Sustainable Customer Relationships

I attended a two training sessions run by the West Midlands Group of the ITI last weekend – one by Nick Rosenthal from Salford Translations on Sustainable Customer Relationships, and the other by Vernon Blackmore from Ambit New Media on Websites for Translators. Excellent stuff, even if I did miss a very exciting rugby match on Saturday when my radio couldn’t get reception on the train home…

Sustainable Customer Relationships

Nick compared the relationship we have with our clients to the one we have with our partners, and made the really interesting point that dealing with clients doesn’t have to be so different from the way we already deal with our family and friends.

I got most value from the advice he offered on how best to present yourself as a freelance translator, and how you don’t have to pretend you’re running a giant multinational out of your back room. A really interesting point – so many freelancers believe they have to hide the fact that they they are the only person in their office, and in doing so, unwittingly set themselves up as competitors to the very people who are likely supply them with the bulk of their work, i.e. translation agencies.

There’s still a fine line to be tread, of course. I’ve worked in the kind of corporate environment where translation buyers were happy to work with individual suppliers, but where a “premium” image was everything. Setting yourself up as a maw and paw operation (I’m sure that’s the technical term!), complete with 5 cats and a penchant for crosswords was not going to get you on their list of preferred suppliers. I guess it comes down to finding a professional, as opposed to a personal, “voice” for your online presence, and I’m not entirely sure I’ve found one that I’m comfortable with yet… but Nick’s comments certainly gave me food for thought (another day’s post, perhaps?!)

It was probably a tricky session to pitch given the rather patchy IT skills of some freelance translators, but I think Nick underestimated the degree to which many of us already use the web to sustain our customer, and indeed private, relationships. Rather than focussing on an explanation of the resources available to do this, I’d like to have heard more about how he was using these resources, and indeed had seen them being used, in his own career.

Finally, Nick gave some excellent answers to questions from the audience, and I think this where he really shone. For example, in answer to how best a freelance translator might present their quality assurance processes, he suggested stressing how quality assurance starts at the very beginning of the translation process by accepting work only into your mother tongue and in areas of specialist expertise. It then continues right through to quality control in the form of checking, proofing, etc. Based on these nuggets of specific advice and anecdotes relating directly to freelance translators, I’d definitely consider attending a training with him again.

Thanks ITI WMG!

Comment Policy

I expect virtual conversations to be carried out with the same amount of respect and courtesy as any face to face conversation with a client, colleague or friend. I’m also keen for this blog to offer an interesting and hopefully useful set of perspectives for those who take the time to read it. So with this in mind, here is my policy on comments:

  • Please do join the discussion! I love to hear what people think and am happy to offer advice to would-be translators. You are free to comment or send me an email at any time.
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If you are new to commenting or would like an extremely worthwhile refresher, take a look at Lifehacker’s Guide to Blog Comments for an inspiring read.

Looking forward to some dialogue 🙂

Is Entrepreneurship All it's Cracked Up To Be?

I love this article on on Why Entrepreneurship Isn’t All It Cracked Up To Be. It makes for interesting reading, and I agree with a lot of it. It’s so fashionable to be “an entrepreneur” these days and there seems to be this blanket assumption that it will always be better than having a 9 to 5 job.

I am so tired of this common thread on blogs that says everyone must be an entrepreneur and in order to be an entrepreneur you have to be a programmer, web designer, consultant, or freelance writer.

Funny though, I wouldn’t automatically think of a freelancer as an entrepreneur… to me, entrepreneur has the connoctation of inventing something new, or doing something different – not just working on a self-employed basis for a series of clients. And why is it that a self-employed translator would automatically be described as freelance, whereas a self-employed accountant or consultant would be running a practice or consultancy of some kind?!

Feast or famine: why 'quiet' days don't bother me

Freelance work tends to come in peaks and troughs, and while there are lots of up-sides to being freelance, a definite down-side is that if you don’t work, you don’t pay the bills. In my early days however, I quickly realised that there are some very good translators who really do work 24/7, regardless of industry ups and downs, never say no and never EVER turn down a job (within their capabilities, of course). I chewed over this quite a bit, but decided early on that while I would work my hardest to get up and running, I would also be unafraid to enjoy the “quiet” times, and purposely build in breaks if I had to.

A big part of what I love about translation is the continuous learning curve, and in order to fully benefit from this and continuously improve my performance, it’s important that I have the time and the space to make the most of all the new things that come my way every day. It may not be the quickest way to make money, but I consider it to be a marathon, rather than a sprint – after all, I’m in this for the long haul!

Even if you are one of those people who require less time for “digestion” and no matter how passionate you are about what you do, it’s always important to recharge your batteries and allow fresh ideas and energy to emerge. How are you going to motivate yourself or attract new customers if you are edgy with fatigue? (And trust me, motivation is very important when you work for yourself.) How are you going to know whether to continue with a particular line of work if you don’t take time to step back and think about it?

So take that break, or to reverse a well known saying: Don’t just do something, sit there!

Article of the week

Interesting article on value of blogs as a networking tool, including building social networks – finally, someone who’s NOT trying to sell me blog space, content or tools!!

UPDATE: Bah! The link is gone! I’ll have a search and see if I can come up with it somewhere else… shame, it was the best article out of literally hundreds that I’d read on blogging!

Today's Female Entrepreneur – Do You Recognise Her?

This short piece by Sue Stockdale seems to be in line with a lot of what I’ve been reading lately. Is there really such a clear division between entrepreneurs of either sexes? And why are issues relating to work-life balance always discussed in the same breath as female entrepreneurs or businesswomen??! I’d love to know if there is anything out there on work-life balance as it relates to professional men…

How would you describe today’s woman entrepreneur? Is she a focused individual driven to work all hours in the pursuit of profit? Or is she a woman who wants a lifestyle business with the minimum of stress?

There has been a lot of research into the characteristics of women entrepreneurs. This research has been borne out bythe interviews I carried out with ten of today’s leading female entrepreneurs in the UK. These women include Michelle Mone, creator of the Ultimo bra and Penny Streeter OBE, Founder of Ambition 24 Hours recognised as the fastest growing unquoted UK company in 2002.

It shows that today’s woman will have a strong need for achievement and a passion for her product or service. Shewill have carried out some research into her market but also relies on intuition and her existing business knowledge tojudge whether her business idea is likely to be viable.

She is also driven by the need for autonomy. A confident focused individual with self-belief and tenacity, today’s woman entrepreneur has a clear vision of what she wants to achieve and strong personal values by which to drive the business. These values are founded on respect, integrity, ethics, honesty and a passion for excellence.

Whilst she will encounter challenges on the way, including access to finance and balancing work and life requirements; her determination and tenacity to succeed will shine through.
She will lead her business in a manner that promotes genuine concern for others, team-working and openness. Amongst her measures of success are interaction with people and helping others and she is open to sharing her learning andexperience.

This profile applies to both women who are growing large businesses and also those who are running lifestyle businesses. So do you agree with this description? Do you know women who have these characteristics or maybe different qualities and are equally successful? How do you match up?
Sue Stockdale is a motivational speaker, successful business woman and record breaking explorer. Buy her latest book, “Secrets of Successful Women Entrepreneurs” at

How I became a translator

First published in March 2006

I always wanted to work for myself and after sampling the delights of a couple of different industries, I realised that translation would offer me a good way to do this. Although this wasn’t a career I had given much thought to during my primary education, I did have some idea of what was involved as I had covered commercial translation and interpreting as part of my BA in Applied Languages (not to be confused with a degree in modern languages!).

So I spent months reading everything I could about what it meant to be a professional freelance translator and the best way to start up, and decided that enrolling on a course would be the best way for me to build on my experience and further develop the skills required (although I realised, of course, that there are some very successful translators who are not formally qualified in translation).

I quickly realised from my reading that specialisation was the way to go if I truly wanted to make a living as a freelance translator. Based on this, I chose a course that would introduce me to a range of areas which I could then decide to specialise in as I grew more experienced (more about this in another post!). I then made what I now believe to be the best decision of all: I decided to do the 1 year course part time over 2 years. This allowed me to work at building up a small client base, while ensuring I had the time and flexibility to fully benefit from the expertise of the teaching staff. (I was also more than a little aware that it also meant I could make a quick getaway if I decided that the course was not for me, without losing too much time or money…)

I finished the course in 2004, and after working for a management consultancy for a year, I had saved enough money to go freelance full time. The contacts I had made over the previous 3 years proved invaluable, and I’m proud to say I’ll be celebrating 12 months of full-time freelancing in May.