So, Tess, on a personal level, you have been a great source of inspiration and one of my role models in the industry throughout my career. J For those who may not be familiar with you, could you tell us a little about who you are and what you do?
Thank you so much for your kind words Laura. When I started out as a freelance translator in 2003, I did not know much about the profession and how to do business as a freelancer. However, before becoming a freelance translator I worked as a product marketing manager plus I have a M.A. in Business Communication and a M.Sc. with focus on international marketing. This gave me an advantage, since I already had the business and marketing skills I needed. My freelance business quickly became quite successful. About five years ago, I realized that my translation business had stabilized and I began to feel the tug of my marketing background. I wanted to share my skills in marketing with other freelance translators, so I started presenting at translation conferences and giving webinars. Last year I launched a podcast with marketing tips for translators and published a book on marketing for freelance translators and interpreters.
How did you get started in the industry? Do you remember your first translation job?!
When I moved to the US I left my career in product marketing in Sweden, had a toddler and was pregnant. I wanted to find a job I could do from home, on a flexible schedule. I have always loved and studied languages and I am also that kind of a nerd that loves grammar, reading and writing. Someone suggested to me that I should look into working as a translator, since I was fully bilingual. I started researching it, working on my resume and taking some courses. I signed up at different job boards and after receiving my first job I never looked back. I remember that my first job was a short and urgent marketing text for a company. I also remembered what I bought for my first payment, a pair of black boots.
You provide fantastic resources for others in the industry via your site and blog, ‘Marketing Tips for Translators’, and have once again been nominated in several categories for the ProZ.com Community Choice Awards. What made you decide to share your knowledge with others in this way?
I have a desire to help others to feel happy and fulfilled, and the easiest way was to start sharing my expertise in marketing and my experience as a freelance translator with other freelance translators. Comments like yours make it all worth it and there is no better feeling than knowing I have been able to help someone else with their business. It is also a great complement to “just” translating for me, plus a way for me to network, socialize and feel more useful.
You also invest significant time and effort into producing a great podcast for freelance translators. Could you tell us a little about how this came about?
I had started listening to podcasts on business and marketing myself when walking the dog, running or driving in the car, and found them very useful. I do not have much time to read anymore, let alone watch videos, and thought that other freelance translators might be in the same situation. I thought that a podcast would be a great way to share marketing tips with other translators. I loved the interview format in other podcasts, the interaction between people always provide more value than just one person talking, so I wanted to focus on sharing not only my expertise, but more importantly other translators and experts knowledge with freelance translators.
Your book, “The Marketing Cookbook for Translators”, is an incredibly valuable resource for both new and experienced translators alike. Could you tell my readers a little about what they can expect from this?
Thank you! The idea of creating a marketing book in a cookbook format with different recipes came from a podcast I think, talking about “recipes for success.” I wanted the book to be very practical, concrete and easy to follow, without any fluff. By creating different marketing recipes, the reader can pick a recipe he or she wants to work on and just follow the steps. It is not necessary to read the whole book from cover to cover, just pick what you want to focus on and work on it in bite-sized pieces. That said, it does start out with the business foundations, continues with basic to more advanced marketing techniques and ends with the not so necessary, but very useful “desserts” such as work-life balance. There is something for translators of all levels of experience. But instead of hearing it from me, you can read some reviews from others here.
As we’ve discussed in several interviews now, negativity is somewhat prominent in the translation industry at the moment. However, like other key industry influencers, you promote a positive message that we are responsible for our own success. What is it that you love so much about being a freelance translator?
Hmmm! Where do I start? First of all I can combine my passion for languages with a well-paying job. The actual translation work means that I usually learn something new with each project and can use my brain in my work. I also like the “free” in being a freelancer. I can set my own schedule and be my own boss. I also love the purpose of translation, helping businesses and people communicate with others and bringing people and businesses together. I am also a firm believer that it is better to try and do something about a situation, instead of complain. Complaining also looks bad, especially online, and I try to avoid that and focus on the positive instead.
What would you say has been your greatest career success so far?
Being able to earn more than in my previous job, while still being available for my family every day. I am also happy that I have been able to publish my own book, something that has been on my bucket list for a while.
And your biggest challenge?
To set boundaries between my work and my private life. Having a flexible schedule and being my own boss also means that it is easy to overwork, especially since I love what I do. I have to constantly work on setting boundaries to protect my time with my family and friends, and to set aside time for my health and well-being. This is something that becomes easier the longer you work as a freelancer.
What's the most valuable piece of business advice you have ever received?
That we are always selling and marketing, whether we like it or not. No one can simply hide in his or her room and “just” translate. If we want to have a profitable business, we always need to focus on not only providing the best possible service we can, but to market it so that others can benefit from it.
And finally, what’s the one tip you’d give to someone just getting started in the translation industry?
Well, that would be to buy the “Marketing Cookbook for Freelance Translators – For a Successful Freelance Career and Lifestyle,” of course! No, seriously, my advice is to become involved in local and national translation associations and to get a mentor. Based on my own experience, I emphasize that you must learn to say no to jobs outside your expertise, to jobs that do not pay well, or when you already have too much on your plate. If you do a good job, the clients will come back.