Greatest Women in Translation: Sarah Dillon


Welcome back to our Greatest Women in Translation interview series!

It’s with a great pleasure that I introduce you to our next interviewee, Sarah Dillon, who was nominated by Lucy.

Let’s hear it from her!

Welcome, Sarah!

Lauryn born 1986 is an accomplished

1. You are a wife and mom of a cute 3-year-old daughter. Some women entrepreneurs may struggle with the ability to balance working at home with their family responsibilities, especially if the children are around. How you keep your family close while also staying productive?

I do what every other working parent does: I get clear on my priorities, I narrow my focus and I do my best to work smart as well as hard, by making full use of whatever support systems I can create around me. Sometimes it works better than others.

2. What encouragement do you have for a woman with children at home who is thinking of starting a business and is feeling guilty, terrified, or completely inadequate?

Starting a business is an emotional rollercoaster, even for those who are relatively certain it’s the path they wish to take. It also involves varying degrees of risk. It’s not the right decision for everyone, nor is it always suited to every stage of life. So I think it pays to be at least reasonably secure in your decision before embarking on that journey.

What strikes me in this scenario is the degree of emotional turmoil this person is feeling around starting a business. Maybe this person is justified in feeling those things – who am I to say otherwise?

One way I test my decisions is by asking plenty of hard questions of myself. For starters, what makes me think doing this scary thing right now is going to bring me closer to achieving my goals? What, exactly, am I feeling bad about? Are there steps I can take to reduce the degree of risk to myself and my family?

Everyone who starts a business feels fear and inadequacy at times, and there’s certainly no perfect set of circumstances to take on such a challenge. But being the boss (like being a parent) means taking responsibility for managing yourself as well as your business. If that’s something that’s not happening very easily at the moment, that’s fine – but maybe that’s what needs addressing, before racing down the rabbit hole of business ownership.

I’m not sure I’m being encouraging in the traditional sense here, but I’d hope my perspective would be more useful than meaningless cheerleading! (That’s what Pinterest is for ;)).

3. On one of your videos on YouTube, you mentioned your career wouldn’t be where it is if it weren’t for blogging. Why do you think so? How do you think blogging can help translators?

I started blogging in 2005 and it was my introduction to the world of content marketing (although I’m pretty sure no-one was calling it that then!). I realise now that content marketing was the cornerstone of how I developed my business as a translator.

I also had an opportunity to build my content marketing muscles at eCPD Webinars in the early days as their marketing director, a role I loved. I’m pretty certain it will also be a mainstay of anything I do in the future 😉

As part of a wider marketing strategy, relevant, useful content published to a blog or indeed any other platform that gets noticed by your target audience makes huge sense for translators. But to give ourselves the best possible chance of success, it’s important to understand where we sit in the wider business ecosystem. We’re service providers, often speaking to other businesses (as opposed to direct consumers), and that means we can’t expect to behave in the same way that someone selling a product to a consumer might, for example. Luckily there’s lots of great examples online of those who have gone before us.

4. On your Instagram, you posted a picture of the book “Fluent in 3 Months: Tips and techniques to help you learn any language”, by Benny Lewis. Did you read it? Would you recommend it? If so, why? Could you also list any other books every small business women should have in their library?

Benny is a friend and a great guy. I’ve followed his journey over many years, and been completely inspired by the way he’s grown his business around his blog which is the most-read language learning blog in the world (Fluent in 3 Months).

I did read his book and picked up lots of great ideas for maintaining my source languages beyond the usual old “watch foreign movies” and “travel to the country” drivel you see everywhere else. Benny has some great methods for busting through excuses to just get things done, and he also addresses lots of language-learning myths that I often hear even translators and interpreters say. If you’re looking for a well-researched but accessible, practical read to give your dusty old translator brain a bit of a shake-up, then this is definitely it!

Other business books I’ve learned a lot from include Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port, Working Identity by Herminia Ibarra and Ready, Fire, Aim by Michael Masterson.

5. Still speaking of books, I understood you prefer paperback copies (me too!). Is there any particular reason why? Do you also read e-Books or do you really stick to the traditional print ones?

I like paper, certainly, but don’t necessarily prefer paperbacks. I don’t read a lot of ebooks currently but I do listen to a lot of audiobooks. That way, if it’s non-fiction, I can get through a lot of content very quickly, but if there’s a lot of juiciness in there and if I’m really enjoying it, I’ll order the paperback so I can do things like this:



I don’t read as much fiction as I’d like these days, but when I do, I still prefer audiobooks. They allow me to really relax, give my eyeballs a break and exercise a different part of my brain.

6. You are Irish and have lived in six different countries (Ireland, of course, France, Germany, Spain, UK and now Australia), but ended up living in Brisbane. Any particular reason related to your career made you choose Australia as your home? In your opinion, is Australia somehow a good place for freelancers and/or translators?

Coming to Brisbane 8 years ago was a decision made entirely for love! To be honest, career-wise, it was probably the worst possible decision for me at the time – the third-largest city in an English-speaking country, on the other side of the world from all my target markets, not known for the quality of its internet access, support of knowledge workers, or even language learning… But I like to keep life interesting, so they were all challenges I was willing to embrace 😉 And I haven’t left yet, so I guess that’s a good sign!

In short, no – Australia is not a great place for translators, and certainly not native English speaking ones. The market is small and tightly controlled, so unless you’re willing to work very, very hard to get and keep clients overseas, it’s an uphill battle to make a living on translation alone. What it means to be a translator here looks very different to what it means to be a translator in Europe, for example. Saying that, no translator anywhere has the perfect set of circumstances, so it’s about getting on with minimising the challenges that face you, and making the most of the opportunities you have going for you.

What I think Australia has lent to my career is a spirit of give-it-a-go entrepreneurship that may have been harder to tap into in a place where translation was a more well-worn option. It has also helped me hone my “outside-in” perspective on the industry, which I’ve found incredibly useful and I think will ultimately be the key to my career longevity.

Obviously, translators’ circumstances in Australia can differ depending on their language combinations and so on, so there may be those who disagree with me (they should feel free to comment, if so!), but that’s my opinion after 8 years of working and talking to lots of translators here.

7. You offer free Weekly Action Emails for those who subscribe on your website. Could you mention a couple of the most important instructions on how to grow our business beyond our own borders?

First of all, a clear overview of your business goals is essential, as is an understanding of your target buyer. This isn’t always easy when you’re deliberately trying to attract an audience in a country other than your own, but there are some simple things you can do to help you along the way.

For example, Google Analytics can provide some very useful information on who is already visiting your website from your target market. You can use that as a basis to determine what you’re doing right, and therefore what you need to do more of. Facebook also has a free feature that allows you to find a “lookalike” audience. This basically allows you to find similar sets of people in different countries, which you can learn a huge amount from and use as a basis for your marketing decisions.

Ultimately, as a service provider especially, growing your business beyond your domestic market is a lot like growing your business into any new segment: you need to set a few goals, try a few things, see what happens, and then adapt based on your results. And keep trying! You just need to be more deliberate in your actions and more conscious of the assumptions you’re making along the way.

8. Last, but not least, which role model do you nominate to be interviewed next as one of the Greatest Women in Translation?

I’m going to stay in Brisbane and nominate Nicole Adams of NYA Communications. The way Nicole manages her business and indeed herself has been a great source of inspiration to me over the past few years. Definitely role model material!

Thanks to Lucy for nominating me, and to you Caroline, for hosting the interview. It’s been fun ☺ Come visit us in Australia some time, we love showing translators how we do things Down Under!

Thank you, Sarah, for accepting Lucy’s nomination and my invitation to be interviewed by our blog. It was a real pleasure to host you here and lovely getting to know more about you.

Nicole Adams has also kindly accepted Sarah’s nomination and my invitation, so she will be our next interviewee in early October.

Now I’m off on vacation. Don’t worry, I’ve already scheduled our guest post for the 10th and I’ll be back in time for our monthly post on the 20th.

Have a great beginning of September! 🙂

You can already access Nicole’s interview here.

Greatest Women in Translation: Lucy Brooks


It’s with a great pleasure that I introduce to you our first interviewee nominated by our very first lovely interviewee, Marta Stelmaszak: Lucy Brooks. Who guessed right? Well, I certainly didn’t!

You know what I’m loving about this series? I get to know other determined, inspiring and sophisticated women I didn’t know (or at least not that well). I get to find out other wonderful influencers who are worth following and also learn more about them on the process. It is a pleasure to research about the person in order to find more about their personal and professional backgrounds to ask relevant questions. I’m loving it, and I hope you are too.

Now let’s hear from our second Greatest Woman in Translation.

Welcome, Lucy!

Lauryn born 1986 is an accomplished

1. Why don’t you start telling us more about your background and what caused you to create the eCPD Webinars?

Before I start, I’d like to thank you for inviting me here, and Marta Stelmaszak for nominating me – though I am sure I don’t deserve it. I’m just an ordinary person who has adapted as life has happened – and I made quite a few mistakes along the way.

I started my working life as a bilingual secretary, having trained at a commercial college in London. I studied German and French to a pretty high level – I would say it was degree level but without the literature – and also learned law, commerce, and shorthand and typing (that was a very good skill to have). After college I had many jobs: in law firms, in a London news bureau, in advertising, tourism, a secretarial bureau. All of them gave me valuable experience. In 1991 I decided to become a freelance translator and worked hard at developing this new turn in my career. During that time I was a volunteer for my professional body (CIOL) and was involved in organizing seminars and workshops for fellow translators. They were all based in London and we used to receive complaints from members that we were too London-centric. It was hard for us volunteers to arrange events outside London, so I investigated the idea of holding webinars – a new idea at the time. And that, briefly, is how eCPD Webinars was born.

 2. Speaking of which, I saw you have presented two webinars for eCPD and you also have contact with a wide variety of presenters there. I know all of them are great and the topics useful, but is there one webinar/course/video in particular you highly recommend?

As you say I have personally presented two webinars for eCPD, and hosted several other events. I have also moderated over a hundred of our presentations and courses that are tailored especially to translators or interpreters. I actually recommend them all – well, I would, wouldn’t I? – but the thing I am proudest of at eCPD is our expansion into more in-depth courses. We started in 2013 with Marta Stelmaszak’s Business School for translators, but since then have offered many other courses such as creating corpora, using Excel, writing clear English, IntelliWebSearch, and even a course for Italian translators about translating tourism texts. Trainers on the courses can take the time to delve a little more deeply into a subject and I am proud that we started this trend in professional development. Our current courses are available at this link.

3. You have more than 30 years of experience – practically my entire existence! Back then things were totally different from what they are today. What mistakes (big or small) have you made over these 30 years that you suggest other women small translation business owners avoid? Or, if you prefer, what lessons have you learned?

My entry into the freelance life came about because I was hating having to commute a long distance to work, leaving my small son in the care of someone else. I started a secretarial business from my home, and shortly after I began, was invited to look after the affairs of a local Council, which I could also do at home. This was the time that computers were really coming on the scene and I was already trained in the use of the word processors of the day. A part of my business soon developed into training people on the new-fangled technology. I found myself literally taking newly purchased computers out of the box, plugging them together, and setting up their owners’ office systems on them. I got quite good at it!

As you say, after about seven years of this I launched into translation – something I had always wanted to do but never had the confidence or the contacts to try.

The main thing to remember when you become a freelance translator is that you are an entrepreneur. You are the boss, you set your rates, you decide the direction in which you wish to develop your business. For my first client I did the worst thing you can ever do and ask them (an agency) how much they pay. Of course they will try to trick you into the lowest rate they can get away with.

It’s really hard when you are starting out, but you have to ditch the low payers as fast as you can and gradually move up the scale until you are earning what you are worth.

I believe you should say “no” to a job if you think it’s going to be outside your comfort zone, or is going to be mind-numbingly boring. Boring jobs pay the rent, but if you are trying to develop a niche for yourself, probably best avoided. Mind you, having said that, one person’s boring job may be another’s idea of heaven. I like translating terms and conditions of business and other business contracts! But I am often a pushover and even today, sometimes find myself translating something I am hating.

4. Only after 7 years you decided to start your own small translation business. What was the most intimidating difficulty you encountered?

At the time (1991 or thereabouts) there was no Internet to speak of. There were no networks of fellow translators to help you get started. The two main professional bodies in the UK were finding their feet with helping their members to run their businesses. I was pretty much alone. I used to consult my own library of reference books and often visited the library because Internet research was not an option. I think some of my early translations were less than perfect. But gradually I gained confidence, knowledge and expertise. When CAT tools came along, my working life changed for the better. CAT tools and the Internet. I don’t really know how I managed before they came along.

5. You work from three languages (German, French and Spanish) into British English. Most people I know work with an average of two, so that is a differential. How did you end up learning them? And do you (want to) learn any others?

I learned French and German to A-level (that’s school-leaving standard at 18 years of age) – continuing them both to a much higher level at college. But I also did a course of Spanish at school, taking that to O-level (a slightly lower school-leaving standard). After I left college and had worked for a few years in London, I decided to go to Spain to live and work. It was logical really, because I was given the job on the basis of my German, French and English. Of course I had a good start with my O-level Spanish and quickly became fluent in my new language.

In recent years I have tended to buy a teach-yourself book before visiting a country where I don’t speak the language. So I attempted Russian before a visit to St. Petersburg, but I am afraid I dropped it after our holiday there was over. More recently I decided to learn Greek. But languages really need to be learned when young. My brain no longer absorbs vocabulary like it once did. Still – at least I can now decipher words in Russian and Greek, now that I have almost mastered the alphabets.

6. Freelance translators tend to either fiercely compete or generously collaborate with one another. What is your approach?

I am a bit of a loner and don’t often ask advice. I am happy to give it if I can though.

7. Now it’s your turn to nominate an amazing woman in translation who you think should be interviewed next.

There’s a lady I used to work with at eCPD. Before we worked together I had been following her on social media and already admired her from afar (she’s in Australia). Working with her made me admire her even more. She was an inspiration to me during our time together. Her name is Sarah Dillon.

Thank you, Lucy, for promptly accepting Marta’s nomination and my invitation, and kindly taking the time to answer the interview questions. It was lovely to get to know a bit more about you and your great experience.

Sarah Dillon has also kindly accepted Lucy’s nomination and my invitation, so she will be our third interviewee in early September. Stay tuned.

You can already access Sarah Dillon’s interview here.