If you are asked to translate the words of a song, then there are a few things to bear in mind:
1) Rhyming is often required, if the original song contains rhyming couplets, for example.
2) For many styles (and especially with things like Rap), it is vital that you have some basic feel for music beats and how the syllables in the words of a song match these.
3) The register of the translation must match the register of the language in the original song.
As with film translation, a great, and fun, way to practice can simply be to take a song you like in your source language(s) and translate it, bearing in mind the points above. It can also be helpful to look at existing translations of songs, within films or on adverts (www.youtube.com can be useful for finding these) in your language combination(s).READ A BIT OF THEORY
There are many interesting texts which can be found online about this topic. It’s worth looking at a few as they can really help to give you a sense of what to look out for and focus on when translating song lyrics. For example: http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:375140/fulltext02 (an academic study of song translation using famous musicals as its reference material).
Song translation can be required in all sorts of different environments (from a few lines in an advert, to a full song in a film or as a TV series theme tune). Recent examples of work I’ve completed include translating a French children’s song within an animation into English – complete with very challenging rhymes! – and translating a Spanish rap for Telefónica into English. It is definitely worth adding that you are interested in/have undertaken song translation to your CV and let clients know as this is not something that everyone offers up as a service. Some translators find it quite daunting and therefore it’s good for agencies and clients to know who they can come to if a song, or part of a song, should need translation. Unlike with book and film translation, there isn’t always so much of a need to prove your prior experience. But it certainly couldn’t hurt to practise with a song or two and then add these to your portfolio to demonstrate your ability.
NETWORK WITH INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS
There are plenty of songs out there that need translating, so target the places where you think such songs may arise. For example, agencies who specialise in film translation may have need of your skills, or advertising companies who often work with songs for adverts.
ESTABLISH A RATE THAT ALLOWS FOR THE TIME CREATIVITY TAKES
There is much less information out there about how to charge for translating a song. Based on experience, my key piece of advice would be ‘don’t underestimate how long it can take to translate a song’. It is not simply a case of translating some words. So, if you charge by the word, make your rate a healthy one. If you charge by the hour, make sure you allow enough hours in your quote (to give you an idea – I’ve sometimes had to spend 30 minutes or more on a translation for just one or two difficult lines in a song).2) WRITING YOUR OWN SONG LYRICSI’ll focus here on the skill of being a songwriter, which in and of itself does not mean that you need to be an amazing musician, singer, producer etc. Writing song lyrics in your mother tongue is a skill in its own right and lyric writers often work in collaboration with musicians, producers and so on to produce a great song.
TAKE A COURSE
Songwriting is a skill which can be learned and perfected. Studying with industry professionals is therefore worthwhile as they can help you work out what area of songwriting you may be most suited to (for example, some people are great at coming up with song concepts, or themes, others with a topline melody (or ‘hook’ – those lines in a song chorus that you’re humming for hours after you hear it) and others are brilliant at producing verse lyrics, involving rhyme if necessary. There are songwriting courses available all over the world but if you truly have aspirations to get your songs played commercially/sold one day, then it’s worth finding one that is run by industry professionals. For example, https://thesongwritingacademy.co.uk/offers courses in London, Berlin and New York and is run by writers who have been working in the business for decades.
LISTEN TO LOTS OF SONGS AND PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
To improve your own songwriting, listen to the experts! Simply choose the genres you like and start actively listening to the lyrics. The more you do, the more you will spot patterns in successful songs (everything from the all important ‘hook’ in the chorus, to the use of repetition). Once you’ve taken a course, you’ll spot a lot more of the techniques that are common to all hit songs – irrespective of genre.BE PART OF A COMMUNITY AND GET FEEDBACK
Some people aren’t aware that successful songwriting often involves lots of collaboration with other writers. There are lots of Facebook forums and so on for songwriters, but nothing beats meeting other songwriters in person, as this can help foster collaboration opportunities. Joining a more ‘professional’ association can also be of benefit. Some, such as the The Guild of International Songwriters and Composers (http://www.songwriters-guild.co.uk/) provide feedback as well as collaboration opportunities. Most will also ensure you are well versed in the importance of copywriting your work.
As times goes on and you write complete songs, whether alone or with other songwriters, you will probably want to become a member of a national or international copyright collective, such as the Performing Rights’ Society (https://www.prsformusic.com/) in the UK. These organisation protect your rights and deal with the very complex issue of royalties for your work (of which there can be many kinds). Just to give you an idea (of how many different ways a song can be used to produce royalties), have a look here:https://www.tunecore.com/guides/thirteen-ways-to-make-money.
NETWORK WITH INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS
Networking is a must in the music industry so head to any events that you can where music industry professionals are present. These can be found with a simple Google search and are often held regularly. This little article explains very succinctly why networking is essential: https://www.horusmusic.global/music-industry-networking/. Meeting publishers and people from record labels enables you to avoid contacting people ‘blind’ when the time comes to pitch one of your songs. You can also find out about commissioned songs (of which there are many). This is where a budget is available to write a song for a specific purpose (for example, a song for an advert or a song for an artist in a specific genre).GETTING YOUR SONG SOLD
Pitching a song to a publisher, record label or to the proposed artist is the way most songs are taken on. You generally get one chance to do this right, so it pays to know what you should and shouldn’t do, particularly if you are only starting out. I’ve found other songwriters to be an extremely supportive group of people who offer up lots of knowledge, experience and advice (a bit like the translators in SOM really!) Aside from that, there is plenty of advice on the subject online. Here’s just one of the many articles available on this topic that offer some really sound advice: https://songtown.com/dos-donts-pitching-songs/THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR:
– Copyright your songs as soon as possible, even if you don’t plan to do anything with them for a while. This can be done by registering them with your copyright collective.
– Make sure you keep a date-stamped audit trail of any songs you send off on CD or electronically to publishers, record labels or artists.
The second post in this series is about films – translating them through subtitles and also getting your own screenplay commissioned.
1) FILM (AUDIOVISUAL) TRANSLATION
WATCH FILMS (LOTS OF FILMS!) AND READ LOTS OF FILM SCRIPTS
If you want to translate films, then it’s essential that you are familiar and very comfortable with authentic film dialogue in your target language. Film translation is essentially audiovisual translation (unless you are asked to translate a whole film script) and thus involves the succinct translation of dialogue into space restricted subtitles. You therefore need to be an expert in colloquial language in your mother tongue(s).
If you are asked to translate an entire film transcript, then make sure you are familiar with the format in your target language by reading lots of them. These can be found online in places such as http://filmscriptsonline.com/
READ A BIT OF THEORY
With subtitling come rules – and quite a lot of them, despite there being no internationally accepted industry standards. You can learn a huge amount about these by simply reading a book written by an expert. Anything by Jorge Díaz Cintas is usually fabulous and ‘Audiovisual Translation, Subtitling (Translation Practices Explained) is one I would definitely recommend. I still refer to it myself after many years (https://amzn.to/2L1veDu).
GET SOME EXPERIENCE
As with books, you will very rarely be given a (paid) opportunity to translate a film if you have had no prior experience. So, however little, get some. You can do this entirely on your own by doing something as simple as downloading a short film from YouTube in your source language – using a tool such as ‘Freemake Video Converter (www.freemake.com) – and then translating it in a free tool such as Aegisub (www.aegisub.org/) using the rules learnt from your previous reading. Software, for obvious reasons, is pretty much always used in audiovisual translation and there are similarities in the functionality across all tools. Familiarising yourself with one enables you to pick up another very quickly. Some of the most popular tools in the industry include Wincaps, Swift and EZTitles. Once you have practised a little, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t include your subtitled films in your own portfolio. This can only be of help when trying to get paid film translation work.
TAKE AN AUDIOVISUAL TRANSLATION COURSE
Many agencies/direct clients like their translators to provide evidence of formal learning. So, something such as this online course run by Imperial College, London, can be an invaluable addition to your CV:
Otherwise, many masters courses now include audiovisual translation options.
NETWORK WITH INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS
There are agencies all over the world which specialise in film translation – for example, VSI in the UK (http://www.vsi.tv/). However, anybody who produces audiovisual film material in your source language(s) is also a potential client. So, find out about events where such people gather and go along. You may often find you’re the only translator there. If you’re doing this in your source language country, so much the better.
BE PREPARED TO COMPETE AND ESTABLISH A MINIMUM RATE
As with books, film translation work is highly sought after and there is LOTS of competition. Consequently, there are lots of ridiculous rates offered, as agencies and direct clients know translators want to do this kind of work (it is extremely enjoyable and interesting and most of us would do it for free if we could afford to!) Whilst it’s OK to accept any rate when you first start out and have pretty much no experience, at some point, you need to live. So, get ready to reject a lot of offers and target agencies and clients in the countries you know pay better (e.g. Europe/Canada/US/Australia). If you are an English into another language translator, then you are fortunate. Internationally, there is more work in this language direction.
Once you get a feel for the industry, set yourself a baseline rate, quickly. This can be a price per subtitle or per minute (clients tend to use both, and one can be used to calculate an approximation of the other depending on the quantity of dialogue in a film).
In my own experience, I am often offered work at €2/minute for translation alone (i.e. not including spotting, which is where you create the time synchronised subtitles yourself). My baseline rate, however, after 8 years of working fairly consistently in the industry, is €9-10/minute. There are many forums online which discuss the pricing of subtitles. Do some research for your particular language combination and country(-ies).
DON’T FORGET FILM TRANSCRIPT EDITING
There is a market for proofreading and editing other people’s film transcripts. Sites such as www.upwork.com can sometimes include such jobs and you can of course tailor your website/Proz.com profile and so on to specify that this is something you are interested in or do regularly. Editing other people’s screenplays is also a brilliant way of honing your own screenwriting skills, which leads us on to…
2) GETTING YOUR OWN FILM SCRIPT COMMISSIONED
TAKE A COURSE
Filmscript writing is a specialist writing form, with many well-established rules in terms of format/story development. Learning these rules in as consolidated a way as possible, from professionals, is a worthwhile investment. There are many courses around, from those costing a fortune at prestigious colleges, such as UC Berkley (US) to those which are more affordable, for example the one-day course by Industrial Scripts ® (UK) https://screenplayscripts.com/product/screenwriting-course/
There are even free courses, for example the one run by the University of East Anglia (UK) https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/screenwriting.
Such courses will more than likely introduce you to what is now almost the industry accepted standard for producing a film script in the right format – Final Draft software (https://www.finaldraft.com/). This isn’t exorbitantly priced, so could well be worth the investment early on if you know that screenplay writing is what you want to focus on.
READ LOTS OF SCRIPTS AND PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
To better improve your own scriptwriting, make sure you’ve read lots of film scripts by the very best writers. As mentioned previously, you can access these online in places such as http://filmscriptsonline.com/
HAVE ORIGINAL IDEAS, AND PLENTY OF THEM!
One of the first things people in the film industry will tell you is that it is the idea which often sells a film/gets it commissioned – even before a script has been written. So, have lots of them and in order to test how good they are (no – asking family and friends really doesn’t count!) it can be helpful to:
BE PART OF A COMMUNITY AND GET FEEDBACK
There are plenty of Facebook forums for screenwriters, but joining a more ‘professional’ community/association often has the benefit of enabling you get feedback on your work, which is vital. One such association is The International Screenwriters’ Association https://www.networkisa.org/
Alternatively, industry-based professional entities, such as Industry Scripts in the UK, offer fee-based feedback on everything from your concepts through to your final screenplay.
GETTING YOUR SCREENPLAY COMMISSIONED
Pitching a screenplay is pretty much the only way to get it commissioned and eventually turned into a fully produced film. There is lots of advice online for how to go about successful pitching – Google, as always, is a great source of information written by those who are really in the know in the film industry. For example:
NETWORK WITH INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS
Networking is invaluable if you want to get to know the people who can actually do something with your screenplay. Events such as those organised by companies like Industrial Scripts ® in London (https://screenplayscripts.com/) can be great ones to attend. Or anything by your own national film association/commission. ‘Who you know’ is of huge benefit in the film industry and having people know who you are and what you are hoping to achieve makes it much easier when you eventually start to make calls/write emails asking to be able to pitch your screenplay.
THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR:
The sad reality of the film industry is that it is a cut-throat as it comes. You should therefore:
– Not share your marvellous ideas with people in a much better position than you to make a film out of them, until you have a full script written and have sent it out to lots of people in the industry (preferably at a similar time.) This ensures you can sue the heck out of anyone who may try and steal your idea!
– Build up a network of credible, trustworthy industry professionals (the vast majority of them are) who can support you in gaining knowledge and experience, but not at the expense of you also obtaining success as a result of your talent and hard work.
I specialise and lecture in creative translation and have also made the crossover to becoming a published author. As a result, I am often asked for advice on how break into the Creative Industries. This is the first in a series of 3 posts on translating books, films and songs along with key information for those looking to move into these industries as original authors, screenplay writers and lyricists. I hope it proves useful for all those aspiring creatives out there.
This first post focuses on books – their translation and also getting your own published.
1) BOOK TRANSLATION
KNOW YOUR GENRE
If translating books is what you’re interested in, then the first thing to decide is what kind of books. A book on social-psychology requires entirely different skills and knowledge to translating a fast-paced thriller. Know what you love, make sure you read a lot of it in your target language already, and then focus on that.
GET SOME EXPERIENCE
No matter how little (even if only a few paragraphs), you need to have some kind of experience/evidence to show people that you are a capable book translator. Unfortunately, there aren’t many authors or publishers who want to entrust a book translation to someone who has never done it before. One place where you can cut your teeth is http://www.babelcube.com/ . This website allows you to sign up and offer to translate books (for free), with a share in the royalties of any sales of your translation.
NETWORK WITH INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS
Authors themselves can choose translators when a book is self-published, so you can contact them directly. (If you can’t find their contact details online, contact one of their self-publishing companies or online stories and ask if a message can be passed on containing your own contact details). For traditionally published books, however, publishers, literary agents and foreign rights are the people who employ book translators. A simple Google search on the topic is invaluable to learn more about the process and to find out who might be looking for translators (any publisher or literary agent with a ‘foreign rights’ department should be your first port of call). In brief, translations can be organised either by a) translators making a targeted approach and saying ‘I’d like to translate this book for this reason’ or b) publishers and literary agents thinking a certain book is well-suited to a new market, and thus selling the foreign rights via a foreign rights agent and requiring a translation.
If you want to find out more about how to get paid book translation work (i.e. work where you are paid some kind of fee rather than just a share of royalties), then I would highly recommend visiting one of the many national book fairs held worldwide. For example, London Book Fair (http://www.londonbookfair.co.uk/) in the spring, Beijing Book Fair (http://www.bibf.net/en/) in late summer and Frankfurt Book Fair (https://www.buchmesse.de/en/fbf/) in the autumn.
At these events you are surrounded by publishers and agents. It pays to arrange meetings beforehand as everyone goes there specifically to buy and sell book rights and their diaries are always very full. There are very useful seminars on book translation and associated topics, where you can meet fellow book translators and industry experts, exchanging notes and contacts. Catalogues of publishers/literary and foreign rights agents who require translators can sometimes be obtained at these events as well, which can be a huge time-saver.
BE PREPARED TO COMPETE
As and when you are first offered the opportunity to translate a book (for a share of royalties and/or a fee), it is quite common for a number of translators to be ‘tested’ simultaneously at the outset. This involves translating anything from a few paragraphs to a chapter of a book so that the author and/or publisher can make an informed choice. This work is often unpaid, with the ‘winning’ translator then being paid for their work in retrospect. As in all the creative industries, competition is extremely stiff so you need to be prepared to evidence your talent when you are starting out.
After you have translated at least one book, you are in a much better position to negotiate payment for any test. Providing samples of your previous work may even make completing a test unnecessary. Once you’re really established, you will tend to be approached by authors/publishers more. You need to have a name as a book translator before you’re really in the driving seat when it comes to obtaining book translation projects.
2) GETTING YOUR OWN BOOK PUBLISHED
Self-publishing has become a huge industry over the last decade, the result being anyone who wants to write and get their writing out there is now free to do so, at very little cost/risk. Here are some tips I’ve picked up in the last 6 years.
GET MAXIMUM EXPOSURE FOR MINIMUM EFFORT
Whether you choose to publish ‘print-on-demand’ hard copies or ‘e-books’, or both, you want to find a self-publishing company that distributes to as many online stores as possible. E-books tend to be the cheapest option but demand for print books continues to rise (it increased by 7% globally in 2017, according to Nielsen in its annual books and consumer survey, whilst e-book sales dropped by 4%). After lots of trial and error, including self-publishing through renowned companies such as lulu.com (https://www.lulu.com/) and Kindle Direct Publishing (https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/) – and there are many others, such as CreateSpace, Book Baby and Kobo – I was fortunate enough to come across PublishDrive (https://publishdrive.com/). They’re relatively new to the industry but making huge waves and in my experience, they provide the best service out there. It’s free to publish with them, if you format your books according to their requirements, and they take a flat 10% cut of your digital list price. If you need your book formatted or converted, they charge a very reasonable one-off fee (fees vary among self-publishing companies for this task but they all offer this option). PublishDrive distribute to the greatest number of online stores. They also offer up a huge number of language possibilities (whilst Amazon Kindle, for example, still doesn’t support many major world languages, including Chinese!)
GET USED TO MARKETING YOURSELF
The reality in the new digital world is that it isn’t now just quality which sells, it’s your brand. So, you need to have a USP, whatever your book, and you need to advertise what that is on social media – or pay someone else to do it for you. Having a profile as an author is vital for book sales.
One of the best ways to work out how to market yourself is to have a look at what other authors are doing via their social media channels – to get some inspiration – and then…DO NOT DO THE SAME THING! 🙂 You’re a creative, so copying another, more established, creative is unlikely to get you very far. It certainly won’t hone your creative skills. But you can always take other people’s ideas and give them a new twist or just come up with something that you’ve noticed other people aren’t doing.
BE PART OF A COMMUNITY
Getting together with other self-published authors can be extremely helpful for learning more about how to optimise your book’s sales potential. The Alliance of Independent Authors (https://www.allianceindependentauthors.org/) is a great international organisation for this purpose. There are also lots of Facebook groups around as well.
BE A GREAT WRITER!
Unlike with self-publishing, when you are looking to have your book published via the traditional route, the quality of your writing is everything. You will be competing against the best of the best and therefore being exceptional at your craft (within your preferred genre) as well as coming up with ingenious new ideas is what matters. So, get plenty of practice and lots of feedback (preferably from other published writers or publishers themselves.)
JOIN A PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATION
There are a number of these out there for writers and they can be hugely beneficial for support, advice and finding out about important industry events. Two good examples (and I mention only those in the UK here, of course) include The Society of Authors (http://www.societyofauthors.org/) and The Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (https://www.scbwi.org/).
GETTING A CONTRACT
I don’t currently have a publishing contract with a major publisher. I have been offered two in the last 6 months but did not feel they were right for me – based on advice from a number of other publishers and literary agents. I am now in talks with two more publishers. I hope this puts me in a good position to explain how you can go about getting a contract and what you should look out for when you are offered one. Above all, be prepared to show a huge amount of patience and tenacity (‘The Help’ by Kathryn Stockett was rejected 60 times before it was published!)
There are two routes to getting a traditional publishing contract. ROUTE 1 – you apply direct to publishers, ensuring that you adhere strictly to the instructions on their website for submissions. ROUTE 2 – you find yourself a literary agent who will act on behalf of you and your book and approach publishers for you. Again, instructions on submissions to literary agents are to be found on their websites and must be adhered to. To determine who to aim your book at, make sure you study the publisher or literary agent’s website carefully, as they will tell you what genres they are currently looking for (thrillers, sci-fi, young adult fiction etc) and indeed whether they are accepting submissions from new writers at all. The advantage of finding a literary agent to represent you is that they will negotiate contract deals with publishers and you as an author can tend to benefit from better conditions.
NETWORK WITH INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS (AGAIN!)
Just as for book translation, networking is invaluable if you want to obtain a traditional publishing contract. Attending book fairs, as well as other events where you know publishers and agents will be in attendance is invaluable for getting advice, meeting people who may be interested in your book and basically ‘making a noise’ (which was a piece of advice I was given in person by a very prominent member of the book industry). Again, Google can be fabulous for searching for such events as they take place in all sorts of locations in most major cities.
THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR:
As and when you do get that elusive publishing deal, take time to consider the following before accepting it:
– SCAM publishers/literary agents offering a ‘contribution-based’ contract. These are widespread these days and many new authors pay thousands of pounds to enter into a contract on the basis that they are not established and thus are more of a ‘risk’. Some publishers offering these contracts are ‘named and shamed’ online. Don’t fall into the trap of accepting such offers. A reputable publisher or literary agent will not ask you for any money if they want to take your book on.
– Make sure you are happy with the conditions for what can often be a tie-in period of 2-5 years. Ensure the royalties you will get are something you can live with as you will be legally bound by the contract, even if a better offer then comes along. There are no specific rules, but seeking advice from other publishers if you are acting on your own behalf (without an agent) can be extremely helpful.
– Other things to bear in mind are: how long your tie-in period is; whether the contract includes global rights to your book(s) and such things as merchandise; and whether someone wants to publish one or all of your books if you have written a series.
You’re a freelancer. Being good at what you do and being thankful when you actually have work coming in every day is surely what it’s all about, no? Well, if you ever want to earn more, get more of the work you love or even employ other people, then unfortunately not. As with any business, someone really needs to be thinking ‘bigger picture’ (a.k.a. Strategy) and that someone is you!
Strategy isn’t something that comes easy to many freelancers, who often start out with knowledge of a product or a skill as their area of expertise. But whether you like it or not, you need to start formulating and implementing a business strategy as soon as possible if you want to do more than just get by.
Here’s a quick guide to how you can find the time as well as the information required to flex your strategy muscles:
1) Know your long- and short-term objectives
Why exactly are you working as a freelancer? So you can retire early and pursue your aspiration of becoming a golf pro or world traveller? Because you love your product/industry and want to innovate within it? Because you have issues with authority and working for someone else was never going to be an option?
Once you’ve identified this, a lot of other things will immediately become clear. For example: I need to make as much money as possible as quickly as possible so that I’m freed up to do the other things I want to; I need to spend as much time as possible with other people in my industry, to enable me to be at the cutting edge of what I do; or simply, if I’m going to work with other people, I need to make sure I’m employing them so that I’m the boss!
Once you know your long-term objective, you can start to look at interim goals – anywhere from 1-5 years – to get there. To illustrate this point, my long-term goal has always been to move from being solely a freelance translator and lecturer to having more time to engage in philanthropic, creative and entrepreneurial pursuits. Two of my key objectives over the last couple of years have been participation at an international book fair and the organisation of a worldwide social media event. I needed to free up time and money to dedicate to the preparation and planning of these activities. So my 2-year strategy has involved undertaking more proofreading work because I find it more lucrative. In 2018, when my 2-3 year targets change, so will my strategy.
2) Let people know you’re strategizing
Talk to anyone and everyone about what you’re doing. People love people with a vision and they will contribute their thoughts to the mix without you even having to ask. Whether friend, family member or employee, the most valuable ideas come from collaboration. Two heads (and preferably three or four) will always be better than one.
If possible, team up with other freelancers who also want to focus on strategy (preferably in a group which also has an overriding strategy itself – for example, Standing Out Mastermind for Translators and Interpreters). Sharing strategies with others is inspiring and motivating and keeps you accountable.
3) Learn how successful strategists operate
Read about the topic. Investigate how other people – from other freelancers to business magnates – strategize. Where do those who do it well find the time to do so? What habits have they developed in this regard? Copy what others do or adapt what you learn to suit your own particular circumstances.
4) Create a strategic plan and regularly monitor it
To establish a good strategic plan, it can be helpful to use strategic planning tools. Once you’ve done this, make sure you regularly evaluate how you and your business are performing in relation to this plan. Have you had a couple of months where firefighting immediate issues has taken priority over strategy and targets? No problem. But if it’s been a couple of years then either your strategy wasn’t the right one or you perhaps aren’t making enough of an effort to focus on it.
5) Know your strengths
As a freelancer, it is extremely difficult to form a strategy which encompasses every single area of your operation simultaneously (sales and marketing, upskilling, networking, outsourcing, automating activities). So, know what you’re good at and start there.
Your strategy can of course change focus over time. However, if you’re not an IT guru then try and hand over any elements in your strategy which involve this area to someone who is! For example, if you’re a translator and want everything relating to your projects and invoices automated, then entrust those tasks to people whose entire business strategy focuses on making this happen – lsp.expert, for example.
As with anything, the more you practise strategizing, the better you get and the faster you’re able to do it. If you’re doing it properly, you should also find you have more time as the years go by to focus on this very area. So, start now, get stuck in and good luck!
We’d love to hear about any tips or tools you have to help with developing a freelance or small business strategy in the comments section below 🙂
Have you ever wished you could be like the CEO of a mega-corporation and delegate all those tasks you don’t really enjoy/aren’t really good at to someone else? Do you envisage yourself as a bit of a Zuckerberg, or a Branson-in-waiting, only you seem to spend more of your time on admin than strategising and the stuff that really plays to your key skills? If the answer is ‘Yes’ on both counts, did you know that it’s never too soon to outsource and it need not cost a fortune – as little as $5/£5/€5 is all you need to get started? You didn’t? Then read on…
I run a business which centres around translation (I refer to it as a ‘business’ because whilst I’m a freelance translator, a solopreneur, I have a number of different income streams). When I talk to fellow small- and medium-sized business (SME) owners, they often say that one of the key issues holding them back from their dreams of rapid growth and success is getting bogged down in the nuts and bolts of their business. We’ve all been there. Admin, accounting, marketing and advertising all eat into precious time which could be better spent on specialist tasks – whether a specific ‘artistic’ skill, dealing with potential clients/investors or creating a detailed business plan for subsequent years.
So, where do you start if outsourcing is something you’re keen to do as promptly and in as painless a way as possible? Here are the 3 questions I hear most often from people who haven’t tried outsourcing before, along with responses containing the information I wish I’d had when I first started out.
1) WHAT WORK SHOULD YOU OUTSOURCE?
Despite knowing they should outsource something, it’s surprising how many SME owners aren’t really sure exactly what that something should be. Do you fall into this camp?
Ask different people and you’ll get different answers as to what you should outsource. To provide a useful starting point, however, www.business.com recommends that you outsource 5 key areas. In my experience, these make a lot of sense. They can act like vampires on your time and often detract from priority work. With just one small variation (number 4), I’d therefore recommend outsourcing the following tasks:
1. Appointments, Scheduling & Answering Phones
2. Graphic/Web Design
5. Customer or Technical Support
2) WHO/WHAT SHOULD YOU OUTSOURCE TO?
Solutions to help solve the issue of outsourcing business-related tasks (or delegating them – if you’re lucky enough to have actual employees!) generally come in two forms: those involving
I focus purely on 1) here, as 2) would require a listing of so many different industry-specific tools that any sane reader would stop reading right about…now!
But please don’t. The great thing about 1) is that the related solutions apply to all industries, so there will definitely be something here for you.
The advent of websites designed to offer specialist/professional services for a fee sometimes involved dubious service providers. A number of them hadn’t necessarily ever undertaken a given task before you suddenly parted with good money to be their guinea pig. This isn’t the case anymore.
There are now a multitude of more reliable outsourcing options, (www.fiverr.com and www.peopleperhour.com being two of the most renowned) which enable you to pay someone to undertake tasks you feel you can’t, or don’t want to – everything from website design, to SEO optimisation, to data entry. Other great options are referred to here:
A simple Google search also brings up many other websites designed specifically for outsourcing work:
Suffice it to say that the new improved versions of these websites include reviews from outsourcers’ previous customers and the option to purchase different combinations of skills for different periods of time. You can even define your own specific requirements, put them out into the e-sphere and then wait and see who wants the job.
3) CAN BUDGET = QUALITY?
I’m amazed when talking to fellow entrepreneurs that so many still seem to be unaware of cost-effective means of outsourcing work. When they do know about it, concerns are sometimes raised over ethics or quality. As with all things, business and money make the world go round. With these websites, you are paying someone, and that someones may sometimes live in a different country, who has an area of expertise they want to share and a desire to make a living, just like you or me. Arguably, paying someone to do work that involves them using a computer or technology (which most ‘gigs’ on these sites do) is markedly more ethical than the sweatshop practices in which a number of well-known multinationals still engage.
There’s also the added benefit that you can end up dealing with people who work all over the world. This can heighten your cultural awareness and even increase your own levels of motivation and gratitude. I once worked with a person who lived in the Philippines and his local area was flooded overnight. He was keen to continue collaborating despite access to basic electricity, let alone an internet connection, becoming an issue. I was extremely humbled to learn about the difficulties he was facing and yet inspired to see how resolute he was in the face of adversity. Completing and being paid for the great work he was producing was a priority for him. We even discussed how thankful we both were to be working with a fellow professional who was keen to see our collaboration through, no matter how difficult the circumstances got.
As far as quality is concerned, naturally, expectations are everything. It’s unlikely you’ll be outsourcing to someone with 20 years of experience working for multinationals if you’re paying $20 as a fixed or hourly rate. However, in my experience, there is huge talent out there just waiting to be discovered and everyone has to start somewhere. I’ve often worked with students paying their way through a college course, as well as professionals starting out in an industry and looking to gain experience and good references. I’ve built great, mutually beneficial working relationships with many of them. And the quality of their work has been excellent. [Providing a comprehensive brief or set of instructions is of course vital to ensure this is the case!] I’ve also increased what I pay the people I outsource to, based on the quality of their work. The question, after all, shouldn’t really be how ethical a given outsourcing website is, but rather how ethical you want to be in your own professional practice.
So, if your big vision sees your business expanding in the near future, but currently the only thing growing seems to be your to do list, why not give one of these sites a try? For just a small and very affordable investment, you can start creating a virtual team and get back to focusing on what you do best! Good luck 🙂
Claire Culliford (Owner of TransTeach)
Do you have experience outsourcing on a budget ? If so, we’d love to hear about it. Feel free to share your stories with us in the comments section below 🙂
The other day someone I’d just met asked me what I do. Just like that. Not even a “How are you?” An exchanging of names and then they dove straight in. As people are wont to. Because of course, in today’s world we’re all just a job title really, aren’t we? I replied, as tends to be my wont, that actually I do lots of different things, and started to list them. And suddenly, eyes widened, ears pricked up and I had my audience’s (OK, ‘her’….) undivided attention. Because it would seem that deep down, none of us really want to be definable as one thing. And we sure as heck don’t want to hear anyone who is bang on about it! We all dream of conquering the world, in our own way. And in order to do so – to be that person we truly feel we are deep down inside – one single, immutable label is the last thing we need.
This blog post is simply a nod, and a good dose of moral support, to all of those people who’ve ever had someone say to them:
“You need to stick to one thing”,
“You’ll only be successful if you become an expert in a single field” or
“Why didn’t you just carry on [in medicine/law/teaching/banking/translating – delete as appropriate]?”
and yet remain wholly unconvinced…as I always have been.
I generally tend to reply with a:
“Er, no. I know what makes me happy and that just ain’t it!”
You are, of course, free to choose your own retort. In fact, being creative with your response is half the fun!
Most of us are conditioned to believe that success = having a lot of money and/or power (and a job title which impresses people!) I certainly was.
In my own case, in the years after graduation, as all those around me made their way up the slippery ladder of corporatedom, I couldn’t shake the belief that the only true success I felt really worthy of achievement was being 100% authentic to myself. Life’s short (I knew that all too well after losing a couple of close friends by my early twenties). Why on earth would you simply get on a treadmill running towards a destination that you’d been told was the one you should be headed for?
And so I jumped off, rather inelegantly, at 2am one Christmas morning, whilst sat in a basement office with no windows. I was on my own – literally – supposedly trying to save a global IT system from falling over. I mean, WHO CARES??? Unfortunately (but rather fortuitously for my future), I certainly didn’t. Thank God for http://www.i-resign.com. Writing an articulate ‘I quit’ letter is hard for the best of us in the early hours.
Fast forward 15 years and I have tried so many things professionally, it’s simply not funny. (Although in some cases it is, as it makes for amusing dinner parties anecdotes). The thing I love most in life is helping people. So I worked in education for a while, figuring it was a vocation, and I enjoyed it; until a teenager threw a chair at me and then barricaded the classroom door. Seriously? And they thought the money I was being paid was enough??
Fortunately, I’d done a masters after my ignominious departure from the world of IT consultancy, so I set to trying to make a go of things as a freelance translator. And I have to say, all at once, I started to feel like I’d found my niche. Varied work? Tick. Mentally challenging? Tick. Control over my own working life? Tick. Until I found myself in a place that once again seemed to be more about external expectations than internal intentions. I woke up one day to find myself a mainly legal and financial translator. (Decent money? Tick!) And yet neither field floated my boat in the slightest.
So I did what any normal person does in a such a circumstance. I ran away to the Caribbean. And I came back having met someone equally as ‘non-conformist’ as myself. And from there, I thought “What the heck?”, I’m actually Creative, not Corporate, and jumped off the treadmill yet again, only this time for good. What happened thereafter only served to support the theory that you attract more of what you’re focused on. And that if you want a portfolio career, it pays to base it around ‘helping people’ in whatever way you can.
I returned home and a colleague working in a university at the other end of the country got in touch, immediately. “If you’re able to learn this piece of software in 2 days, you can come and teach audiovisual translation for us.” “OK!” I said. (How hard could it be?) And within a month I was travelling 3 hours each way every week to teach a 2-hour subtitling class, which I loved!
A few months later, the CEO of a translation company in Spain got in touch to say they were looking for a UK Director. Was I interested? “With absolutely no sales and marketing experience behind me?” I asked. “Yes, of course I am!” I continue to work with them to this day. They think outside the box and are all about social enterprise – my kind of people.
Alongside all this, I co-founded and ran a charity that’s now become international, with Mr. Non-Conformist. Because somewhere inside it felt like we could help a lot of people from the moment the idea arose. We used Google as our primary adviser in all things charity start-up related and its generosity was astounding! Those who help need help at times too.
In the last 5 years I’ve also become a published writer, again by trying to write something that would help people – young children in this case. I’ve been on property courses and have been able to help people who need a home. I’ve even helped start a Media Production company. None of it was meticulously planned, it simply involved ‘leaning into’ areas I had an interest in, saying yes to helping somebody wherever possible and learning as I went along. I think it’s fair to say that gone are the days of my being able to succinctly stick my job title on 1 by 2 inch sticky label at conferences. And I love that fact. I also adore meeting other people in exactly the same situation. Oh such colourful souls 🙂So if you have a gut feeling that perhaps you’re not destined to do the work that you’re doing now forever; or in your heart something really appeals, just because; and if anyone around you suggests that you stick with the safe, rather than the scary, or just one single thing, then I’d simply say “Don’t”. If what’s tickling your fancy also happens to help people, then so much the better.
There’s no need to go all out, jump ship and live the life of a starving artist (although it’s amazing the drive monetary pressure can generate!) Baby steps are all it takes. Contrary to common belief, those who take risks aren’t always huge daredevils. Neither are they another class of human being, untouchables, who we can admire from afar but never hope to emulate.
No, they’re people just like you and me, who decided that maybe that little voice inside really is worth listening to, no matter how loudly the rest of the world tries to shout it down 🙂
Claire Culliford (Founder of TransTeach)
Have you got experience of breaking away from the professional ‘norm’, or creating a portfolio career? If so, we’d love to hear about it. Feel free to share your stories with us in the comments section below 🙂
I started out on a journey 3 years ago. I had no idea where it would lead, but the vision, the dream, has always remained the same: To help the next generation look after each other and their environment in creative ways whilst having lots of fun.
In 3 years the first book in the series has been read to children in schools, libraries and homes across England, Spain and the United States. More recently it has been translated into French and Romanian. It is currently being translated into German and Chinese.
The second book in the series has now been published and a further two have been written and are soon to be illustrated. Discussions are also underway about creating an animated series. The vision is the only thing that has remained unchanged since the start, in spite of the many detours along the way.
To anyone with a vision, and a dream, never let them go…HAPPY WORLD BOOK DAY!!! 🙂
Here at TransTeach we’re all about supporting the next generation of translators, and writers, and bloggers – indeed any young person starting out on their professional journey. Consequently, we’re keen to provide a platform for them to articulate their experiences and the realities of the working world that they currently face.
This month, we’re doing just that, with the first of our posts from younger guest bloggers who have something they want to share with others, supporting TransTeach’s focus on cross-discipline education.
This post was written by James Hewlett (https://twitter.com/JPHewlett), a recent masters graduate in Translation and Interpreting from the University of Nottingham. Now employed as a linguist for a large translation company based in Warwickshire, his route to securing his current role involved a whole host of time-consuming applications and interviews, a few false starts, some raised hopes and a number of dashed ones. This is what led him to want to write about a very pertinent topic and one which has undoubtedly helped him arrive at where he finds himself today….
Starting out in the translation industry, or starting any new professional endeavour for that matter, is never easy, and our first few steps will always be fraught with difficulty. For all the effort and work you may have put in to get you where you are today, sometimes it feels that Lady Luck is really just not on your side. If only instant success were as easy to achieve as Bradley Cooper in the film Limitless. Alas, the only place that success comes before work is in a dictionary, at least an English one anyway. But what happens if you haven’t achieved those goals within the time period you wanted to achieve them? What happens if your translation career still hasn’t taken off? Should you throw in the towel and just give up?
It’s safe to say that in my limited professional life, I have been faced with a number of challenges, setbacks and rejections, but there are two important life skills that have got me through these challenges and have led me to finally taking my first steps in the translation industry: perseverance and resilience. Continue reading
A new year provides the opportunity for a new start. What better way than by identifying what it is that makes you professionally unique so you can truly make your mark on the world?
Every industry in the world, translation included, is becoming more and more competitive each day. Whether you work as a freelancer, an employee or run your own show and employ lots of other people, there is always someone or some other company out there vying for the work you’ve currently got. Complacency simply isn’t an option.
In light of this, it’s important to carve yourself out a niche, as early as possible. Delivering work of excellent quality and being someone that your colleagues actually want to work with has become something of a given. You now also need to ensure that you offer something unique; something that sets you apart from the rest. Here’s TransTeach’s practical guide to identifying your professional ‘voice’ and using it to give you the X-Factor.
1) Don’t overlook the obvious
First thing’s first, don’t try to re-invent the wheel and don’t overthink things. Ironically, what comes extremely easy to you is often the very thing that sets you apart. If you love playing around with gadgets/IT, then the technology/apps side of things could well be where you shine. Small or large scale, these are vital tools for everyone from sole traders to business magnates, so if you’ve got the know-how, flaunt it!
If you’ve always had a head for figures, whether you’re working in an accountancy firm or for a wildlife charity, make those numbers count! Let people know what you like and what you feel you’re good at, so that you get the opportunity to do more of it.
2) Research, Research, Research!
Find out what niches other people have adopted to rule out or inspire you with ideas. You may be surprised at the way in which your professional ‘voice’ permits you to marry your areas of professional expertise (Russian language and online chess apps, for example; property law and sustainable tourism; adult literacy and fashion design; the permutations and combinations are almost endless!) The more bizarre your combination of skills sounds, the more unique your ‘voice’ is going to be.
To give an illustrative example, when I decided to start the TransTeach blog, and as it has developed, I’ve carried out extensive research on the other translation blogs/writers in the market. This would seem like an opportune moment to thank individuals such as Andrew Morris (creator of Standing Out –https://www.facebook.com/groups/standingoutgroup/ and Standing Out Island – https://www.facebook.com/groups/standingoutisland), Corinne McKay (Thoughts on Translation http://thoughtsontranslation.com/), Claire Cox (Lines from a Linguist https://clairecoxtranslations.wordpress.com/), Galina Green (http://britbitchberlin.com/), Lloyd Bingham (Capital Translations –http://capital-translations.co.uk/category/translation/) and countless others, for their ‘voice’, which has undoubtedly helped me to identify and carve out my own. I currently like to refer to this as Translation and Diversification [Trans-] meets Education [-Teach] (but more about that in point 4) below). Who knows what it will morph into in the future?
3) Try everything and anything
Your professional ‘voice’ changes over time, whether you think you can identify what it is straight away or not. If you can’t, because nothing immediately springs to mind, then get experimenting. Only by trying lots of things do you ever know where you particular talents lie. So, take online courses (there are plenty of free ones covering every topic imaginable these days), expose yourself to social media (both professionally and personally) and if something tickles your fancy, have a go!
I never set out in life to street dance, subtitle foreign films or help run a charity. When the opportunity arose to try these things, however, I was always at the front of the queue 🙂 Over time my professional voice has developed to include all of these unique facets.
4) Develop your social media presence
Nowadays, we’re constantly being told that an online presence is essential right from the off. Indeed it is. Social media provides opportunities that as a self-employed individual, employee or business owner you certainly shouldn’t miss out on. However, think carefully and research even more prudently before ever putting finger to keyboard. Why? Because a lot of people have done it before you and in the social media sphere too, you need to ‘shine’. You need to get known for what you and you alone can offer.
One way of developing your own virtual presence is to contribute to those of others. So, take your time, engage with those whose presence you admire and can relate to. Slowly but surely you’ll find your own ‘voice’ naturally emerges as a result.
As an example, since starting TransTeach I’ve always been recognised by my clients/colleagues for my diversification and my desire to help and educate others on how to do the same. They’ve also commented on the fact that I’m pretty creative. I freelance as well as being the UK and US Director for a large international translation agency. I also provide translator training and linguistic consultancy services. I’m the Development Director for a charity. I love all forms of creative writing and I’ve authored a number of children’s books. I invest in property as well because having multiple streams of income is always a good idea. As a result, I’ve personally followed, commented and retweeted lots of associated Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn content, slowly finding the place that I can call my professional home in the world of social media along the way.
5) Whatever your ‘voice’, make it a positive one
No matter what you decide are your professional USPs, and how those change over time, make sure that what also makes you shine is your positivity. If there’s one thing people value above all else today, given the constant barrage of bad news and the pressure of the 21st Century workplace, it’s someone with a smile who motivates them, inspires them and makes their day seem just that little bit better. Whether it be by sharing your unique skills or using them productively to educate and support others, make sure you do so at every possible opportunity. Those with the loudest and most powerful professional ‘voices’ today are undoubtedly those who use their uniqueness to benefit as many other people as possible. So, find your own ‘voice’, sing loud with it and use your song to helps lots of other people along the way. Good luck!
Claire Culliford (Founder of TransTeach)
If you have any comments about or advice concerning how you found your own professional voice, then feel free to share them here or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a topic that’s always a work in progress, so the more contributors, the better!