Strategy: 5 keys for freelancers

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 objectivesGoals

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.

Talking

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.

Learn3) 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 itMonitoring

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.

what are you best at?

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 ūüôā¬†

Budget outsourcing for beginners [A fiverr is all you need!]

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/‚ā¨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.

tasks-to-outsource

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

3. Bookkeeping

4. Marketing/Advertising

5. Customer or Technical Support

 who-and-what

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

1) people

or

2) software.

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:

www.fiverrstuff.com

A simple Google search also brings up many other websites designed specifically for outsourcing work:

www.elance.com  and   www.mylittlejob.eu to name but two.

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.

budget-and-quality

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 ūüôā

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 ūüôā¬†

 

 

 

 

Liberating yourself from professional labels

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.

business-treadmill

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.bored-of-job

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.

opportunity

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 ūüôācolourful-peopleSo 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 ūüôā¬†

labelling-in-society

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 ūüôā¬†

 

 

Happy World Book Day!

 

Hector Helps Clean Up The Park New Cover

Watch and listen to an extract from “Hector Helps…Clean Up the Park”

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!!! ūüôā

Keep Calm and…Build Resilience!

Resilience

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

How to find your professional ‘voice’

Finding your professional voice

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 ūüôā 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 info@transteach.com. This is a topic that’s always a work in progress, so the more contributors, the better!

 

 

A Translator’s True Love Tale

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TransTeach is a blog which aims to promote education across a multitude of areas, from translator training and the importance of diversification as a freelancer right through to how the very youngest members of society can better look after their environment and each other (check out our charity ebooks).

In this post, we’re deviating once again because education, like life, can’t be neatly compartmentalised. This is a post written sincerely from the heart – that of our founder, Claire Culliford, to be precise. Whether anyone¬†really needs to be educated¬†about true love is a question that’s open to¬†debate but it certainly doesn’t hurt to hear about it as much as possible. It is, after all, what makes the world go round!


Four years ago this week, I had just returned from the Caribbean, where I’d gone to learn to dive. The trip turned out to be more life changing than I could ever have envisaged; a chance encounter left me having met the love of my life and led to me branching out in my career, to become the director of a charity and a children’s book author. All I knew at the time, however, was that in the space of one evening I’d been introduced to the most interesting man I’d ever met.

Last week, I returned from the Caribbean once again. This time, the same man and I had been there together, only accompanied by a small group of young people. All of them have given of their time and energy, repeatedly, to help support the charity that my now partner and I have worked on building and developing pretty much since the day we met – My Mother’s Love (www.mymotherslove.co.uk). You see I fell not only for a man, but also for his life vision – a desire to make a real difference in the world and to help as many people as possible along the way.¬†His vision was, I realised almost immediately, entirely in line with my own and the intervening 4 years have seen us make it a reality.

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My Mother’s Love charity participants enjoying the trip¬†of a lifetime

I wouldn’t say I’m particularly gifted when it comes to expressing affection verbally. So it’s lucky that I’m with someone who is. I am constantly told how much I’m loved and I think it’s high time I reciprocate. So, as the written word has always been more my thing, here goes…

The last 4 years of my life have been a beautiful journey. One of adventure into the unknown, following my gut, rising to what have sometimes felt like insurmountable challenges and also overcoming fears (some of which I didn’t even realise I had). Every step of the way my hand and heart have been held by a person who I constantly feel fortunate to have found. My whole life I’ve been a fan of dreaming, and of dreaming big, and then turning those dreams into something real, something tangible. However, when I envisioned falling in love in the most earth shattering, filmlike and lifelong way, I’m not sure I thought it was truly possible. It turns out that it is.

I am a very different person from the one I was at the start of December 2011. I’m still a translator, teacher and writer and I try to be a good person every day, just like I did before. However, ¬†thanks largely to the man I love, I now believe I’m more generous, with both my time and money, more patient, more courageous, more forgiving, more tolerant and well, the list goes on…

My partner sometimes tells me I’m very self-critical; I say, why wouldn’t I be? Becoming a better human being¬†every day is something that’s always been a personal priority. So, I notice the changes in me, even the small ones, and I’m so grateful for them. I particularly appreciate the fact that many of them may not have occurred had I not met such a wonderful person to share my life with.

The man I’m with has also changed. He was a fabulous guy when I met him, one whose heart and mind I found utterly beguiling. Now, well, in my eyes he’s just perfect. I am proud every day to be able to spend so much time around him – we work together from home – and to have him constantly there reminding me that I can still be more generous, more understanding, more creative, more aspirational, an even better version of myself.

Everyone thinks their love story is special, and indeed they all are. I adore hearing about stories of real-life love. I find them even more endearing than the kind that’s portrayed in fiction. Our story, for example, has involved crazy flights to exotic locations, just to spend a few precious days together. It’s also involved periods of long separation (because a vision is a vision, not a day job!), illness and bereavement, as well as the creation of our own unique, multicultural family. Through it all, we’ve stuck steadfastly together because what love and ‘team’ can create is infinitely more powerful than anything you can do alone and from a less passionate place.

Today, the charity continues to thrive, as do our feelings for each other. I feel blessed and extremely grateful for what we have and what we are building each and every day. If life really is about the journey rather than the destination, then I have been privileged to find such an inspirational travel companion.

The purpose of this post is to inspire rather than to educate. It is to encourage those who are looking either for love or a life vision, or both, and to let them know that they do exist. You just need to be prepared to take risks and open yourself up to every opportunity to find them. My advice? Quite simply, know what you want and believe it can happen. Then, get on out there and live large, dream huge, never ever give up and watch how the world conspires to help you achieve all the things that really matter to you. Oh, and when you do, write and tell us at info@transteach.com because we¬†love nothing more than hearing about other people’s journey to success and happiness :)

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Why You Should Be Thankful For Life As a Linguist

We all claim to be thankful for what we have in life, especially those of us who are self-employed, love what we do and work internationally (albeit it virtually, for the most part) every day.

But just how much do we truly appreciate the position we’re in?

This week TransTeach has had cause to focus once again on its good fortune and to remember that we all need to use the¬†gifts we’ve been given, to give back…


Most of us who translate or use languages in our work every day have been privileged enough to travel to those countries where the languages we use are spoken. In fact, many of us have lived there. What’s more, we’ve often¬†travelled to a multitude of other places in the world where they don’t speak any of the languages we do. It’s often¬†in our¬†blood. Sort of a “Have passion for languages, Will travel” kind of a thing.

Aside from my language business, I run a charity with my partner called “My Mother’s Love”¬†(www.mymotherslove.co.uk). The charity aims to raise awareness among children and young adults¬†of environmental and social issues, in a¬†unique and innovative way. At first sight, the link between this venture and working in the translation industry may not be all that evident. But there most definitely is one and I become more and more aware of it every day.

As linguists or translators, we often take for granted the level of cultural awareness that we possess. We partake in intercultural activities without stopping to give things a second thought. It’s what we ‘do’. We work to overcome¬†language and cultural barriers and boundaries, after all. As a result, the world is a particularly small place for us. Interacting with individuals living on the other side of the globe is our bread and butter and we often possess geographical knowledge that extends beyond the norm, without even realising it.

In a week’s time our charity¬†will be achieving one of its¬†ultimate objectives, for the very first time. We’ll be¬†taking a group of¬†young people who’ve stuck by us¬†through thick and thin to the Caribbean. The trip will involve environmental and conservation activities as well as visits to foster cross-cultural and intergenerational development. These young people haven’t had the opportunity to see as much of the world as many¬†of us have. The reasons why¬†don’t really matter. Being around them as our departure approaches has given rise to situations that make me appreciate how lucky I am to have travelled the world and to continue to do so, for the purposes of my work, every day .

Whether it be an interested parent who admits that they had thought the Caribbean and Spain were ‘pretty much the same thing’ or questions about what clothes to take, what food we’ll eat and how much things will cost, the effect is always the same: I gain a¬†heightened awareness of the level of cultural and linguistic education that I¬†have been fortunate enough to attain. A university degree¬†(whether in languages or another subject) and worldwide travel are not a given in life. They are, in fact, a very special gift that I¬†have¬†been lucky enough to receive. There are many who will never know what it is to feel calm and comfortable living in the midst of very different cultures and speaking foreign tongues.

I’ve taught and worked with children and young people in many parts of the world. However, our upcoming trip will be a first for me. We’ll be taking young people with¬†the same linguistic and cultural background I¬†have to visit a place the likes of which they’ve only ever seen on television¬†before. The heat, the landscape,¬†the¬†flora and fauna and even the accent of the locals will be unchartered territory for them. Nerves are undoubtedly starting to kick in; but there’s also a palpable excitement, the fear and anticipation of the unknown, a desire to see more of our great big planet and to take advantage of what may well be the trip of a lifetime.

Throughout our time away, I’m looking forward to seeing things¬†from a different perspective, through different¬†eyes – those of the young people I’ll be with. I like to think I’m never complacent about journeying to new places and absorbing the sights, sounds, smells and tastes. However, it can be all too easy to¬†come to see such experiences as a normal part of life, particularly in my line of work, when in fact, for the majority of people in the world, they really aren’t.

Every single day during our trip I shall be remembering to be thankful for the gifts life has bestowed upon me, none more so than my abilities as a linguist and the experiences that has afforded me. Perhaps, if only for a few minutes, you might also do the same after reading this. We should all appreciate what we have in life as often as we can. This is another opportunity to do exactly that.


If you found this post helpful and have your own suggestions as to why we should we thankful for our life as linguists, drop us a line at info@transteach.com.

Translator Training – A Guide to Getting your Foot in the Door

Well before¬†I founded TransTeach, in 2008, I was teaching¬†many different¬†aspects of translation at universities across the UK. Translator training is¬†something I’m truly¬†passionate about and I know many other translators are too. With a background in education, I always had a¬†gut instinct that¬†teaching in the translation domain would be right for me.¬†However,¬†like anyone, I needed that initial ‘break’, to give me a chance to prove myself and to enable more opportunities to arise as a result.

I consider myself extremely fortunate and still adore walking into a classroom or lecture theatre of new students today. I therefore love¬†to do all I can to help¬†other translators who have the same dream I once did. So, if you’re someone who knows they want to teach translation, particularly in a formal, academic environment, then read on. Here’s TransTeach’s advice on how you can do just that…


Know what you want and want it enough

I’m not sure of the exact when or how, early in¬†my own translation training (in 2003-4 on the¬†MSc at Imperial College, London) I determined that I wanted to train other translators. In fact, I was surprised at how strong the desire in me to do this was. I adored my course of study: the timetable, the different modules, the constant learning. All I knew was that it felt ‘right’ to want to be involved in providing the same for future students in my¬†field.

Fast forward 12 years and I’ve been teaching translation for 11 years. I started by teaching on the very masters course I’d completed when an opportunity arose soon after I graduated. I had a teaching qualification, but I had no PhD – often a requirement for such teaching posts.¬†I therefore considered myself to very lucky, and am grateful to this day, for the chance my former tutors gave me. I know I was a capable student, and a good teacher, but I still believe my passion and enthusiasm played a large part in getting me first break. (Along with¬†quite a lot of positive visualisation – which definitely does work!)

The message here? Basically, know what you want, even if you have no idea how you’re going to get it (yet). And want it BAD! That desire, determination and drive will emanate from you and be picked up on somewhere, by somebody. In my case it was my own Spanish to English practical translation tutor, Nicky Harman (thanks Nicky! –¬†https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicky_Harman). When she first approached me, rather tentatively, to see if I was interested in teaching part of a practical translation module, I practically bit her hand off. And that has been pretty much the case with every translation teaching opportunity I’ve been offered since.

Let people know what you want

There’s no point knowing what you want (and wanting it an awful lot) if you never share your desire with anyone else. So, make sure you tell anyone and everyone what it is you’re interested in doing. “I’m really interested in getting some experience teaching translation in a university”. “I loved my translation training and want to be able to train other translators. I’m passionate about it”. Put your wishes out there and the universe will able to help. Keep them to yourself and it will be an awful lot harder to achieve your goals.

If you’re interested in working at a specific institution or on a specific course, then approach ¬†a course leader or a head of department directly. Believe it or not, they don’t get people doing this¬†every day. There aren’t as many people out there wanting to get into translation teaching as there are aspiring¬†actors, musicians or writers (strangely enough); the odds of you finding an opening are actually quite high!

Don’t be put off if you don’t have a PhD

Gone are the days when only people with a¬†doctorate could teach at university level. Nowadays, institutions are as likely to employ¬†practising industry professionals¬†to lecture as they are the most respected academics. If a full-time post teaching translation if what you’re ultimately aiming for, then obviously improving your academic credentials will be of benefit. However, if you want to teach and practise your profession at the same time, universities now recognise the advantages of this. They are often keen to bring in visiting lecturers who teach specific modules, with very practical, industry-related content.

Get a teaching qualification

One way of standing out from your competitors is to get qualified to teach (particularly university level teaching). Nowadays many institutions are demanding that their academic staff  hold teaching qualifications. In the UK, for example, the Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education is becoming increasingly popular: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postgraduate_Certificate_in_Higher_Education.

A good academic researcher does not necessarily a good teacher make. Training helps to redress the balance. By contacting one or two institutions, you can find out what qualification(s) they like their staff to get and investigate starting one of these. You don’t have to have completed it before you start looking for work but it’s another way of demonstrating your commitment to the field you want to work in.

Be prepared to step outside of your comfort zone

If I had waited until I felt truly ‘ready’ to teach others about translation, I’d probably still be waiting to do so right now. There is never a ‘right’ time. You will always feel under-prepared, lacking in knowledge and just downright daunted at what may greet you in the translation classroom. So, if an opportunity arises, view it as a now or never chance and jump in with both feet!

Since taking on my first technical translation teaching post, I’ve progressed to teaching legal and translation, localization and¬†audiovisual translation. I’ve¬†even developed and delivered my own ‘A Day in the Life of a Translator’ introductory course for undergraduate¬†language students who may be contemplating translation as a career option.

Every time I’ve been offered a new challenge, I’ve seen it as just that. When I was asked if I could teach audiovisual translation, I said yes, of course. When I was asked if I knew how to use the associated software, I said yes, of course (and promptly taught myself how to do so in a week!) Where there’s a will, there’s a way, so never be put off by something that seems slightly outside of your current range of knowledge and experience. If nothing else, it enables you to empathise all the more effectively with the students you teach. Being a teacher or trainer¬†requires you to constantly step outside of your comfort zone, so get used to it. In fact, enjoy it. It’s what makes the work so interesting!

Be humble

Good teachers know that they are not the source of all knowledge on a particular subject. Rather, they are a facilitator and sometimes who know a little (or even a lot) more about a certain topic than some of their students.

When I first walked into a room full of translation students, I was but one year ahead of them in terms of translation education. I therefore made it clear that I felt confident, but humble and was ready to learn as much from them as they would from me. That’s pretty much been my approach ever since. I’ve found that it’s one that works well both with colleagues and students. Nobody likes a know-it-all. So, let everyone know that you’re keen to keep on studying and learning about translation and its different elements and that you see teaching as a great way to do this.

There can be little more stimulating or fulfilling than sharing your knowledge of a subject with those who have opted to study it at an advanced level. It reignites your passion and often tests your abilites to the very limit. I hope this advice goes some way to enabling you to get your first break in translation teaching. I wish you many years of the same enjoyment, challenge and satisfaction that I have been fortunate enough to experience and of course, let TransTeach (and me) know how you get on! 

Putting Your Money Where Your Translation Technology Tool Is

Challenge 3: How to invest wisely in CAT Tools


For anyone not already in the know, CAT tools stands for Computer Assisted Translation tools (without this key piece of information the rest of this post may not have made quite as much sense!) These are essentially the pieces of software that the translation industry now regularly relies upon. There is a wealth of training available to educate us about their functionality and use, whether this be as part of a degree or masters programme or a course dealing specifically with one piece of translation technology.

With constant new additions to the market place, every translation software provider would have you believe that their product is the best. However, this can leave new translators reeling from information overload and unsure as to what CAT tools any prospective clients are really going to be excepting them to use.

Here’s TransTeach’s low-down on what’s hot and what’s not in the CAT tool world and where best to invest your money for long-term benefit.

The Key Players

Like it or not, just as Microsoft and Apple have a monopoly in the personal computer market place, there are three or four¬†CAT tool providers who hold the majority of the market share. Currently, these are SDL Trados Studio (www.sdl.com), MemoQ (www.memoq.com) WordFast (www.wordfast.com) and Atril’s D√©j√† Vu (www.atril.com). Rather unsurprisingly, these tools also rank amongst the most expensive there are (in decreasing order of market share). At the time of posting, the Freelance version of SDL Trados Studio alone costs ¬£545 (¬£685 if you want the Freelance Plus version which allows you to use the software on two machines – e.g. your laptop and a desktop PC). That’s around $820 or ‚ā¨765.¬†We’re certainly not talking small change!

It’s fair to say that all of these tools are widely used across the globe and are constantly in development. In addition to the functionality available for the translator him or herself, there are also corporate versions which incorporate project management components and facilitate the consistency of translations and terminology. Each piece of software has its own pros and cons. For a more in-depth comparison of just what these are, check out the tool provided by¬†Proz.com for this purpose:

http://www.proz.com/software-comparison-tool/cat/cat_tools/

For new translators starting out, who have yet to acquire a client base, it can be very hard to determine which of these tools is the best option, which is why at TransTeach we’d suggest taking the following steps to keep both your new clients, and your pocket, happy…

Find out what any prospective agencies/clients use

When applying to agencies or making contact with direct clients (assuming they don’t offer up details of their preferred translation technology tool – which they often will) ask them which CAT tool(s) they use. Start keeping a tally, so that you get an idea of which one tends to be most popular. When the time comes, as least any choice will be based on some scientific fact rather than your own preference or the advice of other people who deal with a different set of agencies and clients.

Enquire about free licences and export file compatibility 

Over the years at TransTeach, we’ve been asked to use lots of different CAT tools. We never have a problem with this but have often had to explain that we can’t possibly invest in, or be expert users of, every single one. When we first begin working with new clients, we’ve been amazed at how many times they’ve offered us a free licence, meaning we can work using a server-based version of their CAT tool. This usually only involves a quick installation of the user front-end interface on our own computer and away we go. PLEASE NOTE: this approach does require some level of IT proficiency and a little confidence, but we find that most new translators have both of these in today’s technology-centred world.

Alternatively, when starting to work with new clients, if we don’t possess the CAT tool they usually use, there have often been file export/import possibilities. This has meant that we can still use our own CAT tool, and simply import in and export out compatible files from or to¬†the client’s own CAT tool. Some new translators may not be aware of just how much compatibility there is¬†nowadays using exchange formats – particularly the TMX format when exchanging files between CAT tools and localisation tools (those used specifically to help with website translation). For an article that explains this topic in more detail, try reading this comprehensive overview:¬†http://www.maxprograms.com/articles/tmx.html

Download a free trial version

Whilst making a decision about investing in a CAT tool it may, of course, be necessary to use something, simply so that you can take on work¬†that is offered to you from clients. In this case, we would advise investigating the trial versions of software that are nearly always available (usually for 30 days). This allows you to meet your agencies’/client’s needs whilst also getting some practice using a particular tool. Obviously, this isn’t a long-term solution, but it can give you some breathing space and make you feel more confident when you do come to invest in the full version of the CAT tool(s) you eventually opt for.

TransTeach’s own experience

Whilst we simply can’t say what your future clients will or won’t want you to use, we are able to provide you with details of our own experience. This can contribute to other input gained from other industry professionals (and we would always recommend speaking to as many translators as possible¬†before making any final decision).

Since starting out in the industry, in 2003, we’ve found that the CAT tool we’ve most often been asked to use has been SDL Trados Studio (a combination of what was previously two tools from separate companies – SDLX and Trados). Over the years, we have used this tool on a weekly basis both in our own work and for the purposes of professional and academic teaching and we continue to use it today. We hesitate to call it an industry ‘standard’, but we certainly don’t believe you can go far wrong with it.

In recent years, we have been asked to use MemoQ more frequently and WordFast every now and again. Fortunately, most of our clients using MemoQ assign us a free licence as and when required Рworking from an online server version. They also allow us to work in a bilingual file format for WordFast. No extra investment has therefore been necessary in either of these tools.

There is of course no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ when it comes to CAT tools. Every translator’s experience will be different and any decision must be made based on personal circumstance. We hope, however, that this post will go some way to appeasing any new translators who feel under pressure to make¬†an immediate expensive investment. In reality, this¬†is often not necessary. Take a bit of time, do your research, and of course, if any of your CAT tools queries haven’t been answered here, feel free to contact us at¬†info@transteach.com.