62 Short Pieces of Advice

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Time flies! We've been writing this blog for almost six years, and we have published almost 500 posts. Not bad, huh? In 2010, we published a book (The Entrepreneurial Linguist: The Business-School Approach to Freelance Translation), which has sold more than 3,500 copies around the world (thank you!) and contains pretty much everything we know. However, we are delighted to keep on writing and sharing, as we get so much positive feedback and we really enjoy it. Even though we publish a lot of free information for beginning and advanced linguists, oftentimes new colleagues ask us at conferences: "What do I have to do to be successful?" There is no easy answer, so we usually say that it would take us the rest of the evening to even attempt to answer that question. However, we also like to come prepared with some memorable (or not) short pieces of advice that might be helpful for those who want some quick nuggets of information. We finally decided to compile some of these pieces of advice here after a new colleague approached Judy at a workshop a few weeks ago. She was frustrated that she wasn't getting the results that she wanted, yet she hadn't invested in herself or her professional presence. A lot of our advice has to do with exactly that: personal growth, outreach, marketing, and customer service.

We have no idea how we ended up with a list of 62 pieces of advice, and these are not ranked in order of importance, nor is this list (obviously) exhaustive. We simply wanted to compile some of the things we think are essential for every translator and/or interpreter and, of course, for entrepreneurial linguists. There are all things you've heard us say before or have seen us write about before, but here they are, for the first time, in one handy-dandy list: 62 pieces of advice on translation, interpretation, and business.

Please read at your own risk and take this with a grain of salt. Yes, we've included some tough love and straightforward advice. 

1.     Running a small business is hard. If it were easy, everyone would do it.
2.     You are not entitled to be successful.
3.     There are no real secrets to success, but start by working hard and by making smart decisions. 
4.     Don't compete on price. Find your competitive advantage instead. Don't become a commodity.
5.     Get a website and a professional e-mail address. If you want to be taken seriously as a   professional, you need a professional presence.
6.     Your success will depend on the quality of relationships you form.
7.     Translators are writers. Are you a top-notch writer? 
8.     The internet is your friend. Online marketing is mostly free and easy. Use it to your advantage.
9.     No translator or interpreter is an island.
10. Have a positive attitude.
11. Avoid making the same mistake twice.
12. One missed deadline might very well have a negative impact on your career.
13. Don't start work on a project until you have written confirmation from the client.
14. Play nicely with others.
15. Set realistic goals and make a plan as to how you will achieve them.
16. Take an honest look at your skills and improve them. You can always become a better interpreter/translator.
17. No one lands high-paying clients by mistake.
18. Translation and interpretation require completely different sets of skills.
19. Take feedback for what it is: a valuable gift.
20. Without clients, you have nothing.
21. Be reasonable, even when others are not.
22. Think before you send an angry e-mail.
23. Learn to be self-sufficient in terms of IT and software.
24. Invest in your business by purchasing the best tools, dictionaries and gadgets you can afford.
25. Keep your personal and business finances separate.
26. Improve your typing speed.
27. Take very good care of your voice if you are an interpreter.
28. When asking others for advice, be respectful of their time and offer to take them to dinner. 
29. Translators: read, read, read. There really is no substitute.
30. Don't complain about your clients publicly. Ever.
31. Don't complain about your colleagues publicly. Ever.
32. Your reputation is the most important thing you have.
33. Your time is the only resource you have. Spend it wisely.
34. Stop talking about yourself. Ask questions instead.
35. Learn how to really, truly listen.
36. Educate your clients about what you do without wagging your finger. No one wants an arrogant translator or interpreter.
37. Tread lightly when correcting source texts. Be respectful with your comments.
38. You earn others' respect by providing high-quality work and by being helpful, friendly and kind.
39. Join your local T&I association, a national association, and at least one association in your specialization.
40. Get out of your comfort zone.
41. Work on your weaknesses.
42. If a client corrects you during an interpreting assignment, stay calm and be professional.
43. Surround yourself with positive and good people.
44. Invest in your professional development by attending conferences, workshops and webinars.
45. Volunteer your time. Learn to give before you expect others to give things to you.
46. Take care of your eyes and look away from the computer for 20 seconds every 20 minutes.
47. Exceed your clients' expectations. Go the extra mile.
48. Send holiday cards and/or gifts.
49. Keep a list of customer preferences. Become a customer concierge.
50. If you don't know a word during an interpreting assignment, say so. It's no fun, but you must be honest.
51. Work on your memory so you remember people's names.
52. Keep all your client files organized and back up your computer every day.
53. Contribute to a retirement fund.
54. Take care of your health and get exercise.
55. You can be in your bunny slippers, but there's no reason your client should know that.
56. Don't use your client as a sounding board. 
57. Have a plan B if your internet is down at home.
58. Keep confidential things confidential. Buy a good shredder. 
59. Consider joining a co-working space.
60. Go to at least one networking event a week, even if you don't feel like it.
61. Your business will grow when you do great work and more people know that you exist. How will you accomplish that?
62. Be humble. Every great translator and interpreter can learn from others. If you think you can't, you are wrong.

We hope you have enjoyed this (relatively) short list, dear friends and colleagues! Which pieces of advice would you add? We'd love to hear your thoughts to add to this endless list.


Emeline Jamoul on May 6, 2014 at 8:15 AM said...

Great advice!
My tip would be: don't compare yourself to colleagues - especially if you're just starting out and your colleagues are well-established. They had a starting point too and you will have a middle as well. Anything can happen with a little patience!

Jesse Tomlinson on May 6, 2014 at 10:06 AM said...

Thanks so much for this great list. When people ask me what they can do to be more successful as translators, I hand them your book, and Corinne's and say "do everything in there".
If you are ever in Guadalajara, Jalisco I'd love to take you out for a meal!

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on May 6, 2014 at 1:37 PM said...

@Emeline: Thanks for reading and for writing and for your very insightful comment. We completely agree with you! It's not healthy to compare yourself with established colleagues when you are just starting out, and you are so right: everybody starts from scratch. We have yet to meet anyone who inherited a T&I business!

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on May 6, 2014 at 1:38 PM said...

@Jesse: Awwww... thank you. Looks like we have an independent ambassador here -- you rock! Thanks for the lovely offer about sharing a meal in GDL. If we ever come to the Feria del Libro, we will definitely take you up on it!

Ron McCoy on May 17, 2014 at 6:25 AM said...

Good list. Another one perhaps is learn to say "no" when it's necessary.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on May 19, 2014 at 9:06 AM said...

@Ron: Many thanks! Yes, absolutely -- learning how to say no really is essential. Many thanks for adding that to the list!

Nicole on May 20, 2014 at 7:19 AM said...

Taking care of your voice is there twice, 27 and 46. But it's a very important point indeed!

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on May 20, 2014 at 9:13 AM said...

@Nicole: Many thanks for pointing that out -- we will update that! We appreciate it.

Murat Brussels on July 19, 2014 at 5:21 PM said...

I would also correct the typos in 'positive feeeback' and 'be hope'. All the rest looks perfect. Thanks very much for sharing!

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on July 21, 2014 at 9:09 AM said...

@Murat: Many thanks -- fixed. Fat fingers! :)

Dolores on July 29, 2014 at 5:32 PM said...

As always, THE BEST! Judy & Dagy you really are pioneers and very innovative & creative professionals, persons & professors. Thanks for always sharing! Love you!

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The entrepreneurial linguists and translating twins blog about the business of translation from Las Vegas and Vienna.

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