Focus on your goal – but don’t get ahead of yourself

The elevator to success is out of order

After talking to my mentee recently, I realised that it was perhaps about time I wrote a post on how to transition from where you are now to the better paid direct client market. Because it is, of course, a process and doesn’t happen overnight. The journey won’t be the same for everyone, however, so my aim in this article is to provide a few tips to point you in the right direction and to help you stay on track:

  1. Keep your sights on your goal – but don’t get impatient and don’t rush it

If you have been working exclusively or mainly for agencies for some years, there is no sense whatsoever in waking up one day and deciding to ditch all of those agencies so that you can start working for direct clients – as tempting as this may be – because, unless you have a magic wand, it’s going to take time to build up a direct client base. The important thing is to note the status quo and to ascertain what it is that you want to change and why (perhaps you would like to work with more direct clients because you think the work will be more rewarding, perhaps you want to find better paying clients so that you can work less whilst earning the same amount). It is important that you know your “what” and your “why” so that you can keep yourself focussed and on track.

  1. Step by step – replace clients successively

If you have been freelancing for a while you probably have at least a handful of different clients. Make a list of them and rate them according to categories that are important to you (e.g. good communication, fast payers, interesting work, rates, etc.). Do you already have some clients that you consider to be category A clients? If you do, make a list of all of the qualities and characteristics of those clients so that you know what you are looking for in new clients. If not, use your imagination. What qualities would your ideal category A clients have? When potential clients come along who seem to have these qualities and characteristics, you can start to replace the less than ideal clients on your list with these new clients. Be sure to do it successively and not to cross off all of your less than ideal clients at once: you still have to ensure that you are earning at least the same amount as before and ideally more.

  1. Create time for marketing – and do it

If you are currently working flat out for agencies to make ends meet, then you will need to claw back some time from somewhere in your day for marketing activities. Although it can sometimes feel like marketing is futile because it is unusual to see immediate results, constant steady marketing will bring you a steady stream of new clients over time and allow you to build your business in a gradual and healthy manner.

  1. Accept where you are now – and that growth is a gradual process

It is tempting to get frustrated and impatient about business growth but the fact is that you are where you are at the moment and you can’t change that for the present. By constantly taking steps, however small, towards your goal you will get there – in time. Just stick with it.

  1. Face your fears – and move past them

Many people find that the reason they can’t move forward with their business in the direction they want to go is that they are standing in their own way. Somewhere there is a misalignment between what they want to achieve and what they think they can achieve. There can be all kinds of reasons for this, usually based on past experience or the limiting beliefs they have grown up with. As a freelance translator you are your business’ most important asset. Personal development is a key aspect of business development and well worth considering undertaking if you find that you are struggling to reach your goals – or even to take the action which you hope will take you there.

Photo credit: Steps to success © Celestine Chua,


Being good at what you do is only half the battle

Strategy Sean MacEntee

Many freelance translators complain about the quality of the translations produced by translation agencies and the way that they “force” translators to accept extremely low rates. However, looking at the situation without the emotional element, they are simply implementing a business model which works for them. Freelancers are, in effect, facilitating their business model by being prepared (if under perceived duress) to work for such low rates.

Where freelancers often go wrong and agencies win out

As a freelancer you stand alone. You are your business’ most important asset. You have the skills, you do the marketing, you set your rates, your draw up your business plan. It’s all about you, and you are a person, an emotional human being. As such you internalise your decisions, you let your emotions and feelings feed into your decisions and sometimes you even stand in your own way.

An agency, on the other hand, is a legal person. It does not feel emotion. An agency will have employees, people trained and employed to do different jobs such as marketing, customer acquisition and customer service. They each have their individual roles and, because what they are doing is for the business, they will normally feel one step removed on an emotional level. (Of course, this may not necessarily apply to smaller agencies where the business owner is still ultimately the only one running the show).

There are pros and cons to both of these scenarios.

Because the freelancer has a vested interest in his work and his business and he is doing all of the work himself, he can ensure that the quality he produces meets his very high standards. On the other hand, he may struggle with marketing and client acquisition because he knows that what he is doing is putting himself out there, exposing him, and he alone is facing the pressure that only he can keep his business thriving and make it work.

By contrast, an agency, with a non-emotive approach, is able to move through what it simply regards as tasks much more swiftly and effectively. The agency is marketing “the business”, there is always a name or a concept to hide behind. This makes marketing efforts less personal and easier in many ways. However, since the whole concept is also bigger, it is also more difficult to keep an eye on quality standards. Even where an agency has set quality processes, the extremely high levels of specialist knowledge required to produce a very specialist high-quality translation will not be able to be replicated in house (unless we are talking about a highly specialised agency) which often results in in-house staff misguidedly adding mistakes to excellent translations produced by freelancers all in the name of proof-reading and post-editing. The fact that the agency also has to earn a good margin to be able to afford to pay its staff, cover its other operating costs and still make a profit whilst offering competitive prices to clients means that more and more agencies are paying lower and lower rates to their freelance translators.

This business model should automatically fail when good freelance translators simply refuse to work for agencies on this basis and clients start to reject the quality of translations produced by inexperienced and less competent translators. However, we all know that agencies are thriving. So what’s going wrong? I think there are two main factors:

  1. Freelancers succumbing to the pressure to accept lower rates

If freelancers didn’t allow themselves to succumb to the downward price pressure, agencies would be forced to up their game and start competing on quality rather than on price. The fact that freelancers accept very low rates means that they are facilitating the very problem they are complaining about.

  1. False assumptions on the part of clients

One of the saddest things about our industry is the misguided blanket assumption clients often make about translators and our work, e.g.

  • Anyone who can speak a bit of a foreign language can translate = I don’t see why I should pay very much for this service
  • Translations are always full of mistakes = I don’t see why I should pay very much for this service

All of the assumptions we make in life are based on our past experiences. Can you really blame a lawyer for thinking that there are no decent legal translators if he’s tried out 10 different translators and still not got the results he’s after? And can you really blame him for not wanting to pay very much for a translation which he knows in advance will fall well below his quality standards?

Way forward?

If we as freelance translators really want to change the status quo, there would seem to me to be only one way forward. First, we need to stop allowing translation agencies to dictate rates to us. And second, we need to learn to be less emotional about our business decisions so that we don’t feel the need to succumb to downward price pressure, so that we stop seeing ourselves as dependent on translation agencies for our work and so that we become more business-minded. By detaching from the emotional side enough to implement some sound business decisions and carry out some effective marketing of our individual skillsets to direct clients, whilst simultaneously carrying out client education, we can become real competitors for translation agencies.

So the next time you find yourself or hear someone else complaining about the business practices of translation agencies, perhaps you might like to consider or discuss some of these points and think about how you could up your game.

Photo credit: Strategy © Sean MacEntee,

Are you undervaluing yourself? The effects on you, your business and the translation industry


Many translators complain that industry rates are low. They feel forced to lower their rates in order to attract new clients and even to continue to be able to get regular work from their existing clients. Indeed, it is not only translation agencies who are reducing the rates they pay to their freelancer translators, but also direct clients in many sectors. This particularly applies to companies whose internal regulations require them to obtain several price quotes and to go with the cheapest each time.

Language services undervalued

People generally don’t see why they should pay what they consider to be high prices for translation services because everyone has a friend, acquaintance, niece or nephew who did languages at school who could probably help out, or so they think. Unfortunately misconceptions about the skills translation involves continue to be widespread. But not charging what your work is worth only reinforces these misconceptions and beliefs and is not only bad for you and your business but also for the translation industry as a whole.

The downward spiral of underpricing

Not charging and earning the rates you know that you need to survive – not to mention that you know your work is worth – is a sure-fire way to run both yourself and your business into the ground. You will be working long hours, weekends, be neglecting your health and your family and friends and still not be satisfied with the amount of money coming in at the end of the month.

Avoiding the vicious circle

Competing on price is simply not a good idea in an era where there will always be someone somewhere in the world willing to provide what appears on paper to be a similar service for a much lower price. This is a fact we must accept. It is our job to convince our clients that the value we provide to them in terms of the benefits they receive is worth the money they pay. This is a much more sustainable marketing strategy than always trying to undercut the competition on price.

Translations are not commodities

If you are looking for a product and you find the exact same product on two different websites, one much cheaper than the other, then you are likely to plump for the cheaper offer – providing of course that delivery charges, delivery period and service are all comparable with the more expensive offer. Translations, on the other hand, are never exactly the same – but many potential clients are simply not aware of this. If you want to avoid potential clients making a decision solely on the basis of price, you need to explain the benefits the potential client will get for his/her money.

Communicating value

In her international bestselling book, True Worth, How to Charge What You’re Worth and Get It, Vanessa Ugatti, The True Worth Expert, says “Prospective clients will always regard the quote you give as high if you don’t first demonstrate the value of what you do. Without knowing the benefit, they will regard the fee as too high, no matter what fee you offer”.

Without being aware of additional benefits and, in turn, the value you provide, can you really blame prospective clients for comparing quotes on the basis of price alone? It is our responsibility as translators, both freelancers and agencies, in the 21st century to be proactive in turning the tide and helping our clients understand that quality translations by skilled qualified translators have, and indeed should have, their price.

Photo credit: © eef ink Do-not-undervalue-your-work

Marketing to translation agencies

Defining targets differently

Defining Targets Differently © Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig

Working with translation agencies

Readers of this blog will know that my focus is on working with direct clients. However, I do recognize that translation agencies have their place. Many translators start out working with translation agencies and some translators choose to continue working primarily with translation agencies throughout their careers. Aspiring specialist translators without any industry experience will likely benefit greatly from working with good agencies that provide constructive feedback, particularly in the early days when they themselves recognize that they still have a lot to learn and are motivated to do so.

Marketing to translation agencies

Marketing to translation agencies is a different kettle of fish to marketing to direct clients but it is marketing nonetheless. I, as a freelance practitioner who does not outsource work, receive many badly written applications from freelance translators every week – I wrote a blog post about this last year which you can find here – so large translation agencies must receive a large number of such applications every day.

Finding agencies suited to your skillset

As a translator my advice would be to refrain from sending out mass applications to large numbers of agencies but to drill down and find those agencies specializing in the fields and languages you yourself specialize in or want to focus on. These will often be smaller boutique agencies and translation companies which have the added advantage of being small enough to be in a position to treat their translators as individuals rather than simply as names in a database.

How to make contact, information to provide

Some agencies have forms on their websites which prospective translators need to fill in. Others ask for applications by email. When emailing translation agencies it is important to specify your language pair(s) and direction(s), your specialist areas and, very importantly, your rates. You are the service provider: translation agencies don’t have to agree to work with you on the basis of the rates you suggest, they may propose or require a rate adjustment as a condition for including you on their list of translators, but you should not let them dictate rates to you either. Be aware of how low you are prepared to go and stick to your guns. You are not destined to work with every potential agency.

Advice from the agency’s perspective

I recently came across this useful Translator’s Guide to Contacting Translation Agencies by Email which Affinity Translation has written about best practices, things to avoid and advanced techniques for contacting translation agencies. The Guide includes advice on what to put in the body of the email, why it is important to differentiate yourself from other translators and why it is essential that your follow up. Perhaps readers of this blog will find it useful.

Tess Whitty’s most recent podcast interview on Marketing Tips for Translators Episode 045: Marketing your translation services to translation companies/agencies, which I listened to this morning, also provides some good advice from a translation company’s perspective. Be sure to check that out too.





Regarding disclosure, I have no commercial relationship with the company Affinity Translation of any kind, and provide the above information purely for information purposes.


How can niche marketing help translators?


Photo credit: Dimitris Kalogeropoylos

One of the questions I’m always asked by mentees I work with is how to go about identifying prospects and – once identified – how to work out the best person to contact. As regular readers of this blog will know, I’m a very big fan of specialization and this is always my starting point when answering this question. There are so many advantages of specializing as a translator, some of which I talk about here. In this post, however, I want to look at how specializing can help you with your marketing efforts and, more specifically, at the concept of niche marketing.


  • Target market = the entire market which you serve (i.e. (specific types of) businesses/private individuals who need translations in your language pair(s))
  • Niche = the subset of your target market on which you focus your services

What is niche marketing?

An online business dictionary defines “niche marketing” as “concentrating all marketing efforts on a small but specific and well defined segment of the population. Niches to not ‘exist’ but are ‘created’ by identifying needs, wants and requirements that are being addressed poorly or not at all by other firms, and developing and delivering goods or services to satisfy them. As a strategy, niche marketing is aimed at being a big fish in a small point instead of being a small fish in a big pond.”

In niche marketing then, you take advantage of your specialization and your USP to determine your niche and target your marketing efforts directly to those members of your target market who require the specific services you offer.

What are the advantages of niche marketing?

As you drill down you will find that

the focus group is smaller meaning that it is

  1. easier to identify prospects,
  2. easier to identify suitable contact persons at the prospect,
  3. easier to identify which client events, networks and activities will be the most productive for your marketing efforts.

All this makes marketing much less overwhelming and time-consuming and much more focussed and effective.

On procrastination and productivity

Now later

So it’s now the end of January already! How is your business plan looking? Have you already started making some progress towards your goals or are you still at the planning stage? Are you feeling productive? Or is procrastination the name of the game?

I came across an interesting podcast this week on Beyond The To-Do List in which the host Erik Fischer interviews Chris Bailey about productivity. I would definitely recommend that you check it out because it contains some very useful insights. For instance, did you know that there are 7 key attributes that tasks have which make us more likely to procrastinate?

These are if the task

1) is boring

2) is frustrating

3) is difficult

4) lacks personal meaning

5) lacks intrinsic rewards

6) is ambiguous

7) is unstructured.

Think about some of the things which have been on your to-do list for a while. Do any of them have any of these attributes? If so, it’s not surprising that you haven’t got round to tackling them yet.

So what can we do about it?

My personal way of dealing with these issues would be to try to work out why the particular attribute applies to the task concerned and to work out a strategy to combat the attribute which, in turn, should combat the problem. For example, if the task

1) is boring – consider how you could make it more interesting. What about working on the task in tandem with a colleague and checking on each other’s progress?

2) is frustrating – try to work out why you find it frustrating – are you trying to do too much at once? Could you break the task down into smaller, more manageable components?

3) is difficult – why is it difficult? Are you trying to start off a step too high up the ladder? Do you need to go back a step and rethink your plan of action? Do you need to find a mentor?

4) lacks personal meaning – look at the larger picture. What is it you are trying to achieve and how does this one task fit into that picture?

5) lacks intrinsic rewards – I think this applies to a lot of the marketing we do as freelancers. Often there does not appear to be a direct, clear or immediate correlation between the time we spend on marketing activities and the new clients we acquire. Again look at the larger picture, these tasks do pay off long-term. And don’t forget to consider the consequences of not doing them. Perhaps that is enough motivation in itself?

6) is ambiguous – why is it ambiguous? Make sure you write down the individual steps which you need to take to reach your goal.

7) is unstructured – again it will be difficult to get started on something if you haven’t yet ascertained the first step. Write down the individual steps you need to take to reach your goal.

For further tactics for dealing with procrastination have a look at this article by Chris Bailey.


Do you have a business plan for 2015? 5 tips for achieving your business goals

Happy New Year to all of the readers of this blog. When I started writing it approximately 15 months ago, I had no idea how popular it would become. With regular readers from 101 countries I am honoured that you all find my posts helpful!

Now that the new year is here, I wanted to ask whether you all have business plans (formal written ones or just ideas) for 2015?

I think January is a good time to reflect on what we all want from our businesses and which strategies and projects we plan to pursue over the course of the year.

However, I also know from past experience that this can be a very overwhelming task and in order to acheive anything and to take a proactive approach organisation is key and a step-by-step approach absolutely essential. This is why today I have decided to share with you 5 of the best tips for achieving your business goals in 2015.

5 tips for achieving your business goals in 2015

1. Get all of your ideas, wishes and wants for your business down on paper – Once they are out of your head you will not have to spend time and energy trying to remember them all and once they are down on paper you can give them some structure.

2. Make a mind map – Decide on the most important thing you want to achieve with your business this year and put this in the centre. From your list of ideas, wishes and wants in no. 1 above, try to group things together into different areas and sub-areas. This will give structure to your ideas and help you to work out which things complement one another and how many different areas you need to find time to work on in order to achieve your goals.

3. Be clear about your goals – Make them SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based.

4. Set aside time every week to work towards your goals and make a step-by-step plan – If you do all of the above but then put the sheets of paper away for six months, you are unlikely to have achieved anything you set out to achieve.

5. You will naturally be confronted with many different opportunities during the course of this year. These will include work assignments and other professional opportunities. Each time you are confronted with such an assignment or opportunity ask yourself this question: Is this opportunity in line with my goals? If it is, then great, go for it. If not, seriously consider whether you want to accept the translation assignment in question, work with a particular new client or take on this new opportunity. For example, if you have decided you want to work with more direct clients but fill all of your time with projects for new agencies which approach you, you will not get where you want to go.

Only by being acutely aware of your goals and exercising choice can you run a proactive rather than reactive business” Karen Rückert

The Business Guide for Translators by Marta Stelmaszak

The Business Guide for Translators

Today I would like to recommend to you all a new book on marketing for freelance translators by Marta Stelmaszak entitled “The Business Guide for Translators”. Here’s my review:

Marta Stelmaszak’s “The Business Guide for Translators“ is a wealth of information for both aspiring and experienced freelance translators. The book begins with clear and concise presentation of business economics which is, in my view, absolutely essential and rarely covered in books aimed at freelance translators. The carefully chosen dictionary-style structure of topic following by a relevant link to the translation industry helps to bring concepts, which will be “foreign” to many translators without a background in business, to life. At the same time the scientific approach helps to take the emotionality, which I know many freelance translators struggle with, out of business decisions.

With the theory in place the section on strategies sets out many different ways in which freelance translators can devise strategies for their businesses. There seems to be a general tendency among freelance translators to think that freelance translation is not comparable with other businesses. This, of course, is not true. Freelance translation is a business like any other. Marta’s comparisons with other industries with which we are all familiar makes the information about strategies easier to digest. Lots of different strategies are presented here – I’m sure that every reader serious about enhancing his/her business will find at least one method which will appeal to him/her.

Part 3 covers all of the important topics relevant to running a business from market research, through strategy and  goals to customer service. This section will appeal to both beginner translators as well as to translators like myself who have built up their businesses step by step with no formal framework who are looking to tighten up their businesses and to take them to another level. Taking advantage of many of the modern means of communication I was surprised but pleased to see that the eBook version contains links to articles and blog posts on the internet as well as to YouTube videos urging the reader to find out more and pointing the reader in the direction of other useful information. Intended as and indeed entitled “The Business Guide for Translators” this book will be one to which many freelance translators will refer at regular intervals during their freelance careers whether they need guidance with setting up their businesses, are looking to grow them in a particular way or are looking for a framework within which to take them to the next level.

An excellent book which I certainly wish had been available when I was starting out and which will, I am sure, go some way towards ensuring that future freelance translators are better prepared for freelancing, have a clearer understanding of their freelance translation businesses and will ultimately lead to an industry of more business-savvy professional freelance translators.

A few of my favourite quotes from Marta Stelmaszak’s “The Business Guide for Translators”:

“The law of supply and demand makes it clear that we need to deliver translations in the areas where the demand is high.”

“We should also try to build up barriers to entry, limit access to information or introduce heterogeneous products.”

“Freelancers need to have a direction and know their scope, advantage, resources, environment and stakeholders to make sure that their businesses grow.”

“It is important to differentiate from other suppliers by providing unique Services.”

“…if you only work with a small number of customers, you are giving them a lot of power over your business.”

“It is important to strive for continual innovation rather than instant perfection.”

Further information and how to order

For further information and to order the book, visit Marta’s site here.

How not to market your translation services

I often receive emails from other translators looking for freelance work which annoy me and which I therefore swiftly delete but this week there seem to have been so many of them that I feel inspired to write a blog post about it.

Things that annoy me about unsolicited advertising:

1) People who don’t bother to research the people to whom they are writing

I am a freelance translator specialising in German to English translations of commercial law texts. On my website I make it quite clear that I work on my own and that I personally carry out all translations for my customers. So why, oh why, do I receive emails from people offering to work for me in a plethora of different language combinations and in a ridiculously wide variety of different fields of specialisation? In this day and age with the internet at our fingertips there is absolutely no excuse for people not doing their homework and finding out about the person or company to whom they are writing in advance. Not doing this research makes you look unprofessional at best and, at worst, desperate.

2) Impersonal emails or ones without any opening at all

The impersonal “Dear Translator” or “Hi” as an opening to an email to someone you have never met are bad enough but this week I received a couple of emails which didn’t include an opening line at all and just went straight into a presentation of the translator’s business. Maybe I’m just too British, but I find that really impolite.

3) Emails with attachments but no text

This was the biggest shocker this week which really spurred me on to write this post. Seriously, an email from someone you’ve never heard of with no text and only an attachment? Would you open it? For research purposes only, I did in fact open it and it did contain quite a nice – but for me irrelevant – bilingual presentation of this translator’s services. There should, at the absolute minimum, have been a covering email explaining why this person was writing to me and explaining the nature of the attachment.

4) Self-centred emails

Nearly all of the unsolicited advertising emails I receive consist of a presentation of the freelancer or translation agency, their languages, specialist areas and prices but not once do they mention me or how they think they can help me – which, of course, most of them can’t because they are not offering anything I actually need. This goes back to what I was saying about research under 1). When marketing your services it is necessary to identify potential customers who might actually have a need for your services: find out as much as you can about them, see if they sound like they would be interested in the services you offer and, if so, send them a personalised email.

All of the above leave a really bad impression. As freelance translators we are entrepreneurs and need to learn to market our services in a professional way. There is no shame in not knowing how to best do that. Very few of us are marketing experts. But in that case, before embarking on a potentially self-destructive email campaign, we should ask for help from marketing experts or at least read some books or blogs on the subject. It is possible that some of the people who wrote to me this week are really good translators but simple impoliteness and lack of appropriate communication skills means that they’ve just left a lasting bad impression on me and quite possibly most of the people they have spammed, some of whom may actually have been potential customers.

Specialisation Series: How I got where I am today: Annette Weizsäcker

Today’s interview for the popular specialisation series I started this summer is with German translator Annette Weizsäcker:

Thank you, Karen, for inviting me to take part in your specialisation series!

When I started my career as a translator, I did not know that this would be my future profession and passion and that, with Language Support, I would even become an entrepreneur. I am very glad that I got where I am today thanks to many special people who have crossed my path and have been wonderful mentors and friends over all these years. I feel that I am one of those fortunate people on the planet who have a job they really love and I look forward to sharing some of my secrets with you.

What are your specialist areas?

I am an English <-> German, Spanish <-> German and English <-> Spanish translator specialising in the pet and horse supplies & food industry, veterinary medicine, farm and stable supplies & building equipment, zoological gardens, the hunting and shooting sports industry, as well as (eco-)tourism, green products & concepts, and business administration in general.

How did you choose your specialist areas?

Funnily enough, it all began with my passion for horseback riding when I was a teenage girl.  At that time western riding was not common in Germany at all and a riding instructor hard to find. Therefore I always asked my friends and family abroad to send me magazines, books and articles which I devoured. It is not surprising that my first translations were English-German translations of these articles for my riding pals.

Many years later, when I was at university majoring in international business, on a flight back to the US I had a nice chat with the president of a well-respected sporting goods manufacturer for the hunting and shooting sports who then asked me to translate a letter to a German business friend. He became my first real customer, a good friend and valuable mentor for this specialisation.

However, at this time I never thought of making a living from translations. As student jobs and after receiving my degrees, I worked for several companies in different positions, from tour guiding, trilingual secretarial work, technical documentation, to operations management, and as CEO of a small Chamber of Commerce and Industry abroad. Nevertheless, during all this time I did translations either on the job or as infrequent jobs on the side. Only when my family decided to settle down on a farm and continuous help was needed for my elderly parents, did I start thinking of becoming a solopreneur.

The decisive push for becoming a freelance translator and for this particular field of specialisation came from my late British riding instructor and good friend whom I had frequently helped with translations. One day he took me aside when I interpreted at one of his clinics and asked “Why don’t you do this for a living?”

After starting out with the pet and equine industries and with hunting and shooting sports, I later added specialist areas I was particularly interested in, enjoyed researching and already knew a lot about from my work or personal background.

What is your experience in these areas? Are there sufficient customers? Do you have sufficient work?

Today I am in the lucky position to answer “Yes” to this question. There is enough work to even share and grow the business. So far I have only worked with direct customers who have specifically chosen me as their translator because they also expected some kind of cultural consultancy and knew that I would be able to provide this because of my intercultural / business background and management work experience. In view of the increasing demand for these related services, I have recently added intercultural consulting services, trade show services, sales rep services and travel planning services to Language Support’s portfolio. Thanks to working with a small group of highly qualified freelancers and professionals in other fields, it is possible to collaborate on projects, especially if a request is for more than one language pair and involves complementary services.

In your opinion, what are the advantages of specialising? How has it helped you? How has it helped your business?

Specialisation in a few but very diverse areas has helped me a lot to stay focused and to better organize my time and my marketing efforts. In addition, research is quick and fun if you like your specialisations (you better not choose an area you are not interested in just because it is the most often requested or easiest to make money in). With growing experience and knowledge you will produce higher quality in less time. The results will be reflected in your hourly rate and customer satisfaction. A good reputation spreads easier by word-of-mouth within one industry than across industries. Recommendations are free and the best advertising you can get. However, even if you advertise or produce marketing materials, write a blog or send out newsletters, targeting just one or a few industries is easier, less time consuming and usually generates better response rates.

Do you have any other tips/advice/anecdotes for beginner translators?

Knowing what you really don’t like to do is as important as choosing your specialisations. In my case, these are all legal texts which go beyond the common General Terms and Conditions. There is no shame in turning down a job and it is in any case better than delivering a quick and messy translation which might even harm your reputation. Handing the work over or directly referring the customer to a trusted colleague, like Karen in my case, makes you look professional and sincere.

If you are just starting out, struggling to gain experience and to find your specialist areas, don’t ever accept lower rates as a way in. Instead volunteer for pro bono work (e.g. Translators without borders, Kiva). This way you can gather expertise and make our planet a better place at the same time.

Quality first! Always put 100% quality, attention to detail and outstanding customer service first and before quantity. Working through several nights in a row to meet a crazy deadline clearly compromises the quality of your translations (and your life!). It is rather wise and there is no shame at all in declining a 15 page catalogue project to be done by 10 am tomorrow.

Strengthen the bond with your existing customers. It is likely that happy customers will come back to you and save you all the effort of attracting new ones to fill the gap.

Find yourself mentors with specialist knowledge, preferably from the industries you are targeting. They might also become valuable referrers.

Translation is all about building bridges between cultures. If you haven’t lived in different countries yet, go for a backpacking trip and mingle with the locals as much as you can to get a feeling for the different perspectives another language and culture bring with them. Apart from adding to your intercultural experience, you will probably also pick up a good basic knowledge of another language on the fly which might be helpful when developing your business.

Above all, make your profession your passion and your passions your specialist areas!

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. I’ll be glad to help.

Annette Weizsäcker
Language Support
Auf der Hörn 11
26655 Westerstede

Phone: +49 44 88 84 21 360
Cell: +49 157 30 200 387