The Five Steps to Charging on Value not on Price


Today’s post is a guest post by my own coach, Vanessa Ugatti, The True Worth Expert. Over to Vanessa:

No doubt, you’ve heard it before – focus on value, not on price.  The question is are you doing that or not?  I would hazard a guess that many businesses pay lip service to this, rather than really doing it.  Fear dominates the world of commerce – there’s always someone willing to do it cheaper.  So let’s get straight to the point – no procrastination or shilly-shallying; it’s time to make a decision and the sooner you make it the better.  Neither path is easy; ultimately the choice is yours.

Step 1

Ask yourself the following question:

Do I want to be the person doing it cheaper?

If the answer is yes, keep on doing the same thing and I can guarantee that you will get the same results. Don’t bother reading this article either, because you’ll be wasting your time. On the other hand, if the answer is no, take a deep breath and carry on reading.

So far, so good.  If you’re still with me, you’ve successfully jumped over the first hurdle.  Well done.

Step 2

Ask yourself this: When was the last time I really looked at and understood my value?

For most people who have an expertise, it’s not easy to understand their value.  The longer they have been doing it, and the easier it has become, the more they take it for granted.  Consider the following:

  • How long did it take you to become a professional translator?
  • What did it cost you?
  • What did you have to give up while training/learning?
  • How long have you been a professional translator?
  • If you were to rate yourself in terms of how good you were when you first trained on a scale of 1-10, what figure would you put on it?
  • If you were to rate yourself in terms of how good you are now on a scale of 1-10, what figure would you put on it?

I will hazard a guess that it took years – longer than it took a chartered accountant to train, a doctor or even an architect.  It’s no mean feat.  Although I’m not a translator, I am a fluent French speaker and know how much time and effort was required to reach that stage. Remember you have gone beyond that level and are able to communicate a message effectively from one language into another. It’s an amazing skill and don’t you ever doubt it!  Are you starting to see your value?  If you don’t understand your own value, it will be unlikely that your clients will.  Understanding your value is something which takes time and you also need to review it on a regular basis.

Step 3

Ask yourself the following question:

Are the clients I’m working with in general the sort of clients who will pay me on value or are they looking for cheap and cheerful? 

If it’s the latter, then clearly you’re working with the wrong clients!  As previously mentioned, although I’m not a translator, I do know from coaching Karen that those of you who are working for agencies, for example, will definitely not be able to charge on value, as the agencies are dictating the prices and driving them down.

This situation means that you are not actually in control of your business; the agency acts as your employer, but without any of the benefits of actually being employed. This then erodes confidence, creates self-doubt and makes it harder to change.  It’s a vicious circle which needs to be broken.

Either way, you must target those clients who will value your service and pay you accordingly.  This may well mean making some radical changes in your business to be able to achieve this.  I would also encourage you to decide on a specialism so that your marketing can be focussed on a particular industry or profession.  As a generalist, you will be competing with all and sundry and therefore price will likely be the dictator.  On the other hand, as a specialist, you elevate yourself from the masses and it’s then that you can charge a premium for your expertise.

Step 4

Eliminating limiting beliefs

By now, I get the impression that you could be feeling a little overwhelmed.  If that’s the case, I apologise.  However, I’m not one of those fluffy people who say this is going to be easy.  If it was, everyone would be doing it.  Rome wasn’t built in a day; you’ll need focus, patience and determination to get where you want to.  Moreover, it’s not just about marketing and what you do practically; it’s also vital to work on yourself.   If you fail to do this, you’ll potentially limit your earnings and feel frustrated into the bargain.

What limiting beliefs do you have which are getting in the way of your success?

Karen is proof of what I’m saying.  She recently told me that because of the work we’ve been doing together, that she is now charging top fees to her clients and getting them, whereas before, that wasn’t happening.  Even though there are others in the marketplace willing to charge significantly less, (their competence level may or may not be as good as hers) because she now understands her value, both consciously and unconsciously, and has no qualms stating her fees, she is able to charge her true worth.

Step 5

Get help!  You can’t do it alone.  Be willing to invest in yourself.  Find the right people to support you on your journey.

Author biography:

Vanessa Ugatti, The True Worth Expert, coach, speaker and author of Amazon Bestseller, True Worth, dramatically shifts the thinking for people in professional services  taking them from their own perceptions of not feeling they can really charge what they are worth, to doing just that – and more! This unique ability, to bring out the best in people, has evolved for her over many years of facing similar challenges both professionally and personally, even questioning her own value in business. 

To access a complimentary copy of True Worth: How to Charge What You’re Worth and Get It, and to find out more, visit:

True Worth





Title photo credit: Got Credit


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.

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.

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

Specialisation series: How I got where I am today: Fay Abernethy

Today’s post on specialisation takes the form of an interview with Fay Abernethy, a German to English technical translator based in Germany:

What are your specialist areas?

My specialist areas are mechanical engineering in general, automotive, machine building, manufacturing engineering and fluid dynamics. I’ll take on pretty much any technical text, as long as it doesn’t involve civil engineering, IT or too much electronics/electrical engineering.

How did you choose your specialist areas?

I studied mechanical engineering at University, and worked in the automotive industry as an engineer for many years.

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

I am drowning in work! My language pair is German to English and I am a native speaker of English. As Germany exports so many technical products which need a lot of documentation, the translation market potential is huge, particularly into English. My customers are mostly direct customers – small to medium-size enterprises are the best customers, rather than global conglomerates – who usually come to me via my industry contacts or referrals from other customers. It gets difficult when I go on holiday, because there are very few into “mother tongue English” technical translators with sufficient technical knowledge to support my customers. There was a wave of British engineers who came to Germany in the 1970s, many of whom are now working as translators. But these guys are mostly heading towards retirement now, and will leave a big gap in the market when they go.

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

When I first started out, I did a lot of work for agencies – basically anything that came in. Although I always had my specialism in mind, and technical translations were the ones I felt most comfortable doing, I wasn’t in a position to be picky. But as time went on and more work started coming in, I was able to be a bit more selective. This has a cumulative effect. If you only work on translations of one or a few types, you get much faster at them, which pushes up your hourly rate and generally makes the work more pleasant. A subject which you find interesting is also important. One of the things I love about my job, which is an improvement on being the automotive design engineer I was, is that I learn about the latest developments in very different branches of industry – before anyone else – and I’m not just always working on one single product. There’s some cool stuff out there!

Just the very act of specialising in a few types of translations will focus your skills and you will gather expertise that way too. Yes, you might have to look up every other word to start with, but the next time you won’t have to look up quite as many!

After a while, you start to build your reputation, and that’s when the referrals from your existing customers start to trickle in. A good balance is about 50% agency work and 50% direct customers. This gives you the flexibility to turn down the agencies without feeling you’re letting anyone down, and help out your direct customers. Direct customers require a lot more support from your side, but it is much more lucrative and, to a certain extent, less stressful to work for them, since you have an ongoing relationship. But if you don’t want to lose them, you have to be there for them when they need you. You can build up a nice big translation memory of work you have done for a particular customer, which will save you a lot of time and effort.

I appreciate that most translators start out directly after having studied translating and do not have a particular specialism they can draw on straightaway. I can only suggest further education in your chosen specialism – if you can get an extra qualification in your specialism, this will give you credibility with your target customers. Read industry journals, go to industry events and talk to the people working in the field you want to specialise in. Even do a work placement. You could join a temping agency and e.g. work on a production line for a few weeks in the summer, or as office admin. The point is to somehow get some experience of the industry you are targeting.

If you are thinking of taking up a career in translating but haven’t started yet, I would encourage you to get some work experience in some other kind of industry first for a couple of years. Just working for a company will help you better understand how your customers think and the pressures they are under. This will give you a big advantage over other new translators who only have experience of academia.

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

We are in a service industry. When you are dealing with customers, you must put yourself in their position –  always. They want you to solve their problem/take work off their hands with the minimum of fuss and the optimum result. You must not cause them extra work, rather the opposite. They have to be able to trust absolutely that you are going to do a good job and deliver on time, or preferably early. Never deliver a translation late, even if it means you have to work through the night three nights in a row! Always build some buffer into your quote, so you are still able to meet the deadline even if something unexpected happens.

The customer is usually not able to evaluate your product, so when they give you a job they are effectively buying you, or their perception of you. So you need to come across as absolutely professional at all times. Even when the phone rings early in the morning and you are still in your pyjamas. Answer any customer query quickly and accurately.

When it comes to agency work, I have found that if you respond within the hour to any job enquiries, they will quite often come to you first next time – before working their way down their list of translators – because they know you can give a yes or no answer very quickly.

Don’t send out late payment notices unless you absolutely have to. I messed up one of my first ever jobs for direct customer because I was too impatient (and admittedly broke and waiting for the money!) I have a “pay within 30 days” term on my invoices, and I sent them a late payment notice about a week after the 30 days had expired. Needless to say, I lost the customer permanently.

If someone doesn’t pay up on time, normally a polite e-mail saying something like “I’ve just been doing my accounts, and I noticed that the invoice xxxxx I sent you on xxxx has not yet been paid. Could you please have a look and see if it hasn’t been accidentally overlooked?” Normally, they have just forgotten with no malice intended and will transfer the money speedily.

The other big tip I have for anyone who will listen (however long they’ve been working as a translator) is to use voice recognition software. I particularly recommend Dragon NaturallySpeaking  with a USB headset microphone.

This will increase your productivity by at least 10 to 15%. It is also much more comfortable to dictate your text rather than type it. You will find you don’t get so tired and can work for longer. It’s the one piece of software I couldn’t live without.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me using the details below.


Fay Abernethy MEngL CEng MIMechE

Technische Übersetzungen
Deutsch > Englisch

Zeitblomstr. 33
D-89073 Ulm

Tel: +49 (0)731 420 9005

Specialisation series: How I got where I am today: Regina Seelos

Today I’d like to welcome Regina Seelos, an experienced English<->German translator, who has kindly agreed to write a short post about specialising in the translation industry. Here’s what she has to say:

“Speaking with newbies in the translation industry, I’ve often had the impression that they are rather discouraged and don’t know where to start. This is why I think that Karen’s blog here is a great idea and opportunity to show that often all it takes is some courage to be successful: You have the expertise after going through training and examinations – all you lack is experience and specialisation which comes along by working.

How do you find your specialist areas?

Feedback from customers is a great way of finding your specialisation. In my case it was often lawyers who really liked my contracts. So I figured: Well, I seem to be good at it so I will specialise in this field. If you get brilliant feedback for jobs you’ve done you should consider making the field your specialist area. (And yes, there will of course be negative feedback too – nobody’s perfect – but you can learn from it.) It also helps if you have plenty of experience in a field – from former jobs, hobbies, or the like. For example, I completed a 3-year training in business administration at a car manufacturer before I became a translator. The more you know about a field the better your translations. You can achieve good results with excellent research skills too but this is time-consuming and will only pay off after a while. An option is to consider this time as an investment in building specialist areas. In my opinion, this time factor is one of the strongest arguments in favour of specialisation – except for quality. After all, we all work to make a living and it will help if you can reduce the time needed for research after a while.”

Regina Seelos * Translator specialising in the legal, marketing and technical field *

Please feel free to leave any comments for Regina or for myself below.

Specialisation series: Hard work, not magic – How I got where I am today

This post is the first in a new series of posts about specialisation. I’ve posted tips on specialising and why it is a good idea to specialise (here) and how to go about it before (here) but what has become clear to me recently is that many freelance translators who are just starting out look at translators with many years of experience, a broad customer base and expertise in one or more than one specialist field and feel both overwhelmed and, although they know that that’s where want to get to, have no idea how, when or even whether they will get there. From my perspective they seem to be focusing on the end product without realising that these experienced translators have taken many many tiny little steps over many years and that it is the culmination of these steps and a lot of hard work which has got them where they are today.

To take a more practical approach to this issue and to give you all a break from my advice for a change, I’ve asked some experienced translators to share their stories and their career paths. I will be posting the first two posts in this series by two Germany-based translators Regina Seelos and Fay Abernethy over the course of this week and plan to post more at a later date. I look forward to reading your comments.

Choose a clearly defined target market

This is certainly one of the best success strategies open to you. It is also one of the oldest strategies and probably the strategy which is most often overlooked by the self-employed and small businesses. And this is the case worldwide.

Choose a defined target market for your business. Make this target market as focussed as possible. The more focussed the better. This is important because clearly defined target markets have a few important features which can provide you with excellent services to help you build and expand your business. The three most important features are:

The members of a clearly defined target market …

  • are seeking the same product or service because they have very similar wants and needs.
  • use an established communication network. You can use this to spread your marketing message.
  • know that you have dedicated yourself to them and will therefore have added confidence in you.

Many self-employed persons and owners of small businesses worry that by choosing a defined target market they are robbing themselves of lucrative business opportunities. They believe that by choosing a defined target market they are excluding potential customers and will therefore not be able to attract as many customers. But precisely the opposite is, in fact, the case. The better you can concentrate on a target market, the faster you will spread your marketing message in this market and the faster you will be able to attract numerous customers.

If you still believe that a very focussed target market is too small for you, you could define the size of the market with the assistance of market analysis. Here is a small, admittedly very general, example:

You are a nutritionist in a large town like Stuttgart in Germany and plan to choose parents with schoolchildren as your target market. You assume that this will allow you to work with both adults and children. You also intend to offer cooking courses in schools, for example. But somehow you have uncertainties and worry that your target market may not be large enough and also think about all of the other potential customers who would then not belong to your target customers.

Before you make a final decision, you therefore want to know whether your target market is, in fact, large enough. You therefore make a list of the schools and number of schoolchildren in a 4km radius of your office. In this area you find 20 schools with approximately 7,000 pupils. Since you assume that each pupil has at least one parent, your target market consists of 14,000 people. This number finally convinces you that your target market really is large enough for your business activities in the next 2 to 3 years.

You do not need to offer your product or services to the mass market. Financially it is much more lucrative to create a product or offer a service which is aimed at the very specific wants and needs of a very narrow target group. Your product or service will then be met with a much higher level of acceptance by your potential customers; they will regard it more highly and will be prepared to pay a higher price for it.

Seek out a “smaller” market and give it a try. You will probably notice that you can generate a very sizeable amount of turnover with this “small” market. And if this market really does end up being too small for you, you can expand it at any time.

If, on the other hand, you start with a large, broad market, then you need a large marketing budget in order to reach all of your potential customers, to place advertisements in numerous publications and to carry out various direct marketing campaigns. You will also have to offer different products or services because the wants and needs of your customers will vary greatly. You will find this financially draining, too time-consuming and content-intensive.

This is why you should therefore start with a clearly defined focussed target market. See how much turnover you can generate in this market and expand from there into other markets.


This article has been translated and is being posted here with the kind permission of German marketing coach, Axel Schaumann who advises service professionals on how to get fully booked. If you read German and are interested in receiving further marketing tips, do visit Axel’s website at and sign up for his free series of articles.

Why it is important to choose your specialisation

Many beginning translators are just happy to get work, any work, and while this is understandable, not making a decision in favour of a particular area or particular areas of specialisation early in one’s freelance career can lead to a whole series of negative consequences. This article will discuss a few of these.

Why specialisation is essential

Specialisation is absolutely essential for a successful freelance translation business. Although it is most probably true that a good linguist using the right research techniques is in a position to tackle many different types of texts, specialising in a particular area or in a few particular areas will reduce the amount of research you have to do for each translation thus making you more efficient and more productive.

Won’t specialising reduce the amount of work I am offered?

Specialising will reduce the types of work you are offered or choose to accept but not necessarily the amount. Even if you are starting out working for agencies, agencies will keep a list of specialist areas against your name. If you don’t approach them with a list of specialisations, thinking that you just want to take on as much work as possible regardless of the type, you will most likely find that the agency will start to regularly send you texts belonging to a particular specialisation of their own choosing because even agencies know that translators are more efficient and more productive when they deal with similar types of texts. Letting an agency essentially choose your specialisation for you or leaving your specialisation to chance is, in my opinion, one of the main reasons for dissatisfaction among freelance translators.


If you start out as a non-specialist, don’t take a decision early on to specialise in a particular area and then wake up one day to find that, as a result of all of the research you have carried out in the course of your translations in a particular subject-field, you have become a specialist for an area you find mind-numbingly boring, you have done yourself a disservice. You have also wasted a lot of time and energy becoming a specialist in an area you never wanted to specialise in in the first place.

Take responsibility

Even when you are starting out and feel like you have no experience or specialist skills, you need to sit down and seriously consider what skills you really have and could build on and what areas you are really interested in. In my opinion streamlining your business is absolutely essential for success. It will help you to determine your target customers which will, in turn, allow you to focus your marketing activities, help you to get projects which you find interesting, allow you to spend time researching and taking courses in subjects which really fascinate you and ultimately make you a much more confident, efficient and – perhaps most importantly – happy translator.