your client. It is extremely important to
include both on your brochure. Leaving out benefits will just provide your reader with
information but no appeal, while leaving out features will concentrate on the sales pitch without
giving consideration to the characteristics of your product.
The goal of this section: to explain what you can do and how it can benefit your reader.


Call to action
As every marketing document, a brochure or a leaflet must have a call to action. If youre
wondering what it is, think about all these leaflets telling you what to do: call now, buy now,
order before the end of the week, etc. Make sure that your brochure or leaflet has just one clear
call to action. Creating multiple calls to action will only confuse your reader. Dont forget to
make your CTA visible. The best place to include it is the bottom of a one-page leaflet or the
second or third inner page in a tri-fold brochure.
The goal of this section: to tell your reader what to do with all the information you presented
them with.
Contact information
Usually at the bottom or last page, this section should contain all your contact information,
including your company name, website address, telephone number, email and website address.
You can also consider adding your Twitter or LinkedIn account details.
The goal of this section: to ensure that a prospect has all the details they need to contact you.

Creating Brochures
Create the Best Brochure
How to Write Brochures
How to Put Together an Effective Sales Brochure


With a new batch of my own leaflets being produced as I write, I
wanted to make sure I make the most of them and share my ideas with
you. I compiled this short list of seven potential opportunities where
you can use brochures or leaflets promoting your translation services.
Send out with hard copies of translations
Every now and then my clients request certified Polish translation
which needs to be posted or delivered to them. If you put a brochure
or leaflet in the envelope, for example explaining what other services you offer or what else you
could do for them, your clients are likely to keep it or even use it to recommend you to others.
Take with you to interpreting assignments
I often interpret for businesses where my clients are hardly ever aware of whats involved in
working with an interpreter. Handing out a leaflet with basic dos and don'ts helps in educating
the client and also ensures that our cooperation will run smoothly. And at the back of the leaflet,
you can just place more information about you and your services.
Leave at a local shop
If, like me, you live in an area where many of your potential clients are located, try approaching
local community hubs, such as shops or restaurants. In my area, there are a few Polish shops
and restaurants which Im going to visit soon. Dont think that youll only meet B2C clients there.
Business owners have to shop, too.
Take with you to client events
Leaflets and brochures are particularly useful in the B2B context at client events, such as
conferences, exhibitions or trade fairs. If youre planning to attend one of those, prepare some
leaflets and brochures. Your prospects will definitely have some, too.
Bring to meetings
If youve been working on setting up a meeting with a potential client and you finally managed
to get the date, make sure you bring some company materials with you, not just a business card.
The B2B world has its own rules and coming prepared with brochures is one of them.
Talk to local authorities
Again, if you live in an area where your potential clients work or reside, consider introducing
yourself to local authorities. Take a pile of leaflets with you and suggest leaving them in a visible
place, so foreign language speakers will be able to notice them.


Bring to networking events

Because networking events are not the same as conferences or trade fairs, dont hand out your
leaflet the first thing. But if your interlocutor shows interest in what youre doing, offer it then.
Incidentally, this is what happened to me at a networking meeting not long ago when I was on
the receiving end of it. It definitely made me remember the person I spoke with much more.
What other ideas do you have?


Now that weve covered how to structure a leaflet and brochure and
what to include in them, I wanted to share some brochure copywriting
tips to wrap up the topic for this month. A few years back I completed a
training course on copywriting and writing effective translator's
brochures and leaflets. I must say that I benefitted from it immensely,
not only in terms of improving my copy, but also improving my writing
(and translation!) in general. If you have a chance to do a copywriting
course, either online or in person, Id strongly recommend it!
Lets move on to talking about writing effective brochures and leaflets. Ill cover the importance
of writing with your audience in mind, what to put at the front (or top) of your leaflet, what to
include inside and how to end it.
Write with the audience in mind
Perhaps the best piece of advice I received was to write thinking about your potential reader. If
you listened to one of my presentations in the past you know that Im obsessed with creating
Ideal Customer Avatars (perhaps I should blog about that soon?). But they really work! If you
know your potential reader inside out, its much easier to provide them with information they
really need and sound convincing at the same time. Try to imagine whos going to read your
leaflet, in what situation, and what theyre going to look for inside. Write with them in mind.
How to write the front page?
The front page of a brochure, or the top of a leaflet, has to grab attention more than do anything
else. You can do that by using a strong statement about your services, or by setting the scene
about the market or general situation, or use a statistic or interesting fact about your service.
The purpose of the front section is to encourage your reader to continue reading and open the
brochure. There are many effective types of headlines; think along the lines of:

Direct offer
Direct to audience
Reason why
How to.

Again, keep your audience in mind. Different headlines will work for different industries and
even different people.


How to write the central section?

While writing the insides of your brochure or the central section of your leaflet, remember that
you have to convince the reader and tell them whats in it for them. Ask yourself what is your
primary message, or if they remember just one thing what is it? In here, its very important
to talk about the benefits (see Lesson 67) arising out of the use of your translation services
rather than features. If youre using quotes or testimonials on your brochure, put them in bold
or italics and use real people. Its important to remember about chunking, that is breaking your
copy into manageable parts. Use subheads and sections, play with space, use bullet points. Avoid
large paragraphs. When using bullet points, start with an active verb and maintain consistency.
Brochures and leaflets are about combining the visual impact with text. Make sure your
brochure or leaflet is not too text-heavy, but also make sure the design is professional. There
should be a link between the images you use and what youre talking about. Avoid clutter.
How to end?
If your reader skips some parts of your brochure or leaflet, theyre surely going to look at the
end of it. Some people say this is where the decision whether your reader is interested or not
really takes place. The sole purpose of this section is to make your reader do something. To
ensure the desired effect, include a short summary of benefits at the end and dont forget about
a call to action. Call to action is a single strong message telling your reader what to do, such as
visit my website or order now. Im sure youve seen many of them in the past!
Now that we covered leaflets and brochures extensively and finished at this very brief
introduction to the basics of copywriting, next lessons could be dedicated to writing effective


Following up on my last lesson on how to write effective brochures and
leaflets, I dedicated this month to talking about improving copywriting
It brings me a few years back, when I was still in high school and I
wanted to become a writer. Having always been passionate about
poetry and literature, I dreamed of becoming one of these acclaimed
poets who then have to be read by school children (no kidding). As a
teenager, I was reading a lot and I know that my values and personality have been shaped to a
certain extent by these pieces. To pursue my dream, I took up a Polish language and culture
degree at a university in the capital city of Poland, Warsaw.
And it was then that I started paying attention to other forms of writing, not only literature or
journalism. I started noticing ads, billboards, brochures, even the little print at the back of a
pack of crisps. Of course, I knew about these texts earlier, but I never thought about their crucial
role in human communication. Since then, these other forms of language have been the focus
of my interest (including a short article on the language used to advertise watches).
This is where copywriting comes in. According to a very simple definition, copywriting is
writing copy (text) for the purpose of advertising or marketing to persuade someone to do
something (usually buy a product or service). So, being as fascinated about the conative function
of language as I am, Ive been reading up and taking courses in copywriting for quite some time
In this article, Id like to present a series of benefits that a translator can draw from learning
about copywriting. Well dive into specific skills and resources in later posts.
Improve writing skills and style
I think youd agree with me that learning about copywriting and especially practising it will
inevitably improve your writing skills and style in general. Just about any book or course on
copywriting gives tips on how to write better and forces you to implement the tips. By learning
about copywriting, youre also quite likely to have a more flexible style, accommodating for
different registers and formality. And of course, we know that good writing is one of the most
important assets in our job.
Boost creativity
This may be just me, but sometimes, especially if translating very dense or institutional
documents, by the end of a week I just feel like I need a rebound. Writing just about anything
creative that comes from my head, not from the source language, feels like stretching the muscle
in the opposite direction. Even writing this article makes me feel like different areas of my brain
light up with activity. I remember when doing one of the copywriting courses, we were given


assignments (similar to here is a black pen, sell it to me in fewer than 100 words) that really
made me think out of the box.
Show professionalism and language skills
As simple as it sounds, writing well is a good indication of our translation skills. People who
dont work with language are more likely to believe were good at translating, if they can see a
good piece of writing that we delivered. It may be the copy on your website, your email or a
catchy article headline.
Expand your offer
I dont offer copywriting services myself, but I know some colleagues who combine translation
and copywriting services for their clients. It sounds like a great idea and a good addition to your
portfolio of skills, as long as youre trained in copywriting and in translation.
Help with marketing your services
Of course, good copywriting can simply help you promote your services and sell them to
prospective clients. Thats what copywriting is supposed to do in the first place! Good copy on
your website and your brochures will work and get you clients.
Improve findability
Especially when coupled with SEO training, now often included in standard copywriting
courses, web copywriting can have a great impact on your website being found online. Having
attended a training session on copywriting for the web, I can recommend it enough. Apart from
learning the basics of copywriting, you can find out how to play with text and image, how to
create good headlines that work online and how to write for the crawlers without annoying
Did you benefit from improving your copywriting skills?


In my previous post I argued that copywriting skills are indeed useful if
youre a translator. Apart from simply helping you to write better, good
copywriting can improve your marketing. Many tips in these articles
can be applied straight away and improve the next email you send to a
potential client.
Definitely worth taking a look!
In this article, HubSpot explains what the essential copywriting tips for the three most
important pages are. I can also recommend this Beginners Guide to Website Copywriting, and
the Quick Course on Effective Website Copywriting from Smashing Magazine (including a
detailed overview of the process of writing great copy). Finally, take a look at how you
can improve your home page.
Let's start with writing better subject lines, followed by some tips on how to develop email
marketing copy. Then the essential 37 email marketing tips. You should also go through this
very good article from HubSpot.
Having gone through that quite in detail last month, I just wanted to share two most important
articles on how to write great brochures. The first one gives you 8 tips to a great brochure, and
the second one includes a great range of resources.
Social media
While there are plenty of articles on how to use social media, it's more difficult to find tips on
good social media *writing*. The first article takes a more strategic angle and invites you to
reconsider your strategy and align it with copywriting. Copyshoppy gives us some useful and
simple tips, and Koozai discusses other issues around social media copywriting.
Business writing
Perhaps the most valuable part of this article for you lies in the following articles on business
writing. This is what we're doing pretty much all the time in our day-to-day professional lives.
Start with picture tips from Forbes on how to improve your business writing. Then go through 7
tips from Inc. Harvard Business Review offers some insights, too. On this page you'll find some
very practical tips to change your writing. And finally, take a look at a huge collection of
business writing tips here.


You may or may not have a website and be into web copywriting, you
may or may not want to get a brochure and learn how to write one, but
youre exposed to writing direct email or letters on a day-to-day basis.
You may not be conscious of it, but every time you write something
that reaches a prospective client (or some would say that it applies
even to existing clients), youre in fact writing copy about your
translation services.
In our freelance translation careers, were writing direct emails all the
time. Sometimes they take the form of cover letters accompanying our CVs, on other occasions
we follow up with prospects we met at an event, and every now and again we reach out and
contact a prospective direct client with our offer. Whether unsolicited or in response, our emails
and letters could benefit from some good copywriting tips.
The first and most important point is to write for your reader and with your reader in mind.
One of the best pieces of training that I received was to imagine the reader sitting in their office
on that day, drinking (cold) coffee, going through some paperwork and probably heading to a
meeting later on. Take the readers perspective and try to see the world through his or her eyes.
This technique, apart from helping you visualise the reader, also makes it easier to write for
them rather than about you.
Second, make sure your letter or email is neat and organised. Draw a plan of what you should
write and make sure the text has a logical flow.
Third, before you start writing, make sure you know what is the email or letters goal. One of
the most common mistake in copywriting in general is that we write without knowing what we
want to achieve. So, in our case its quite simple: land this particular translation project.
Now that weve done some groundwork, were ready to write it!
Gauge the readers needs, aka. the problem
Every piece of writing has to have an interesting beginning (starting from the subject line of
your email) to drag the reader in. Perhaps the best beginnings in the business context tell the
reader that you know what they need (copywriting masters are able to convince a reader that
they desperately need something they had no idea about before even starting to read). Outlining
the problem, the missing aspect, something they need will inevitably catch their attention. On a
very, very basic level, its like saying Why your website isnt available in English? You may be
missing out on so many customers rather than saying I am a freelance translator and can
localise your website into English. Im sure you can already see the difference.


Offer a solution
Of course, after alerting your reader to a potential problem or issue, you have to offer a solution.
And this solution, no surprises here, is your translation or interpreting services. In this part of
your letter outline what you can do for them.
Write about benefits not features
In a previous lesson on this topic (lesson 67) I outlined some basic techniques to turn features
into benefits. We have to remember that clients really, really arent that much into where we
studied and which courses we completed. Theyre after whats in it for me and we have to give
it to them. I know that this part is often tricky for many colleagues because it seems to be the
most salesy element of a letter. I really encourage you to work on these lists of benefits of using
your services and translation in general that you can then just adapt accordingly.
Write to generate leads, dont sell
Something that took me long to understand was that Im not actually writing to sell my services,
because selling happens much later in the exchange, but in fact Im writing to make the reader
interested in what Im doing. I dont write to say HEY BUY MY TRANSLATION, but I write to say
maybe translation would help you grow your business?.
Make it easy to read
I was also underestimating the power of layout, be it in a letter or email. Having done a
copywriting course, now I know that layout can help us guide the reader to the most important
parts of our letter and it has an enormous impact on readability. Direct mail that I write now
consists of smaller chunks and paragraphs, headlines and has bullet points. Try it for yourself
and see what works better!
Call to action
We all have this itch to finish a letter with Im looking forward to working with you in the
future or similar. Endings like that dont work, are flat and predictable. Would you feel incited
to work with somebody after they finished their email like that? Perhaps, but its much more
effective when we finish by telling our reader what we want them to do with all this
information. Prompt your reader to act or suggest some sort of action: why dont you take a
look at the proposal I drafted for you and Ill give you a call next week?. Including a call to action
is also something that needs practice, thats why I suggest you draft a few possible endings to
your direct mail up front.
What are your ideas for direct letters or emails? What do you usually do that works?


When I was getting my first website and then redesigning it to the
existing one I was wondering how to ensure that it ranks high enough
to be noticed. If you have a website or are considering investing in one,
you must be wondering about the same. For a handful of keywords, my
website now ranks on the first
page in Google searches and I
havent spent a penny on paid
positioning. One of the reasons
for that is because, I have to admit it, I do write a lot. I
dont even want to count the number of words on my
But I also attended a few events on SEO and website
copywriting where authors shared some useful insights
on how to write for humans and for Google robots. I think
it should an important part of your strategy if youre
investing in a website, so I decided to finish the
copywriting thread sharing a few tips on SEO copywriting
for translation business.
The following infographic tells it all (ok, almost). I really
like the fact that it underlines the importance of writing
for humans. Highly SEO-loaded content (keyword
stuffing) doesnt work anymore and we can safely go back
to writing for people. What worked best for me were
points 5, 7 and 8.
Apart from these general guidelines, there are some more
technical bits you may want to pay attention to.
Title tags
Though theyre not visible on our pages, theyre most
important on-site SEO factors. A title tag is this little
description of your page that is displayed on the tab in
your browser or as a title in searches. Of course, title tags
should be customised to reflect the content as well as
possible and include keywords. If you hover over the tab


on this website, youll see that it displays the post title and my websites name.
Meta descriptions
Meta description is the short summary text displayed under the title in searches. Descriptions
should match the content on your website and you should try to include keywords in it. We
should also try to write in such a way that the reader feels invited to click and read on.
Page headings
Now this is where were getting a bit technical, but if you know a bit of HTML or are using
Wordpress, youll get it quickly. Robots see headings and titles with H1 as the most important
on the page (therefore you should use just one and make sure your keywords is there), and H2H5 as slightly less important (so include secondary keywords there). Of course, this is just a
recipe, and as you can see in my own posts I dont always follow this rule. Readability and ease
of access is more important for me.
Youve probably heard of keywords and the first thing that comes to your mind must be a paid
keyword campaign. But keywords are not only about Google AdSense, but also (or perhaps even
most importantly) about placing relevant phrases on your website. The simplest explanation is
that your website wont rank for Polish English marketing translator in Google unless you
mention this phrase on your website (many times). Think and research which key phrases you
should be targeting and use them on your website.
Internal linking
This one took me a while to grasp, but now I know that the more links I include between my
own articles and pages on my own website, the more coherent it looks for the search robots. Im
still not brilliant at it, but the golden rule is to try to cross-link your own content to provide
additional information where available.
Two most important tips that I came across related to images are the following. First, if you
upload an image to your website or post, name it using keywords (using a hyphen to separate
keywords). Second, use the alt attribute (HMTL and Wordpress people know what I mean for
sure) and describe the contents of an image using relevant keywords again.
To sum it up, if youre using any Content Management System (like Wordpress), a lot of these
functions are already built-in, or you can download user-friendly plugins to help you make the
most of your website. Anyway, what matters the most is writing useful and engaging content.


As a marketing strategy thats talked about quite extensively, email
marketing has been brought up by one of my students in the previous
edition of the Business School. I think its time to look at it in detail and
discuss whether freelance translators and interpreters can actually use
it to promote their services.
Lets start with some definitions
Wikipedia tells us that Electronic marketing is directly marketing a commercial
message to a group of people using email. In its broadest sense, every email sent to a
potential or current customer could be considered email marketing. It usually involves
using email to send ads, request business, or solicit sales or donations, and is meant to
build loyalty, trust, or brand awareness. Email marketing can be done to either sold lists
or current customer database.
Entrepreneur says: Marketing via e-mail, usually through the use of sales letters or
customer newsletters
Webopedia informs us that it A type of direct digital marketing that uses electronic mail
(also called email or e-mail) as the marketing communication delivery method. Email
marketing is used in a number of ways by organizations and marketers for brand and
customer loyalty building, acquiring or converting customers, company advertisements,
or for communicating promotional offers and more.
As you can see from the definitions above, its all about sending emails to potential or existing
clients informing them of our services. Youre probably getting a handful (or much more) of
these direct emails every day from companies and brands you subscribed to.
If used properly by the advertisers, theyre a good way to stay in touch with clients. One of the
companies selling sports clothes Im a client of always manages to send me a good, engaging
newsletter. Apart from advertising their new items, theyre always sharing tips on workout and
diet. But weve all also experienced the really, really bad spamy emails.
The real question is, though, whether we can sell professional services to other businesses using
email marketing. Lets consider three possible uses.
Email newsletter sent to current clients
One of the possible ways you could use email marketing would be to email your existing clients
every now and then (once a quarter perhaps?) with updates on your development, links to
interesting articles, or even an invitation to browse your new CV. Youre probably doing it
manually anyway, so automating the process is some sort of a solution.


Of course, you may say that even if you keep the recipients first names, emails sent en masse
would still be just mass emails, without any personalisation or individual touch.
Email subscription list for potential clients
If youre writing a blog for your clients or if youre sharing something of value, you may offer
your clients to join your mailing list to receive regular updates. Just as you may join my mailing
list here on my blog, your clients could become your subscribers. This is how you can make sure
that you capture those visitors who are interested in reading your content and you do them a
favour: you deliver content to them, taking the burden of remembering to visit your website for
updates off their shoulders.
Targeted emailing
What Im currently doing with the help of my assistant is preparing lists of businesses who
could potentially be interested in my Polish English translation services. We always categorise
them by industries and fields and draft dedicated messages of interest, including some valuable
pieces of information. We then manually send messages to the prospects weve identified,
oftentimes inviting them to join my mailing list to receive more information if this subject is of
interest to them. Its never about making direct sales, but rather about making potential clients
interested in what youre doing.
What are the advantages of email marketing?
Well, its simple and very low cost. Its also targeted and can be personalised, and it's often
interactive, it includes graphics, links, or even videos. It definitely helps to keep your clients
Do you think you could try email marketing to promote your translation business?


Last time we talked about email marketing for translation business and
discussed what it is and whether it can be useful in promoting
translation or interpreting services. In this article, I wanted to bring you
a bit closer to this whole newsletter, subscription and mailing lists
story. Apart from perhaps encouraging you to use one for yourself,
youll probably understand why and how certain companies, blogs,
websites operate (including mine).
So, Iets start with the example of the Business School blog. In several
places on this website you can see (strategically placed!) sign up forms encouraging you to give
me your name and email address. If you join, youll even get a copy of my guide on CV-writing.
After you sign up, youll receive a confirmation email from me and then on a regular basis, once
a month, a newsletter with updates and my articles. Im using Aweber to manage all that to
make sure that everybody who signed up receives their newsletter, but Ive also heard of
But what is the point of it? If youre reading this lesson now and youre not subscribed to my list,
I dont know anything about you, I dont know what you like and what you want to read more
about, and most likely Ill lose track of you as soon as you leave my website. Thats sad. Id like to
stay in touch with you, ask you for your opinion every now and then, engage with you, or even
as simple as ask what should I write about next to help you the most.
Subscribing to a mailing list is also convenient for readers. Ive signed up to many of them
simply because I cant remember all these great blogs and websites Ive visited, and receiving
newsletters every now and then reminds me of their existence.
We could use exactly the same technique with our clients. We want to know more about them,
we want to capture them when they look at our websites, we want to have the permission to
drop them an email once in a while, and finally we want to remind them of our existence and
our services. This is why, a few months back, I started using a similar strategy to promote my
Polish translation services.
Lets look at how it can be done.
1) Define your audience
The same as with blogging, you need to know who you want to capture and who you want to
encourage to sign up to your newsletter. You need to have an idea of the sorts of people that are
likely to visit your website and be interested in reading more from you.
2) Offer value


Here comes the tricky one. If you want to invite a visitor to join your mailing list, you need to
offer something of value to them. In my case, I want to write about Polish business culture and
doing business in Poland. Im pretty sure that my audience would consider these articles
3) Find the right topic
Narrowing down from value, find the right topic to write about, talk about or offer information
to your clients. If you offer tourism translation into Spanish, why not offering to brief your
English-speaking clients once a month on all tourism-related events in your region? If youre a
legal translator specialising in patents, your visitors may appreciate a roundup of patent cases
in your source language landing in their inbox twice a month. You get the idea.
4) Plan your articles
The key point is that if you want to use email as your marketing strategy, you have to have
something to share with your clients on a regular basis, like blog posts, articles, or roundups.
Consistency is very important here because it helps you build your professional image. To make
sure youre always on top of it and full of ideas, plan your articles in advance in an editorial
5) Offer an incentive to sign up
Your visitors may initially think that theyre good enough with an RSS feed or just following you
on Facebook or Twitter. However, you dont really want to rely on third parties to contact your
visitors (I, for that matter, once lost over 500 RSS subscribers by misplacing a capital letter). So,
the best way to encourage your visitors to sign up is to offer something of value that they will
get upon subscribing, like an e-book, a checklist or a guide.
6) Send regular newsletters
The point of it all is to stay in touch with your visitors, so make sure that you deliver something
of value to them on a regular basis. Think about the platform or software youre going to do that.
MailChimp, as far as I know, is free.
7) Dont sell
The biggest secret of email marketing is here: dont sell. Dont use your newsletter for hard sale
or intrusive promotion or people will just unsubscribe. Your email is there to deliver value to
your visitors even if theyre not your clients yet, give them something interesting, something
helpful and useful. And at the same time youre just reminding them that youre out there and
you can help when they need you.
How does that sound?


After talking to a few colleagues on Facebook and Twitter about
potential uses of direct mail, I know that some of you are considering
implementing it in your marketing efforts. But the ever recurrent
question is as follows: where should we take good leads from? And by
good leads I mean prospects, potential customers, who are interested
in what youre sharing, but also at some point may need your services.
And its not an easy task to establish a healthy base of subscribers
interested in translation for direct mailing. Dont ever, ever add people to your mailing list
without their explicit consent its illegal. So, in other words, if youre a Polish English legal
translator like I am and you find a list of law firms based in London, you cant just fetch all the
email addresses and add them to your subscription base. It would get you into big trouble. How
can you build your subscription base then?
1) Add existing customers
The first step to building your mailing list is to add your existing customers. Of course, ask them
first if theyre interested in receiving regular updates on the topic you write about. Apart from
keeping in touch with your clients on a regular basis, youll be providing them with added value.
2) LinkedIn contacts
By now youve probably developed a strong network on LinkedIn. You may even be in a similar
situation to me: every now and then you connect with somebody who could be a prospect, but
you dont want to jump at them and offer your services the first thing. Instead, its a good idea to
invite them to join your mailing list.
3) Networking contacts
When you go to a networking event or a conference and youre exchanging business cards with
a potential customer, let them know that youre running a monthly newsletter on a topic that
may be of interest to them. If they indeed show interest, drop them a line after the event and
invite them to subscribe. If you have access to the attendee list, you may try following up with
all attendees and offering subscribing to your list but only if you know theyd be interested (e.g.
based on the theme of the event).
4) Careful targeting
Going back to my Polish English legal translation example, if youre writing content that you
know would be of interest to lawyers in London, you can approach potential companies indeed.
Drafting an email inviting them to join your mailing list and pointing out how theyre going to
benefit from it will surely get you a few sign-ups.


5) Guest blogging
In terms of acquiring leads online, guest blogging is a good idea to build your mailing list. Using
the same example, a Polish English translator can write a guest post for a legal blog on the
importance of professional translation with a mention of her excellent newsletter.
6) Email sign-up forms
Careful placing of email sign-up forms on your own website is crucial. Make it easy for your
visitors to sign up. Some of the best places for sign-up forms include the header, the footer and
side bar. Encourage potential leads to subscribe by offering free content, for example a guide to
doing business in Poland.
7) Use QR codes
QR codes are a very handy way of encouraging sign-up offline. You can give out minicards with a
QR code printed and just a short call to action explaining why your lead should subscribe.


When I first decided I was going to write a book (as a result of
encouragement from quite a few colleagues you know who you
are!), I havent expected such great, warm and supportive feedback
from you. Releasing it for pre-order and receiving all your comments
has been such a huge motivator to work even harder. You can learn
more about the book here.
Without further ado, Im pleased to release the overview of the book.
Please take a look at the topics and chapters I selected.
The Business Guide for Translators Overview from Marta Stelmaszak
Im really looking forward to your comments. Id love this book to be as great as possible, so I
appreciate your feedback. You can drop me an email or leave a comment below.
But thats not the end of news. If you pre-order the book now, youll receive exclusive access to
one of the chapters Ive already written up, as well as other early releases. You can pre-order
directly here:
Dont forget to visit a dedicated page for the book:

Its such an exciting project and definitely a highlight in my career. Sharing what Ive learned
and experienced across many domains is the best use of my time I could possibly imagine. Ill
keep you posted!


At a conference in Budapest where I had the pleasure of attending and
presenting, the first conference morning included a panel discussion
with the representatives of LSPs and freelance translators. One of the
claims made, to which I opposed, was that LSPs (no matter if large of
single freelancers) should offer their clients fit for purpose
translation, thus of different levels of quality depending on the
intended use. Quite on purpose, I played the devils advocate and asked
the proponent of this claim to consider whether a doctor should be
advising his or her patient to use lower quality medications or surgical
appliances, for whatever reason. Of course this metaphor is out of place and you should never
compare issues so drastically different (or are they?). Yet the doctor and medicine metaphor
caught on.
Voicing her opinion from the audience, Tess Whitty from Swedish Translation
Services suggested that, while administering different quality of translation may be out of place,
perhaps translators should use their expertise to discern which medication to apply, and in
some cases even act as one.
Ive been playing with this idea for a couple of weeks now and asked myself whether we actually
can (and should) sell the same translation to all clients? In the end I have to admit that I do
agree with Tess, hence I even thought of writing about customer segmentation.
Let me tell you another anecdote. Recently, I have visited a new accountant who spent an hour
talking to me about my business to understand it properly (even was curious about my book!),
wrote down all that my business activity consisted of and based on that offered a tailored
service that I know Ill be happy with (and Im prepared to pay). Im quickly becoming their
biggest fan, mostly because they took the time to analyse my needs and offer something that will
work best for me. Yet still, all theyre doing is selling accountancy services.
Again, this made me wonder about how the majority of us is selling translation. With some
exceptions, we tend to offer just one service, manifesting itself in the words translated. We
hardly ever use our expertise to advise the client on what should be translated and how, and
even more rarely we discuss additional services or indeed the purpose of their translation.
Perhaps this is wrong. Perhaps this is the source of commoditisation of translation services.
Perhaps this leads to the conviction that anybody can translate because its just replacing words
in one language with another. A part of being an expert is admitting that you have the expertise
to advise your client on the best translation services needed in their case. And acknowledging
that translation is a tailored-made service is the first step to customer segmentation.
This time I offer a rather simple list of points for you to consider, especially when working with
direct clients.


1. Acknowledge translation as a tailored-made service.

Its not about churning out words, its about putting your intellectual powers, experience and
expertise into a piece of text that has to serve a certain purpose for your client.
2. Accept your responsibility as an expert.
When I visited my accountant, I trusted his expertise and relied on his best advice. This is what
Im paying for, not going through my receipts every month.
3. Discuss the text with your client.
One of the first questions I always ask is: what do you want to achieve with this translation? I
need to know that to be able to deliver texts that really work for my clients (help where it hurts,
solve a problem, whatever you call it).
4. Make suggestions.
As I said at a recent workshop in Madrid, some of my clients rely on my expertise to translate
but also to suggest how they could improve their message for its target audience and purpose.
Im not hesitating to tell my clients that this font/colour/image/metaphor/slogan/campaign
may not work in Poland.
5. Offer additional services.
Im never afraid to tell my client that yes of course, I can translate this press release for them,
and if they want me to, I can also look for places where they can publish it and contact the
relevant people on their behalf, for a fee of course. Doesnt it make sense to make sure that my
translation is as effective as it could be?
Do you have any other ideas how we could turn translation into a more tailored-made service?
Like I said, this is the first step towards customer segmentation, so youll see why this is so


In the previous post, I made the point that we need to be able to offer
services adapted to our clients needs. You agreed with me on Twitter
and in conversations that we had. I also mentioned that the article was
the first point in understanding customer segmentation, our theme this
Heres a very serious definition of segmentation for you: "The process of
grouping customers in markets with some heterogeneity into smaller,
more similar or homogeneous segments" Dibb et al. (2006). In other
words, market segmentation is all about being able to put your customers in groups according
to their shared values, features and needs.
Take a look at this video.
And this one is pretty useful, too.
This image is also a very simple explanation why we need to segment our customers:

But how all this can help us in selling translation and marketing our services?
Increased effectiveness
We all have limited resources and budgets for marketing. With customer segmentation, you can
make sure that the money and time you invest is well spent and reaches the right people.


Knowing the distinct segments that your potential customers belong to helps you create a more
targeted message corresponding with their needs and values.
Increased profitability
We often struggle with increasing our rates. Many of our colleagues fear that a flat increase may
leave them out of work for some time, before they find better paying clients. Customer
segmentation helps you separate clients with higher price inelasticity (meaning likely to pay
more if you ask for more) from clients who wont accept your increase.
Business development
Segmenting customers is very helpful when comes to prospecting and growing your customer
base. Its so much easier to concentrate on developing just one, well-defined segment, rather
than just trying to find more clients. Clearly defined groups will also help you identify whos
also competing for their attention.
Brand development
By segmenting your clients and discovering their needs youre much more likely to develop a
brand that resonates with them.
What do you think about customer segmentation? In the next lesson Ill share how to segment
your customers and introduce a segmentation strategy.


In the previous lesson we looked at segmentation and how does it help
us selling translation. This weeks much more practical. Id like to walk
you through the process of segmenting your customers. Its very handson and practical, so just follow it step by step. No woolly introductions
this time.
1) Identifying real segments
Customer segmentation is not about creating segments, but about
finding the needs and values that certain customer share that make them different from each
other. This is why customer segmentation starts with thorough market research to first identify
these needs and values for all of your existing or potential customers. Then its much easier to
say lawyers value reputation, while business owners value quick delivery, and put them into
two distinct segments. However you decide to divide up your prospects, make sure that all
segments of your translation market are homogenous and different, measurable, accessible,
substantial and viable. In other words, creating a segment for Polish poetry readers may be
doable, but not necessarily measurable or viable for my business.
2) Setting an objective
Segmentation is just a tool to help you achieve your objectives, therefore its paramount to
establish clear goals you want to achieve with each segment. For example, in my business
segment, I may want to gain more high profit customers, while in the legal translation sector I
may want to boost customer retention (so make sure they keep coming back for more).
3) Analysing the situation
Then, its important to identify your current position, capabilities, and constraints. I may have
identified a great segment in astrophysics translation from German to Polish, but I neither speak
the language nor understand much of astrophysics. This is just an extreme example, but youre
bound to find customer or prospect segments where youre more likely to fit in well, and those
where it would require you to overcome many obstacles and constraints. To maximise the
benefits from segmentation, concentrate on aligning your situation with the segments youve
identified. You should also compile a list of marketing tools available.
4) Segment profiling
If youve ever been to any of my talks or done my School course, youve heard me talk about
Ideal Customer Avatars (and yes, theres a month coming up on this topic, too). The main idea
here is that each of your segments should have a profile of an ideal (representative) customer,
outlining demographical and behavioural elements.


5) Selecting segments to target

As I said in point 2, you need to have clear objectives and match them with segments. The key
part in here is to select segments to target in some sort of an order, so that you dont just try to
target everybody at the same time. Look at your objectives against feasibility and start with
segments where all actions are more likely to bring the desired return.
6) Developing a marketing strategy
The beauty of segmentation is that it gives you a clear idea of how to target each segment most
effectively. By the time you get to point 6, youve learned so much about your potential clients
that you simply know what works with them, where to find them and how to market your
services to them, in each segment separately, one at a time. Knowing who to target, you can
select the right tools and fire away.
Happy segmenting! In the next lesson we're going to cover mistakes to avoid when segmenting
your market.


I thought negotiation was a very relevant topic to cover because of many
misconceptions around negotiation, and even more little mistakes were
all guilty of. Negotiation is often seen as something dodgy, perhaps close
to haggling. Oftentimes we expect that when we give our price, the client
says yes (hopefully) or no and thats it. I think were not really prepared
to discuss the price and work required to find common ground, and in
fact thats what negotiation is: a discussion aimed at reaching an
This time, I discuss how to prepare for negotiations and how to carry them out, but lets start
with an overview of the most common translation negotiation mistakes, all of them Ive been
guilty of myself. Im hoping that browsing through this list will challenge some of your
assumptions about how you work and get paid for it.
1. NOT negotiating
The most common goal is just never even attempting to negotiate with a client. You give a price,
the client says its too much, and thats the end of it. Theres not really much discussion to reach
an agreement here.
2. Allowing the client to control the situation
In fear of negotiating, or perhaps naming a price too high, we may just let the client dictate the
conditions, and then sheepishly accept them. Of course, this is very dangerous for your business,
not to even mention that it looks like shifting responsibility for your profits (or apportioning
blame for the lack thereof) onto somebody else.
3. Failing to listen to your clients needs
When I was starting early in my career, I was so excited when a client would approach me that
Id send them long emails with detailed offers and great benefits of translation for their business
without even trying to listen in and analyse when the client may really need. Since I changed the
tactics and concentrated on asking as many questions as needed before naming the price, Ive
managed to become much more effective in negotiating.
4. Negotiating only on price
Money is only one element of the exchange, but its surely not the only variable we should
negotiate on. When a client tells me that my quote is too high already a sign that theyre open
to negotiation I may offer some flexibility here if other terms change, too, for example I wont
offer a glossary, or remove SEO keywords research from services provided.


5. Not asking the client for a budget first

Of course, asking if a client has a budget in mind doesnt mean that theyre going to tell us what
it is. But asking for their budget has two strong benefits. First, if you see that their budget is way
too low, you can already decide if you want to take the exchange further or just stop there.
Second, youll be surprised how many clients are prepared to pay more than you initially had in
6. Forgetting about benefits
Explaining to the client why the price is justified by using benefits that they relate to is perhaps
the most common cause of failing offers. Every client will only be prepared to pay for something
if they believe its valuable and beneficial.
7. Negotiating against yourself
How many times did you offer a lower fee right after the client said what you quoted initially
was too much? This is called negotiating against yourself and is one of the most common
negotiation mistakes. If the client says your offer is too pricey, ask them for a counter-offer.
8. Failing to think win-win
It took me a while to understand this: Negotiations are about building a relationship, so if
either side is not happy at the end, then it wasnt a negotiation. Negotiate until both sides are
happy. Isnt it a real transformation of how to perceive negotiation?
9. Assuming the client cannot pay more
No, they just cant pay that much for it is what I often used to think in the past. We tend to go
down that road because we, as freelancers, often operate on much smaller budgets than our
clients, so we have a different perspective on the amount we quote.
My question now is, of course, what negotiation mistakes have you committed or came across?


In the previous article, I tried to convince you that negotiation should be
a part of each new project coming in, but I also explained that
negotiation is not about bargaining or getting the most out of the client.
Just to reiterate, negotiation means arriving at a win-win situation for
both parties.
Right, but it still may sound daunting and complicated. How do we
actually negotiate fees for translation projects? Lets look at a very
straightforward negotiation process and see how it applies to negotiating for translation
project. Its an easy 6-step process that you can implement in your business almost straight
away. What Id encourage you to do would be to test it first with some new clients or new
requests to make yourself more comfortable with using it you have nothing to lose after all.
1. Have clear goals
Before we even approach any negotiation exercise, and in fact before we even begin to think
about accepting a project, we need to be clear on our goals and expectations. It may sound
trivial in the beginning, but the more you think about it, the more youll see that very often,
when we get a project request, we dont tend to assess it against our business (or even personal)
goals. Money and our income is of course a primary goal, but its also important to consider the
project in terms of your time and availability, specialisation and whether it furthers your career
development, or even simply whether its interesting enough for you.
The most important question at this stage is: how much money in exchange for your work youd
feel comfortable with?
2. Do the research
Ok, ok, I am a research freak and I do believe business is largely about knowing stuff on the
other party. This is especially true in negotiation. If you manage to find out as many details
about your potential client as possible, youre increasing the likelihood of making an attractive
offer, but also presenting convincing arguments. Before you reply to a clients request, start as
simple as taking a look at their website, LinkedIn profile, do some sniffing online, try to build an
image of them as a potential client. The more information you have, the easier it is for you to
gauge the value of this particular translation to the client.
The most important question at this stage is: what does the client want the most?
3. Figure out the trades
Perhaps the only negotiation youve done in your translation business looks like that:


Client: We can pay 0.07 per word for this project.

Translator: I was thinking more along the lines of 0.09 per word.
Client: Oh no, we can only pay 0.07 per word.
Translator: Ok.
Im also guilty of having done similar things in the past. But you know what? At least we tried.
But it took me some time to realise, and I want to share it with you now, that in order to
negotiate effectively and professionally, we need to know our *trades*. In other words, we need
to know what we can remove from our offer if we want to accept a lower price.
Let me give you an example from my business.
Me: Based on what we discussed, the estimated price of the project is 800.
Client: This is a bit steep for us for this project, Im afraid.
Me: Ok, so lets look at how we could make it acceptable for both of us. I included preparing a
glossary for your future reference and I assumed youll need me to do a final proof before this
goes to print. I strongly recommend the final proofing and it will take me around 3 hours to do
it, but we can remove the glossary and terminology element, and then I can offer it for 700.
As you can see now, trades are the elements we use to justify an increase or decrease of the
price. Here are some trades that Ive used in the past: shorter/longer deadline, additional
services, discount for up-front payment, bundled services, etc. Are there any other trades
coming to your mind?
The most important question at this stage is: what can you trade in exchange for a lower price?
4. Present your offer
Its very important to actually present what youre offering to do and for how much. The whole
aspect of presentation here plays an important role. Draft an official quote or estimate with your
and the clients details, letterhead, particulars of services and final price. Dont just put it all in
an email, because it looks much easier to change it. Attach a separate, non-editable PDF
document and ask the client for approval.
The most important question at this stage is: how to present an offer?
5. Argue your stance
But of course life is not all roses and it is likely that the client will come back to you and try to
negotiate your fee. Heres where the majority of us fail; we simply accept the clients counteroffer. You know what Im going to say now lets not. Start by using your trades, but also make a
clear argument for your offer. Explain why it costs so much (more than competitors?), whats
involved, how much time it takes, how the client is going to benefit from your translation. Heres
another example of what Ive done:
Client: This is too much for us, we received other quotes that were significantly lower.
Me: But you told me you wanted to use this brochure to attract clients from the UK. I live in here
and Im very familiar with the business culture, I also have extensive education in marketing. Its
rather unlikely that a translator without this background will produce a piece of marketing that
will help you reach your sales targets.
A simple and irrefutable argument that works. And if I figured it out for myself, youll find your
own arguments in no time.


The most important question at this stage is: what are you going to tell your client to convince
them to your offer?
6. Seek agreement
As I mentioned in the beginning, negotiation is not about you winning and them losing, but
about arriving at a solution thats acceptable to both parties. It helps to spell it out in your
exchange with a potential client to reassure them that youre working on an offer good for them,
too. Theres nothing wrong in saying: I really want to work on this project with you, but I have
to make sure its profitable for me as well. Lets discuss how to make it work. Using trades and
arguments, but also understanding the client and genuinely willing to help, youre likely to
arrive at an acceptable solution.
The most important question at this stage is: whats the offer acceptable to both parties?


In previous posts on negotiation, we talked about the process of
negotiating from preparations to closing the deal. Ive underlined that
its important to argue your case when explaining to the client why the
rates or the deadline should be what were saying, not what theyre
saying. It made me think about the course I took at the university about
techniques of persuasion and I realised that Ive been using them in a
variety of forms in my marketing materials, but also in negotiation for
translators. I thought Im going to share some introductory ideas about
how to be more persuasive.
It all started with Aristotles On rhetoric (which I read both in Polish and in English, great
translations) who has laid the foundations of persuasion, in other words the art of influencing
and convincing others. In business specifically, persuasion is aimed at changing a persons
attitude or behaviour towards an idea, or object. In other words, if were trying to change our
clients attitude to rates they reject were using persuasion.
Broadly speaking, Aristotle argued that persuasion is based on three modes of appeal: logos,
pathos and ethos, and the right combination of those, appropriate in a given context and for a
given client, is needed to achieve goals.
Logos is based on the logical appeal. It often employs facts and figures to support the claims. For
example, Im using the logical appeal on my home page with my slogan: 83% of buyers are
more likely to choose your product if I do the translation. Its a statement of fact further
underlined by the use of a tangible figure. A similar effect can be achieved if you tell the client
how many words youve translated, or how many clients have trusted you so far. But logos is
not only about numbers, it also involves the clarity of your argument and its value. If you
manage to make a strong case based on facts, logos will have a great impact on your persuasive
Pathos is, in other words, the appeal to emotions. And by the way, I think its one of the most
underused tools available to us when selling translation. Of course, pathos doesnt mean that we
want to make our clients cry or experience strong emotions. Its all about appealing to the
emotional, not just the cold rational side of a potential client. It can take the form of a metaphor,
simile, a play on words, or anything that makes your client feel connected with you. To give
you an example from my practice, once I convinced a client to work with me because I casually
mentioned that a member of my family used to work in the same business and I remembered
some facts about how they worked. A little thing, and perhaps in some cultures borderline
acceptable in the business context, made me connect with this particular prospect.
Ethos, the third foundation of persuasion, is an appeal to the authority or credibility. Youre
using ethos if youre a notable figure in the field or when clients recognise your authority. Its


often based on your experience and education and how you manage to communicate your
expertise to clients. At times, ethos is tacit and comes attached with reputation. If youve been
recommended to a particular client, theyre accepting your ethos because others have found you
credible and trustworthy. Displaying recommendations on your websites or using case studies
can reinforce your ethos.
The challenge, of course, is to find the right balance between these three forms of appeal,
especially in a negotiation process. We should start with ethos when negotiating, because if
clients accept our authority, its much easier for us to persuade them to accept our terms. Then
Id suggest using logos to present the client with a series of strong, irrefutable arguments,
followed by pathos to make the client feel good about the decision.
What Id recommend you to do now is to prepare a list of what you could say or write under
logos, pathos and ethos, and also what actions you can take now to increase the appeal.

These of course are very broad foundations of persuasion. There are also some techniques I
think you should know.
According to the principle of reciprocity, if we give something to another person for free, they
feel obliged to repay in kind. Its a very powerful tool and Id suggest you to think about how you
could implement it in negotiating with direct clients especially. Sometimes even writing a blog
and sharing useful information with clients through newsletters may create a sense of
obligation, or at least loyalty, in them. This is also the reason why free translation samples work,
or if you translate a few sentences from a potential clients website and send it to them with a
friendly note, theyre more willing to reply.
Social proof
Related to ethos, social proof is based on the assumption that we want to be doing what
everybody else, also in business. This is the way you work, too, if you think about it. We all like
the most popular apps, the best accountants in town, we want to go to events that everybody
else goes to. If you manage to convince your potential clients that youre a sought-after expert,
either through your reputation or a collection of testimonials, youll be using social proof to


Whether we like it or not, liking plays a huge role in persuasion. People say yes to people they
like. In general, the theory says that liking is based on two factors: physical appeal and
similarity. Leaving physical appeal aside, similarity means that if a potential client finds you
similar in a certain way, theyre more likely to want to work with you. How can you use this
We all tend to believe that if an expert says something, it must be true. Stemming from ethos,
authority is based on knowledge and trustworthiness. Again, if you manage to build them up,
youre likely to be more successful in persuasion.
Scarcity is all about limited availability. According to Cialdini, another prominent figure in the
art of persuasion, people want more of what they cannot have. Letting your customers know
youre busy or that your time is limited, youre more likely to make them want to use your
services. This also works when you put time constraints on estimates and quotes youre
Of course, the whole challenge around persuasion is knowing which appeal to use, when and
with which client. It also takes some time and practice to start using these techniques. Like I
said, I do recommend you to brainstorm and write down which arguments and tactics come to
your mind under each of those tactics.


If youre following my blog and Facebook page, you must have noticed
the Business School for Translators course Im doing in partnership
with eCPD Webinars. Following the encouragement of my students
and graduates, we decided to put another course together: Expert Level
Bootcamp for Translators.
The whole idea behind the bootcamp is to spend a very intense week
early in September this year on narrowing your specialism down, on
carving out a niche for your business and developing your expert presence. The course starts on
the 8th of September and runs through to the 15th, it consists of 3 online modules 90 minutes
each, including live Q&A and a mastermind group with other colleagues.
Ive prepared a special, dedicated page with all the details about the course, including module
contents and plans and pricing, take a look! If youre interested, leave your contact details there.


A few weeks ago I had this idea that this year Ill go on real holidays,
you know, when you dont check email and dont think about work. But
a few great opportunities came along and while Im still planning a
significantly reduced number of working hours, Ill be working on some
translation projects.
However, Im hoping that youll be in a good position to take real, real
holidays for freelance translators. With this in mind, I thought Id share
a checklist I found online a few weeks ago and that I tried to implement to prepare for my
upcoming holidays. The full list is available here, and in the post below I wanted to add my ideas
to what needs arranging and setting up specifically if youre a freelance translator.
4 weeks ahead
Let your clients know as far in advance as possible that you'll be off and plan alternative
Realign deadlines if necessary
Try to finish all big projects before leaving
Talk to your team & collaborators about what will happen while you're gone
Find colleagues who could take on work from direct clients while youre away
3 weeks ahead
Plan maintenance and routine tasks such as invoicing and replying to emails
Draft a list of everything that could go wrong while youre away and plan how youre
going to deal with it
Consider hiring a temporary virtual assistant to handle emails
2 weeks ahead
Tie up loose ends and wrap up current gigs, where possible
Dont accept any new projects, unless theyre really short ones
Choose a date when you'll begin new projects that arise, which could be even before you
return to make sure you can get back straight to work
Ask all prospects if they can wait until your return date
Plan your marketing actions for when youre away
1 week ahead
Implement marketing actions to take place when youre away (schedule blog posts,
release of articles, following-up with clients)
Create an auto-responder
Update contact forms with your return date


Set up an email blast to clients a few days before you return to remind them that youre
coming back
4 2 days ahead
Talk to your clients again to wrap up projects, last changes, and remind them youre
going away
Set clear communication boundaries (e.g. that you wont be checking your email during
the day, but they can call you in emergencies)
Prepare your desk and to-do lists for return
Like I said, some of it will be happening in my case, too. You go ahead and make the most
of it!


Following a question and a short discussion I had with one of our
colleagues and readers of my blog, I decided to compile a shortlist of
things to see, do and experience if youre a translator or interpreter on
holidays in the UK.
Being based in London, my idea of holidays is getting out of the United
Kingdom and visiting other places. But I do know and appreciate the
fact that not only London but the whole country has many wonderful
attractions for people like you and me: passionate about languages and translation. So please do
enjoy this little list of things to see, do and experience, either when planning your this years
trip, or as an inspiration to visit. Of course, this list is very subjective and based on my taste, and
also a bit London-centric, so feel free to add your suggestions from other places!
British Museum
Visiting British Museum is a must if youre coming to the UK. Immerse yourself in English
literature and culture its a very moving experience! Dont forget to check the list of events, as
there may be something related to translation scheduled.
Shakespeares Globe
Check whats on in advance and book tickets for as little as 10 pounds. Watching a play at The
Globe is a great experience, but make sure you have a raincoat in your bag just in case: the
central part has no roof.
Go on a literary walk... or two
London is full of literary heritage, so plan a day following the lives of writers, poets and their
fictional characters. There are plenty of guides available online, including this one that I have
and sport every now and then. You can also go on a guided literary London walk. More
inspiration here.
Visit Old Hampstead Village
London's first ever literary salon, Keats of course, Dickens, John Fowles, Daphne Du Maurier,
D.H. Lawrence, F. Scott Fitzgerald, H.G. Wells, Wilkie Collins, Compton McKenzie, Robert Louis
Stevenson, John Galsworthy, the list just goes on and on.
Check International Calendar of Events
Visit ICE and find professional events taking place in London. Theres always something lined
up, from one-day events through to longer courses.


Check university websites

Theres a range of universities in the UK offering translation degrees and many of them schedule
events and training courses in the summer.
Summer schools
Many universities offer summer schools in translation or interpreting, but its also worth
checking out the British Centre for Literary Translation and English Pen.
London literary pub crawl
Explore the watering holes of some of London's most famous writers in the company of the
ghosts of Charles Dickens and Virginia Woolf on a new guided walking tour with this
invitation from The Guardian, I dont have to say much more.
Londons finest bookshops
If, like me, youre still attached to printed books, you have to visit some of the amazing Londons
bookshops. Some of them have real bargain prices for second-hand books. Dont forget to visit
Charing Cross Road bookshops, too.
Dine in a literary restaurant
You can find some great and inspiring places to dine out with a literary spirit,
like Story or Rules.
Come along to a tweetup
If you want to meet colleagues in the UK in a relaxed atmosphere, theres nothing better than a
tweetup in London, the north, or the west.
Check whats on at the Free Word centre
Visit the centre hosting popular translation duels for a course or event related to translation.
Literary tour of Great Britain
Book yourself on a longer trip around Great Britain, for example to Dorset, through life and
works of Agatha Christie, or the Bronts Literature and Countryside. Heres just one tour
operator who can do it for you. You can also try the Literary Tour of England with the National
Trust featuring George Bernard Shaw, Virginia Woolf and Jane Austen.
Go to a literary festival
Many of them feature literature in translation, not to mention making potential contacts with
publishing houses. Heres a list of 300+ festivals in the UK.
Meet up with a colleague
If youre travelling to the UK, reach out to colleagues based there and meet up. Theres nothing
better than exchanging ideas and insights into working practices in a relaxed atmosphere.


Youll find this lesson interesting because unlike my usual how to find
more work, Im going to advocate for finding time off work. This year I
worked flat out until the 15th of July and I planned a longer period of
downtime right through until the end of September to concentrate on
writing the book, developing a new course (stay tuned!) and finishing
off my cloud computing research project (youll hear more about it,
too). Not even two weeks in this downtime, Im already experiencing
the benefits, so I thought youd like to hear how to make the most from
a break.
I kid you not, take a few days off and just rest. I thought making sure you take weekends off
regularly is enough to keep your brain rested, but I only realised how tired I was when I went to
the mountains for a few days and I just switched off.
Learn, study, read
As translators, we are privileged already and were learning almost with every project. But
when was the last time you learned something for yourself, something that sparked interest?
Im enjoying that a lot today, it feels almost like a study break.
Work on a personal project
Im sure you have this idea, this project you wanted to work on since forever but you never had
enough time to do it. Ive just started working on a little personal project with my family that
weve been putting off for years, and I can tell you its very rewarding.
Update CV, portfolio, marketing collateral
Downtime periods are great for all sorts of reflections and updates. In August, Ill be going
through my marketing materials and tweaking little bits. The best approach is to first carry out
an audit (analyse your current situation) and then decide what and how to improve.
Archive and backup your work
If you dont have enough time to do some archiving and backuping during the normal course of
your work, take this time to build up an archive of your projects and go through the existing
archives, too.


You probably have a set of processes and some sort of organisation strategy in place, but what
happened to me is that the system Ive envisaged to organise projects, files and folders was too
small to manage the complexity of work that soon arose. And then, mid-way through a busy
project, I didn't have enough time to tweak my organisation. Its going to change soon!
Without much time pressure, I find it much easier to go to networking events and enjoy
conversations there. Plan to attend some of those.
Create or develop a marketing plan
Enjoying some clear mental space during downtime, work on your marketing plan. Think about
the ideas youve always had to promote your business and start putting them into practice.
Research new or niche markets
Usually were too busy researching for translation projects and we never have enough time to
do any market research for our own business. Now is the best time.
Get creative
I don't know about you, but every now and then I feel I miss doing creative things. I enjoy
drawing and painting (for my eyes only!), and I know it has a positive impact on my creativity at
work, too.
What about you, what do you do in your downtime?


I know that it takes up a lot of time to stay up to date with all blogs
and articles written by fellow translators and interpreters. Very often
its hard enough to cover all of them, not to mention reaching out and
reading other useful blogs. This is why I decided to share my
collection of resources on business advice you dont have to swift
through endless websites and portals to find something tailored to a
freelance business.
Before I share some of my favourite blogs, I wanted to tell you how I
manage to keep up. For me, the key to managing all resources is to access them from one place,
a good RSS reader. Ive given up on email subscriptions and moved entirely to Feedly (Google
Reader, youre still missed!), where I keep separate categories for resources on translation,
language, copywriting, business and marketing. Its very easy to set up and helps me navigate
through sources much better. Ive also set up a few Google Alerts for topics such as translation,
bilingualism and Polish economy. By managing sources this way, I find it much more convenient
to browse through news and updates and decide what I want to read in detail or share with
When comes to business advice, the real problem is that the majority of sources pertain to big
companies, SMEs or crazy ninja entrepreneurs on their way to create a 4D printer. I found it
quite hard to track information applicable to businesses like yours or mine. So, here it is, my
business advice reading list.
EnMast started following recently, I like it for a strong focus on an individual and the
importance of leadership in business
Freelancer Blog a large collection of strategies, tips and tutorials
The Freelancer, By Contently slightly more on the tech and design side, good tips for
online marketing and social media
The Freelancery written by a real freelancer, very good pieces of advice
Work Awesome useful and quick 5 ways to articles you can scan in 30 seconds
Copyblogger a useful copywriting tip a day, always something new to tweak your sales
Freelance Advisor UK-based portal with freelance advice, including tax and legal issues
Freelance Switch a collection of tips, some of it more technical
Freelancing Matters well-researched articles, often offering deeper insight than just
tips and tricks (now migrated to tuts+)
Guerrilla Freelancing no-nonsense articles, often about payments, expenses and
Freelancers Union interesting and quick articles, many polls regarding how
freelancers work


As I hinted at in one of my previous blog posts, this summer has largely
been dominated by three projects I worked on: the book, Negocia
Vende Traduce and my dissertation. Over the past few months or so I
was looking at how freelancers incorporate technology in their work
patterns and what are the underlying tech developments shaping these
trends. Cloud computing is one of those developments and Im sure
youve heard about it before, especially in relation to CAT tools working
in the cloud. Very briefly, youre using cloud solutions if youre
accessing data or using software thats not installed on your computer
but somewhere out there in a huge data centre.
What I wanted to talk about in this lesson is what tech resources you can use to run your
translator's office, including cloud-based solutions.
The biggest benefit of the cloud is that everything you need is available from wherever you are. I
travel quite a lot and often end up spending a considerable amount of time in public transport,
so its important for me to have access to my files and my resources on the go. But of course the
cloud is great also for backup and in emergencies, when you lose internet access at home and
you have to work from somewhere else (happens everywhere). Moving to the cloud can also
help you in organising your office, or decluttering it, as suggested by Sara Colombo.
Having said that, there still are many obstacles and problems related to the use of the cloud. One
of them is service availability, e.g. when Google doesnt work for a few hours, Im left without my
email, calendar, and searches (happens every now and then). Data confidentiality is often raised
as a concern and it shouldnt be ignored. Data transfer issues can affect the use of Dropbox, or
simply the lack of internet access can leave you crippled (I cant even issue an invoice without
access to my cloud-base service).
Heres a quick overview of cloud-based resources that I use in my office:
Feedly an RSS reader that gives me access to all stored sources from any device, very
handy for categorising all blogs and websites. I dont have to worry Ill lose track of any
of the excellent blogs out there.
Hootsuite social media management tool that keeps all my profiles in one place and I
can use it from my smartphone, too. It helps me see all new messages and I dont need to
browse through too many platforms.
Google products Im relying on Gmail as my email client, and even though I tried a
range of other tools, I always found Gmail to be the most user friendly, available and
easy to configure of all. Google Calendar works wonders for me (Im a bit obsessed with
planning and time slots) and its synching between my desktop, laptop and smartphone.
I can also create shared calendars for collaborative projects. Google Drive is excellent to


work on some files at the same time at a distance; I used it to work on presentations.
Hangouts prove sometimes more reliable than Skype (which has recently moved to the
cloud, too, so you no longer have to wait for the other person to be logged in at the same
time as you are to leave them a message, which really was a big pain).
Dropbox this is a bit like stating the obvious, but Dropbox is immensely helpful if
youre on the move. I store everything on Dropbox, apart from my archived projects. For
example, I have access to all my dictionaries and glossaries when Im out interpreting, or
I can always send a file from my smartphone.
FreeAgent my favourite tool to manage estimates, invoices and payments. I can access
it on the go to issue or modify an invoice and its linked with my bank account,
automatically recognising and matching transactions. It really does save a lot of time. To
run my personal expenses, I use Splitwise.
Redbooth and Trello help me organise projects that Im working on and run efficient todo lists. Redbooth works well if youre often collaborating and you need a good record of
progress and changes within projects, while Trello is perhaps the most user-friendly todo service out there.
Capsule CRM I use Capsule to streamline my customer relationship management and
keep all existing and potential clients in one place. I can track my follow-ups and
communications with them.
Pocket whenever I come across an interesting article that I cant read in this very
moment (happens every day), I quickly add it to Pocket. I can do the same from my
smartphone, desktop and laptop and it all goes to one place. No article is ever lost.
Audible and Kindle even though I do like my printed books, sometimes you just cant
take everything with you even for a train ride to do some interpreting. Kindle app on my
laptop is working wonders, and Audible gives me access to my favourite novels when
my eyes are just too tired, or when Im working out. Audible has proven to be a great
choice to work on my French.

What are your tools?


This time Id like to share some of my favourite and most useful free ebooks for translators I found online. Some of them require an e-mail
sign-up to download, but its well worth it. Browse through and read
my descriptions.
Time Management for Creative People - this free e-book is not
only for creative people, but I think its great for all business
owners. I learned how to pioritise and manage my time,
including discovering my most creative periods and scheduling work accordingly.
Guide to Guerrilla Freelancing - though aimed at freelance designers, this e-book gave
me some nice, guerrilla ideas on how to promote my business. After you scroll through
the benefits and drawbacks of freelancing, the author reveals some nice tips.
How to Plan a Home Office That Works - a nice, perhaps a bit old-school, introduction to
whats needed and necessary in a home office.
10 ways to convert more customers using psychology - light, bite-size pieces of advice
that really encouraged me to look at client conversion from another perspective.
B2B Marketing Innovation - a collection of tips shared by marketing practitioners. I like
it because it brings together expertise from different industries.
The Productivity Handbook - though concentrating only on Dropbox, Evernote, Gmail,
Stumbleupon, Instagram, Pinterest and Delicious, this e-book offers some good insights
into managing an office more efficiently.
How to Create a Marketing Strategy That Is Perfect for Your Business - with its own
methodology, this e-book gives some interesting ideas on how to develop a strategy for a
smaller business.
Short and sweet. What are your favourite and most useful e-books out there?


The subject of finance is usually treated either as endless complaining
about low rates or how to set prices for translation or interpreting. I
wanted to take a different approach to discussing finance on my blog
and start with some tips that will help you maintain a healthy financial
You know my writing style by now and youre aware that I dont usually
spend a lot of time discussing my personal situation but I get straight to
the point instead. This time its no different, but I just wanted to let you
know that Im sharing these tips because Ive been in a position where I found them useful. So,
lets jump in.
Set money aside for taxes
If, like me, you live in a country where the tax office doesnt collect its share every month, you
can very easily forget that you owe them that bit. Needless to say, if thats your case, youre in
for a surprise by the end of the tax year. The best way to avoid being in this rather unpleasant
situation is to set money aside on a savings account, be it 20 or 30% of your income. Also,
remember that this translates directly into how much you charge, so dont forget that 20 to 30%
of your per word/per hour charge goes for taxes.
Prepare for quiet periods
Whether you call it savings, financial cushion or simply financial management, be always
prepared for quiet periods. During good months, set aside money on a special fund that youll
use up when youre going through a rough patch. They do happen to everybody and theres no
shame about it. But as a responsible business owner, you should be prepared for a quiet period.
Document expenses
Always keep receipts and invoices for every purchase you make for your business, even if youre
not sure it counts as a business expense. Youre much better off asking an accountant to find out
rather than not being able to claim it later.
Draw a budget
Perhaps the single most useful piece of advice I took away from my business training was to
draw a budget for my business, covering training, marketing and operational expenses.
Personally, my budget is allocated as percentage of my revenue, so the more I make, the more I
spend on CPD and marketing my services.
Track everything
Theres one thing you should know about me: Im obsessed with planning and measuring.
Budgeting is one thing, but then tracking all expenses is the other essential element. I may be a


bit extreme, but I track how much I spend on everything each month (Im a bit of a control freak
and this gives me a feeling of security and stability). It doesnt mean Im saving, it means I know
precisely how much I spent on take away coffee or eating out last month. I believe that tracking
expenses, both personal and professional, is a good habit that we could safely adopt from the
world of big corporations.
Set up a good system for time tracking
In the world of freelancing, theres a direct correlation between time we spend and money we
make. This is why effective time tracking is a very important element in your business. To give
you an example, you may very well earn 200 on an assignment and be happy about it without
realising you actually spent 15 hours on it, averaging at 13 per hour. Doesnt look that great
anymore, does it?
Establish a profit margin
As I try to convince you in my book, every business, even the smallest freelance enterprise,
should aim to generate profit. Profit is what stays after paying all your expenses and you need it
to be able to invest in your further education, marketing and growing your business.
Pay yourself a salary
Usually freelancers just assume that whatevers left after paying the bills each month is their
money. I suggest you take a different approach and try to establish a salary you pay yourself
each month. Count this salary into your business expenses and then youll see how much is
actually left in your profits. Paying yourself a salary also motivates you to achieve a certain level
of income every month.
Set income and profit goals
All too often freelance translators and interpreters seem to be simply drifting along whatever
each month brings. Ive hardly ever come across freelancers setting firm income goals to
establish how much money they actually should be making and how much theyre aiming at.
The reason why this is important is very simple: if you dont set yourself goals, youll never
achieve them.
Ensure youre getting paid on time
Cash flow is one of the biggest problems for freelance translators and interpreters. If youve
invoiced for a lot of money but its getting delayed and is hanging in the air, youre getting into
trouble because you cant cover your own expenses. Try to prepare some counter-measures, for
example having different payment terms (from in advance, through NET15 to NET30) to make
sure theres always some money coming in. Consider penalties for late payments and get in
touch with a collection agency to have the contact details ready when the need arises.
This is my list of 10 financial tips for freelance translators and interpreters. What would you


The idea of investing in a freelance translation business very often ends
on start-up costs. We take into account what we need to get properly
set up, for example a computer, a chair, CAT tools, dictionaries, maybe a
website, and off we go into the freelancing world. Later on we may need
a software update or a training course, but these expenses are hardly
ever planned, budgeted for or even less likely treated as an
What I would like to propose this time is to change the perspective from simply having business
expenses to seeing them as investments. There is a crucial difference between these two. An
expense is a necessary cost that running a business entails, for example buying a printer toner.
Its really hard to imagine working as a translator without having a functional printer.
Investment, on the other hand, is money spent on acquiring something that is supposed to bring
bigger return later. To give you an example of investment, going to a trade fair is a time and
monetary investment and youre expecting to find clients there. The key of investment is
precisely this: return.
If you make this switch in your thinking and start considering the return of the money you
spend, youre much more likely to benefit from your investments.
First, analyse which areas of your business need investment. Maybe you could do with a
training course? Perhaps a new, better CAT tool? Or going to a conference? Identify the different
areas where youre going to need some investment.
Second, draw a budget. Keep separate budgets for professional development, marketing and
operations. Allocate how much money you can spend on these each year.
Third, establish the level of return youre going to be satisfied with. Is it enough to break even
on the training course youve attended, or would you rather have double the return? How much
in terms of orders placed you need from attending a client event to make it worthwhile? Set
yourself these goals and track the return. This will help you assess which investment was good
and which one not so.
But why, in the first place, would you like to invest in your freelance business?
To achieve your goals. Very often our goals require specific investments. To give you an
example, I had to invest in website development to have web presence I needed to target
specific groups of clients I wanted to work with.
To exceed your limitations. You may not have the skills you want or need yet, but
through investing in your career, you can develop them. For example, you can learn
another language, or you can study copywriting.


To make yourself more marketable. If you invest in marketing your business or in

gaining new skills, youre not only getting your return, but also becoming more valuable
on the market.
To grow. Stagnation is not good for any business, and one of the ways to beat it is to
To connect with your passions. Perhaps the biggest benefit of freelancing is the
possibility to fine-tune our businesses and align it with your passions. Through
investment, you can fully realise your potential.
What is your attitude to investing?


In the search for articles under the topic of finance, I came across a
range of useful resources, so I thought that the best thing I could do was
to share them with you. And of course, ask for your contributions to the
topic. I'm hoping that we'll be able to create a small collection of the
most important financial articles for freelance translators. Let me start
with a few ones that I found.
Online translation income calculator
How Do I Set My Rates? Hourly rate calculator for language
5 Financial Management Tips for Language Translators
Episode 015 Ensuring payment for your translation services Interview with Ted
Tips for translators: money matters
Financial planning: tips for freelancers
Cash Flow Tips for Freelance Translators
Accumulated accounting tips for translators and freelancers


For the past year or so, colleagues have been asking me if I planned to
write a book. Of course, Ive been thinking about it for ages, but you
know what a freelancers lifestyle is like. On the 30th of April 2014, I
released the book for pre-order, reversing the publishing process a bit.
While I was writing away, many colleagues showed their support by
ordering the book. I published it on the 30th of September.
I'm proud to invite you to the book's dedicated page. It's one of my biggest achievements (in
self-discipline, too!) so far. Apart from the overview, you can also see what others said about the


Not that long ago I was away working and enjoying both South and
North America. I spent 25 days in Argentina, Uruguay and the United
States. Apart from working in the mornings and sight-seeing in the
evenings, which in itself is a great bonus of being a freelancer, I used
the trip to do some business development. It doesnt always mean
getting clients in new places right away, but its more about making
connections, building relationships and networking.
Whether youre going away on holidays or in business, youll surely fit
in some of these useful actions in your itinerary.
Visit the embassy
Its a good idea to take a look at your embassys website. A local embassy will often post events
or information related to the region and your own country. Youll also find lots of useful
information related to your stay, as well as links to other associations in the region. If you can,
you may also want to visit the embassy to find out about the events and regional links in person,
introducing yourself and making contacts at the same time.
Visit places related to your culture and heritage
Useful information from the embassy or a cultural association will help you track places related
to your home culture and heritage. You can visit monuments, walk the trails, or see interesting
exhibits in museums. I found that a good way to make a link between my Polish background and
the places Im visiting. Now I always try to find out in advance whether there are any Polish
painters, sculptors, musicians, writers, etc., whose works I can admire on the go.


Polish village in Chicago

Check all events related to your community

If youre visiting a region or country with a large migrant population from your home country,
youll soon find out that there may be some events taking place during your stay. Its a great idea
to participate in them, even though you cant really learn more abut your home culture. But you
can make some great contacts with the local community.
Watch some Polka dancing!
Contact businesses in the area
Where there are migrant communities, there will be businesses owned or operated by your
compatriots. Again, using your visitor status, drop them a line or pay them a visit to talk about
their business and how you could help. You may not get clients out of it directly, but you surely
can make contacts and exchange business cards.
Look up people and events from your country related to the destination
I find this to be a good ice breaker when youre visiting another country. All locals will be
interested in knowing how your countrys culture and people contributed to the local
community, and will surely be impressed by your knowledge on the topic. Its a good way to
start a conversation, too!


In Buenos Aires, Witold Gombrowicz's old house

Visit local places related to languages, translation and writing
A real feast for us, translators, is to visit places where language, translation and writing are
given special importance. Apart from enjoying the experience, youre also likely to meet local
people involved with or interested in the same subjects. Its a good idea to find out whether
there are any local translators meetings taking place, or even googling a local translator and
dropping them an email that youre coming, asking for recommendations.
Run a project
I like spending time actively, even while on holidays. Usually, the trips I take include little
projects I run related to the place Im visiting. It can be following in the footsteps of a famous
writer, doing a literary tour, or similar, where you document your project and share it with the
community (or even clients).

What are your ideas for making the most of your travelling translator trips?


Attending this years American Translators Conference in Chicago is
(yes, still here as Im writing this article) an amazing experience. The
sheer number of attendees and size of the venue make it a one of a kind
experience for me, an ATA newbie. Ive heard rumours that there are
over 1,800 translators and interpreters in the building, but during the
welcome reception I had a feeling that there were many, many more.
Though I attended a healthy number of conferences in Europe, I really
feel like a newcomer here. More people to talk to, more sessions to
attend, more events to participate in. Its all great, but if youre a bit introverted or shy, it can
seem overwhelming in the beginning. It did to me.
So I decided to put together this final article in this months series on travelling, including some
observations on introvert best practice when attending translator conferences. Something is
telling me that you may nod your head when reading a few points below.
1. Dont start the conference thinking that youll have to make an extra effort to be
sociable. Im sure you know what Im talking about: this feeling of being sort of happy and
excited to be here, but at the same time worrying that networking and talking to people will
take up a lot of your energy. Just worrying about it sets you in a negative mood and then every
conversation really does take a lot of effort.
2. Dont try to fake being more sociable than you really are. I dont know about you, but I
can fake it maybe for a couple of hours and then Im drained. What I grew to realise was that its
perfectly fine to be as sociable as you feel like, even if it means being slightly withdrawn.
3. Prepare a list of questions you can ask the other person to keep the conversation
going. One of my biggest fears is the moment when you meet a new person, you introduce
yourselves to each other, and then you have no idea what to talk about next. My hack: think
about some standard questions you can ask anybody at any conference: what languages do you
work with, where are you based, how do you like the conference, what was your favourite
session so far, did you do anything interesting in the city, how do you like the venue See, Im
getting really good at it!
4. Prepare a few things you can say apart from your elevator pitch. Be ready to say a few
things about yourself and your work that you feel comfortable with. And its perfectly ok to say
just a few things to the other person and then say you have to go to another session and youll
see them around.
5. Book downtime. Make sure you select sessions and events in such a way that you have
enough time for yourself. I find these periods very important to replenish my energy.


6. Dont feel uneasy about spending time by yourself. With everybody around sitting and
chatting in small groups you may feel the pressure to find somebody to be your pair. If you
end up meeting somebody interesting, thats great, but dont force yourself; theres nothing
wrong in strolling around by yourself.
7. Find time to go outside. Dont spend the whole time in the conference venue. Find
interesting things to do outside and plan enough time to do some sightseeing.
8. Instead of aiming to talk to everybody, make a list of people you really want to or
should chat to. Its unrealistic to expect youll be able to talk to the majority of attendees. A
better strategy is to concentrate on meeting with people who youve identified.
9. Make time to do your thing. I find it important to keep my balance and my introvert at bay
by doing things I enjoy, even if Im in a hotel in a different country. It may be reading a book,
going to the gym, playing a computer game: whatever works for you, just dont neglect it during
the conference days.
10. Dont feel guilty for skipping sessions. Usually, at any conference, the programme is tight
and packed with sessions. Personally, I could never attend all of them, but Id feel guilty for not
making the most of it. It took me a while to understand that forcing myself was having the
opposite effect than just letting it go and enjoying the conference, city and my time in a different
way. As long as its not too many sessions skipped, that is!
What are the challenges in attending conferences that you identified? What freaks you out? How
do you replenish your energy?


Joining just about any translation or interpreting organisation means
that you have to sign a copy of its code of conduct to confirm youre
going to run your business in line with the provisions. A careful
professional, or maybe a novice joining their first organisation, will
read every point and analyse the details. But with time, and Ive become
guilty of that, too, we just assume that codes of conduct of the majority
of organisations are similar. And to a large extent they are, but what
Ive noticed is that my attitude towards the codes has become pretty
much indifferent, just browsing through them and signing. Its easy to think theyre just a pile of
However, a few years back I changed my approach to the way I look at codes of conduct but also
to their role in my business. Looking at the very definition, a code of conduct is a set of rules
outlining the responsibilities and best practice of an individual or a business.
Analysing in detail the Code of Conduct that the Chartered Institute of Linguists has proposed,
youll see that its a very sound document, indeed. Especially the part on over-arching principles
holds some provisions the enforcement of which would make the industry a much nicer place
(in particular: 3.4 Practitioners shall not knowingly or negligently act in a way that is likely to be
detrimental to the profession of linguist.). Apart from this set of general principles, the code also
sets out some important points when comes to obligations to clients, and proposes more
specific provisions for translators, interpreters, public service interpreters, teachers, trainers,
lecturers and practitioners in business, professions and government.
Of course, the CIOLs Code of Professional Conduct is just one example. But when was the last
time you read the code of conduct that youve signed?
What Id like to argue in this article is that Codes of Conduct provide a number of benefits to
practitioners, and in fact perhaps form the foundation of business of a freelance translator or
interpreter business.
Having a Code of Conduct that youre abiding by lends a lot of professionalism to your business starting from your own perspective on it. To me, it feels a bit like having a structure, a set of
guidelines that make a good translator or interpreter, or even like holding a few pages that set
the best standard for work.
Basic terms and conditions
Every Code of Conduct I came across sets out some basic T&Cs for your business, especially in
relation to how youre supposed to act towards your clients.


Something I experienced personally as an interpreter is related to the protection I could find in
my Code of Conduct. If a client would ask for something ethically or morally unacceptable, I
could always say that I cant do it in line with my Code of Conduct. The same applies to
translation, when the client objects to questions being asked or pointing out mistakes in the
source text.
Codes of Conduct are also, believe it or not, a good marketing tool. If you tell your client you
have to abide by this and this code of conduct, referring them the the whole text, theyre more
likely to find you professional and trustworthy. Codes also do great when comes to client
education: many clients may not realise that our work is regulated and structured.
Codes of Conduct, and in my case especially the code of the National Register of Public Service
Interpreters, are great irreplaceable guides whenever Im in doubt or coming across ethical
dilemmas. If I dont know if something is appropriate or allowed, I can always refer to the Code
of Conduct.
What do you think? Did you find codes of conduct useful in your career?


Ethics seems to be discussed these days mostly in reference to agency
unethical behaviours or unethical treatment of translators by other
entities. The argument of ethics, professional or business, is often
brought up when comes to rates, agreements, terms and conditions or
the use of technology. And of course its good that these elements are
discussed, but as usual, Im more concerned with what we, freelance
translators and interpreters, can make out of business ethics.
In this lesson, I want to encourage you to take a look at a range of
elements of business ethics and apply them to your own freelance translators business. Have
you ever considered how ethical your own business is, and what are the elements that matter?
Ethics of finance
Its easy to think that moral or ethical issues in finance apply only to huge companies, while
freelancers concentrate on making enough to cover their own needs. While were hardly ever
exposed to bribery, anti-corruption laws or tax avoidance, were still facing a number of ethical
challenges in finance. Careful budgeting is, in my opinion, a matter of ethics. For me, having a
proper budget incorporating CPD and business development is a matter of ethical growth. Any
business oriented primarily at money-making, without regard to its other elements, is ethically
imbalanced, be it an international corporation or a freelance gig.
Ethics of human resources
Its easy to talk about the ethics of human resources with regard to huge corporations: its about
how well they treat their employees, how they take care of them and how they motivate them.
Its becoming a bit more complicated when we try to apply the same thinking to a freelance
business. It took me a while to start seeing myself-translator as an employee in myself-business
and it took even longer to realise that I wasnt the most ethical of employees. In my opinion, its
essential to take an ethical approach towards oneself as an employee and make sure that
working hours are not abused, overtime is properly rewarded, theres a good development plan
in place and incentives are given out. Im serious here. Isnt that what wed expect from an
ethical employer?
Ethics of sales and marketing
Again, looking at the big guys, were able to quickly tell ethical sales and marketing from
unethical or deceitful behaviours. But do we apply the same rules to our own freelance
businesses? Are we really only marketing the services and skills that are top notch, or do we
sometimes fake it until we make it, promising the client something we cant be sure of? Is the
approach of always saying yes and never refusing to take any job on really ethical? Have you
ever had an ethics audit of your marketing materials?


Ethics of production
Perhaps most difficult to transfer to the world of services, the ethics of production usually
concerns the quality of materials, processes and final outcomes. But the process of translating or
interpreting itself can also be exposed to unethical behaviours. What about confidentiality,
impartiality, or using Google Translate in this boring agreement? Is using a free online OCR tool
just a matter of convenience, or is it becoming an unethical behaviour exposing clients files?
Ethics of property, property rights and intellectual property
With the recent incidents of the web copy of a translator colleague scrapped and used on two
other pages or a pseudo-agency copying Proz members profiles and using them to solicit work,
the ethics of property is becoming ever more important. Drawing inspiration from another
translators website or slogan is one thing, but when does it become unethical? Is using
copyrighted photos on your blog ethical or not? Or even, is a colleague writing articles for
translators or running courses for them without actual individual success ethical or not?
Ethics of technology
Outside of my translation-related work, Im always researching and learning about technology.
One thing is certain: neither the law nor the ethical standards have figured out how to treat
technology yet. We could start from a very theoretical argument: is using any technology on
texts without the clients knowledge ethical? Or does it become unethical only when the clients
files are exposed? If your technology isnt protected (e.g. you dont have anti-virus software), is
that only dangerous or also unethical?
I hope that I pointed you to some relevant questions here. What I propose is as follows:
Carry out a thorough ethics audit in these six domains
Mark areas for improvement and write down how youre going to work on them
Write up your own business code of ethics


Increasingly and among a larger variety of professions, companies and solo entrepreneurs alike
adopt codes of ethics for their businesses. The partial reason for it is the overall dramatic
increase in the ethical expectations of businesses and professions: customers, clients and
employees expect commercial entities to act ethically.
But codes of ethics are not there just because companies are
expected to put them in place. They actually help define acceptable
behaviours and promote high standards of practice, and establish a
framework for professional behaviour and responsibility. On a more
pragmatic side, codes of ethics work as vehicles for professional
identity and brand, and ultimately are perceived as a sign of maturity
of a business.
You may or may not find developing your own translation code of ethics useful as a separate
document, but there are some elements of the process that undoubtedly can contribute to the
way you run and present your freelance business. In small businesses like ours, a code of ethics
usually reflects our own morals or values and help communicate them across to the public and
our clients. If you want to develop your own code of ethics, start with a statement of values first.
Dedicate some time to brainstorming to answer the following questions:
What values are unique to your mission?
What values should every translation professional and any professional in general
What values should guide your operations?
Try to find value statements of other players in the industry, from associations to big translation
agencies and see what theyve included. Then, think about whats most important for you and
your business, and narrow all ideas down to the essential core values. Allocate some time to
write it all up, leave it on a side and come back to your value statement a few days later. Using
your value statement as a base, now you can develop your code of ethics to see how you can
turn them into practice. Look into areas such as:

Personal and professional integrity

Conflict of interest
Legal compliance
Openness Inclusiveness and diversity
Other areas of particular importance to your business


These points should contain practical actions that guide what you do and dont do. Once again,
allocate some time to write up your translation code of ethics. After youve written up your
code, you can use it internally, meaning that you can refer to it and abide by it yourself, or you
can put it up on your website to send signals out to other stakeholders and clients.
What do you think? Would you find a code of ethics useful? Internally or externally?


About a year ago, when I first started studying the future patterns of
work, I came across many predictions about how employment (in fact,
any form of work) is going to look like in the future. One of such
potential developments, perhaps supported with strongest evidence
and research, is so-called hyperspecialisation (for more read Thomas
Malone from MIT) the future in which every worker will be super
specialised in their very narrow part of the process of work.
Stemming from this thought of increasing specialisation, many
practitioners, business coaches and consultants started advising business people and owners
that specialising is necessary to survive, while hyperspecialisation, or if you like becoming an
expert is a recipe for success.
My first workshop on becoming an expert took place at the Israeli Translators Association
Conference in Tel Aviv in 2013, then I talked about it in Budapest and Porto. Looking back at
what I said and distancing myself a bit from it, you can sum up my advice to: become an expert
in your field and position yourself as one to make the most of your skills.
This, of course, leads to two questions which I never asked myself. First, how does becoming an
expert differ from specialising in your field and second, how does one become an expert
translator when one is convinced theres nothing expertly in their profile?
Before I try to answer any of these questions, let me tackle one more issue. Some colleagues I
spoke to said that this whole expert thing is a fad, a marketing stunt and you cant really make
yourself an expert; rather, you become one with time and experience. True. Im not encouraging
anybody to claim theyre an expert while they are novices, neither am I suggesting you can
become an expert overnight, if you only add a word or two to your website. But I believe that
many colleagues have the required knowledge and experience to either put them on the track to
become an expert or position themselves as one right now. By not doing it, they may be missing
out on some good opportunities.
Yet, the question of becoming an expert when you cant see anything expertly about your profile
persists (unless you come with years of experience in your subject-matter industry). And I think
it may be quite damaging to your self-esteem, if youve been asking yourself this very question.
Surrounded by advice from colleagues and industry leaders, seeing the word expert in every
other article, meeting with colleagues who say they made it as experts, you may end up thinking
you dont have what it takes yourself.
Id like to challenge this thought. Lets try to answer this question: how can I become an expert
if I dont have previous experience in the subject matter industry? I only studied
translation (languages/interpreting/communication) after all


First, its extremely important to realise that your core expert profile is already there. You feel
like your degree in translation (or similar) didnt give you anything expertly because youve
been surrounded with fellow students and colleagues being notoriously good at it for at least 3,
5 years of your life. In a room full of translator, everybody is just another translator. Its very
easy to slip into thinking that everybody knows what you know, that its not so difficult or
special. Add to this spending time on translator fora, attending translator conferences and
hanging out with translators. You, an expert? Impossible. Everybody knows how to do what
youre doing.
Nothing further from the truth. The moment I started going to events where I was the only
translator in the room, I discovered that people are genuinely impressed by the work were
doing. The more time you spend in an environment where your skills are rare, the more you
realise that you do, in fact, do something that not everyone can.
Moreover, at certain point you realise that real people, companies, institutions benefit from
your work, that it carries certain value that can in fact be calculated in terms of profits or return
on investment.
Further, another important step is to realise that your work is to a large extent in-imitable: you
write with a certain style, you have specific background knowledge, your translations are not
exactly the same as your colleagues (unless they are, but that means trouble).
If you agree that what you do is rare, valuable and in-imitable, youre very close to realising
youre providing an expertly service (or youre on the right path to do that). Realising the power
that comes from your linguistic background in front of your clients is essential. Hey, you may
not know everything there is about accounting, finance or IT, but you know the language of it
this narrow hyperspecialisation that researchers are talking about.
But this is just one part of the expert story. As I hinted at in the previous paragraph, your
linguistic expertise has to be set in within a particular industry. In other words, you need to be
an expert in the language of finance/business/marketing luxury goods/fashion/technical
communication, etc, etc. Now how do you do that?
It all starts with a broader specialisation. Say, you specialise in three fields, work mostly in
those, but with time you develop particular expertise in one narrow domain, either through
selecting jobs on this topic or through a conscious process of specialising (as in my case). The
more narrow the domain, the more expertly your positioning is.
This, of course, requires a lot of work. Just translating texts in this domain will take you so far.
Relentless pursuit of knowledge within this field, actively learning about it and becoming one
of them is essential to say: Im an expert in the language of marketing luxury goods, for
example. Hyperspecialising at its best.
My question to you now is as follows. Do you think any of this is new, or is it just taking
specialisation a step further? Or is it all the same just calling it an expert profile rather than a
specialised translator? Do you think that this approach could work?


Still under the expert theme, I wanted to share some of the most
interesting and inspirational quotes about becoming or being an
expert I found. Can you add yours?
"An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can
be made, in a narrow field." - Niels Bohr
"An expert is someone who has succeeded in making decisions
and judgements simpler through knowing what to pay
attention to and what to ignore." - Edward de Bono
"The top experts in the world are ardent students. The day you stop learning, you're
definitely not an expert." - Brendon Burchard
Masters and highly successful people are in a romantic relationships with their work Desmond Oshifeso
An expert is one who knows more and more about less and less - Nicholas Butler
If everyone waited to become an expert before starting, no one would become an
expert. To become an EXPERT, you must have EXPERIENCE. To get EXPERIENCE, you
must EXPERIMENT! Stop waiting. Start stuff. - Richie Norton
Quite often, when an idea that could be helpful presents itself, we do not appreciate it,
for it is so inconspicuous. The expert has, perhaps, no more ideas than the
inexperienced, but appreciates more what he has and uses it better. - George Plya
Oh and here's one from Ralf Lemster, when I asked him about becoming an expert
translator: "Becoming an expert takes more than just 'learning the ropes': you need to get
immersed in your target area." What's your take on this topic?


The expert theme is going to be a bit longer, mostly because it requires
a bit more in-depth perspective than just three lessons. To me, being an
expert is about refining your profile rather than starting right from the
new. Having said that, I also wanted to share a bit of inspiration to keep
thinking about expert positioning.
Here are some ideas why you may want to position yourself as an
expert and why others want to do that, too. I came across them in this
article and thought they apply very well to us, translators. This is my
take on it!
Stand out in a market
Experts, by focussing on narrow markets and in niches, increase their chances of standing out.
This applies to translation too. By refining your profile and concentrating on a particular area of
specialisation, youre creating a sharper profile that enables you to stand out in a market
seemingly full of other translators. For example, this year I'm working on creating a set of
services aimed in particular at Polish start-ups in IT, tech and marketing. This will mean that my
profile will change from legal, business and marketing translator to Polish English online
communication specialist. I want to provide translation and content creation services to a very
specific group, combining my expertise in languages and online business. This is definitely an
edge, as in my market research, I found several prospects but no other translators providing
quite the same.
Become the prize
An expert doesnt have to chase clients, clients come and dont mind accepting the experts
conditions or even waiting in a queue to place an order. This means that youre managing the
flood and famine periods much better, and you also can concentrate on what you know best.
Back in the days when I was actively working as a court interpreter, I could see the difference in
how clients approached me when I started increasing my expertise on this topic. I could see
that, especially the colleagues registered with NRPSI, were seen as exclusive and "reward"
Get media attention
Experts are always wanted by journalists and the media. As an expert, you can give interviews
and quotes which in turn bring you publicity. You can use that to promote your services or
simply enjoy the attention youre getting. I, for example, managed to secure a couple of good
interviews last year and was featured in one of the UK leading broadsheets, The Telegraph.
Though it was nice, I didn't get any more clients from these features - they weren't really aimed
at my target market.


Deliver results
Experts are more likely to be listened to and respected. If as a translator you deliver your
language expertise and advice, you can advise clients on the best solutions and youre more
likely to convince them. This results from the authority that clients see in you. With an expert
profile, you're much more likely to say good-bye to all these frustrating situations when your
client changes little things in the text without even asking you.
Charge higher fees
Of course, experts can charge more than those professionals who dont claim their expert status.
This is because expertise is associated with adding something specific and individual to the
work that is being done. This is the added value.
Gain partnerships
Experts are more visible in their fields and this leads to more exposure and potential
partnerships with other colleagues in the same industry or across other industries. As a
translator, you can partner with designers, web developers, content managers, copywriters
There are many opportunities out there!
Satisfaction and fulfilment
Realising that youre seen by clients as an expert gives a lot of satisfaction and the feeling that
youve reached your goal as professional translators. This is more on a personal level, but still
very important when comes to enjoying work.
Why do you want to become an expert?


The more I look into the topic of experts, the more fascinated I become.
Today, when preparing to write this article on translation niches, I
came across the following explanation:
The power of the niche is the old big fish in a little pond theory. Its
more likely that youll become well known for something when you
focus in one small area.
The way I understand it (supported by other sources), the idea behind
niches is that its a subset of a market where youre focusing. In other words youre focusing
with a specific service aimed at satisfying specific market needs.
Recently, Ive been focusing on developing my own niche for my translation services and
language services and here are a few steps that really helped me.
1. Make a wishlist of clients
I started browsing the internet first in search for some resources to find out more about my
potential niche, and soon I ended up looking at pages of companies I would really like to work
with. I could see that they needed my help, that they were in the right market, and that I was
able to offer them solutions. I started writing down the names on my client wishlist.
2. Focus
As scary as it may seem, cutting down the areas I work in is an inevitable step for me in 2015. I
used to do a lot of legal, business and marketing translations, but now its time to narrow down
only to Polish-English online communication. This is going to be my main field. During the
preparation for this cut, I came across some useful tips on how to find your main point of focus,
for example:
- Make a list of things you do best and the skills theyre based on,
- List your achievements,
- Look for patterns in your work.
3. Take the customers perspective
The key point in targeting clients in my target niche lies in identifying their real, specific needs.
If you havent done this type of research before, here are some quick tips to get you started.
Assuming you want to research the problems that UK lawyers have when comes to language,
start by 1) looking for information on lawyer blogs and on their Twitter accounts what are
their frustrations? Do they talk about them?; 2) Write to 5 people from this segment and ask if
they have had any problems or if they can think of any; 3) Ask on 2 lawyer groups on Linkedin;
4) Talk to an expert.


Every business, service or product starts with a customers problem. Have you ever thought
about translation from this perspective? I havent from the very beginning and it was only one of
the courses I took in 2012 that made me think like this.
4. Synthesise
With my new translation niche taking shape, there were some useful pointers that I found out to
make sure Im on the right track. Make sure that your niche:
- Is in line with your long-term vision
- There is a market for it
- Your niche and strategy is planned
- Its one-of-a-kind service
5. Test and evaluate
The most important part of the plan, something Im implementing now in January, is actually
putting the niche and idea to test. This means investing some time and money into developing
the initial offer and sending it out to prospective customers. This is, of course, an essential step
before diving into the niche.
Here are a few points of homework Id recommend if youre interested in finding your niche.
Browse through your clients websites and make a wishlist of who you want to work
Focus on a specific service for specific needs (For example, a retail clothing business is
not a niche but a field. A more specific niche may be "maternity clothes for executive
Do customer research.
Synthesise your vision.
Test and evaluate your niche.


I cant really talk about experts and specialists without mentioning niche
marketing. This concept has been gaining popularity over the past few
years, with marketers trying to find the right term to cover marketing to
narrow, specific segments of clients. This is what niche marketing really
is, and by large it uses the same strategies and tools as normal
marketing, but the target market is much more narrow. I've been
reading a lot about this topic and working on my own niche marketing
strategy for Polish English online communication, so I'm sharing my
thoughts on it and some resources below!
This is exactly why niche marketing is something expert translators should pay attention to.
Niche marketing, first of all, enables us to make the most of resources (time and money) that we
invest in marketing because its better targeted, therefore has higher chances of bringing good
results. Second, niche marketing aims at building long-term relationships with customers within
our best market, allowing us to concentrate on serving our best clients. Third, niche marketing
requires us to narrow down the scope of our work, allowing us to get to know our clients even
How to develop a niche marketing strategy then?
Select a segment of the market that has a specific problem you can fix. Its hard to speak
about niche marketing if there is no niche (see my previous article). Finding out about a specific
need or problem that a group of customers has leads to identifying a niche. For example, right
now Im working on a new niche for my business: Polish technology start-ups. I know that this
niche has a special need, which is communicating with potential clients abroad, and a specific
problem: they don't have the time to write content for their websites, blogs, or other online
Carry out market research. After youve identified the segment with a specific need or
problem, its time to test whether your offer is feasible and whether there is enough interest for
it. I suggest contacting 10 industry leaders within this niche to talk to them, as well as looking
for 20 potential partners, and finally sending your new offer to 50 prospects. What are your
results? For now, I contacted 3 industry leaders and asked them questions (lucky me, two of
them are my old high school friends). I managed to confirm the market need with them and got
an idea about feasibility. Of course, this is still very little so Im embarking on a longer research
Prepare a promotional plan. If your idea and niche prove feasible, sit down to write a
promotional plan aimed at targeting this specific group. Take into account different channels
and tools that you can use to reach this niche best. This still lies ahead of me and is planned until


the end of January. What I'm currently working on is looking for the most appropriate channels
to reach my niche.
Implement the plan. Of course, the next step is to start promoting your offer to the niche
identified, as well as to continuously monitor results. This is definitely planned throughout the
year and Im still working on putting dates against tasks.
There are three very important, in my opinion, elements when comes to niche marketing for
translators. Careful targeting and learning as much as possible about the selected niche is
absolutely the most important part of this strategy. Then, its also essential to meet unique
needs (taking your USP a step further). Finally, niche marketing has a very narrow scope, so
careful and continuous testing is key.
While preparing to write this article, I came across several interesting decks on Slideshare. Take
a look!
Niche marketing definition from nichemarketbee
Niche marketing from nichemarketbee
Success in niche marketing from Alden Loke
If youre interested in developing your own niche marketing strategy, here are some steps to

Select a segment of the market that has a special need.

Carry out market research...
Prepare a promotional plan.
Implement the plan and test.

... or is it all just buzzwords? What do you think?


Whether you accept that theres such a thing as an expert, or that this is
just a marketing technique gaining popularity these days, or, like me,
youre considering the possibility that some translators may become
experts or that some subject matter experts become translators, we can
surely agree on some things that an expert in translation wont do.
Or can we? In this article, I wanted to suggest a few things that, in my
opinion, an expert (be it real or just positioned) wont do. This is my
point of view and it could even be extended to cover all industry
leaders. Do you agree?
Youre not an expert if you just use positioning, but have no real expert knowledge
As pointed out in comments to previous articles, its important to make a difference between
just positioning yourself as an expert, and really gaining expertise and being one (and then,
wheres the line?). Be it in translation or in all business things related to translation, an expert
doesnt just position herself or himself as one, but has results and background to prove the
value of her or his work. Our profession has some great examples of people who really are
experts, either linguists turned subject-matter experts, or some really knowledgeable industry
professionals turned freelancers. I think we should all learn from them!
Youre not an expert if youre not showing involvement
Arguably, experts become personally and intellectually involved with their profession and show
interest in the trends, successes and failures. Conversely, professionals remaining indifferent
towards the big mechanisms governing the entire professions, or simply saying they only care
about their business, should not be referred to as experts. I can come up with a few examples of
experts showing great involvement in the translation profession, can you?
Youre not an expert if youre detached from the history
In my opinion, an expert needs to possess a certain level (again, this is debatable) of theoretical
knowledge stemming from the study of, or at least awareness of, the history of the profession.
An expert in translation cant really avoid learning about translation theory and history.
Without it, she or he shows talent, but not expertise.
Youre not an expert if youre not showing enthusiasm
Experts are the most visible professionals, often engaging with people from the outside and the
media. Showing no enthusiasm or passion for translation sets a bad example for other fields and
often misguides clients. Now, Im not arguing that theres one way to show youre enthusiastic
or passionate about translation, this is not the case. Im just a bit concerned about all those who
go out there and claim that translators are poor, undervalued, and work in pyjamas.


Youre not an expert if you think you know it all

I believe that true experts never stop learning. I think its dangerous to stop and say that hey,
now Ive learned it all and I can just concentrate on doing. A real expert is dedicated to
Continuing Professional Development do you agree?
Youre not an expert if youre critical to the new
Of course, experts are experts because they have specific skills and knowledge gained
throughout years and years of practice. But let me put this to you. A true expert shouldnt be
critical to new trends, new perspectives or even new ways of doing things, even if theyre
different from how they work. A real expert would re-examine their own ways, adopt what they
find useful in the new trends, and continue even better or is it just me?
Youre not an expert if youre refusing to share
Perhaps most controversially, I want to claim that youre not a real expert if youre refusing to
share your knowledge and experience for the benefit of others. Now, Im not saying that experts
should tell us how they made it and share their best techniques with us, but keeping everything
to yourself, in fear that others will steal your clients, is not an attitude of an expert. However, I
think were very lucky in our industry to have a number of experts whore so dedicated that
they share a whole lot with the community. Can you name a few?
Who you consider experts in our industry?


I like taking online personality tests, from the really silly ones on
Buzzfeed (e.g. what house should you live in or whats your hidden
nationality), to a bit more serious ones, like this one. Most of the time
its just pure fun and distraction from work, but the more I work, the
more Im convinced that our personalities do have an impact on how we
work and our translation career.
In this article, I wanted to look at differences between introverts and
extroverts, to a certain extent sparked by an article I saw by a
translation agency where they suggested translators are mostly introverted and interpreters
extroverted. Now, believe it or not, Im an introvert. How does that impact my translation
career? Am I loosing out on extroverts? Lets find out.
Being an introvert, I pride myself in great attention to detail and unparalleled abilities to focus
on the task at hand. I dont mind locking myself up for six hours without any human contact to
get the job done, and I have absolutely no problems with logging off Facebook and Twitter for
that time. Yes, most likely I do finish the job quicker and maybe I make fewer mistakes, so there
is some impact on my translation career.
But I need your inputs here, extroverts! How do you translate? Are you able to concentrate on
one task? Do you work better if you are on Facebook and can shift focus to a different task for a
few seconds only to get back to translating with a new bout of energy?
On a more general note, would you agree that translators tend to be introverted? And is that
reflected in the end product? The impact of personality on translation is open to a debate.
Once more often, now I only occasionally do interpreting. When I do, I feel the pressure the
evening before, I feel even more pressure on my way there, and also a bit of disorientation when
I finally get to the place. I know Im prepared, but I also know Im going to meet strangers, I
dont know how theyre going to react and whether everything is going to go smoothly. I also
feel Im not in my own environment so I cant control it, but this may have nothing to do with
introversion, this may be just my control issue.
In turn, when I asked my good colleague whos interpreting much more often than I do (one of
those born interpreters, you see), she doesnt feel any of this. Stage fright doesnt exist, shes
used to hearing her own voice and she doesnt mind, she enjoys the thrill of travelling and
staying at a different hotel every time.


Do you think that this is the case and extroverts are simply better suited to do interpreting?
Customer service
Im very bad at phone calls and Id never do any cold calling unless I absolutely had to. My
aversion to telephone calls used to be so big that Id rather go and visit my relatives to pass a
message on from my parents than actually make a phone call. Of course, this got better over the
years, but I still cant imagine calling strangers. Sometimes I also write abrupt emails that may
come across cold or rude. I attribute this to my introversion. I also find it hard to be nice or
friendly on demand.
Do extroverts do any better? I think they may be in a winning position here. Extroverts I know
like talking to others, don't mind strangers, and often are open in their approach. They tend to
be friendly and seen as easy-going. Would you agree? And would that impact their translation
Inbound marketing, or attracting visitors to my website using content, is what I do best. Id
much rather write three articles in a night than send out offers to potential clients, even though I
know I have to reach out to prospects to see some results. I feel Im better at creating useful
content than promoting it all over the place.
Extroverts I came across, to a large extent, are the opposite. Theyre great at promoting, sharing,
publicising, inviting, reaching out, but cant really sit down to write this short article they
promised themselves to publish last month. Would you say this is the case? And if it is, whats
If youre an introvert like me, you probably have a weird relationship with the word
networking. This is definitely something I had to learn and I still remember the first
professional networking event I went to (an innocent Tweetup!), where I was feeling so
awkward that I almost never made it. Its not like Im avoiding social situations, but they just
drain my energy levels to zero. Every event, every conference, every workshop, I go back home
exhausted and need at least two days to regain my balance.
Extroverts seem to be the opposite. They thrive during translation conferences and events, and
feel great when they go to network with potential clients. They feel even more energised after
such a social event. In there, I think theyre definitely in a better situation then introverts and
their translation career may benefit.
Where do you fit? Would you say youre an introvert or extrovert? And do you think it impacts
your translation career?


Personality and translation is the topic for me this month. Following
last lesson on introverts and extraverts, I wanted to explore the aspect
of personalities a bit more. Based on MBTI, several tests and theories
have developed underlining the dichotomies between four factors:
extraversion/introversion, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling,
One of the theories that I find most interesting, as described in
16personalities, categorises these dichotomies into four roles (the
inner layer: goals, interests and preferred activities): analysts, diplomats, sentinels and
explorers. Let's see how personality and translation could be analysed together.
Personality and translation: different personality types
Analysts embrace rationality and impartiality, excel in intellectual debates and scientific or
technological fields. Analysts engage in strategic thinking and try to find solutions that work for
everybody (at the cost of social and romantic pursuits, apparently). Analysts work great in
terms of systems thinking, that is seeing the situation as a whole. When comes to the translation
industry, my theory is that analysts quickly turn into consultants that help companies
implement or improve their existing language management processes, or if they stay
translators, they take on jobs that require analysing the situation as a whole and suggesting the
most appropriate course of action perhaps transcreation?
Diplomats apparently focus on empathy and cooperation, shining in diplomacy and
counselling. They take active roles harmonising workplaces and social circles, but may struggle
to incorporate cold rationality into their thinking and make tough choices. Without a surprise, I
think that the majority of diplomats take on leading roles in our industry and become chairs or
presidents of associations or set up local meetups.
Sentinels are cooperative and highly practical, embracing and creating order, security and
stability wherever they go. Must be those who organise translation conferences, since theyre
also great in logistical and administrative tasks. It seems to me that there arent that many
sentinels in our industry, at least I didnt come across many of them.
Explorers seem to be on the opposite end of the scale from me. Theyre most spontaneous and
adapt quickly with ability to react. Theyre the ones who start using new tools straight away and
know how to act in crisis. Theyre great at selling. In my opinion, we do have a strong group of
explorers in our industry, people who always welcome new tools and try them out before
anybody else. The daredevils, if you like, often becoming tool vendors or trainers.


Whenever Im writing about a certain topic, I always research it. This
researching translation and personality has been particularly insightful.
I managed to look at some of my strengths and weaknesses as a
freelancer and start working on some elements that werent quite right.
I came across an interesting article on Freelance Folder looking at
different personalities: perfectionist, people person, rebel, controller,
and the shy one, and how to make them work for you if youre a
By no means I think these are the only categories or typologies of personalities, but I found it
interesting how the author, Laura Spencer, analyses the constraints these personalities put on
us if were working as freelancers.
The Perfectionist is, according to the author somebody who is constantly finding fault with
his/her own work and the work of others. Perfectionists set very high standards and are detailoriented. One of the problems that the author identified is that perfectionist cant let work go
when its good enough and constant revisions often lead to missing deadlines.
Now, while this isnt happening all that often for translators (can you imagine missing a
deadline and telling the client oh, Im a perfectionist, thats why?), we tend to sacrifice other
things just to meet this deadline, dont we? For example, we keep working nights or weekends,
or we cancel appointments. In my opinion, this isnt really handling being a perfectionist, this is
just letting it take over.
Of course, perhaps its perfectionism that makes us so good at what were doing, so we dont
want to get rid of it, but where do you set yourself a limit? Ive created a QA checklist and after I
check the work against this checklist, I send it out. I dont dwell, I dont go back to it. Thats how
Im managing my perfectionist.
The People Person is someone who, according to the author, seem to make friends with
everyone they meet. These types of freelancers often have huge networks and know how to
network easily. The main drawback is that for people persons, its actually difficult to sit down
and get some work done.
This is totally not me. Im not a people person that much and I always can just sit down and start
working. Facebook or Twitter arent that tempting because I know theyre there to distract, so I
dont look at them while working. But if you are a people person and you work from home with
others around, how do you deal with it? How do you set yourself boundaries?
The Rebels became freelancers because they couldnt stand the rules and restrictions of a
more long-term working arrangement. They sometimes come up with great ideas, but tend to


lack patience, especially in communicating these ideas to others. Rebels often diverge into side
projects to keep them interested and alive.
This is so me. I need a few other things going on apart from translating or Id just go nuts. A
small thing here, a little job there, a blog post here, I need to work on a few things at the same
time to keep my energy and adrenaline high. What about you?
The Controller, as the author says freaks out if he/she doesnt know exactly whats going on
with business and projects at any given time. Someone close to me is a total controller. He is an
excellent project manager with outstanding organisational skills, but at the same time he tries to
do too much, never mind trying to delegate work. Plus, Controllers will have an issue with
To a certain extent, Im a Controller myself. I need a plan and structure for everything (do you
remember my five year plans?), and my every single week is planned out in advance. But, at the
same time, I enjoy unpredictability and the challenges it poses. What about you?
The Shy One, according to the author, is less outgoing than others, a sympathetic listener and
can be very loyal to clients. Yet, the problem with the shy ones is that often marketing is a
struggle for them.
When comes to this aspect, Im a naturally shy person, but when comes to business, I leave it all
behind. I find super strength and courage somewhere and I can market away. One of the ways
Im dealing with managing my shy side is that when comes to business, I tell myself that Im now
working for a business so its not about me, its about the external brand. I see myself as an
employee, rather than the individual concerned, and I carry out work as if I was doing it for
someone else. The shyness seems to go away. What about you, if youre the shy one?


The one piece of advice for freelancers youll find everywhere is as
follows: you need to find your USP, something that makes you different
from others.
USP, Unique Selling Proposition, is your differentiator, the quality that
makes your offering different from others. It doesnt mean youre trying
to be better or get rid of competitors, but that youre providing
something of a different value.
But hey, how am I supposed to find something unique when Im surrounded by other
translators in my language pair?! What makes me unique if were all striving to provide the best,
highest-quality translation, therefore the least visible translation of all? I know these thoughts
very well. Ive been trying to hack this USP for translators thing for years, and heres my take on
Try to complete the following sentences to your best knowledge.

All translation service providers (agencies and freelancers) offer translations that are
All freelance translators offer translations that are
Some translators offer translations that are
Few translators offer translations that are
My translation services are different because.

I know that the last question is the most difficult one. When answering, think about the
following aspects. What is that youre adding to the service youre delivering? Whats individual
about your work, style, business? What comes from your personality, education, experience in
the translations that you provide?
Heres how I tackled this for myself.
All translation service providers offer translations that are good quality and on time.
All freelance translators offer translations that are often better quality than translation
agencies, more polished and with more style.
Some translators offer translations that are really good because they specialise in a few
areas only, so they can really master the topic.
Few translators offer translations that are value-adding for specific industries because
theyre linked with more comprehensive services.
My translation services are different because I provide complex communication services
from content authoring to distribution.
Of course, this is just the first attempt and you can see that it needs work, but its the first step to
developing a USP focusing on my added value. How can this help you? Do you want to have a go
at these questions? Try them in comments below.


Continuing this months thread, I wanted to look at the ways to develop
your USP. Ive read several articles on this topic, and while theyre
obviously useful, theyre concentrating mostly on USP for companies.
As much as I agree that a freelancer is a company in its full rights, Im
sure youll agree with me that a business hiring a few people or selling
products will be working on its USP in a different way than a specialist
In the last lesson, we looked at some tips on how to get on the right
track when comes to thinking about USP. Youll find many more exercises, pieces of advice or
guidelines on how to work on your unique proposition, but I think there are several challenges
related to that when were talking about selling translation. Well, to start with, our work is best
if its unnoticed. How can you make that stand out? How can you make translators invisibility
Areas in developing a translator's USP
One of the most recent articles I came across suggested looking at three areas when developing
your translator's USP: your promise, whats unique, and whats compelling. In other words, your
USP should include the promise you make to your customers, the explanation of what makes
you unique when compared to other providers and what catches the customers eye, or attracts
Thats a challenge, no? First, looking at the promise, what are the things that come to your mind
that you could promise your clients? Superior quality, personal approach, individual attention
The problem is that were all saying that, including translation agencies, and some of us are
miserably failing at it. I havent ever met a translator whod say they deliver poor quality, yet the
universe is full of bad translations. Is this promise really going to work? Even from the clients
perspective it seems unclear. Do they understand the issue of quality in translation? Do they
know what its value for them? Do they realise how much it can cost them (e.g. in lost sales) to
cut corners and save on translation? I dont think so.
Perhaps we all got this promise thing wrong. Perhaps quality isnt what we should be promising
to make our services stand out. Perhaps a good USP should aim at looking for a promise that
matters more or is clearer to the client. I went almost full-on into promising better conversions
and sales, thus higher monetary return.
Uniqueness is an issue in our industry, I dare say. Only this year Ive heard of several cases of
colleagues being too inspired by websites belonging to other, established translators, from
design to copy. Others try to replicate USPs of others, and yet others seem to think that
copywriting means copying somebodys writing. Maybe, just maybe, this comes from the fact


that were so used to taking the ideas drawn up by others and working on recasting those into
other languages. Maybe this is what makes some of us think that we can transcreate
somebodys USP and appropriate the results.
I know its a challenge to be unique in a profession where you have to be invisible. But there are
ways of doing it. Why dont you try to leverage on your personality, interests, or developing a
unique approach? If its hard to make the service itself seem unique (which I also think isnt
entirely true), be more innovative when comes to the packaging.
Finally, compelling. I dont know about you, but for me it is a challenge to make my translation
services so attractive to prospects that they simply cant walk away. Translation to a large
extent is still seen as an expense, not an investment. With the little client education that Im
doing on my end, I can see that its hard to convince businesses that translation can bring them
good returns. For them, it seems to be an ancillary, necessary cost of expanding abroad. Is there
a way of making it compelling?
Id say its doable if you use the emotional approach in your USP, not only the hard-core rational
were so used to. What about discovering what your prospects aspirations are and using this to
talk about translation? Or is it impossible?


In the previous lessons, we talked about creating and crafting your
translation USP and what to take into account. Weve looked at several
elements and aspects to consider, and now its time to think about
where you can use your USP.
I wouldnt like you to think that USP is all about finding what makes you
unique and stand out, and then just keep it somewhere on a side.
Figuring your USP out is a bit like getting your business cards designed:
it will only ever work if you put them to a good use. Where to use your USP then?
Translators mentality
First of all, once youve figured out what makes you stand out, hold on to it and keep repeating it
in the mirror until you finally learn it and make the switch in your thinking. Your USP should be
first and foremost used in the way you think about your work.
Your email signature
Often overlooked, your email signature is one of the most prominent and frequently used
marketing tools. Make sure that you include your USP or at least allude to it in your signature.
This is the place the majority of your clients and prospects see every time you write to them so
make sure you get it out there.
Your business card
The same goes for your business card: its far from being just a small piece of paper giving your
contact details. Youre in fact holding a powerful marketing tool that grabs your audiences
attention at least for a few seconds. Make sure you mention your USP there.
Your translator branding
Some of the core values that you build your USP on should also be present in your branding,
from the colours you use to your brand voice. If youre building your USP on reliability,
innovation and trust, youre going to want to include these values in the way you present your
Copy on your website
One of the most common mistakes when comes to USP is coming up with one, using it as a
slogan, and leaving the rest of the text on your website unchanged. While this would still be
borderline acceptable if your USP isnt too far removed from the text on your website, its
definitely going to make you stand out in a negative way if your copy is totally out of synch with
your USP. This of course applies to other marketing materials, too.


Quotes and estimates

If youre building a funky and energetic translator branding based on a well-aligned USP, and
then you send out a totally boring and flat quote, this may be the reason why clients dont accept
it. Make sure that your more formal documents: quotes, estimates, terms and conditions,
agreements, are still in line with your USP.
Every email you send
Make sure that your USP and the values you stand for are present in every email, every message,
every social media update you share. This is how you make sure that your USP actually reaches
your audience.
So, your homework for today: review your existing materials that I mention above and check if
theyre aligned with your USP.


In the next couple of lessons, Id like to look deeper, look behind the
nice images and see whats going on below the surface of working as a
translator. I asked you both in my newsletter and on Facebook to
suggest the areas and topics youd like to find out more about in this
One colleague in her response said it would be great to know what
worries and insecurities other translators have, or is it just her. Well,
its definitely not just her because I share some of her translation fears, worries and insecurities.
Do we all have them? Lets take a look at some issues that I collected, and added a few of my
There wont be another project
Perhaps most often, all translators seem to fear that the next project will never materialise. Its
totally irrational, difficult to explain and unreasonable. There always is the next project, but try
to tell me that the day after I finished one assignment and theres nothing lined up. Three days
without a project and Im getting paranoid. And no matter how hard I try to take a logical
approach to it, I subconsciously fear what if. Then of course I laugh at myself when three new
projects come in all at the same time.
Im not good enough
This constant doubt and striving for perfection can, of course, be good. The majority of us are
perfectionists and in a profession like translation, its generally a good sign that were doubting
ourselves. Id like to say that with time, this fear goes away, but I think it just diminishes but
accompanies all translators throughout their careers. My weapon to fight it was to take all tests
and obtain all qualifications possible to use these as arguments against my doubting self. But
then I started thinking ok, I was good for this project, but this is a completely new thing what
if Im not good enough for this?. Is there a way out of it?
How do I know Im doing things the right way?
Working alone has its benefits, but its also limiting our opportunities to secretly benchmark
ourselves against co-workers. In a normal office environment, as far as I experienced it, you get
an idea of how others work, how they perform and what their results are. You can more or less
assess yourself against others and get a bit of peace of mind. You can also ask them how theyre
doing things, or just follow their way. In my own business, I develop the rules, procedures, ways
of doing things. And while theres a lot of advice available out there, how do I know I was right?
What if Ive missed something important?


Ill get sick

This may be just me, perhaps not all translators. As a sole breadwinner for years, I developed a
real fear of getting sick and not being able to work. This fear applies to anything from a slight
cold to imagining serious, chronic conditions. My head (and my business continuity plan) is full
of scenarios and emergency measures to deal with sickness, accidents or unforeseen
circumstances. Am I alone in this?
Im doing too many things at the same time
Especially in the current climate where were told that multitasking is wrong and reduces our
productivity, one of my colleagues said that she feels shes trying to do too many things at the
same time, spreading herself too thin and ultimately not being as efficient a translator as she
should be. Of course, monotasking is the trend now, and questions such as do you even have
any time left to translate dont take the pressure off. Perhaps this fear is partially based on the
underlying thought that others wont take us seriously if were doing too many things. While
many or too many things, or time, is subjective, sometimes cutting down on extra or side
projects is counter-effective. There are people out there thriving when doing many things at the
same time.
Im wrong
The fear of being wrong, applying much wider than just to freelance translation, often underpins
many behaviours and reactions. Im scared Im wrong when Im proofreading or editing
somebody elses work, Im scared Im wrong when Im giving advice, Im scared Im wrong when
Im approaching new clients. The good side of this fear is motivating and pushes me to be better.
The dark side of this fear turns some of us aggressive and defensive.
Have you experienced any of these fears? Do you have anything else youve experienced
yourself or observed in others?


In the last lesson we discussed fears and insecurities and to balance
things out, I wanted to look at the opposite end of the scale: what
motivates us and gives us strength to work as a freelance translator,
where can a translator find the strength and motivation. Because its
behind the scenes series, Im going to draw on some examples and
solutions from my own career, but feel free to chime in and add your
points in the comments below.
Im the first one to say that the passion that we have for the profession
works as the best motivator, but between you and me, its not a magic pill that sorts everything
else out. And sometimes even if this passion was great in the beginning, it becomes tarnished
with time and some negative experiences. And on other occasions, no matter how passionate I
feel about translation in general, I simply dont get all that excited in a particular period or on a
particular assignment.
Feeling low levels of motivation or strength isnt necessarily a disaster in itself. We all have ups
and downs. But it becomes an issue if it takes longer than usual and starts affecting our work.
How do we fix it, then? Take a look at some of my solutions, in no particular order.
Take a day off and away from devices
When Im feeling down or overwhelmed, what usually helps is getting away from my computer,
tablet, smartphone, everything. Just taking a real day off out in a park or a museum, reading a
book in a caf and eating out in a cosy local restaurant. On days like this (now making it into my
weekly routine), I dont check Facebook, Twitter or Skype, or sometimes I dont even take any
devices with me.
If Im feeling generally uninspired about what Im doing, I volunteer using my skills to see the
real impact of my work on peoples lives. I used to volunteer for Victim Support and now Ive
just finished interpreting as a volunteer at a centre for migrants in need of support. Apart from
doing the obvious good, volunteering for those who really need help puts your life into a specific
perspective and its easier to reconnect with what drives you.
Mentor a newcomer
One of the biggest sources of motivation and strength is sharing your passion with another
person and talking about your profession. Helping a colleague out is again a good thing in itself,
but it also forces you to think about creative solutions and pieces of advice directing you to a
path of self-reflection.


Go to a translation event
I remember a particularly gloomy period when I had lots of rather uninteresting work (or I
believe I just lost interest in it because I was feeling uninspired in general) and I saw a reminder
in my calendar about a translation duel taking place in London. I went there and it was so
amazing to see two translators who worked on the same piece of text discuss each sentence,
each preposition, each choice they made with so much passion and dedication. Its infectious.
Going to translation events or conferences gives you that kind of a boost.
Work from a different location
I love my home office, but every now and then its a good idea to change the scenery. In the past
year, I worked at a several local cafes, in museums, in the British Library, in parks and in the
underground (I kid you not). Working from a different place than usual can be a nice change for
my mind. As much as I like silence and white walls, different stimuli can provide new insights.
Where do you take your motivation and strength to work as a freelance translator from? Whats
keeping you going?


The topic for the last part of the behind the scenes series has been
following me for a while, and I think its time to talk about success. The
first time I thought about this article, a few months back, it was
prompted by a conversation I had with a colleague in a different
industry. This colleague, intrigued by my moderately popular YouTube
channel and thinking of launching something similar in his line of work,
asked me how to get that many views and subscribers in a niche
industry (yes, thats how translation is seen by outsiders).
Well, my response was as follows: First you get really good at what youre doing, your core
business, then you train yourself up in the business side of things, and then you feel the calling
to share it with your colleagues, so you think of best ways to share what you know. As you start
moving things around, you see there are people around you who want to listen to you, that
motivates you, so you work harder. Finally, you get an idea that maybe YouTube videos, not yet
very popular in the industry, might be something that could take off. So first you laugh it off
(Videos? Me? Seriously?), but then you brace yourself, learn how to do it, get the equipment, get
out of your comfort zone, and then KEEP getting out of your comfort zone for a year or two, and
there you go.
No, replied my colleague, you didnt understand my question. I just wanted to know how to get
as many views and subscribers as you have.
I run the Business School for Translators, among my other activities, and while Ive been
privileged enough to have a group of colleagues around me who may initially ask How do you
become successful as a translator? or How do you find direct clients?, the majority of them
would quickly understand that success isnt built on a checklist of steps that guarantee a specific
Speaking of checklists, my initial idea for the book was to collect a variety of checklists on
business, marketing and sales for translators. Why have I changed this seemingly great concept
into 170 pages of theories on business and economics? Precisely for this reason. I grew to
realise that if I pretended theres a list of steps to take to guarantee success as a translator that
just needed ticking off, Id be lying and misleading people.
Yet I received an email from one disappointed reader who commented that translators need
practical solutions, not theories.
Or, to give you another example, Im sure youve seen questions asked on various fora along the
lines of: How do I get work from agencies? or How do I get started as a translator?. The
majority of responses are sensible pointers towards useful sources, but they dont usually
receive the gratitude they deserve. Whats in fashion is quick solutions and blog posts with lists


of ten steps to succeeding in the industry (I know, I wrote one and it was one of the most
frequently shared posts on this blog). It all makes it look like success happens overnight if you
simply follow a list of steps.
Heres the truth: success as a freelance translator comes after a few years of the hardest work of
your life.
After years of studying, learning and working, I discovered that there are no shortcuts, there are
no checklists, and there are no universal keys that open all doors. There are no articles that will
genuinely make you successful in ten short steps, there are no logos that will attract a stream of
clients to you, and there are certainly no business courses that will turn you into an overnight
Of course, the promise of instant success is always more appealing and attracts more attention
than the truth. Of course its more fun to read an article with five steps to a successful freelance
career than, for example, how to use Porters five forces for your business. Of course its easier
to listen to gurus who suggest five quick-solution passive income streams to boost your income
than to a patient, more senior colleague who suggests improving your translation skills for the
third time.
And what Ive learned from the most successful colleagues is that they never stop working hard.
Its precisely this attitude that keeps them on top of the game.
If someone ever asks me How to find direct clients?, Ill probably start by saying that first they
need to learn how to write well, very well, in their own language, then Well, see above.


Some time ago Csaba Ban hosted yet another BP conference, this time
in Zagreb, Croatia. This independently organised translation conference
attracted a pool of colleagues and speakers, and it was great to see so
many new faces, too.
Ive been to a few conferences in the past three or four years. Usually
Im looking forward to the event, until the day before I get an urgent
request and I have to stay up late, or even take some work with me.
Over the years I became much better at it and I dont take work with
me. That way I can enjoy the event itself more and tune in to whats being said rather than keep
checking my email (or even translating). Time and time again, when Im back home after the
conference, I suffer from post-conference blues (Google it to see youve got it too). A day or two
and Im back up to speed with loads of work in the pipeline. The conference mood slowly drifts
away and it quickly becomes a nice memory.
However, one of the biggest challenges (apart from dealing with post-conference blues of
course) is how to make the most of what youve learned and experienced at a conference and
ultimately, how to apply all the tips youve collected. Here are some ideas for this conference
1) Take time to reflect
Flights back from a conference are usually a good opportunity to sit and reflect on the past few
days. All of a sudden youre no longer surrounded with colleagues, the buzz is gone, so take
some time to think: how was the event, what have you learned, how is it going to make you
2) Write your reflections down
What I noticed works very well for me is to write down the stream of consciousness arising
from my reflection, mostly just for the sake of writing it down and unwinding, if you like. I
sometimes do that on rough paper, sometimes on my laptop, but always keep it just for myself.
Its my personal diary and helps my mind make sense of all the events. Of course, you'll see
some colleagues publishing their reflections in blog posts.
3) Write takeaways down
When I get home, or the day after the latest, I note down what I learned and group it in three
categories: ideas, strategies, tools. Under ideas, youll find all the big thoughts that I heard or
that struck me: more philosophical perhaps, or something to ponder on. Strategies list
everything new I learned about running or improving a business. And finally tools are a list of
new apps, software, websites I heard about at the conference. A good way to approach it if you


havent been making notes during the conference itself is to go through the programme again
and remind yourself what each talk you went to offered.
4) Make a list of actions
Following from my list of takeaways, I always try to draft a list of actions. If I heard of a useful
tool, Id write something like: Try Todoist out or Look into getting brochures printed for a
targeted direct mailing campaign. Or if I heard of a useful strategy to grow business from a
colleague, Id definitely write down trying it out as one of my actions. Phrasing actions starting
with a verb makes it easier to act upon them (rather than writing down Todoist and printed
brochures and then forgetting what I was supposed to do them in the first place).
5) Allocate time for post-conference actions
I usually allocate about 3 hours for a post-conference unwind. That includes everything from
dropping a line to new people I met, through dealing with expense receipts, to turning my list of
actions into well, actions. If some points from my action list require further research or more
time, I allocate appropriate time slots to them in the next week after the event.
Do you have any other strategies?


Surrounded with a variety of sources (including my blog), were
exposed to tips and pieces of advice on how to run a translation
business on a day to day basis. Add several books and a couple of
translation conferences a year and youll end up with a great collection
of useful bits on paper. I know from my own experience both on the
receiving end and as a business trainer that hearing and learning about
business theories, skills and solutions and applying them are two
completely different worlds. The problem these days isnt in limited
sources but rather in our limitations in applying what weve learned.
How many times have you felt that you came across a really useful suggestion that could work
for you but then you get swamped with work and all these ideas just drift away? Or how many
times have you attended a workshop, left inspired, but then struggled to put any of it in practice
to improve your actual translation business? Maybe even reading an article , you note down a
couple of interesting bits, but you never make them work?
I think that business skills, tips and knowledge especially need mechanisms in place to put them
in practice. Of course its important to find time and make space to learn, but its equally or even
more important to design implementation. Based on experience, I wanted to share my 5-step
guide to applying business knowledge to your translation business.
1. Answer this question: why did I want to learn about it in the first place?
From being attracted to an article headline to jumping and signing up to an interesting
workshop, theres always something that attracts us to this particular new bit of knowledge.
Why did you read it in the first place? What made you register? Thinking about and focusing on
our motivations helps us discover the pain were trying to heal in our business.
Acknowledging this pain or shortcoming or need is the first step to defining whats missing or
what needs fixing in your translation business. Accepting that something needs a mend or
improvement is the first step to changing it.
2. Review what youre doing now and reflect on it.
If I see Im reading many articles about time management or that when I see a workshop on
improving time management for busy business people, I acknowledge that the area I need to
work on is obviously time management. The next step after this realisation is to review your
current situation and actions in this area. I need help with time management because Im
accepting too many commitments, I cant prioritise and I end up being overworked. I work with
a detailed calendar but I often consciously overbook myself and expect to do two things at the
same time or work on a plane after a very short night. I know what Im doing right, but Im
aware of what Im doing wrong as well.


3. Formulate the new approach.

This was exactly the reason why I spoke to Marie Jackson from Looking-glass Translations who
kindly offered productivity consultancy sessions to her blog readers. We had a great
conversation via Skype and then Marie sent loads of follow-up documents. I also read up on the
topic. And of course it all couldve ended here, with me being painfully aware of my problem and
knowing what to do to fix it but never doing it. Instead, I decided to use all of this knowledge to
formulate my new approach. I even narrowed it down to one sentence: ignore shiny objects.
This was my new attitude to managing my own time and I created a set of rules that came
attached to this approach. I knew that from then on, this was how I was going to manage my
4. Set a SMART goal.
Of course, formulating your new approach to a problem, challenge or business area is crucial
but not enough. Setting clear SMART goals is what really forces you to use this approach. My
ignore shiny objects approach manifested itself in me:
Specific: ignoring all events, conferences and blog articles that didnt meet the criteria
developed within my new approach and creating a 3-month calendar of events.
Measurable: limiting the number of events I attend to two a month and using the time saved on
more scalable promotional efforts.
Achievable: I respected all previous commitments but declined all new ones or unconfirmed
Relevant: I knew that my goal was to save time.
Time-bound: Until the end of the year.
5. Measure your results.
Its easy for me to measure my results with the time management example: I can look at my
calendar to see if Im keeping up. It may be a bit more tricky with other tips or business skills,
but measuring your success or return on investment is crucial. You may want to decide to
measure it in terms of time, money, relationships built, your own satisfaction As long as youre
measuring results and then can review by the end of your SMART period.
Any tricks on applying what you've learned to your translation business?


Thank you for following this series on putting things into practice so
closely! Weve had some great discussions and its good to know youre
benefitting from this topic. I wanted to dedicate the last article in this
series to managing non-translation projects, that is everything related
to running our marketing, sales, business development or even day-today operations.
Of course, we know how to manage *translation* projects very well (at
least we should!), but very often all the development projects suffer from neglect or undermanagement. Earlier in the series we talked about making the most out of all the ideas that are
floating around and all the inspiration that you draw from events and conferences. In this article
Id like to present some tools and methodologies to actually work on the projects youve
Getting Things Done methodology
Having learned about it from one colleagues, Ive been trying to apply the GTD methodology in
my business for a good few months now. If youre not familiar with it yet, GTD forces you to act
upon your ideas and plans. Heres what GTD recommends:
1) Capture: write all your ideas, to-dos and tasks down on paper or on your device. The idea is
that you have to make it easy to capture information so you dont put things off for later. I use
my whiteboard to collect ideas and plans, I just write them down the moment they come to my
mind. If Im away, I use my smartphone or tablet to send emails to myself (the founder of this
methodology would probably tell me off for adding to my never-ending pile of emails, but it
works for me) to act as reminders.
2) Clarify: GTD puts a lot of emphasis on actually breaking your to-do points into actionable
steps. This is often complemented with the 2 minute rule: if you can do it in 2 minutes, do it
now, but if its going to take longer, schedule some time to do it later. If you can delegate
something, do it. Ive been delegating a range of tasks for 2 years now and this has freed up a
considerable amount of time in my diary.
3) Organise: put actionable items in categories and by priority, plus assign due dates and set
reminders. Its easy to feel overwhelmed if you have dozens of plans, ideas and to-do lists, so
actually spreading it across a period of time and prioritising can help you get out of the paralysis
4) Reflect: look at to-dos to figure out the next step, improve existing points and pick things you
have time and energy to do right now. This is an important step for me as I usually have a
variety of tasks on my plate that require different skills and levels of engagement. Its essential
for me to identify what I feel like doing right now and picking the right type of task. On a Friday


afternoon, I may not feel like writing a blog article or doing marketing, but I can certainly go
through a pile of documents to shred.
5) Engage: choose your next action and get to it. If things are well-described and organised, it
becomes much easier to pick up any task, starting with smaller items, to work on them. I usually
prepare my list for the day in the morning when I can estimate requirements and my energy
With its origins in the manufacturing industry, Kanban has been widely adopted in many project
management environments. In its most basic form, Kanban urges you to use cards or post-it
notes, something to stick them onto and a pen. Your Kanban board should be divided into: To
do, Doing and Done. The idea is to write down all steps in each project on post-its and move
them from To do, to Doing and to Done. This gives you a visual representation of what youre
working on and whats in the pipeline. Ive worked using my Kanban and a whiteboard up until
last year when I started travelling more and it became increasingly harder to keep the
whiteboard updated.

Gantt charts
Beautiful in their simplicity and deadline-oriented, Gantt charts allow for representation of your
projects on a timeline showing the logical sequence of all tasks. I personally find Gantt charts
great for marketing projects where I know what I have to do first so I can move on to the next

When it comes to overall business management for the whole year, you may also enjoy the
article I wrote for CTA blog on getting things done for translators.


As part of my recent presentation in Rotterdam, I did a small
experiment and I applied some of my favourite social science
approaches to a freelance translators career. We talked about
paradoxes, wicked problems and messes. The translation profession is
full of them, you cant deny that!
Our working definition for the talk, and how I invite you to see
paradoxes in the light of this article, was a mind-boggling, surprising
statement contradictory in its nature or in contradiction with common
or individual knowledge. We agreed that some situations or sentences are so puzzling that we
instinctively feel theyre causing an internal (or sometimes indeed external) conflict.
I think its extremely important to acknowledge these paradoxes because they need to be
understood, analysed, acted upon or accepted. I divided paradoxes I came across in my career
into four stages, from still being a student to running an established business.
Stage 1: Paradoxes in translators training
If theres no one right solution, why is my solution wrong?
Youve surely came across this one if you ever had your translation checked by a tutor. If youre
being told that theres no just one good translation, how come all you can see when you get your
text back is red lines?
Sometimes the simplest translation problems are most difficult to solve.
One of the first thing Ive learned as a translator was that the simplest words or expressions
would often pose the biggest challenges. This explains the sheer complexity of the process but
also causes lots of frustration to a newcomer.
If theres no one right solution, how do I know Im doing it right?
One of the most puzzling thoughts Ive been faced with, and I think its essential in establishing
ones confidence as a translator. How do you know youre doing the right thing? How to verify
it? Or is it even possible?
The first step in the translation process is to read the brief. Wait, what?
It was an important lesson for me and I think it still remains a real shock to any graduating
translation student. Many aspects of what were being taught at universities or courses doesnt
really happen in the real life. For example, getting translation briefs.
Stage 2: Translator transition
You need to get some experience before you start working but you need work to get


If youre just transitioning into freelance translation, youll surely be faced with this unsolvable
conundrum. At a first sight, you cant really break the cycle. Many newcomers are indeed stuck
and give up. Is there a way out of it?
If you want to find work, start working at lower rates and raise them with experience.
False! One of the most credible paradoxes because from the outset, it kind of makes sense. If
youre hired, youre usually earning less as a newcomer and then progress through the stages of
your career, earning more and more. However, its a fallacy in business. If you start charging less
now, youll never break out of this pattern.
I dont have money to invest but I wont have money without investing.
If youre not investing, youre less likely to make more money. If youre waiting to invest in a
new PC, CAT tool or training, hoping youll soon start earning more, youre falling a victim of this
fallacious thinking. Invest first, reap rewards later.
Stage 3: Establishing business
Though Im great with other peoples words, Im bad at communication.
Something that I noticed in the second or third year of running my business (and havent fixed
until a couple of years later) was that though I was great with translating other peoples
communication materials, I myself wasnt a great communicator. How did that happen?
I do lots of outbound marketing but I dont pick up the phone when it rings.
Guilty as charged a few years back, much better now. Maybe this pattern is familiar to you, too:
go out there to an event, hand out business cards, follow-up and then just dodge a hint at
meeting up. Or just dont pick up the phone. Isnt that the most paradoxical of behaviours for a
business owner?
The narrower I specialise, the more jobs I get.
It usually takes a while to let it go and understand that narrowing fields of expertise down
doesnt mean there will be less work quite the contrary! Though its paradoxical with what the
gut or common sense tells you, its true.
The busier I am, the busier I am.
As paradoxical as it sounds, being busy can only mean youll get busier.
You need to see the value of your work to make others see the value of your work.
Just thinking that clients need to value/appreciate/reward translation work more is hardly ever
going to work. It takes being convinced yourself first.
Stage 4: Business-as-usual
I need technology; technology threatens to replace me.
Some colleagues (let me know if its not you in comments below) seem to be caught in this tricky
situation where they do realise they cannot work without technology and at the same time are


afraid its going to replace them anyway. How to balance these two? Or is this position justified
at all?
Experienced translators are good. Good translators are experienced.
An example of fallacious thinking which took me years and years to realise. I lived convinced
that all experienced translators, those whove been working in the industry for years, are always
good and conversely that good translators are always those whore the most experienced. Life
has proven me wrong.
The more I give back, the more I have for myself.
Giving back to the profession, something you usually start thinking about a few good years into
stable business, is perhaps the most enriching of experiences. Every little thing you do for your
colleagues gives you satisfaction and what goes round, comes round, also by way of
The more you criticise someone for something, the more likely youre to be guilty of it
This is perhaps one of my most recent lessons learned. We often see, especially on social media,
certain groups criticising others for doing this or that, or failing to do this or that. It also boils
down to individuals. It has only dawned on me recently that those who criticise the loudest
sometimes (not always) are those whore guilty themselves.
What are the paradoxes that you came across? How did you manage to solve them?


Though the business world may seem paradoxical, especially if youre
facing tough and puzzling situations at various stages of your career,
Ive identified some translation business paradoxes that are in fact true.
Even more so, theyre true and helpful. Sometimes looking at sentences
that make you think twice forces you to reconsider your beliefs and
So in this article I wanted to share 7 of such paradoxes with you hoping
theyll provide some food for thought.
1. The more you fail, the more likely you are to succeed.
As business people, as translators, as perfectionists, were very tough on ourselves when it
comes to failure. Were often doing all we can to avoid it or even putting ourselves in situations
where we may be risking failing. And of course, were doing that because we want to succeed,
not fail. But what if failing more equals, in fact, succeeding more?
2. The more something scares you, the more you should probably do it.
Of course marketing is scary! Of course going to client events is intimidating! Of course giving a
talk gets you out of your comfort zone. What I learned with time was that the more scared I feel
in business, the more I should do it. And it pays.
3. The more you try to argue with someone, the less likely you are to convince them of
your perspective.
As seen on social media, endless arguments make both sides only more adamant about their
own views. One of the most important lessons in business for me was to understand that letting
go may not be the quickest, but its by far the surest way of getting heard.
4. The more choices you have, the less satisfied you are with each one.
Applies to me, but also my clients. The sooner I get the client before he or she looks at several
providers and collects quotes from a number of them, the happier they are. Its subconscious.
This one is for the ladies: a few weeks ago I really wanted a new clutch (as in: REALLY). I found
the perfect one online and went off to get it at the weekend. Of course, when I got to the
department store and I wandered around looking at all the other bags, I ended up liking my
perfect bag a bit less. Not that I liked any other one more. I just had too much choice. Simple


5. The best way to learn how to become a better translator is to become a client.
Believe me, one of the most important lesson in business for me was to buy a few translations
from others. You can learn the bad sides, of course, seeing colleagues you trusted before miss
deadlines or make typos, or just behave unprofesh. But the amount of positive learning
experience you can take away from seeing marvellous work is worth it.
6. If we want to educate our clients about translation, we must first educate ourselves
about our clients.
Over the years, Ive heard many colleagues claim that we need to educate clients. Of course, its
true, but we shouldnt attempt at doing it knowing very little about clients ourselves, or were
risking boring the other side or worse misadvising them. If we want to educate, we need to
know the audience first.
7. If we want to make money as a translator, we must concentrate on the work not the
Perhaps quite controversially, in the light of the heated debate on translation rates, Id like to
reiterate: if you want to make money as a translator, concentrate on the work, not the money. Of
course, Im the first person to tell you that you need to do your maths, have your financial goals
and track them, but dont let that make you lose sight of the actual work. Time and time again,
analysing my income, I see that I make much more when I focus on translation than when I
focus on chasing big bucks.
What about you? What are your paradoxes?


Sooner or later, we all get to grow as translators and reach a point in
our careers where things are going satisfactorily well, we have a large
and diverse pot of clients and were generally happy with the business
and career. Its often referred to in business as plateau: after climbing
up for a while and building solid foundations, you reach a safe haven
and calm waters. But equally, things just keep being the same when
youve reached your plateau.
The sameness of things may be a relief for many freelancers. No more
restless pursuits of customers, no more heavy marketing campaigns, fewer financial worries.
Yet at the same time, in business sense, its not a good place to be. It means your business is no
longer developing and its on the path to its end of life.
Dont get me wrong, it feels sooo great to enjoy your plateau for a while (go on holidays, release
the pressure, cut down working hours, etc.), but planning to stay there forever is not a viable
business approach.
What can you do after your business has plateaued then?
Change nothing.
Of course, you can just keep doing what youve been doing and enjoy your stability. It will work
for some translators in some language pairs in some niches. If youre one of them and youre
enjoying the sameness theres no need to change anything.
Move up market.
For the majority of businesses, a plateau is a place where they re-group and think of strategies
to give them a boost to jump upwards in terms of sales and revenue. While as a translator you
cant really work more hours, the only viable way of increasing your revenue is to start charging
more. This is where all the conversations about the premium market come in.
Develop another specialism.
While Im personally not a fan of developing more specialisms (Im one of those whod tell you
go deeper into the topic you already know), its a viable strategy that could spur your growth. If
youve spotted a lucrative, promising niche and need to train up, go for it.
Diversify your services.
Another way to tackle it is to keep working within your specialisms but diversifying the range of
services youre providing. For example, Ive been translating online content for the Polish


market for years, and in the beginning of this year I added content marketing, copywriting and
A/B testing services to my portfolio, just to name a few.
Work in a team.
Where you cant break in as a freelancer (and many companies have valid or less so reasons
why they cant or wont work with freelancers), you may have a better shot at it in a team.
Getting together with the right people and branding your team services can get you where you
couldnt have gone by yourself. This includes forming teams not only with translators, but for
example with web designers or programmers, or DTP specialists.
Start outsourcing.
Some colleagues, when overflowing with work, start outsourcing translations to others and then
proofread them before delivering to their clients, paying the actual translator and keeping a
margin for themselves. My personal preference in terms of outsourcing is to outsource non-core
tasks in my business (since my unique style and knowledge is what Im implicitly selling in my
translations) to free up time to translate more. In the past, Ive outsourced: accounting and
taxes, administration, market research, some marketing, social media, DTP, website creation
and maintenance, file organisation and cleanup, among others.
Morph into a translation company.
If you feel like you have an appetite for risk, management and even more problem-solving,
setting up a translation company may be the best way for you. A translator as an agency owner
can bring a lot of value, but what Ive been hearing from colleagues is that they often go into it
thinking its not much different from being a freelancer, just doing it on a bigger scale. Well, just
a word of caution: running a translation agency is very much different from being a translator
and youre definitely spending more time as a business administrator than anything else.
Can you think of any other potential avenues of growth?


The first public speaking appearance Ive ever made was a webinar I
delivered for eCPD Webinars in 2012. Lucy from eCPD Webinars
approached me following the publication of my ebook and asked if I
was interested in giving a talk on this topic. At the time, I thought of it
as a one-off. Always the quiet person at the back of the room, I didnt
see myself giving talks and presentations. And yet between then and
now, I was invited to a few conferences and events. Always with the
same thrill and excitement (as I learned from public speaking guides
you should never call it stress) these talks left me with (good and worse) memories and
several slide decks.
Since Im not going to be around much next year, I thought Id release most of my slides on
Slideshare. Heres the first slide deck Ive ever delivered:
CVs and cover letters that work
(Dont comment on design at least I tried! The questions on the last slide still hold
Blue Ocean Strategy (Cracow Translation Days 2013)
Exploring the freelance advantage (Porto 2013)
How to get the first client (2013 webinar)
Public service and business interpreting (2013)
Clients, clients everywhere (Traduemprende 2013)
Blogging and social media for professional purposes (2014)
Launching a successful freelance career
The powerful freelancer (2014)
Boost your business with a plan (2014)
Making the most of working in downturn
The business of translation for interpreters
Paradoxes of freelance translation (2015)
Cloud computing for translators (2015)
How to market your services effectively (2015)


Its easier to give advice and point out the mistakes of younger
colleagues (wannabes, newbies, however you decide to call them).
Been there, done that, went through similar issues so I can share my
experience. And I certainly was very grateful to receive pointers when
I was starting out.
But what about the more experienced translators? Maybe were not
making mistakes anymore after weve been around for 3, 4, 5 or 6
years. Maybe we have our own, trusted sources. Or maybe we dont ask for this sort of advice
In my pondering, I did a bit of an introspective journey to try and uncover what I thought some
of the mistakes Ive been making (or observing) were. And no, this article isnt a list of things
more experienced colleagues are failing at but an honest conversation with myself and maybe,
just maybe, youll find some aspects resounding with you.
Relying too much on your memory or experience
Of course getting more experience in an area speeds us up, makes us better translators, results
in higher per hour income, but what if we become too reliant on memory or experience? Ive
seen this word before, I remember how I translated it, Ive worked on a similar text all of these
can be positive and tricky at the same time. Overreliance on how I did something in the past
makes me less vigilant, less curious, less attentive. I gloss over a text perhaps without giving it
the right attention.
And what about proper text analysis? We learn about it as translation students, but with time
we tend to skip it. What happens with this powerful tool? Does it get internalised as wed hope it
to, or does it get blunt?
Not following developments
I remember when I was a new translator, I followed everything: read all magazines, subscribed
to all newsletters, went to all events I could. Of course, you shouldnt be doing that forever. But
what I noticed now is that Im less and less likely to read an industry magazine, Im less likely to
catch up with a colleagues blog, Im less likely to focus on whats going on.
Well, all these sources are still somewhere there, in the periphery, but I dont pay as much
attention to them as I used to. Im telling myself that Im too busy working, that Ill catch up with
newsletters over the weekend, that next year I will go to this or that event and I never do.
What I can do these days is, at most, scroll through subject lines and titles to get the gist of
whats happening. Of course, Im still up-to-date with the major developments, but I don't have
the drive to go into details as much as before.


Been there, done that attitude

After being in the industry for a few years, its quite easy to get the been there, done that
attitude: youve read similar articles, heard similar discussions, been to similar events or even
worked on similar projects, so its nothing new for you, you no longer see why anyone would be
excited about a conference, an opportunity or a project, its all becoming very casual, almost
pedestrian. Nothing surprises you anymore, very few things really get you interested and
To a certain extent, feeling like this is normal. But sometimes we can go a step too far and
discourage a younger colleague or undermine their enthusiasm by insisting that everythings
the same. Its hard to get the same novice-like attitude, but letting this been there, done that
approach influence your thinking is likely to make work less fun for you. Or sometimes we may
end up even neglecting the useful ideas with could add to our repertoire because they're hidden
in the midst of things we already know.
The curse of knowledge
Something Ive noticed I was doing myself was throwing acronyms, names, ideas, people,
companies assuming that everyone knows what I was talking about. This insider knowledge is
often a source of pride, a sign of belonging and possessing privileged information. Its easy to
forget that getting to the point of understanding all this and seeing connections in the industry
takes ages it certainly took me a few good years. All of a sudden we expect everyone around us
from another colleague to a newcomer to the industry to be getting the same acronyms,
names and concepts. And when they dont, we often remark that they must have been living
under a rock
What Ive realised over the years is that Ill be in a much better position if I assume that my
interlocutors dont have this privileged knowledge that is, if I want to communicate, not
impress them. And of course, its up to me to share information with them.
Rosy retrospection
Dont we all get the feeling that things were better in the past every now and then? Im certainly
guilty of that. Rates used to be higher, we were treated better, translation agencies used to be
nicer to work with, and everything that we have now is worse or somewhat lacking. The same
principle applies to some bigger mechanisms in the industry: were now threatened more than
ever, its now easier for unqualified people to claim theyre translators, and so on. Its a fallacy
in general things are getting better but our sentiment tells us were in a worse and worse
This thinking affects us in a negative way, but sometimes it can also lead us to discouraging
younger colleagues: things arent as good as they were before, so maybe you want to think
about it twice.
At the end of the day, we should know that aging is inevitable, maturing is optional. Hopefully,
by being aware that we sometimes make these mistakes, we become not only more experienced
translators, but wiser ones as well.
Any other mistakes you can think of?


Im quieter than usual on my blog and social media, perhaps slowly
turning into a lurking type. I committed to switch to listening instead of
talking and Ive observed (and at times been dragged into) some
interesting exchanges, both online and off-line.
One of my favourite theories on communication is Paul Grices
cooperative principle focusing on how people interact with one
another. Phrased prescriptively, the principle tells us to make your
contribution such as it is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the
accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged." According to
Grice, this lies at the foundation of successful communication.
You may or may not be familiar with Grices principle, but you surely know how to create pieces
of text successful at communicating ideas. Its an essential skill for a translator. Whats been
puzzling me for a couple of weeks now is how a group of language professionals making their
living on communication can sometimes be so notoriously bad at communicating with each
other. The number of misunderstandings, rows and criticisms only confirm that something is
not quite right here. Lets see if Grices maxims can be of help in analysing this situation.
Maxim of Quality: try to make your contribution one that is true
According to Grices first principle, we should not say what we believe is false and more
importantly not say that for which we lack adequate evidence. Of course, adequacy is
disputable, but basing statements, complaints or sometimes formal allegations on hearsay or
someones interpretation of a situation is dangerous, leave alone unfair. I think this applies in
particular to public spaces, such as for example dubious Facebook discussions presenting mere
guesses as hard truth. Insinuations, wondering and pondering have space in private discussions,
but throwing them out there as contributions to public debates seems to violate the maxim of
Maxim of Quantity: make your contribution as informative as required
But dont make it more informative than needed. Sometimes simple questions need simple,
short answers, without the need to belabour the subject. What youll often see online is a real
flood of responses, often repetitive and therefore unhelpful. What Grice would probably suggest
is checking what others said or wrote on the topic before contributing and if still deciding to
contribute, making the response informative but not overbearing. The same goes the other way
round. If I send a professional, 10-line email asking precise questions and suggesting a solution
in a particular situation as our first email exchange ever, replying in two words clearly violates
this maxim.


Maxim of Relevance: be relevant

Ive seen many discussions like this and I think youll agree where the curious inquirer asks a
precise question and in return receives dozens of contributions either missing the point, or
simply offering unwanted and unasked for advice or criticism. This is tiring (or readers, and
even more so for moderators) and unproductive. Grice would suggest separating threads and
discussions and keeping them to the point. Otherwise, how can we have a dialogue if were
constantly changing the topic? I feel strongly about this maxim and I think this is the reason why
mass chat platforms such as Whatsapp never did it for me.
Maxim of Manner: be clear
Although Grices original maxim refers mostly to the clarity of expression, I think theres much
more that falls under manner here. Having witnessed a variety of discussions recently, I feel like
the maxim of manner should also include: dont discriminate against interlocutors, dont throw
racial abuse, dont swear excessively, dont be rude, dont attack, dont hide facts for your own
advantage and use them against your interlocutor later, dont act with superiority Im sure you
could add a few to this list.
Id risk saying that sometimes, in some circles and some situations (now, this is a caveat!) we,
translators and interpreters, are like shoemakers children going barefoot. Do we really use up
all of our communicative capacity in client-facing situations and theres so little left for other
modes of activity? To what extent is this just fine? Or perhaps theres something we should
remind ourselves following Grice?


Like many linguists, I really like studying and discovering new fields.
Its part and parcel of our job. What works really well with me is to set
goals in my learning. And by that I dont mean aspirational timelines or
ephemeral end points, but real, concrete goals. Most of them take the
form of official examination. I guess this is how I ended up with a
certificate in IT and business analysis. In the past few weeks, Ive been
studying modelling business processes and of course, I took the exam
As always when getting my hands on a new piece of business-related knowledge, I immediately
think of ways to apply it to my business and by extension to every freelancers business.
Seeing your translation business from the process perspective is exactly this: you recast your
business as a set of processes that happen inside the business to deliver value to customers. To
be able to do that, you need to identify your inputs, outputs, how they get transformed from one
into another and your value proposition. But before we get into it, lets take a step back and go
through the steps of process mapping.
At the highest level, any modelling exercise will involve looking at the context in which you
operate. One of the tools I found most useful to grasp the context is Harmons alternative view of
an organisation, see below.

In this view, you can see how your business relates to the external environment (and a very
good idea in here is to conduct a PESTLE analysis!), but also you can map out your customers,
competition and perhaps suppliers. Of course, the number of insights you get from this exercise
will be plenty.
A step lower, youre encouraged to draw a process map, which is an outline of processes that
make up your business together with dependencies between them. In here you can see a rough
draft of a process map of my business which I drew today.


What have I learned from it? Mapping my processes out has definitely helped me to realise that I
need all of these elements to function properly as a business (ok, not that I didnt realise this
before it reminded me of this fact). But I was definitely forced to think whether I was
neglecting any of these core processes
At an ever more granular level, process modelling gets down to documenting the flow of
specific tasks within each process. Such a view, also called a swimlane diagram, outlines all
actors, key decisions and business rules, as well as step by step tasks that need to happen for
each project to finish.

Ive just started drawing my swim lane for Acquire Customers from above. It will take me a
while to document it, but Ive already noticed some interesting elements, for example inefficient
communication and handovers between me and my assistant and the horror bottlenecks
that I was creating myself!
My next step will be to document the Translate and Proofread Texts process. Why do I think its
important? I believe in documenting undocumented processes. This is how I do business and its
important for me to be clear on the next step, but I can also use a process diagram to explain to
clients how working with me looks like. That way I can also ensure consistency, especially when
working with others. I can also look for potential problems or see how I can improve my
customer service. If you work with others, documenting your processes is likely to improve
collaboration and bring efficiency gains. Of course, my article barely scratches the surface here,
but I gave you an idea and a few keywords to carry on researching.
Or am I going over the top here? Do you see yourself mapping your business processes in such a
rigorous way or am I alone in my madness? :)


I recently gave a talk at my Alma Mater to a group of translation
students. Seeing my lecturers, the building I knew so well, hearing
questions I swear I had when I was on the other side... All this made me
reflect and go back in time to the days when I was a student. I put all
these thoughts together in a letter to my younger self as a translator.
This is what I'd say to myself. What would you want your younger
translator self to know?
Dear Marta,
Thank you so much for your message. Its wonderful to see a young and dedicated student working
hard with the aim of ultimately entering and succeeding in the translation and interpreting
You asked me for some advice and Im glad to share my experience. I think its great that you
approached a more established translator for their insights we all benefit from learning from our
peers and those with more experience. Thanks for also outlining your background, as that makes it
much easier for me to respond. Now to get to your main question: Which things do I wish I knew
or did back when I was starting my career?
First, I wish I had translated more from day one. I read somewhere that if you are a writer you
write, and I think the same applies to translation. You are a translator if you translate, and I wish I
was stubborn and persistent enough to translate a short text, any text, of around 200 to 300
hundred words, every day, even at the start. This is an excellent exercise that grants you experience
and exposure to a variety of texts, while also helping to improve your confidence. Better still, Id
have tried to find people to join me in this, and regularly meet up to discuss our respective
translations and opinion of the text. Not only is this fun (I chose translation for a reason I do
enjoy it!), but it helps to establish good practices and improve your skills, even before youve gone
Second, and somewhat related, remember that you should be striving to get better every day, with
every job. Dont settle once youve finished your degree and think thats it, and you dont need to
keep working on your skills. Quite the contrary, you should be working more and more to get
better over time. This is necessary if you want to move upmarket.
There is no course, no webinar, no book, no professional association, and certainly no Facebook
group that will turn you into an established translator overnight. No level of business or marketing
expertise can ever make up for deficiencies in core skills. By all means, work on getting better at
the business side of things, but never ever stop working on becoming a better translator.
The other thing I wish Id known from the very beginning is the value of my work as a translator.
You will get belittled by big business people, you will be asked to work at borderline offensive rates,
and you will see surprised faces when you say that yes, you entered this profession intentionally
and it wasnt an unfortunate accident. Dont let any of this affect you in any way other than


making you stronger and more determined. Translation plays an important role in the world of
business and its up to all of us to make this clear to ourselves, our clients, and the economy at
Dont be afraid if you are not a perfect fit to the ideal profile of a translator, if there is such a
thing. Make the most out of your passions and talents, and if you have a related skill and are in a
position to offer this service professionally to your clients, go out there and see if there are any
potential clients looking for this service combined with translation. Dont feel that there is a rigid
job description that you have to fit. There isnt one, and this is part of the beauty of this
profession But at the same time, dont ever promise you can do something that you cant, and
dont ever stop asking for feedback. Accept your limitations, admit mistakes, and most of all keep
One thing I acknowledged from the very beginning was that it is hard work starting out and
getting established. But its a different kind of hard work to the work we did at university, or in any
standard 9-5 position. There are no grades, no promotions, and (usually!) no bonuses if you do a
good job. You work very hard and your reward is your freedom. First, the freedom to leave
commuting and the office environment behind. Then, the freedom to travel and live wherever you
like. And the more established you get, the more time you win back, having freedom to do what and
when you choose. But yes, you have to put the work in.
Finally, listen to your colleagues, but listen to your clients even more. Theyre the ultimate
indicator of how good you are or not and whether your educational efforts, marketing,
branding, website, attitude and so on are really working for you.
I hope youll find this feedback useful, and good luck! This is an exciting time to enter the
translation and interpreting industry. I wish you all the best and let me know how you get on!
Thank you to Rose Newell for the brainstorming session.


If you think that I nearly became a teacher, some of the elements of my
career may make more sense. I present or blog because there must be a
bit of a teacher in me. This is also the reason why I called my blog and
course the Business School for Translators. So when a couple of years
ago I was offered the opportunity to teach a handful of translation and
interpreting students, it was a challenge I definitely saw myself
stepping up to. With my background as a professional, I also believed I
could bring the much sought-after practical insights into the profession to the classroom. Of
course I knew I would learn a lot myself in the process, but reflecting on this experience a few
days ago, I was surprised by how much a professional translator can learn from teaching the
craft to others.
Teaching just an odd hour or two on average, I had to rejig my professional life quite a lot. First
of all, committing to being in one place at the same time every week, even if only in the late
afternoon, turned out to be quite a challenge for a freelancer. Second, I got to experience the
dreaded commute. And of course, I was faced with the amount of admin work that my freelance
experience cant really compare to. So what did I learn?
1. Translation is a rational decision-making process
And if it isnt for you yet, teaching will force you to be much more organised and thorough in
your processes. You know, telling your students it has to be this solution because it just sounds
better doesnt quite cut it. Time and time again, I had to justify my decisions and rationalise my
choices. And believe me, its useful, only if to coherently explain to clients why this way of
translating is better than what their internal editor suggested.
2. Translation research is useful
Not that I didnt know that before, having done my BA in translation, but revisiting translation
theories and progress in translation research now, with a bit of experience under my belt, I
appreciated the academic side of our profession even more. Reading academic articles may not
be your favourite, but theres actually a fair bit of insights and solutions to a range of problems
that the academics have looked at. While this wont eradicate the divide between the academia
and industry, I can heartily recommend looking into academic publications on translation and
3. Success in translation is ultimately about the skill
Students like asking what to do to be successful. I thought to myself that if I ever get asked this
question, I have a wealth of resources to point students to, and that I know which skills to
emphasise. But when it got to it, I surprised myself a bit telling my students that to be a
successful translator or interpreter they have to practise at least 250 words, a 5-minute speech,


even 20-30 minutes a day. This is an important lesson for professional translators as well. Its
easy to think that we all need to spice up our websites, get better at business skills, or go to a yet
another conference. Truth be told, honing our core skills should always come first.
4. Despite what they say, translation is alive and kicking
Professional translators seem to be often surrounded by gloomy ideas about the future of the
profession and prophecies of impending doom. If you hear it one time too many, you may just
start believing it. Theres no better antidote than being around a group of translation or
interpreting students. Theyre enthusiastic, gifted, passionate. They find jobs, they get their
careers off the ground, they carve their niches, as if the translation industry was far from
extinction. Perhaps this unspoiled attitude is also something professional translators could take
away and adopt.
5. Professional translators have more responsibility than they think
Perhaps the most important conclusion from my teaching experience is that professional
translators hold a lot of responsibility over the profession as a whole. Students experiences are
shaped by encounters with professionalism and skill. Its not only about meeting and greeting
them at professional events or sharing tips, but also displaying excellent quality of work.
Showing your own work to anyone may make you feel exposed and examined, and this also
holds true when you present your own translations or interpreting skills to a group of everquestioning students. Its a lot of responsibility, but it also makes you look at your own work
with a more critical eye.
Im sure youve heard the saying that those who can, do, those who cant, teach. Give teaching
in any form a try, and youll be surprised how much you can learn. Id like to think that
perhaps those who can, do, those who cant teach, find it harder to do.
Anything youve learned while trying to explain translation?

Youve reached the end of our journey through business skills for translators. I hope you
enjoyed the process and you started implementing what youve learned already. Keep up the
good work and come back to this ebook whenever you need a bit of a boost.