Is a good translator automatically a successful translator?

Throughout education we have it drilled into us that the better marks we get the more successful we will be and this is the mind-set that most people have when they enter working life. But does this principle continue to hold true? Is success in the real world all about knowledge, skills and ability or is it in fact a careful blend of these ingredients together with a large amount of willingness to apply them? The article below (which has been translated from German with the kind permission of German marketing coach, Axel Schaumann) illustrates this point:

Does knowledge = power?

I wish I could have 10 cents for every time I’ve heard the phrase “knowledge is power”. Then I’d have it made.

Unfortunately knowledge is, in fact, completely worthless. If knowledge were power then librarians would be extremely powerful because they have a vast wealth of knowledge directly at their fingertips.

You can learn five languages, complete four different apprenticeships and do one course after the next. But if you don’t actually apply this knowledge, then it’s no use to you.

Every morning hundreds of people get out of bed with genuinely good ideas. But only a small minority of them allow themselves to put their ideas into practice and to act on them. Instead, most people revise their ideas over and over again because they are not yet perfect or because it is not yet “the right time”.

Stop worrying about the details! Act now! Put your plans into action as soon as possible! Simply by doing this you will catapult yourself into the top 5% of your market.

I’m sure you’ve heard reports about people who have achieved enormous success overnight and are now living a life of wealth and prosperity. Forget these reports. These cases don’t exist. All of the months and years during which these people continually improved their products, services, technologies and skills took place away from the public eye. Only when they had great success, did a wide audience sit up and take notice.

If you want to be successful with your customer acquisition, start working on it today. Put strategies in place, test them on the market, learn from the results and take further action. Always remember: “Repetition is the key to success”.

Choose one or two strategies, set a schedule and get to work. As soon as you have reached your goal with one strategy choose another strategy and keep going. In this way you will have implemented a lot in a relatively short space of time and have achieved success.”


If you read German and are interested in further marketing tips do visit Axel’s website at

5 thoughts on “Is a good translator automatically a successful translator?

  1. Knowledge is power — in a way — it is just that the context also matters.
    As translators we are effectively running a business. We offer a commercial service, and as such operate in the market (or should I say markets because there is no one big market that applies to everyone). A very knowledgeable and skilled translator who lacks business skills and mindset will probably not be as successful as he or she could have potentially become otherwise. Conversely, a mediocre translator with great business skills will probably be quite successful.

    It is the same in any other profession. Being a specialist and skilled in one field means nothing when you step into another field that requires different approach and skillsets.
    Those who step into the commercial market without the necessary skills to develop and promote their career, often find themselves in no man’s land — or worse, as a prey of opportunistic and parasitic entities that circle the market — regardless of how great they are at what they do.

  2. Nice sentiment. I also agree with Shai. I’m not sure bad translators with great business skills can be successful, but as Shai says, mediocre, quite probably. I have the idea of meritocracy quite ingrained in me, though, and believe that people *must* start at least achieving success with better and better agencies if they are good. I did. And when I hit that ceiling, or started seeing a few agencies turn from boutique to bulk market in their approach, I decided to start getting my own direct clients. I know examples of mediocre translators who have made it big (but then, what is mediocre? If we are comparing to the crap produced by the bottom-feeders, maybe they are not all that mediocre after all.), and good translators who are struggling. I just hope over time most people with talent will get where they deserve to be. Encouragement like this helps.

    (Nice translation, by the way!)

  3. Pingback: Posts of the Day – October 2014 | Tranix Translation & Proof-Editing Services

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