What your translation business deserves

I spent yesterday, and the evening before, interacting with fellow translators in real life and attending a workshop presented by Daniela Zambrini and coordinated by organiser supreme, Paula Ribeiro.

The cost of the workshop itself was the least expensive part of my trip, thanks to the generosity of people who believe in sharing knowledge – and their time – for free for the benefit of fellow translators.

If one includes the airfare, accommodation and meals for which I did not put myself on a tight budget for once, the total cost of the trip will be just under €400. I daresay I could have shaved the total cost to €270, but since I combined conference attendance with visiting a direct client the day before, I felt I owed myself the treat of not rushing, and elected to stay an extra night at the conference hotel in order to take advantage of a lower return airfare.

In real terms, this means that I spent roughly 4,000 translated words – approximately 2 days’ work for me – on a one-day workshop.

Do you think that is expensive? Do you think I should have saved the money and purchased something else – new software, new specs, another dictionary, a decent desk or desk chair, attendance at a trade fair related to one of my areas of specialisation, or even an annual subscription to the business platform of WordPress so that I can put my plans for a blog/website upgrade into action?

You might think attending conferences and workshops is a complete waste of time and money. Well, I do not. I think it is worth every cent, every time.  Here’s why:

  • You meet other translators with whom you are free to discuss anything you wish, and vice versa. This exchange of experiences, ideas and opinions is infinitely more enriching than any exchange you can have via any translator web forum. Why? Because when you interact face to face you get and give the whole message. When you engage in subsequent interactions with the people you have met, your level of understanding and appreciation of those people is likewise mutually enhanced.
  • You allow yourself time which is dedicated to focusing on specific aspects of your translation business and yourself. We all need help, however talented we are as translators and/or as entrepreneurs. To believe that we do not would constitute a grave error on our part, and is the first step down the path of stagnation and lack of development – while everyone else around us is progressing, moreover. The time you dedicate to the subject or theme of any conference or workshop involves time beforehand in preparation, time at the event itself, and time afterwards putting into practice what you have learned.
  • The action of focusing on how and why you do what you do, and how and why you should improve they way you do things, or change the way you do things is ultimately connected to earning more, or maximising your earnings. This means that attending a conference is an investment. It is an investment in yourself and it is an investment in your translation business.
  • Having fun is invariably guaranteed.
I was so focussed on the task at hand that I had no idea that this photo was being taken. Fellow participants in this workshop were absorbed in the task with equal intensity. I see fellow participants in this workshop are absorbed in the work with equal intensity. I see fellow participants brought equal intensity to the work they were doing.
Like fellow workshop participants, I was so focussed on the task at hand that I had no idea that this photo was being taken.

Why should you invest in your translation business?

  • Any investment adds value to your business. This means that you are able to provide a value-added service to your existing and potential clients alike.
  • The act of investing in your translation business is a physical act of placing value on yourself, your skills and on the service you provide your clients.  Indirectly, you are according your clients greater value too.
  • Once you have clarified precisely what value you and your services have, it is so much easier to charge more and more convincingly, earn more and invest more.
  • A prosperous translator is a happy translator. Happy translators translate better. This happy set of circumstances creates efficiencies which the lone translator working in a darkened room at rates which guarantee a life of perpetual struggle never even imagines are possible.
  • Andrew Morris of Standing Out fame wrote a post one day recently in which he postulated quite convincingly that our translation competence accounts for a mere 25% per cent of what is involved in being a translator, with the remaining 75% being made up of a whole host of other things. To my mind, the 75% per cent portion is where we, as translators, have the greatest amount of free reign, and that wonderful right ensconced in the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, “the right to self-determination”.  It is in the 75% portion where we invest in our translation business. This share of the pie chart is what makes us different from our colleagues, what makes us unique, what makes us the best person for a particular job, where we find our raison d’être, our passion, and where we are no longer in pursuit of excellence, but using excellence in all aspects of our work as the benchmark by which we measure the minimum standard we require of ourselves. By inference, therefore, this is the minimum standard of the service we provide our clients. Yes, this is heady stuff, and I am the first to admit that I quite often fall short of these ideals. But at least I know that I am not merely 25% – one-quarter – of the translator I am meant to be.

In closing, I would like to remind fellow translators in Portugal specifically and in Europe in general who are not making an effort to attend conferences and workshops that you are, in effect, looking a gift horse in the mouth. As Europeans, you have access to so very much, and to so many excellent opportunities! Take advantage of them!

I say this sincerely, against a background of having lived in southern Africa most of my life. Once upon a time, I only dreamed of being able attend translation conferences and meet other translators. Now I can, and I do. And I do so in gratitude that life has been so very good to me. I urge you to show gratitude for the privilege your geographical situation affords you, and attend the next conference within, say, 300 kilometres of where you live. It is the very least your translation business deserves in order to grow, the very least your clients deserve, and the very least you can do as a contribution to the translation community.


Post script:
In case you are wondering, arriving at the conclusions above did not happen overnight. The seeds of these thoughts were planted, if not long before, in June 2013 when I attended my very first international conference. The guest blog I wrote at the time, “Passionate about getting things right”, has been re-published on Allison Wright Translations with the kind permission of fellow translator, Moira Monney, on whose blog it originally appeared.

6 thoughts on “What your translation business deserves

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  1. Do not rule out all events, just because you may have small children, or other responsibilities. There are often worthwhile in-person events which last only one day. If these are close to where you live, you may be surprised that childcare or other worries can be taken care of more easily than you imagined.
    There are also webinars – some free, some worth paying money for – online.
    For an online experience, why don’t you try the online conference ProZ.com is holding on 30 September 2014?
    Wantwords.com has some special courses for which you can register online, too. I find Marta Stelmaszak of Wantwords – http://www.wantwords.co.uk/ – quite inspiring. And no, Marta did not pay me to say that!


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