Greatest Women in Translation: Luciana Meinking


Welcome back to our interview series! Let’s start the week and month inspired by another one of our amazing Greatest Women in Translation? Then please welcome another Brazilian translator, Luciana Meinking, nominated by Melissa Harkin.

Luciana meinking

1. Melissa Harkin nominated you to be our next interviewee. You two had a professional partnership that you described as extraordinary and one of those coincidences of destiny. Could you please tell us a bit more about how you two met and how this partnership started?

Melissa used to work for the same company as my sister. By that time she was still living in Brazil. I think one day Melissa might have told her coworkers that she was looking for freelance translators and that’s how my sister came to ask me for my resume. In fact, Melissa and I never met in person, which makes this story even more interesting (we are planning to meet in person this coming November during the ATA Conference in San Francisco!). I sent Melissa my resume and passed the translation test she requested me to submit. With the first job assignments I got from her, our relationship started to develop, and I am glad to say that I am extremely glad to have worked for her. It is hard to find someone who is also very detailed and whose professional standards are very similar to yours. I am extremely grateful to have had this opportunity – she was certainly a great peer and friend!

2. A lot of people treat their peers as competition and do not consider other translators may also be potential clients or even professional partners in the future. What’s your opinion on the subject?

I guess that’s true and it is something you see on a daily basis, especially if you are working as an in-house translator. It is surely conditioned by the difficult market and people’s fear of losing their jobs or clients. It might sound a bit idealistic but I would like to think about this in terms of finding the best professional partner or partners to actually come up with a good final product.

3. You started translating by chance while taking your PhD in Germany and, after that, gave up your area (Literature and Linguistics). Why did you change your mind and decided to venture into translation?

During the final year of my doctorate in Germany I was still figuring out what to do with my life. First I thought I wanted to pursue an academic career in the university, but the market was also not very good for that and the strong competition didn’t seem to me by then to be a path that I was willing to tread. So starting in the translation industry also happened per chance when an acquaintance asked me if I wanted to translate technical texts. It all seemed very interesting, getting to know a CAT tool for the first time, seeing how fast you can translate and how much fun it is to keep a terminological database. I guess I noticed quickly that I enjoyed translating and proof-reading.

4. You currently work as an IT QA tester. Could you please describe what you do exactly?

My work consists basically of localizing strings and running functional and linguistic quality assurance tests for the client’s products. It is very different from what I have been doing so far in terms of content, but it is an opportunity to learn new skills and meet new people.

5. You say a freelance translator’s life working home office is quite lonely. Do you prefer to work in-house as compared to home office? In your opinion, what are the pros and cons of working in-house x home office?

I am not really sure if I prefer one or the other. Right now, I enjoy working in-house because I have met wonderful people who hopefully will become friends. I think one of the cons of working in-house is, for instance, the fact that you have less control on the final product, which consists of patches of texts several other people have worked on and whose standards or linguistic preferences are not necessarily the same as yours. But this is actually also part of the learning process, I mean, learning to negotiate ways of getting to the same goal. I also think that in-house working also produces more unveiled competition. As for the pros, again, meeting people and actually having the opportunity to catch a glimpse on people’s lives is a very positive thing. It’s about having a bit of a change in your daily schedule, really, and having the opportunity to socialize. Home office work is quite lonely indeed and can be really tough. Apart from that, I guess you can produce a much better outcome by working on your own and exchanging information with a professionally trustworthy partner whenever you need help with a specific text or subject.

6. You say you do not have the typical freelance translator profile. What is this profile, in your opinion?

Maybe that is extremely subjective, but what I meant by that is that the typical freelance translator profile is someone who is willing to engage in some self-promoting and marketing strategy in order to find more clients, people who keep blogs and produce interesting socially engaging tools. I admire people who have the energy and especially the time to do this.

7. Now it’s your turn. Who do you nominate as one of our Greatest Women in Translation?

Now, since I cannot nominate Melissa Harkin anymore (oh, no!), I chose to nominate someone I have never worked with before but who was, maybe without even knowing it, a role model for me in my career as a translator. Her name is Regina Alfarano. She was my first instructor at NYU, when I took the online Certificate in translation course offered by that institution. So read this nomination also as homage to good teachers and educators, those you still remember after years have passed by.

Regina was an extremely dedicated and disciplined instructor, but, above all, in these hard linguistic times, you could see that she had that love for the Portuguese language that is, unfortunately, lacking in many people nowadays. You can see that she has a very strong linguistic background and that, without being a purist, she also cares for the language and what people are actually doing to it nowadays.

Guest post: Creative translation marketing

Welcome back to our guest post series. Today, our guest is Clara Giampietro.

Welcome, Clara!


How To Market Your Translation Services With Creativity

Don’t you want to stand out and be unique?

Obviously, we all want to get recognised, differentiate ourselves and attract new clients.

First impressions count, but we have just a few seconds to grab our readers’ attention.

That’s why, instead of using words only, we can use visual content to market our translation services.


I’ve been using my visual CVs, infographics, creative presentations and the images of my Little Wing’s adventures for a while, and I can confirm that they draw people’s attention.

In this post I’ll share with you tips, resources and tools that will help you spark your creativity for marketing your translation services.


Exactly as when you approach a text to be translated, before designing your visual content you should know your target audience and purpose.

You need to have a clear message and to be relevant.

Start asking yourself these questions:

  • What is your product/service?
  • With whom do you want to connect?
  • What do you want to accomplish?


I can hear some of you saying “I am not creative.”

I’ve never thought of myself as a creative person too. I was that kind of girl who really liked reading or doing Maths homework rather than making a piece of art.

Take a look at my first attempts (scroll down the page).

I leave them online to remind me where I started out – with no natural talent, creative power or storytelling ability – and where I am now.

They demonstrate that everyone is creative to some extent. Creativity is part of who we are. It’s a way to express ourselves and our unique personality.

Remember that your goal is not to market your creative projects but to create visuals to market your translation services. You can improve them over time if necessary.

Start cultivating your creativity now. Figure out what time of day you are most creative and schedule regular time every week for your creative work.


Start collecting images, designs, colours and fonts that you like to stimulate the creative flow of ideas for your visual content.

Sources of inspiration:


If you have a website and logo, use the same colours and fonts.

Otherwise, choose two to three colours and fonts. They are enough.

Build trust through repetition of the colour and font palettes of your choice. Consistency is the key. It helps your audience recognise you and connect with you across the web.

Save your fonts and HEX/RGB codes for colours in a file, and always stick to them when creating new visuals.

Colours and fonts are important elements of your brand. If you don’t know where to start, I definitely recommend you to hire a professional designer to help you with this process.

Read more:

Tools for choosing colours and fonts


Images and graphics help your audience visualise your words.

I always try to use my own photos and graphics to create unique content. When I don’t have what I need, I use Pixabay, iconmonstr and flaticon.

If you need more inspiration, there are several places where you can find great, free images and icons.


You are what differentiates you from others. Your background, experience, knowledge, values and all the things you’ve learned make you the unique person and professional you are.

You are the main character in your story, but remember that the goal of your story is to create a connection with your audience.


Types of visual content you can create:

  • CVs, portfolios, brochures, leaflets, flyers, invoice templates, etc.
  • Infographics and presentations.
  • Images for your blog and social media channels.

When designing your visual content keep in mind the following:

  • Keep texts legible and respect simplicity.
  • Provide adequate spacing and align all the elements.
  • Coordinate the colours and harmonise visual elements and texts.
  • Use icons and graphs to illustrate your texts and engage the audience.
  • Personalise your visuals adding your logo, website, signature or social media channel of your choice.
  • Add unexpected texts or images to surprise the reader.
  • Ask friends or trusted colleagues for advice and feedback. Then do your own editing based on that advice, if necessary.

For designing my visuals, I normally use PowerPoint and Xara Designer Pro.

Other tools:

  • GIMP and Inkscape, PicMonkey and BeFuncky – Two free software and two online tools that let you apply photo effects and enhance, edit and filter photos.
  • Canva – Great for combining texts and images.
  • Google Slides – A free alternative to PowerPoint for presentations and images for your social media channels.
  • HaikuDeck – It doesn’t let you personalise colours and fonts, but it’s a very easy to use tool to create beautiful and effective presentations. Perfect for beginners.
  • Phonto – When I want to add text to an image (on mobile) the fastest and easiest way to do that for me is Phonto, a free app available for iOS and Android.


Once you have designed your visuals, it’s time to share them.

Use infographics and presentations on your website or blog. Upload them on LinkedIn, Pinterest, SlideShare and Visually.

Send your CV, brochure and portfolio to clients and prospects.

Share your images on your social media channels.

Read more:
58 places to promote your visual content for free

Now that you have some tools and resources, it’s your turn.

What will you start creating first?

Versione in italiano: Come promuoversi online in modo criativo

Thank you so much for accepting my invitation and taking the time to write such a useful and informational post, Clara! 🙂


About the author
Clara Giampietro

Clara Giampietro is a professional English and Spanish to Italian translator. Since 2004, she has been translating technical, law and marketing texts. She loves working for technology and industry clients, and her mission is to help them expand their business by making their words fly in Italian. She is a qualified member of AITI (Italian Association of Translators and Interpreters) and a member of AITI’s Board of the Regional Chapter for Piedmont and Valle d’Aosta. Clara is also a member of IAPTI (International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters). To learn more and to connect, visit her website.


Guest post: Have you ever felt like a fraud?

Welcome back to our guest post series. Our guest today is the Brazilian literary translator living in the US Rafa Lombardino.

Welcome, Rafa!


Have you ever felt like a fraud?

In Brazil, we have a saying that goes, “Com a pulga atrás da orelha.” Literally, it reads, “To have a flea behind your ear,” but it really means that something doesn’t seem quite right. If your personal flea is nibbling at your ear, that’s when you need to go check things out to make sure it’s all 100% legit.

My little flea has been my faithful companion since I started working as a translator back in 1997. At first, my biggest fear was to be “found out,” that someone would come and point a finger at me saying, “You have no idea what you’re doing, do you? You’re nothing but a fraud!”

Back then, that fear was mostly due to the fact that I had just finished high school, was working full time as an English as a Second Language (ESL) instructor, and saving money for college. Even after I majored in journalism, I noticed that flea had stayed put behind my ear during those four years of undergrad school.

In 2002, shortly after graduating, I moved to California. My flea then became an Atom Flea—yes, you guessed it right; it’s Atom Ant’s cousin!—because I started to receive several requests to translate from Portuguese into English. For some, translating into your second language is considered the biggest sin a translator could ever commit, so my flea was working overtime to make sure I got my terminology, grammar, spelling, and prepositions right.

Despite almost two decades of experience and a couple of translation certificates under my belt, my companion flea has never really gone away, but the fear of being “found out” has somewhat subsided. It turned into something more pleasant, less heart-stopping than the idea of fingers pointed at my face. What I get now are butterflies in my stomach, because with each new project there’s that same excitement as if I were translating for the first time.

After all these years, I’ve learned to accept that a little bit of fear is good in our industry. It makes you check yourself several times, research information, ask peers for their input, and never assume that you’re the best translator who ever walked the Earth.

That kind of know-it-all mentality can backfire and leave you out in the cold if someone requests some supporting information and sources for your word choices, or even challenges your translation altogether. If your flea has been working with you all through the project, you’ll be able to go back through your notes and research to provide clients the information they need to see how confident you are in your work. And that confidence, fueled by your personal flea, is the trademark of a true professional translator.

Thank you so much, Rafa, for accepting my invitation and kindly taking the time to write to our blog! 🙂


About the author
1186331_885520671459565_2898051562292624206_nRafa Lombardino is a translator and journalist from Brazil who lives in California. She is the author of “Tools and Technology in Translation ― The Profile of Beginning Language Professionals in the Digital Age“, which is based on her UCSD Extension class. Rafa has been working as a translator since 1997 and, in 2011, started to join forces with self-published authors to translate their work into Portuguese and English. In addition to acting as content curator at eWordNews, a collective blog about translation and literature, she also runs Word Awareness, a small network of professional translators, and coordinates Contemporary Brazilian Short Stories (CBSS), a project to promote Brazilian literature worldwide.

Guest post: Translation in teaching

Welcome back to our guest post series! Today, please welcome Tammy Bjelland!

Welcome, Tammy!


Translation as a Teaching Tool

Translation can be a controversial topic in language teaching, but as a language teacher, some of the best and most memorable pedagogical moments have come from using translation in teaching.

Using translation in language classes at early and intermediate levels can be counterproductive because it perpetuates the idea that for every word or idea in one language, there is an exact equivalent in the target language, which every translator (and language teacher!) knows is far from true. It can be difficult, however, to completely avoid translation in early levels, especially for adults, who are accustomed to being able to express complex ideas using sophisticated language. Demonstrating the problems presented by “literal” translations can be a useful teaching tool at early and intermediate levels to indicate not only the intricacies of both the L1 and L2, but also the importance of understanding context and culture in addition to the grammar and lexicon of both languages.

The pedagogical benefits of translation are even more substantial in advanced levels of language study, as a tool to explore the complexities of language and culture from texts that vary in type, perspective, and purpose. Many of my favorite memories from teaching at the university level are from teaching translation classes in the United States and in Spain. After language learners have reached a certain level of proficiency, a class dedicated to translation serves to educate not only on the process of translation itself, but also to guide students to delve deeper into what words and ideas mean, and the diversity of textual interpretation at multiple levels and stages of comprehension and translation.

One type of text that worked extremely well to demonstrate diversity of textual interpretation were short literary texts; poems and short stories were ideal, especially if we had access to multiple translations of the same source text. By studying various professional translations of the same source text, students could pinpoint which ideas had been interpreted in different ways, and work backwards from those differences to arrive at a better understanding of the context and meaning of the source text itself. Just this exercise itself worked wonders in proving to language learners that the common instinct to ask “what does this word mean in ____ language” can be an incredibly problematic question, and should not be the focus of any language class. Focusing on a direct comparison between two languages leads to oversimplification and skipping over gaps in meaning, two common errors which can be mitigated by thoughtfully using translation in a pedagogical approach.

Besides the valuable lesson in learning about diversity of textual interpretation, and the complexities of language, using translation as a pedagogical tool also has the added benefit of introducing language learners to the skill and profession of translation itself. When translation activities like the one I mention above is used in a classroom, it is often the first time language learners will see and consider professionally translated texts side by side with the source text; this provides a unique opportunity for the teacher to introduce the professional behind the translation itself, and to discuss the requirements and challenges that are part of the translation industry.

So while some language teachers shy away from using translation in their classrooms, in my experience there are significant benefits to incorporating translation into advanced classes for adult language learners. A well-planned activity using translation can deepen understanding, promote appreciation for diverse opinions and interpretations, and can educate learners about the profession of translation.

Thank you so much for accepting my invitation and kindly writing such an informative post to our blog, Tammy! 🙂


About the author
TammyBjelland052-corporate-headshots-winchester-vaTammy Bjelland owns Shenandoah Valley Language Services, a global education company located in Winchester, Virginia, USA. She is passionate about languages, communication, teaching, and entrepreneurship, and she blogs about the intersections of these at

Guest post: Win-Win Project (in Portuguese)

Welcome back to our guest series! I made a quick adjustment to our editorial calendar so we could make room for Reginaldo Francisco and his amazing fresh-out-of-the-oven project, Win-Win. Although his post is in Portuguese, you can learn more about the project in English or Spanish here (please note the introductory video is also available with English subtitles and in Spanish). And, if you like the idea, help support the campaign on Kickante (same link above).

Also, Rafa Lombardino, from eWordNews, translated this post into English. You can find it here.

Welcome, Reginaldo!


E se um novo mercado de tradução fosse possível?

O mercado da tradução tem alguns aspectos que me incomodam há bastante tempo, provenientes do fato de a tradução profissional, de qualidade, não ser um serviço barato — aliás, não pode mesmo ser, e admito que a princípio pode parecer estranho isso incomodar um tradutor. No entanto, o que não me agrada é que, com isso, estamos sempre trabalhando para quem pode pagar, geralmente empresas, e às muitas pessoas que não podem acaba restando apenas alternativas como tradução automática ou amadora.

Para além de um incômodo baseado em algum senso de justiça, essa situação tem consequências negativas para os tradutores em geral. Impulsiona, por exemplo, o desenvolvimento de sistemas de tradução automática cada vez melhores, já que fica claro para seus desenvolvedores que um número cada vez maior de pessoas recorrem a eles. Mais ainda, contribui para que cada vez mais essas pessoas se contentem com o nível de qualidade oferecido por esses sistemas e deixem de reconhecer o diferencial dos tradutores profissionais.

Além disso, apesar de não gostar do mimimi de que as empresas ou as agências de tradução exploram o tradutor (defendo a força libertadora do dizer “não”), é fato que, como em qualquer mercado, empresas têm mais força para tentar impor suas condições, de modo que precisamos constantemente resistir à pressão para fazer mais por menos.

Foi o descontentamento com essa situação que me levou a pensar em um sistema no qual tudo isso pudesse ser diferente, aproveitando as possibilidades fantásticas criadas pela popularização da internet, na qual existe uma quantidade imensa de conteúdos interessantes que mereceriam ser traduzidos e não são pelas limitações comentadas acima — sua tradução interessa a muitas pessoas, mas nenhuma individualmente pode pagar por ela. Daí surgiu a ideia de criar um sistema on-line que permitisse que várias pessoas interessadas na tradução de um mesmo conteúdo disponível na internet (artigo em periódico científico, postagem de blogue, reportagem, notícia, narrativa de fanfiction…) se juntassem para pagar um tradutor profissional. Assim, de um lado o tradutor receberia um valor adequado pelo seu serviço, e de outro esse valor já não seria alto para cada interessado na tradução, uma vez que cada um pagaria apenas uma fração dele.

A ideia cresceu quase com vida própria ao longo de muitos meses — na verdade mais de dois anos —, especialmente depois que assumiu um nome, Win-Win, inspirado no seu objetivo de ser um sistema em que todos saiam ganhando. Desde o início, porém, tive consciência de que colocá-la em prática estava muito acima da minha capacidade, tanto em termos de conhecimentos e habilidades quanto em termos financeiros. Por isso, o primeiro passo para transformar a ideia em projeto foi reunir pessoas competentes em torno dela: primeiro a fera de TI Roney Belhassof, com seus conhecimentos e contatos essenciais para definirmos os detalhes do sistema e chegar a um orçamento para o seu desenvolvimento, e depois tradutores experientes de diferentes idiomas. Ter conseguido que profissionais desse calibre acreditassem na ideia é na verdade o que mais alimenta minha confiança de que ela pode dar certo.

O passo seguinte, já com a ajuda dessa equipe, foi criar uma campanha de financiamento coletivo (crowdfunding) para tentar reunir os recursos financeiros necessários para desenvolver o sistema e colocá-lo em operação — uma forma de financiar a execução do projeto que tem tudo a ver com os princípios em que ele se baseia. A campanha foi lançada em meados de outubro e desde então temos trabalhado na divulgação por diversos meios: redes sociais, e-mails, o tradicional boca-a-boca… O feedback tem sido bastante positivo, com várias pessoas elogiando a ideia e se empolgando com as possibilidades que ela traz, porém a arrecadação da campanha ainda está bastante devagar, o que infelizmente pode fazer com que o projeto morra na praia.

Por isso agradeço imensamente o convite da Carol para escrever este artigo, uma forma de divulgar o Projeto Win-Win para um público que pode ter muito interesse nele. Inicialmente tinha pensado em explicar em detalhes todo o funcionamento que planejamos para o sistema, mas vi que ficaria extenso demais e achei que valeria mais a pena abordar as motivações que inspiraram e sustentam o projeto. Para compreender de forma rápida e clara a ideia e como vai funcionar, o melhor é assistir ao vídeo explicativo disponível aqui, e para mais detalhes ler o texto logo depois dele.  Além disso, para se manter atualizado sobre o projeto, é só curtir a fan page no Facebook e assinar nossa newsletter.

E, é claro, se também acreditar que o Win-Win pode de fato ajudar a expandir o mercado de tradução, trazendo benefícios para todos os envolvidos (e até para os não envolvidos), contribua com a nossa campanha na Kickante e ajude a divulgá-la. Toda contribuição é um empurrãozinho a mais para tornar o Win-Win realidade, e os valores só serão cobrados se a campanha atingir a meta. Ou seja, se o valor não for alcançado, todos recebem a contribuição de volta e não perdem nada; já se for, todos ganham:

– os tradutores cadastrados ganham um novo nicho de mercado, atendendo uma demanda antes reprimida, com a liberdade de escolher quais projetos assumir, definindo preços e prazos e tendo garantia de recebimento;

– os demais tradutores ganham com a visibilidade que o sistema proporcionará à importância e à qualidade diferenciada do serviço de tradutores profissionais;

– as pessoas que precisam de traduções e não podiam pagar por ela passam a poder;

– os produtores de conteúdo para internet ganham a possibilidade de divulgação em outros idiomas;

– como as traduções ficarão disponíveis para todos no site do Win-Win, ganham também todos os usuários da internet com a maior difusão de informações, ideias e conhecimento.

Por fim, como já me estendi demais por aqui, será um imenso prazer continuar a conversa nos comentários abaixo, a partir de opiniões e eventuais dúvidas sobre o projeto. Espero vocês por lá!

Muito obrigada por ter aceitando meu convite, Reginaldo! É um prazer poder ajudar a divulgar seu projeto no meu blog. Sucesso!

Sintam-se à vontade para tirar suas dúvidas. E não se esqueçam de ajudar divulgando e/ou apoiando a campanha no Kickante.

If you have any questions, you can also ask in English. And please help support the campaign.

About the author
reginaldoReginaldo Francisco é tradutor do inglês e do italiano para o português. Traduz principalmente literatura e textos das áreas de gestão de qualidade, compliance, gestão de pessoas e tecnologia. É bacharel em Letras com Habilitação de Tradutor pela Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP) e mestre em Estudos da Tradução pela Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (UFSC). Como resultado de suas pesquisas e experiência na área, publica artigos e ministra cursos e palestras sobre Tradução, especialmente sobre ferramentas de auxílio ao tradutor (CAT tools). É o autor, juntamente com Claudia Zavaglia, do livro Parece mas não é: as armadilhas da tradução do italiano para o português.

Greatest Women in Translation: Giselle Chaumien


Welcome back to our interview series Greatest Women in Translation! This month the interview is a bit later than usual because yesterday was a local holiday here, so I took the day off. 😉

Please welcome this month’s Greatest Woman in Translation, Giselle Chaumien, nominated by Nicole Adams.

Welcome, Giselle!


1. Your mother is German and your father is French. Was your upbringing bilingual at home? If so, how was the experience?

Yes, we spoke both languages at home – with our dogs as well, who understood the commands in both languages. I believe that bilingual upbringing works well only when both parents speak both languages well and use them with the family. Time and again we hear or read that it’s difficult for children, but I can’t confirm that for me and my siblings. My mother told me that we spoke a mishmash of both languages in our first few years, but then at the age of 3-4 everything straightened out. We lived in Germany, and I attended a private boarding school in France. Today, when I count or do arithmetic, it’s always in French, but I dream in both languages. Oh, and with my office assistant Filou I speak only German. Do you think that’s a mistake? 😉

In my opinion, there’s something that’s much more important than a bilingual upbringing: our parents taught us that random acts of kindness enrich your life. That’s something that’s much more widespread in the United States and the United Kingdom than in Germany. This principle has come to play an increasingly important role in my life – perhaps it has to do with my age. The life that we share with everyone else is like a big pot of soup, with chunks of meat, slivers of vegetables and noodles floating in it. You pick something out of the soup that you like or need, and that makes you happy. And you should put something else back into it, so that others find something good as well. Thus, in my own small way, I try to give back some of what helped me in earlier years and from which I still benefit today. This approach to life is the real legacy of my parents.

2. You studied in Germersheim, at Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Faculty of Translation Studies, Linguistics and Cultural Studies (one of the best universities for translators and interpreters in Germany), where you later became a lecturer. What was it like to switch roles and become a lecturer where you were once a student?

I had already held a teaching position while I was studying there, as one of the instructors who headed the tutorial for German/French legal translation became seriously ill and it was not possible to find a regular substitute so quickly,  so that was not a problem for me. In the early 1980s I then had a half-time position on a two-year contract; my employment contract with Michelin was reduced to 60% during this period – otherwise I would never have managed such a full schedule. I was teaching German/French legal translation and French commercial correspondence to 3rd and 4th semester students on the one hand, and on the other I was in charge of the tutorials in German/French technical translation for those students taking their comprehensive examinations. I also supervised a number of diploma theses. I greatly enjoyed working with the students. Unfortunately there are hardly any permanent positions at German universities. Teaching people, awakening their enthusiasm for a subject, accompanying them through a part of their professional development – that’s very fulfilling.

3. You have been working for Michelin for nearly 30 years! You began as a French and German teacher for managers, but then had the chance of implementing a translation department there. How cool is that? You programmed CBTs (computer-based training courses) for factory workers, organized professional development courses for managers, installed an intranet for Michelin Germany, Switzerland and Austria, and implemented an Internal Communications department in those three countries as well. I clearly see why Nicole nominated you! How does this impressive professional experience help you nowadays as a freelance translator?

I had the privilege of pursuing an unusual path at Michelin. I gained incredibly valuable experience from the implementation of the projects you mentioned as examples, and I still reap the benefits from that on a daily basis. When you manage a project and you’re responsible for a budget of six figures or more, and you have to procure external services and manage and monitor the implementation in multiple plants, you learn what doing business with an entrepreneurial approach really means. Nobody can ever take that away from you. I should add that Michelin is a very special company, in which people are given numerous opportunities regardless of where they come from, their gender, their disabilities, etc. I had the great good luck and the honor to accompany the executive directors at that time on numerous business trips in Germany and to interpret for them: François Michelin and his son Edouard, two unique and impressive human beings. And yet I took the risk of going into business for myself, because I wanted to put myself to the test once more.

4. Giselle, you have your “Rüsterweg” blog, the knowledge database “Wissenswinkel” and the “Tips for Translators” on your website; recently you also began your newsletter “Café Umlaut”. Honestly, that’s an amazing amount of work. What motivates you?

As I just explained, I had the good fortune to learn a lot and gather valuable experience over the course of my career. I’d like to share all this experience with those who are interested, or, to return to the example of the pot of soup, I simply want to put a few good pieces of meat into the broth so that others benefit from it as well.

It all started with the section “Die Welt des Übersetzens” (“The World of Translation”) on my “Rüsterweg” blog. At some point I wrote about a subject specifically for translators – that was the article “Langatmig, aber zielführend” (“Tedious, but Productive”), about customer acquisition, and suddenly I had loads of subscribers. My post entitled “Honorarfreie Übersetzung” (“Pro Bono Translation”) – an article that was translated into English, Italian, Spanish and Russian and which I translated into French – is surely the most popular of my blog posts with 1,660 “likes”. In spring 2015, I launched the “Wissenswinkel” website – a knowledge database for young language professionals – together with my colleague Sabine Lammersdorf. And then in July 2015 I began writing my “Newsletter”. None of this is aimed at customers – it is neither sales-oriented nor is it financed by advertising or similar means.

Since you asked about the time involved – yes, of course it is a lot of work, but it’s worth it, because in the meantime so many interesting contacts to younger and older colleagues in the translation industry have developed that I really enjoy it.

5. You don’t use CAT tools and never have – why not? Don’t you think it could help you be more productive?

Well, many of my texts are simply not suitable for them, and in many cases my translations are adaptations. Quite honestly, I can’t say much about CAT tools. I hear about “segments” and imagine that in the end, the work of the translator consists of inserting the missing pieces of the puzzle – that’s not my style at all. My translation memory is my brain, and yes, a few glossaries I put together myself. I’m an avid user of the voice recognition program “Dragon Naturally Speaking” and with that I am extremely productive. In my specialist fields such as tire technology, financial reporting, plastics technology, etc., I rarely have to do any research any more – I can simply start dictating and wander around my office while doing so – yet it’s not at all boring. Besides, translation is only one of my sources of income. I also work as a freelance author for several companies, e.g. for corporate blogs, customer and online magazines, and so on, and for many years I’ve done intensive writing coaching for top-level managers. I’m currently expanding the two latter activities and reducing my translation work slightly. And I’ll let you and your readers in on a secret: I’m also working on two of my own books. I can’t tell you anything more about that at present.

6. You are an advocate of high(er) rates, premium markets and the like. Could you tell us a bit more about those topics?

Well, I’m firmly convinced that there’s a place for everyone in the global translation market: the big full-service agencies for the so-called bulk market, the smaller SME service providers that operate in defined market segments and/or have their regular customers in niche markets, and of course for the individual translators who provide their services in their (premium) market, in their own particular playground, so to speak. The market has all those elements, no question about it – just like there are premium tires and low-budget tires. And here we’re not debating what’s “better” or “not as good” or “worse”. As a customer, I have to decide what I want, no matter what the product is: a 13-cent roll from a discounter or bread from a baker who still grinds his whole-grain flour himself; a low-priced tire, because I only drive my small car to town, or a premium tire for a powerful car and long drives on the autobahn; an 11-euro haircut by a hairdresser who doesn’t give appointments, where I have to blow-dry my hair myself; and last but not least the translation of an internal working document or of the financial report that’s sent to shareholders, the customer magazine that’s really an adaptation rather than a translation, and so on.

What makes the difference (and I am speaking here exclusively for “non-literary” translators, as I have no experience with literature translations), is, in addition to the talent required for this profession, outstanding qualifications in the relevant field and above all specialization, which however becomes increasingly differentiated and narrowly focused. I don’t work for agencies, but once in a while agencies contact me because they can’t find anyone for certain niche specialties in my language combination (French/German or German/French – I don’t work in any other languages). Then they are willing to pay nearly my direct-customer price.

Of course, the so-called soft skills are just as important. I conducted a small, non-representative survey on this subject in summer, and described the results over the past few weeks in a three-part blog post on “Rüsterweg” (in German). The major German professional associations and even the FIT shared the article in the social media. This series has now been reprinted by the magazine of the German professional association ADÜ Nord.

In general, the following can be said of the market: there are more and more translators willing to work for very low prices. I’m not talking about countries or continents where the prices are low due to the low cost of living. The agencies are under pressure and competing with platforms via which even students are offering their translation services for little money. On the one hand, I believe our colleagues have an obligation to persuade customers to accept reasonable prices using appropriate arguments. That is possible – I am speaking from experience. But there are many agencies as well that need to educate their customers about the complex process of translation. If all of the discounters in Germany priced their rolls at € 0.26, i.e. double the present price, they would still be cheaper than the rolls of “real” bakers, but the producer and his employees, suppliers, etc. would be happy. The key word here is fair working conditions. I always ask myself how it affects us when we see a T-shirt for € 2.99 in a shop. Doesn’t anyone think about that?

7. On this same topic, it seems that your opinions, even though they are similar to Kevin Hendzel’s and Chris Durban’s, for example, are sometimes criticized quite harshly by some people. Do you think people are more influenced by what “famous” translators say as compared to what we, for example, say? If so, why do you think that happens?

It’s not my ambition to become “famous”. And by the way, I don’t count myself among the “greatest women in translation”. Over the course of my career, I’ve been an employee, as a department manager in an executive position as well; I’ve also been an employer and I am an entrepreneur – in my heart I always have been, even when I was working at Michelin. Against the background of this comprehensive experience, I’d like to highlight a few subjects and problem areas, make people aware of options for optimization and provide a bit of support to young colleagues. Some of our colleagues forget that before you can optimize anything, you have to determine where progress can be made and how shortcomings can be rectified. Why do people attack me, even though I don’t do anything differently than Kevin and Chris? Several highly esteemed colleagues have asked me that recently. It’s certainly easier to throw punches at someone who’s within arm’s reach. 😉 I’m “close” to my colleagues, I’m accessible, and therefore attackable. Those who take a public stance have to expect that. I can live with it – my motto is “Strength lies within serenity”. In the end, my professional success shows that my strategy and my way of doing things can’t be wrong – which of course doesn’t mean that it’s the only way. Lots of different roads will take you where you want to go.

Criticism is important when it’s constructive. Discussions that bring together very different opinions and experiences are extremely interesting when they are conducted in a factual, objective manner. But there’s the rub: critical reactions are not always factual or objective – apparently some people (only a few – I’d like to emphasize that) think that in the virtual world of social media they can just chuck all of the basic principles of respectful interaction with one another out the window. That’s not my style.

But to be honest, I receive so much nice feedback, colleagues call me up and ask for advice or tell me about their success in implementing one of my suggestions, ask interesting questions… it’s wonderful! Whenever my work gives colleagues food for thought and helps them professionally, I’m happy. And that’s all that counts.

8. During the time you worked at Michelin, you also worked as a freelance translator and consultant in your spare time (in the evening, on holidays, weekends, etc.). What advice would you give someone who has a full-time job, but wants to become a freelancer? How can they make the most of their spare time to start their freelance work?

When I started working at Michelin as a German and French teacher for managers at the end of the 1980s, I didn’t earn very much, so I went looking for a second job. I taught at language schools and translated. And yes, I worked very long hours, but I must admit I’m a workaholic. To me, the word “work” does not mean an oppressive burden or stress, but rather passion and joy. I’ve no idea where this mindset came from.

During all the years at Michelin, I held other jobs on the side, and thus built up a solid customer base, pursued my specialty fields in-depth, talked to experts, developed a network, long before the term “networking” in its current form became a buzzword. You mustn’t forget that when I started out, there were no computers, no Internet, no e-mail, no mobile phones. Of course I had leisure time, weekends and vacations, but probably not to the extent of most of my colleagues. I don’t regret that at all – on the contrary. Thanks to all that hard work (and solely that hard work) I am now in a position in which I can lean back, to help my colleagues with tips and suggestions, to reduce my customer base (which consists only of direct customers), and to focus on personal projects like a planned foundation and my books, and I don’t have to worry about what comes after my active professional career.

You asked what I would recommend to our colleagues. I’d like to start by saying that there are simply too many people who become freelancers immediately after completing their studies or give up a salaried position without having any financial reserves. They then accept practically “every” job, even at low prices, work under great pressure and end up in a vicious circle because they don’t have the time to acquire better-paying customers. That’s not a good situation for anyone. I think it’s better when you prepare your entry into the world of self-employment from a secure position, i.e. from a salaried position. That doesn’t have to be in translation.

9. Now it’s your turn. Who, in your opinion, is one of the Greatest Women in Translation?

I could name several colleagues who do great work and successfully reconcile their family and professional lives. They have my full respect. I’d like to nominate our dear colleague Sabine Lammersdorf as one of the Greatest Women in Translation. She raised a son, developed her customer base, specialized in her fields and is pursuing a university degree “on the side” as well. Chapeau! Sabine and I share not only the love of our wonderful profession and our mindset in that regard, but a friendship as well and a pet project – the knowledge database “Wissenswinkel”. I could not possibly imagine a better partner for this project!

Now I feel a bit like I’m at the Oscars, but I’d like to thank you, dear Caroline, very warmly, for giving us Women in Translation a forum here, and Nicole Y. Adams for nominating me. I hold her work in high esteem. Thanks also go to my colleague Monique Simmer for putting my Franco-German thoughts into English. Without a doubt, she is also one of the “Greatest Women in Translation”, a genuine professional.

Thank you, Giselle, for kindly accepting Nicole’s nomination and my invitation to answer my questions for our interview! It was a pleasure connecting and getting to know you better.

Greatest Women in Translation: Nicole Y. Adams


Welcome back to our Greatest Women in Translation interview series!

This month’s interviewee is the great Nicole Y. Adams, who was nominated by Sarah.

Welcome, Nicole!

Email: Website:

1. Your website describes you as an “award-winning German to English language professional”. Do you think that being granted an award or being a certified professional makes a great difference to the client when choosing a translator?

Being certified – absolutely. Having won an award is merely the icing on the cake. If I’m looking for a service provider, or even just a new restaurant to try out, I tend to feel reassured and be more confident that I’ll have a good experience with a business if it has won awards in the past. Although it’s certainly not the only criteria, I’ll be more likely to choose them. After all, they must be doing something right to have been awarded them!

Most of my business awards were based on votes and/or detailed feedback from my clients. It was very satisfying to learn that they were so delighted with my services, and winning the awards certainly motivated me to keep going and do even better. I’m also very proud of my nomination for the 2013 AUSIT Excellence Award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to the Translation & Interpreting Industry’, although I didn’t win. To be recognised by peers was a truly humbling experience.

Back to certification: Although there are, of course, examples of highly successful colleagues who deliver excellent work without being certified, I believe that a professional should ideally have some accreditation or certification in the service they’re offering. In my case, I’d already translated part-time for a couple of years when I decided to become a certified translator to make it ‘official’ (which meant flying to Germany to take the state exam as an external candidate – I wanted to obtain a German qualification first, as all my clients are based in Germany and Switzerland). I wouldn’t have felt comfortable offering professional translation services without having a piece of paper showing I’m qualified to do so. In an unregulated profession such as ours, I feel that’s the least we can do to reassure clients and demonstrate professionalism.

2. You have quite a wide list of remarkable marketing and business qualifications! How important do you think it is for a translator to take courses in order to specialize in a certain area?

To be honest, I just love learning. The courses and qualifications I’ve listed on my website are only a small fraction of what I’ve completed and obtained. I also have a number of qualifications in subjects unrelated to my areas of specialisation, taken purely out of personal interest and ranging from airport operations to nutrition. ☺ In terms of my areas of specialisation, I like to know what my clients are talking about and stay on top of the latest jargon, which is why I regularly participate in relevant courses. With the range of free and low-cost online courses out there these days (just think MOOC!), there’s no excuse for anyone not to take courses to keep abreast of current developments in their specialist fields, or simply to brush up their general knowledge. A couple of years ago, I completed ‘An Introduction to Marketing’ by the Wharton School of Business via Coursera, and although it was classed as an introduction, I found it very interesting and certainly learned a new thing or two. It’s probably not ideal to complete a degree in a certain subject area and then work as a specialist translator in that area for the next 30 years without ever engaging in any further professional development in that field.

3. You are a member of incredibly 12 associations! Well, I’m guessing you are an advocate of professional associations. Why do you think it is important to be a member of professional associations? And in which grounds should a translator choose the associations they can be a member of?

Is it really that many? I must admit, I’ve never counted them! ☺ Call me crazy, but I’m actually just about to join another one that I’ve been considering for a while.

For me, there are a number of criteria for deciding to join a professional association. First of all,

it’s a given to join the translators’ association in your country of residence to meet and network with local colleagues and stay informed about the state of the industry on your home turf.

In my case, this is purely out of interest, as I don’t work in the Australian market at all.

Next, I like to be a member of translator associations in the countries of both my source and target languages. It is amazing how different these associations are, and what different advantages they offer translators (or not, as it may be). Being a member of the BDÜ, CIOL and ATA, for example, gives me insights into the different approaches to the profession in each country, which is extremely interesting. I also subscribe to the paper versions of all associations’ magazines, and I love reading them to relax at the end of a working day – although, being in Australia, I usually only get them about a month after they’re published! 😉

Thirdly, it’s a must for me to be a member of at least one association in my areas of specialisation, where I can network with (potential) clients and stay informed about what’s going on in my clients’ industries. These associations also usually offer courses or webinars with discounts for members. I particularly enjoy the courses offered by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, where the prices for members and non-members differ hugely.

Finally, there’s being listed in professional member directories. I see being listed in such directories as a pleasant side effect, but by no means the main criteria for joining an association. Yes, I am sometimes contacted by potential clients who found me in an association directory, but the frequency of these enquiries is not the main reason I’d join or leave an association.

4. You have a great deal of positive testimonials on your website, but one quality in particular called my attention: reliability. It is probably the most mentioned one. Why do you think is this such a key skill to have as a translator today?

This is a great question, and I’m glad you are asking it! I’ve always considered it a given that reliability is non-negotiable. Informing the client you’ll deliver late at the last minute or not responding to enquiries promptly are just not an option. To most professional translators, these things are a matter of course – at least that’s what I had always thought until more and more clients told me how pleased they were that I’m ‘so reliable’ as that wasn’t the experience they had had with other translators.

I still couldn’t quite believe it, until a small (two-person) agency I used to work with regularly many years ago asked me to become their preferred translator for a certain end client. I knew that their regular translator always delivered outstanding quality work, so I was more than a little surprised why he wasn’t working for the client any longer. When I enquired, they told me that although he delivered superb quality, they could never be 100% sure whether he’d deliver on time, and often they couldn’t reach him when they needed to follow up on something. So a lack of reliability was his downfall. That was a real wake-up call for me and clearly demonstrated how highly clients value reliability.

We’re not ‘just translating’. We need to offer a full package, and that includes customer service and, of course, reliability.

Clients need to know they will get a text when we say they’ll get it. They have enough on their plate and need to be able to relax without having to worry about the reliability of their translation partner. Reliability is also a sign of respect in a successful business partnership. (By the same token, I expect to be able to rely on timely payments!)

5. One of the questions you ask on your A to Z of Freelance Translation course is “Do you have what it takes right now to be self-employed?” What does it take to be self-employed? Can’t simply anyone work as a freelancer?

Well, certainly anyone can work as a freelancer, but not everyone will be successful. ☺

As most of us know, working as a self-employed freelance translator requires a certain mindset. It’s essential to be versatile, flexible, adaptable and to never stop learning. Freelance life is not predictable and we need a huge amount of self-discipline and, most of all, resourcefulness to deal with unexpected issues (from power cuts to hard disk failures to clients going bankrupt).

I’d also say it’s important to never be afraid to ask questions of peers and more experienced colleagues. Many people shy away from this, which can hold them back.

So, being able to produce great-sounding translations is wonderful (and should be a given), but by no means all that is needed to be successfully self-employed. At the start of The A to Z of Freelance Translation course, which you mention, participants take a test to ascertain whether or not they’re in the right place to commence self-employment, or whether they should consider another path.

If you don’t have the right resources and mindset, no amount of training will help you succeed – it has to come from within you.

My own freelance journey has certainly been a crazy ride, and I’m pretty sure this career path is not for everyone. When I first started out (or rather, when I happened to stumble upon translation as a professional career by chance ;-)), I was a complete novice and had to learn everything from scratch without any help, from pricing to what a CAT tool was. I needed to be very resourceful and did a lot of research, and I even joined a large London-based language services provider as a project manager for a few months to learn how things work from the other side of the table. Fast forward a few years, things were going well and I had the glorious idea of starting my own agency, with a new company name and website. But I quickly realised that outsourcing and being on the administrative side really wasn’t my thing, so the idea was swiftly shot down again. Today I only ever outsource work to a trusted couple of colleagues when my working hours are limited due to school holidays or my children being sick.

Speaking of children, when my boys were born, my husband turned stay-at-home-dad for almost four years, making me the only breadwinner. In hindsight, this created quite a lot of pressure, which many freelancers may not expect or may not enjoy. You should be prepared for this kind of financial pressure, in case your partner, for example, can’t work for a while, or your children get sick and you have to cut down your own working hours.

Next in my freelance lifecycle came what I call my experimental phase. I’d started mentoring new colleagues a few years before and thought I’d venture into coaching – and even completed a certificate in business coaching and mentoring! However, I only ever coached one client for exactly one session before realising that it’s not my cup of tea and that I wasn’t comfortable charging people for sharing my experiences in one-on-one relationships. I generally prefer to work alone and from the comfort of my home office – one reason why freelance translation suits me down to a T. So I’d say as a freelancer

it’s also key not to get sidetracked but to remain focused on what you enjoy doing.

Today, I still work solely as a freelance translator, and I couldn’t be happier. Putting together Diversification in the Language Industry – a snapshot of how colleagues have chosen to diversify and offer additional services beyond translation proper – in 2013 made me realise that I enjoy translating more than anything else, and that I personally have no desire to diversify into other areas. I’m glad I got all those distractions out of my system and can focus 100% on my clients. My final advice to fellow freelancers is:

do what feels right to you and don’t ever go down a path you’re not comfortable with because others think it’s a good idea or simply because the opportunity arises – just say no! 😉

6. You are one of the few translators who state the prices you charge on your website. Why do you prefer to do so? Do you think that makes a difference to the client?

Interesting question, Caroline. First of all, I should say that I’m quite lucky that most of my clients are either personal contacts I’ve made in-house or through networking, or direct referrals by existing customers, so most of my business comes from word-of-mouth and I don’t primarily rely on my website to attract new clients.

In general, I usually charge a flat rate per project and don’t give clients a per-word price in either quote or invoice. I also state this on my website, but give them a rough guide as to the price range they can expect (which is based on per-word ranges for information only). This is mainly because I hate wasting time, both as a consumer and as a service provider. Clients with price expectations that are wildly different from mine are kept at bay (except for the ones who fail to check the prices before getting in touch!), saving everyone a lot of time wasted on fruitless negotiations and multiple email exchanges. Serious clients obviously still ask for a custom offer, but at least they already have an idea of what to expect.

Putting my consumer hat on for a minute, I can safely say that if I want to hire a professional service provider, say, a web designer or typesetter, I always look for a pricing page on their website. Often, I’ll choose to contact a provider who displays prices (or at least a rough price guideline) over one who doesn’t, simply because it saves me the hassle of having to contact them especially to enquire about prices. Keeping it simple and providing as much information as possible works best for me! On my website, I also refer to the Australian Society of Authors’ (of which I’m a member) price guidelines, which reassures more sceptical clients that I’m not just pulling numbers out of thin air, but that there’s some justification behind them. It also reminds them that they’re hiring a certified professional who is backed by a professional association (which brings us back to your earlier question).

7. Now it’s your turn to nominate our next interviewee!

First of all, thanks to Sarah for nominating me, and to you Caroline, for hosting this interesting series! ☺ (And I second Sarah’s invitation to come and visit us in sunny Queensland!)

I’d like to nominate our lovely colleague Giselle Chaumien on the other side of the world in Germany. Giselle is always more than happy to share her wealth of experience with peers, both on social media and through her blog (in German), and is a great role model for new and experienced translators alike. And her office companion, Filou, is just too cute ! 😉

Wow! I loved your answers, Nicole! Even though I handed the questions last minute and you were not working as usual the last few weeks, as it seems, you managed to answer my questions in a very thorough and thoughtful manner. I really really appreciate that! 😀

I especially loved some parts so much that I took the liberty to highlight them on the text.

You can reach Nicole via email ( or her website.

I’ve already reached Giselle, and she has kindly and promptly accepted Nicole’s nomination. Stay tuned, because Giselle’s interview will also be amazing! 😉 I already have interesting and thought-provoking questions coming up my mind.

Guest post: How can I find translation clients?

Here we are with our first guest post after the new editorial calendar was launched. I won’t work tomorrow (today is a holiday here, so I decided to transfer the day off for tomorrow), so I’m anticipating it. As advertised, our guest today is Tess Whitty, from “Marketing Tips for Translators”.

Welcome, Tess!


Tips on where to find your ideal translation clients

When it comes to connecting with clients, the wonderful news for freelance translators is that potential clients are practically everywhere. It is simply a question of getting in front of them to be able to offer your translation services.

You are probably thinking that I make it sound easier than it actually is, as though you just jump in front of potential clients and they’ll drop everything and pull out their wallets to work with you.  Well, it’s not that easy, of course, but there are some reasonably simple steps you can take to make potential clients aware of your business and expertise.  That is, of course, the first step to attracting new business.

The easiest way to gain new business is to contact translation agencies and register yourself in their databases. In my experience, most translators are able to construct very successful careers by following this strategy.

You can also find translation buyers directly, forgoing agencies altogether. I know many translators that work solely with direct clients these days. Taking this route requires a much more active marketing campaign, but it can be very rewarding, since you get a personal relationship with the client.

In this article I will present some tips and steps for you to go out and find your ideal clients, whether you prefer working with direct clients or agencies.

Finding and contacting translation agencies

Thousands of translation agencies around the world are looking for freelance translators just like you. But, not all agencies are created equal. In fact, experience has taught me that agencies generally come in one of three varieties: smooth-operating professional agencies, price hagglers, and shady dealers. You want to focus on the first kind.

To do this, always research an agency before accepting work from them, and never be afraid to dump an agency if you find out that their working style does not align with your values. Simply bow out as professionally as possible and keep looking for partners who respect you and the work that you can contribute.

You can find lists of agencies in translation association directories, translation portals, databases for payment practices and by conducting a simple online search. After checking credibility, you should also check whether the agency works with your particular language pair and areas of specialization. At this stage, I recommend creating an Excel document with the agency name, location and a brief description about what makes that agency unique. This can help you streamline the process of contacting each one and tracking the results.

If you are asked to contact the agency by email, you can create an email template with the following information:

  • Subject line: Include your language combination and that you are a freelance translator looking for work/clients.
  • Email body: State that you would like to work for them as a freelance translator, highlight your accomplishments, experience, degrees and your field of specialization. Try to keep it brief, only two paragraphs.
  • Conclusion and Signature: Provide a link to your website, if you have one, and encourage the agency to visit to see what you can offer.  Also include your contact information and ask them to contact you for further information.

Most translation agencies these days have an application form on their websites that translators should use. Even if this method might seem impersonal, you must use it if this is their preferred method. Many agencies have these applications go directly to a database and you might just create more work for the agency or even get ignored if you apply by snail mail or email.

Keep track and follow up 

In your master Excel agency list, track the agencies you have contacted and follow up with an email in a week or so if you have not heard back. You can ask if they have received your email and if they have any questions or need further information.

Finding and contacting direct clients

As much as you may not like to hear it, the truth is that most direct clients are found through networking. Therefore, you have to be prepared to devote time and resources to put yourself in front of your prospective clients. If you’re going to start marketing directly to individuals or businesses, your first step will be to narrow down your target audience so you can bring focus to your communication efforts. Then, you can start researching potential clients online in your area of expertise.

Here are some steps to help structure this effort:

  • Decide on a niche and the type of companies in a specific industry that you want to target. Be specific. Include size, location, type of company, etc. What are the major companies? Are there any local companies in your area? I recommend writing this down or creating a database of potential clients so that you can use it for future reference.
  • Identify where these companies “hang out” online and in your community. Understand how you can make contact with them. This can be through LinkedIn, a local chamber of commerce, international industry events, and so on.
  • Check if you already have contacts in the industry that you can use to get in touch with your target clients.
  • Read or subscribe to trade journals in your area of expertise
  • Become a member in a relevant trade association.
  • Look for industry-specific events in your niche that you can attend.

Contacting direct clients can be tricky and perhaps uncomfortable at times, so it is important that you have done your research first. Only contact a direct client when you have the right person to contact. Make sure you have an angle to provide good solid value when you contact the client. The first contact can be done by email, sending out a brochure or meeting this client face-to-face at an event. Be prepared to research and contact many potential clients, and expect about a one percent return rate.

No matter whether you are targeting translation agencies or direct clients, there are some general tips and recommendations that can help you immensely along the way. Here are 10 tips:

  1. Don’t sit and wait for opportunities – create your own
  2. When you meet a good prospect, take action immediately, call and follow up
  3. Send thank you cards to clients
  4. Ask others to refer you and refer others back
  5. Help other translators and they will help you
  6. When you are not translating, make sure to work on your marketing strategy, brush up on your subject or translation technique through continuing education and keep up to date in your specialization and industry
  7. Living in a big city is a plus for networking, but you should also realize that you are not limited by geographic boundaries. Thanks to the Internet you can work with clients from anywhere
  8. That said, try to be available in your client’s time zones
  9. Keep track of your clients and congratulate them on accomplishments
  10. Send out reminders about your services to clients you have not heard from for a while

For more tips and in depth information, take a look at “The Marketing Cookbook – Foolproof Recipes for a Successful Freelance Career and Lifestyle” and for more free marketing tips, subscribe to the monthly newsletter at

Thanks a lot, Tess, for accepting my invitation and kindly taking the time to write something so useful for our blog! I loved the tips at the end and I completely agree with everything you said.

Comments, questions, doubts?

About the author
2013-09-24 12.29.09-2Tess Whitty has been a successful freelance translator and entrepreneur for over 10 years and owns the company Swedish Translation Services. Her educational and professional background is in marketing and she is passionate about sharing her knowledge with other freelancers in the form of presentations, training, mentoring and consulting. She is also the author of the book “Marketing Cookbook for Translators”, with easy to follow “recipes” for marketing your translation services and achieving a successful freelance lifestyle, and the award winning podcast “Marketing Tips for Translators”. For more information, and to connect, go to or

Greatest Women in Translation: Marta Stelmaszak


Hey, I hope you are excited as I am with the launch of this series! 😀

For those who missed it yesterday, I wrote a post telling all about the series. If you haven’t read it yet, check it out in order to understand how it works. 😉

Surprise, surprise! The first interviewee is Marta Stelmaszak. Some of you were indeed right on your guesses, so we probably share the same opinion. The reason I chose Marta is because she is one of my role models since my early days as a freelance translator, when I decided to dedicate part of my time to the internet as well, especially Twitter. I don’t remember how exactly I came across her, but she always inspired me, and still does. Her passion, professionalism and dedication to all her projects motivates and stimulates me to always be better and reach higher.

So let’s hear from her!

Welcome back, Marta!

marta stelmaszak

1. You are an incredibly diverse woman, Marta! You are a translator; you give speeches all around the world; you run a blog, a YouTube channel and your other social media channels; you and Valeria Aliperta run The Freelance Box; you are the Business School for Translators course tutor; you have just written a book — just to name a few! Tell us more about what you do and how you first got started.
I think you covered it quite well! Of course, I spend the most of my time translating and, more occasionally now, interpreting. Indeed, in the past few years I’ve been active on a variety of media, from my own YouTube channel (still out of my comfort zone) to publishing a book. It was all part of a plan to give back and pay forward. I’ve received some excellent advice throughout the years and I know I wouldn’t be where I am now without meeting and speaking to some of the most wonderful colleagues, often not in the limelight at all.
However, diversity and multi-passion approach has its price. It took me time to realize that I have to focus and concentrate and this explains why 2015 is the last year where you’ll see plenty of me. Part of being a responsible business owner is to decide what’s best for you and your business at any given time. I’ve already planned my last conference presentation for a while, and decided to scale down on my blog.
How did I get to this point? Since I first started, some 8 or 9 years ago, I’ve always been working at full pace, giving it 100%. I was a very determined student (I left my whole country behind to study translation in London – lots at stake, you see!), then a very determined business person (working against the odds) and I’ve always been striving to be a resourceful colleague.
Don’t get me wrong, though. Giving it 100% is the only way forward, but it’s important to make sure you give 100% of yourself to the right thing.

2. The impression I personally have is that your day has way more than 24 hours – or that you are a superwoman who can do magic with the time you have. How do you do that?
I’m no Hermione, I wish! I think it’s a mix of a couple of personal characteristics I’ve grown over time with careful business planning. I learned that time is the scarcest of all resources and I’m very disciplined by nature. Add some time-management tricks to this, like time boxing or backwards-planning and there you go, you’ll see that you can fit in more things than before.
To be fair, I do have a virtual assistant and I can’t imagine running my business without her. I think I get some 3-4 extra hours a day thanks to her dedication and hard work. I can definitely recommend having a VA to any freelancer. You’ll see how much time you can save by outsourcing non-core tasks.

3. Break down a typical working day for us.
Don’t judge me, but I do get up quite early. On a typical day in July, I’d get up around 4-4.30 and dedicate the first bit of the day to reading or studying. Then I go to the gym to be back before 8 am. I take about an hour to reply to emails and send proposals, do a bit of business development, prospecting, active marketing and reach out. I work from 9 to 4 or 5, depending on workload, with a lunch break in between. I often have meetings or events in the afternoon, so that requires a trip to central London. I use travel time to catch up with social media. If I don’t go anywhere, I spend this time blogging, writing, or doing other hobby-like bits. By the end of the day, I usually read or study. This year it’s Norwegian that’s keeping me busy at night.
All in all, I do go to bed early. It’s been a going joke at conferences: I’m a very bad conversation partner after 10 pm.

4. What is the biggest challenge you face on a day-to-day basis running your own business?
Finding balance. I think it’s extremely easy to go overboard as a freelancer and just work all the time. All work no play makes Marta… you know how the saying goes. Working 12, 14 or 16 hours a day should never be the norm, but it’s just all too tempting if you’re doing it for your own business. Saying no, saying stop, saying enough – this is the biggest challenge.

5. Besides your computer and the internet, what could you never, ever, in a million years run your business without?Purpose. There’ve been so many occasions where I’ve been that close to thinking that it would just be so much easier to find a job and let all worries and insecurities and problems go. But the feeling of purpose is what keeps me going. I know what I’m doing and why I’m doing it and I can’t imagine running my business without having a clear idea of my mission. Purpose is the thing that keeps you going though the hardships and you need it even more than wifi.

6. You usually like to ask “Why do you translate?” to translators in your presentations. Now I’m the one who ask you,“Why do you do what you do?”
I’ve always liked riddles, quizzes and puzzle. I learned English doing crosswords and reading Agatha Christie. My passion for problem solving in business made me do a whole degree in it (“to learn the causes of things”, that is). Enigma has always inspired me (not only because it was “solved” by a team of Polish mathematicians).
Recently, I read a thought somewhere on Twitter that perfectly captured why I do what I do: translation is a problem-solving exercise. Every word, every phrase, every sentence gives me the chill of a puzzle, of a quiz or a problem that needs solving – here, now and only I can do it. Translation makes me feel a bit like a language detective, investigating all possible solutions, looking up traces in books and dictionaries, checking linguistic fingerprints here and there. And when the case is solved, the next one is right there on my desk.

7. As I have already said, you were and still are my role model in translation. You are a great inspiration! Now who has influenced you the most?
Thank you, it really is an honour! Without the slightest doubt I can say that every colleague I’ve ever interacted with has left a mark. Every person has taught me something. But there are three role models in my life that have influenced me the most and really contributed to career-changing moments. I’ll let you guess based on short descriptions.
First, it’s my lecturer from my BA degree who has taught me the basics of professional translation and also – maybe even more importantly – humbleness when working with language.
Second, it’s someone I’ve been working closely with and who actually came up with the idea of creating the Business School for Translators course. It was – and still is – one of the best things I’ve done in my life and I wouldn’t be here without this person’s contribution.
Third – don’t laugh – is a translation scholar. I’ve been really influenced by her books and research and I wish I can meet her in person one day. She’s a German translator and in 2008, she’s been named Profesora Honoraria da Facultade de Filoloxía e Tradución, Universidade de Vigo.
You have all the tips you need to find out who they are!

8. Lastly, nominate an amazing woman in translation who you think should beinterviewed in our series.
Now, this is a puzzle to solve for you, Caroline! I nominate woman number 2 from my previous answer.

I got two of them wrong and one right. Marta gave the fun idea of letting you guess as well. Do you have any idea who her role models are and who she nominates as the next interviewee (I’ve already talked to the person and s/he accepted it)? Let the guesses begin.

Marta has also written a guest post for us a while ago: Freelance translator as a sole breadwinner: opportunities and challenges.

Here’s the link to the second interview.

My impressions on the VI Abrates Conference – Part 2

In case you did not read the first part, here it is.

Still on the second day of the conference, after the panel with representatives of some associations, we had a coffee break and, after that, our second keynote speaker, Renato Beninatto, spoke about Brazil’s position in the translation world. Beninatto talked about how Brazilians sometimes complain a lot about the local situation. According to him, translation, as well as its problems, is the same everywhere, not only here. The translation market is globalized. Renato also says it is a shame that ATA has the same number of Brazilian associates as Sintra: we should give more credit to local associations. To conclude his presentation, he shows this video and says a person is able to create a new initiative by themselves and inspire others. The first follower of the initiative is the most important, because he is the one that validates the leader.

In his presentation, he referred to this article: Brazil: The Social Media Capital of the Universe.

The second day was over and, while some attendees headed to a pizza place, I headed to a sushi place, where ACME E-learning hosted a Mixer with a dozen people. It was quite a pleasant evening, and I had the chance to get to know incredible new people from different areas and met a couple I already knew from other events. João, ACME’s director, will soon publish pictures and probably some words about this successful networking event.


With João Artur Souza, from ACME E-learning.

On Sunday, the third and, sadly, last day of conference started with Renata Cassemiro’s presentation about the importance of the translator’s occupational health. Renata is physiotherapist and Pilates instructor, so she gave us some extremely important tips and orientations. According to her, some diseases take years to start showing its symptoms, therefore, we shouldn’t wait to try to find a solution. Did you know that the incorrect use of the phone is one of the biggest causes of problems? Don’t hold the phone between your ear and your shoulder. Use a headset instead. Fact: the human being is capable and prepared to walk 30 km a day. That’s why a sedentary lifestyle brings so many health problems! Some of her tips: establish pauses throughout your workday; avoid fried food and have lighter meals; therapeutic massage is advised once a week.

The second presentation of the day was by Débora Policarpo, who talked about financial planning. Débora is a business administrator specialized in wealth management and asset allocation. According to her, financial planning is the process of achieving our life’s goals through the adequate management of our finance life. There is nothing that takes more our attention than financial problems, right? We should understand the family’s budget and dynamics, as well as in which stage of life we are in. Débora said we must set our short-, medium- and long-term goals and the income we want/need to have when we retire. There is no magical formula to calculate how much we should save to achieve our goals: we need to know the time we have and the desired income.


During Débora Policarpo’s presentation.

We had a coffee break and, after that, my presentation.

After my presentation, I watched part of Carolina Walliter’s presentation on coworking. Unfortunately, I missed a great part of it, but it seemed very interesting indeed. People loved it! According to her, coworking is a network society that generates quality of life and social awareness. Sheila Gomes, who was also watching Carolina’s presentation, recommends that we at least try working in one of the coworking spaces available. I do plan on working some hours or a day in a coworking space we have in my town. As soon as I do, I’ll write a post about my experience. 😉

The last presentation of the conference was with Isabel Vidigal, who mainly talked about and the possibility of getting clients from it. According to her, you have nothing to lose creating a free profile on, but work carefully on it.

After that, we had a lunch break and, finally the last keynote speaker, Ulisses Wehby de Carvalho, from Tecla SAP, who gave a really relaxing and enjoyable speech about the life of an interpreter. We laughed a lot with his funny and incredibly embarrassing/amazing histories! According to him, mistakes happen in the booth because there is no backspace. The interpreter has to learn how to properly deal with them when they happen.

And that was it (or at least part of it, since I attended only 1/6 of the wide array of possibilities). You can find some links to posts people have already published about the conference below:

Talking in the real world, post-conference article by Robert Lange Greene on The Economist
A LBM no Congresso da Abrates, by Ligia Sobral Fragano, from Little Brown Mouse
VI Congresso da Abrates – Parte 1, by Laila Rezende Compan, from the blog Tradutor Iniciante
VI Congresso da Abrates – Parte 2, by Laila Rezende Campan, from the blog Tradutor Iniciante
VI Congresso da Abrates – Parte 3, by Laila Rezende Campan, from the blog Tradutor Iniciante
VI Congresso da Abrates – Parte 4, by Laila Rezende Campan, from the blog Tradutor Iniciante
VI Congresso da Abrates – Parte 5 (final), by Laila Rezende Campan, from the blog Tradutor Iniciante
Impressões sobre o VI Congresso Internacional da Abrates, by Sidney Barros Junior
VI Congresso Internacional da Abrates – Um sucesso muito além do esperado, by Ponte de Letras
Línguas e Tradução: Outro Encontro de Tradutores, by Anita Di Marco, from Anita Plural
VI Congresso da Abrates: uma viagem pelo mundo da localização, by Maíra Monteiro
VI Congresso Internacional da Abrates, by Marina Borges
E o VI Congresso da Abrates?, by Thiago Hilger, from the blog O Jogo da Tradução
CAT Tools na tradução literária: para quê?, by Rafa Lombardino, from eWorldNews, about Reginaldo Francisco’s presentation (in English: CAT tools in literary translation: what are they good for?)
A TradWiki e a visibilidade do tradutor, by Daniel Estill, from TradWiki
Como foi o VI Congresso da Abrates para os iniciantes, by Lorena Leandro, from the blog Ao Principiante
Pesquisa em tradução literária: seleção de fontes e entrevistas, by Rafa Lombardino, from eWorldNews, about Candice Soldatelli’s presentation (in English: Research in literary translation: selecting and interviewing sources of information)
Impresiones sobre el congreso – Abrates 2015, by Víctor Gonzales, from El Heraldo de la Traducción
Vamos fugir do tradutês?, by Rafa Lombardino, from eWorldNews, about Ponte de Letra‘s presentation (in English: Let’s avoid translationese, shall we?)
Pensando a tradução de variantes linguísticas, by Rafa Lombardino, from eWorldNews, about Solange Pinheiro Carvalho’s presentation (in English: On translating linguistic variants)
O tradutor sob os holofotes, by Rafa Lombardino, from eWorldNews, about the round table with Carolina Caires Coelho, Alyne Azuma, Alessandra Ruiz and Candice Soldatelli, moderated by Petê Rissati (in English: Translators under the spotlight)
O papel do tradutor na nova era da publicação digital, by yours truly on the blog eWorldNews, about Rafa Lombardino’s presentation (in English, translated by Rafa herself: The role of translators in the new digital publishing age)

And here are links to some presentations that presenters made available somehow and that I became aware of:

Roney Belhassof’s presentation: Usando a internet sem ter que virar nerd
Val Ivonica’s presentation: A tecnologia vai acabar com o tradutor?
Juliana Samel’s presentation: Falsos cognatos e decalques na tradução médica inglês > português
Layla Penha’s presentation: Interpretação consecutiva e além – como se já não bastassem os desafios da tarefa em si (recorded presentation, part 1 – you can also search for the other parts)
Jorge Rodrigues’ presentation: Rumos e perspectivas da carreira do tradutor profissional
orge Davidson’s presentation: O ABC das CATs: o que você nunca se atreveu a perguntar
aula Ianelli’s presentation: Quatro traduções e um original
itsue Siqueira and Bruno Fontes’ presentation: Gerente de projetos: de onde vem, para onde vai? You can also find a video of part of the presentation on YouTube here.
Carolina Walliter’s presentation: Coworking e os tradutores na vanguarda da nova era do trabalho
abiano Cid’s presentation: A situação do tradutor hoje no Brasil: problemas encontrados em três anos de LQA

On a last note, it was informed in the conference that there will be a series of talks on bureaucracy and translation, Tradutor vs. Burocracia. The first one will be held in Rio de Janeiro, on October 1st.


Besides, a workshop is also on the make with the amazing Isa Mara Lando, organized by Luciane Camargo. It will be on a Saturday in July, from 10 a.m. through 6 p.m., in São Paulo. If you are interested at attending in, please send an email to informing your date preference (4th, 18th or 25th).


And if you are not an Abrates member yet, it’s now or never! They are offering a 50% discount on the annual fee for those who attended the conference. But it’s only until June 30th!

If you want to check what else happened during the conference, follow the hashtag #abrates15 on Facebook and on Twitter.

And if you are interested in attending the next one, it will be held in Rio de Janeiro, date yet to be announced. I’ll certainly let you all know when we have news about it.

Last, but not least, the next post – that will most probably come this week – will be about my presentation.