Why (some) translators have the blues and what to do about it

An article published in The Economist on May 27th, 2017, and entitled “Why translators have the blues”, highlighted perfectly the reasons why, a couple of years ago, I decided to write and talk about coaching and change management in the translation industry.

According to this article, our profession is under pressure due to “fierce global competition” and “the rise in higher-quality machine translation”. While high-end work requiring specialised knowledge and excellent writing skills shouldn’t be affected by these changes, translators “in the bulk and middle markets will inevitably be doing more editing [of machine translation], or will be squeezed out”.

I became truly aware of the changes translators are facing during a talk by Stefan Gentz (“10 facts about the future the translation industry cannot afford to ignore”) at the Institute of Translation and Interpreting Conference held in Newcastle, UK, in April 2015. Soon after the talk I wrote “What does the future hold for translators”, my most popular blog post with over 9,500 views so far. My aim was to raise awareness about change and to encourage my colleagues to embrace and shape technology, instead of fighting or ignoring it.

Soon after publishing my post, I was invited to give talks at the annual conference of state-authorised translators in Norway and at the BP16 international translation conference in Prague. I also presented a webinar series entitled “The Future-Proof Translator” in December 2015 through eCPD Webinars, a provider of continuing professional development courses for translators and interpreters. I shared change management ideas and coaching principles that are widely used in business today, because I felt they could help translators adapt to change.

In September 2016, my article entitled “Translation in Transition” appeared in The Chronicle, the official publication of the American Translators Association. It highlighted some of the points I discussed during my talks, and I was very pleased with the growing interest shown by translators around the world.

The article published in The Economist inspired me to share these ideas with an even wider audience by giving access to a webinar I recorded in May 2017 with Jenae Spry of Success by RX. This one-hour recording combines the talks I gave in Norway and in Prague, and is a summary of the Future-Proof Translator course I taught in 2015. It explores change in the translation industry from three different angles: the technological side of change (what is changing), the human side of change (how we process change) and the business side of change (the timing of change).

To view this recording, simply click on the Play button below. Alternatively, feel free to continue to read my blog for posts about change management, time management, business and performance coaching, etc. I hope you find it useful.



You may also like:

Riding The Wave Of Technological Change As A Translator

The Translator’s Second Curve

Why Machine Translation Creates So Much Anger And How To Deal With It

Change Management For Translators And Interpreters

What Does The Future Hold For Translators?

The Translator’s Guide To Finding And Targeting A Niche Market

The Translator’s Business Plan

Photo by David Marcu

The Translator’s Business Plan

Are you considering setting up as a freelance translator/interpreter? Are you planning to expand your translation/interpreting business? If you answered Yes to one of these questions, you will need a Business Plan.

By Business Plan I don’t mean the sort of document business people write in order to secure a loan from a bank or funding from investors. I simply mean a document that will help you turn your strategies and ideas into concrete plans that cover all aspects of your translation/interpreting business.

A business plan is a document which describes your goals and objectives, states why you’re pursuing them, and explains why you believe you can achieve them. It details how you will reach your goals and how you will measure your success (e.g. in terms of revenue, number of clients or volume of work). In coaching terms, it’s the plan which will turn your Exit Plan into reality.

Step 1: How well have you thought through your goal?

Before I can take you through the various sections of your business plan, you will need to define a clear goal for your translation/interpreting business. The following questions will help you do that. Take a moment to answer them on paper (or in an electronic document).


Who needs to be consulted in the development of this plan? (Will you be working on your own as a sole trader, in a partnership with other translators/interpreters or as the owner of a translation company employing one or more people?)

Who should be involved in its implementation?

Who needs to know about your business goal? (E.g. your family, your current employer, your landlord…)


What is the business planning to do? What services do you intend to offer?

What is the business currently doing?

What is the gap between where your business is right now and where you want it to be? What challenges may this present to you?


When do you need to complete your business plan by?

When will work begin?

How long will it take for you to reach your goal?


Where will your translation/interpreting business be based?

Where will your clients be based?

Where will you be working? (Fixed location, on site, remote work over the internet…)


How will you know you have achieved your goal? How will you measure success? (Revenue, sales target, number/type of clients, volume/type of work…)

How do you know it will work?

Step 2: The Five Why’s

Originally developed in Japan for manufacturing firms such as Toyota, the Five Why’s Model is very simple to use and can help you link your business goals with your Exit Plan.

To begin with, write your business idea/goal on a piece of paper (or in an electronic document) in one clear sentence (e.g. My business goal is to make a profit of xxx over the next 12 months).

Now, tell me why. (E.g. Because I want to grow my translation/interpreting business)

Why? (E.g. Because I want it to be a viable business)

Why? (E.g. Because I want to continue to translate/interpret for many years to come)

Why? (E.g. Because I want to continue to earn a living doing a job I love until I retire)

Why? (E.g. Because it makes me feel happy and fulfilled)

Questions beginning with “Why” are generally avoided in coaching because they tend to trigger a negative or defensive response (think of a time when you were little and an adult asked you “Why did you do that?” What defensive excuses did you come up with?). Questions such as “What made you decide to…?” tend to lead to more constructive discussion. In this case, however, the use of the word “Why” makes the model very easy to use and invites the person responding to dig deeper and deeper, until the reason why they want to achieve their goal becomes very clear.

Step 3: What to include in your business plan

Now that you have clearly defined your goal and clearly identified what motivates you to achieve it, let’s consider each aspect of your translation/interpreting business, and the part it will play in the implementation of your business plan. Each area of your business should be included in your plan: Marketing, Sales, Operations, People, Storage and Logistics (Delivery), Administration and Finance. The more thorough your plan, the less likely you will be to encounter obstacles in the future. The following questions will help you consider the various aspects of your business you will need to focus on.


How do you intend to promote your services? To whom?

How do you know it’s the right strategy? What research have you undertaken to support this?


How will you sell your services? Where will this take place?

What sales do you need to make to make a profit? What sales do you need to make to reach your revenue target?


What core functions does your business need to run effectively? (E.g. Project management, translation, interpreting, editing, desktop publishing…)

What systems will you need to have in place? (I.e. telephone system, IT, software, equipment, etc.)


Who will be in charge of these activities?

What specialist skills or competencies are required to do this?

What is the right number of people to have in place?

Storage and Logistics (Delivery)

What will you need to store and where? (E.g. translated files, glossaries, reference material… on a computer, on an external drive, in the Cloud, in a filing cabinet…)

What system(s) will you use? (E.g. filing system)

How will you deliver your services to your clients?


Who will be in charge of administrative tasks?

What systems and/or equipment are needed to support your administrative requirements?


How will your plan be financed? If this is a new business, how will you support yourself/your family until you reach a suitable level of income?

How have you assessed the viability of your business plan?

How will payment be made to you and how will you monitor and control this?

Use these starter questions to organise your thoughts and begin to see more clearly how you’re going to reach your business goal. Your answers will most likely raise more questions. Take the time to answer these too.

How is your business plan shaping up?

Step 4: The Translator’s Business Priorities Wheel

Coaching is about exploring and taking action. Now that you have explored the various aspects of your business, what first step do you need to take in order to reach your business goal? In which area of your business do you need to make progress first? The Translator’s Business Priorities Wheel is a useful tool that will help you identify a specific objective. Simply label the segments of your wheel after the various sections of your business plan.

Step 5: Create an action plan

Once you have identified your first objective, create an action plan using the 30-minute coaching session I recorded for you. This basic coaching session will take you through an established coaching model (GROW), which was designed to help you set clear goals, brainstorm options and get motivated to move forward thanks to an action plan that works for you. The mp3 recording is available here.


I hope you have found this post useful. To keep up-to-date with my latest posts and announcements, please feel free to use the links on this page to subscribe to my blog, follow me on Twitter and like my Facebook page. I look forward to seeing you there!


You may also like

The Translator’s Exit Plan

The Translator’s Business Priorities Wheel

FREE Coaching Session For Translators And Interpreters (mp3 recording)

The Translator’s Stretch Zone

The Translator’s Guide To Finding And Targeting A Niche Market

Five Common (And Surmountable) Barriers To A Fulfilling Career In Translation


Photo by rawpixel.com

The Translator’s Exit Plan

Do you have an Exit Plan for your translation/interpreting business? Do you know what an Exit Plan is? An Exit Plan is simply your long-term goal, i.e. your ultimate aim for being a self-employed translator and/or interpreter. Where are you taking your business? What will it ultimately provide you with? Having a clear long-term goal, and a clear understanding of what motivates you to get there, will give you the drive to keep going when things get tough. In this post, I will ask you a series of targeted coaching questions to help you develop your Exit Plan.

Exit Planning is the first step in a process known in business coaching as “Strategic Planning”. It comes before the Business Plan — which I will discuss in a future post — and sets the direction for the business.

Strategic Planning and Performance Evaluation


The Exit Plan describes what will happen when you separate yourself permanently from your business. Your aim may be, for example, to set up a company with a view to selling it as an investment, to pass it on to someone else, or to work as a sole trader until you retire. As a translator/interpreter, your business may represent a lifestyle choice for you rather than an investment. It may enable you to manage several income streams, to have flexible working hours that suit your family or other commitments, or to have a portfolio career. If this is the case, you may wish to call your plan a Journey Plan rather than an Exit Plan.


The following questions will help you think about your Exit/Journey Plan:

What do you love most about your translation/interpreting business?

What does running your own business allow you to do?

What does it provide you with?

What do your family and friends say about you running your own business?

How long do you intend to run your translation/interpreting business for?

What could make you want to stop running your own business?

When do you want to retire?

How much money do you want/need to make?

If you have a company, what must it be worth before you can consider selling/closing it?

When do you want to start reducing your hours/days? How will you do it?

What (financial) plans do you already have in place? What (financial) plans do you need to put in place?

What will your business look like when you decide it’s time to separate yourself from it? (Size, location, people, etc.)

What will people be saying about your business?

Take a moment to write down your Exit/Journey Plan.


What next?

Now that you know what you want to achieve with your translation/interpreting business, it’s time to break it down into small, manageable steps. To help you with this, I have recorded a basic coaching session to help you create an action plan for the next couple of weeks. To listen to this FREE recording, simply click here.


You may also like:

The Translator’s Business Plan

The Translator’s Business Priorities Wheel

The Translator’s Stretch Zone

Five Common (And Surmountable) Barriers To A Fulfilling Career In Translation

The Translator’s Guide To Finding And Targeting A Niche Market

Time Management For Translators – Time Log Exercise

Change Management For Translators And Interpreters


To keep up-to-date with my latest posts and announcements, please feel free to use the links on this page to subscribe to my blog, follow me on Twitter and like my Facebook page. I look forward to seeing you there!


Photo by Dmitri Popov

Change Management For Translators And Interpreters


How many changes have you experienced so far this year? Probably more than you think, from simple software upgrades to working with new clients to moving to another country. What about the changes you didn’t make? The ones you avoided and the ones you wanted to make, but didn’t?

Whether or not we welcome it, change can have a noticeable impact on our lives and on our productivity. It usually requires a period of adaptation. According to American author, speaker and consultant William Bridges, change and transition are two different things. When it comes to implementing change successfully, transition management is key. This post is based on his work*.

Change versus Transition

Change is an event that is external to us. It might be the birth of a child, the loss of a job, the end of a project or the beginning of a new partnership. It can also happen very quickly. Transition is the internal psychological process through which we come to terms with and adapt to the change. This process takes time and, according to Bridges, happens in three distinct phases: an ending, a neutral zone and a new beginning. Without a successful transition from the old way of things to the new, the change won’t happen successfully. It’s also interesting to note that, although transition often results from change, it can also begin before the change actually happens.

“It’s not the change that people resist, it’s the transition.” William Bridges


Managing Endings

Phase One of Bridges’ transition process is called the “Ending”: something must end before something else can begin. Whether the change is positive or negative, we lose something and it’s important to acknowledge that loss, whether it’s real or perceived, permanent or temporary, tangible or intangible. We need to let go of what is over (work habits, locations, relationships…) before we can begin to move on. Identifying what will stay the same also helps.

What have you stopped doing this year? Who have you stopped doing business with? What tools are you no longer using?

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is
a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter into another.” Anatole France


Going Through The Neutral Zone

Phase Two of the transition process is called the “Neutral Zone”. Between the Ending and the New Beginning, there’s a gap, an in-between time during which the old way of doing things no longer exists and the new way isn’t established yet. In the Neutral Zone, we’re no longer who we used to be, but we haven’t integrated our new identity yet. This time of confusion can be unsettling, and those who do well are generally the ones who :

  • find things to do that help them feel more in CONTROL of their situation;
  • UNDERSTAND the transition process, as well as the reasons for the change;
  • have good SUPPORT systems (friends, family, colleagues, coach, etc.);
  • have a clear sense of PURPOSE to keep them going and help them decide which direction to take.

The Neutral Zone is also a time of creativity, a time when anything can happen as we try new things. The confusion that can make us so anxious also means that our old ways of thinking won’t get in the way of our creativity. This clean slate can give us a chance to see things with new eyes and start writing a new chapter for our lives or careers. It’s the perfect time for us to improvise, try out new ideas and realise our full potential.

What are you hoping to gain from the change? What can you put in place to ease your transition? What has the change allowed you to do that you never thought of before?

“I have a great belief in the fact that whenever there is chaos, it creates wonderful thinking.
I consider chaos a gift.” Septima Poinsette Clark


Embracing The New Beginning

Phase Three of the transition process is the “New Beginning”. It’s a time when we grow familiar with our new reality (new processes, new client, new location…) and integrate our new identity (new role, new habits, new attitude…). When the transition process is successful, it leads to growth and personal/professional development, despite the discomfort and the difficulties encountered in phases One and Two. We learn that we can do things differently, and discover that some aspects of our personalities/habits we thought essential really weren’t. In other words, our views of ourselves and how the world operates develop. We’re renewed.

What new skills have you acquired? What new connections have you made? What role(s) are you now playing?

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” Seneca


How Coaching Can Help

In times of change, coaching can help us by:

– acknowledging our losses, e.g. identity, familiar ways of being, connections, etc.;
– identifying what will stay, e.g. effective strategies, skills, resources, connections, etc.;
– identifying ways in which we can mark and celebrate our transition towards our new life;
– giving us full control over the topics we want to discuss and the actions we’re going to take;
– enabling us to break down our goals into series of bite-size steps that are easier to manage;
– allowing us to use our coach as a sounding board to gain clarity and boost our creativity;
– giving us an opportunity to explore our values, understand what’s important to us and develop a sense of direction and purpose.

What changes are you expecting in the next 6 months? What changes are you planning to make? What will be the result of these changes?

If you’d like to change something in your personal or professional life, or if you have a goal you’d like to achieve, this FREE 30-minute coaching session (mp3 recording) will help you break things down and create an action plan for the next couple of weeks. You can use it as often as you wish.


* Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, William Bridges.
   Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change, William Bridges.


You may also like:

The Translator’s Business Priorities Wheel

The Translator’s Stretch Zone

Five Common (And Surmountable) Barriers To A Fulfilling Career In Translation

The Translator’s Guide To Finding And Targeting A Niche Market

Time Management For Translators – Time Log Exercise


To keep up-to-date with my latest posts and announcements, please feel free to use the links on this page to subscribe to my blog, follow me on Twitter and like my Facebook page. I look forward to seeing you there!

Photo by Timon Studler

FREE coaching session for translators and interpreters

Have you ever been coached? Would you like to give coaching a try? I recently recorded a 30-minute coaching session to allow you to do just that — for free!

This “taster” session will help you turn your ideas and goals into action plans that motivate you to move forwards. It will take you through the four stages of the GROW model, which I described in “Demystifying Coaching In The Translation Community“.

The session I recorded is called a “silent” coaching session because you will answer a series of questions in your head and on paper. It follows a generic script, which means that you will be able to use it for all your personal and professional goals.

Silent Coaching Session at CambridgeSpace, June 14th 2017 – Photo ©Tim Bond

Earlier this week, I took a group of small business owners, freelancers and professionals through a “silent” coaching session and this is what they went away with:

  • More clarity about their goals
  • A sense of direction
  • New insights and ideas
  • Increased levels of commitment and motivation
  • A feeling of empowerment
  • An action plan for the next couple of weeks

“I recently attended a ‘silent’ coaching session that Christelle gave at CambridgeSpace. Although it was only a ‘taster’ session, I found it helpful, inspiring and very motivating.”
Kim Wing Fung, Software Consultant

Interested? Great! For more information and to try your free session (mp3 recording) simply follow this link.

I hope you find it useful and, as always, don’t hesitate to send me your feedback. I look forward to hearing how you got on.


To keep up-to-date with my latest posts and announcements, please feel free to use the links on this page to subscribe to my blog, follow me on Twitter and like my Facebook page. I look forward to seeing you there!

Top photo by Lee Campbell

FREE Webinar: Translation In Transition

When I started freelancing as a translator, Mark Zuckerberg was busy writing the code for a new website called “The Facebook”, LinkedIn was still in its infancy and Twitter was just a sound that birds made.

Fast forward 13 years and social media have transformed the way we communicate and do business. Other changes have taken place too, such as the rise of machine translation and crowd-sourcing.

So how can we — translators, interpreters and other professionals — future-proof ourselves and continue to thrive in a world that relies increasingly on technology?

On May 4th, 2017, I will repeat the presentation I gave last year at the BP16 conference in Prague, and team up with Jenae Spry of Success by RX to offer you a FREE webinar on change management for translators.

If you want to learn how to:

➠ handle constant and rapid change

➠ adapt in a market that increasingly relies on technology

➠ future-proof your career

Click here to register ===>>> http://guestwebinar.successbyrx.com/

Can’t make it? No problem. Register for the recording (available for 3 days).

I look forward to seeing you there.

How To Make Your Own L.U.C.K. As A Translator And/Or Interpreter

Have you ever wondered why some people always seem to be lucky? Whatever they do, they succeed. Sometimes without even trying. Do they have a lucky star, or do they make their own luck? And if they make their own luck, how do they do it?

I recently attended a networking event called Cambridge Pitch & Mix. Every Thursday morning, local business owners and entrepreneurs meet in a café in Cambridge, UK, to discuss business topics. The chosen topic for that particular morning was: “How can you make your own luck?” Here are some of the ideas that came up during the discussion:

Filters – There’s so much going on around us that it isn’t possible for us to process all that information consciously. We wouldn’t be able to function properly if we did. So the mind uses “filters” and only focuses on information that it believes is relevant to us, and ignores the rest.

The first car I bought was a red Fiesta. I’d never spent so much money before, so I wanted to make sure it was the right choice. It took me several days to decide whether to buy it or not, and during those few days I spotted red Fiestas everywhere. There were so many of them! Where did they all suddenly come from? Of course, they’d always been there, but that piece of information was irrelevant to me, so my mind filtered them out until I thought about buying one.

The same goes for opportunities. If you focus on the things you want in your life, it will be a lot easier for you to spot opportunities. If instead you focus on the things you don’t want, that’s what you’re going to see. So luck could simply be a matter of choosing the right “filters”.

Prototyping – Some of us go into projects without taking the time to properly measure the risks, or even our chances of success. If we invest everything into a project that’s doomed to fail, we’ll lose everything. The best way to avoid this is to start small and test the ground.

Silicon Valley design innovators Bill Burnett and Dave Evans taught their students at Stanford University how to apply “Design Thinking” to their lives and create “experience prototypes” to help them decide what direction to take next, one step at a time.

An experience prototype could be translating a few documents in a specific field to see if you like it before investing in some training to make that field your specialism.

Bill Burnett and Dave Evans describe some of their techniques in two YouTube videos.

Hard work – The fact that it looks easy, doesn’t mean that it is. In the vast majority of cases, success is the result of hard work. Some people are just good at making it look effortless. Any sports or business personality biography will show what it takes to reach the top. And if luck played any part in their success, it’s only because everything else was in place.

Towards the end of the discussion, one of the participants shared an interesting acronym: L.U.C.K.

Location – Luck is often described as “being in the right place at the right time”. While it may not always be possible for us to choose the right time, we still have much control over where we choose to be. This can be a geographical location, or places where our business needs to be visible (networking events, adverts, online presence, etc.).

How does your geographical location currently affect your business? How can this be improved?

Where do you need to be seen?

Understanding of opportunities – Being able to spot needs and gaps in the market puts us at a serious advantage. Understanding how these gaps can be filled and how to position products and services is essential, whatever the nature of our business.

What needs can you see emerging in the market?

How can you fulfill these needs?

Connections – “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” Sadly, there is a lot of truth in this, but it’s not as bad as it sounds. Opportunities to network and connect are endless nowadays. This informal Meetup group in Cambridge is a prime example.

Who do you need to add to your list of contacts?

Where can you meet them? How can you get in touch?

Knowledge – Of course it’s about what you know! Without sound knowledge of the subject matters you specialise in, and of the skills required to run a translation business, you won’t go very far. Hard skills are vital, soft skills play an important part too.

How can you improve your skills / acquire new ones?

Who can you learn from?

So there you have it! This is how a group of business people in Cambridge believe you can make your own luck. “But don’t dismiss randomness”, one of the participants said. “There’s also power in serendipity.”


Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@kikii

Adapted from a post published in Passion To Fruition.

The Translator’s Guide To Finding And Targeting A Niche Market

The Translator's Guide To Finding And Targeting A Niche Market

While some translators see themselves as generalists, others choose to specialise to stand out from the competition, be seen as experts in their fields, and charge higher rates. But how do you select a niche market? Do you choose it, or do you let it choose you? And when you’ve done that, how do you target it?

“Finding and Targeting a Niche Market” was the title of my session at ATA’s 57th conference in San Francisco in November 2016. The session was a success, and I decided to repeat it online as a free webinar with Jenae Spry of Success by RX. 565 people signed up for the webinar, but don’t worry if you missed it: it’s now available in written format as The Translator’s Guide To Finding And Targeting A Niche Market. And it’s FREE!

In this guide, I explore the benefits of working for niche markets, as well as key aspects to consider when choosing a niche. I share several business principles, together with a couple of coaching models, to help you explore your niche before committing to it. Targeting strategies, both on and offline, are also explored.

To download your FREE copy of The Translator’s Guide To Finding And Targeting A Niche Market (PDF file), simply click here.

I hope you find it useful!

You may also like

The Translator’s Business Plan

The Translator’s Exit Plan

The Translator’s Business Priorities Wheel

FREE Coaching Session For Translators And Interpreters (mp3 recording)

The Translator’s Stretch Zone

Five Common (And Surmountable) Barriers To A Fulfilling Career In Translation

“Calling Yourself A Coach?” – Demystifying Coaching In The Translation Community


There has been much debate in the translation community over the past few weeks about coaching and its value (or lack of) for our profession. As a qualified translator and qualified coach, I was sometimes shocked, sometimes hurt, sometimes encouraged and uplifted by the comments I read on various social media platforms. But one thing was obvious: there is a widespread lack of clarity and understanding among translators, and the general population, about what coaching truly is.

What is coaching?

Just like the translation profession, the coaching profession isn’t protected. This means that anybody can call himself or herself a coach, and the term “coach” is often used instead of “teacher” – most of the time by well-meaning individuals. But coaching and teaching are two very different things.

Coaching is also very different from consulting and mentoring. A consultant is an expert in a field in which the client has little or no experience, and whose role it is to solve a problem. A mentor is someone who has extensive experience in the same field as the client, to whom they offer professional advice and guidance.

The role of coaching is to “create the conditions for learning and growing”*. As a coach, I act as a catalyst to facilitate my clients’ progress towards defined goals through the use of skilled listening and questioning techniques.

Consulting Mentoring Coaching graph 2

The coach doesn’t need to be an expert in the industry his/her client comes from. The coach needs to be an expert in coaching, i.e. in facilitating growth. However, working with a coach who understands your industry and the challenges you are facing is likely to maximise the process and to save time (you won’t need to explain to me what a CAT tool is, or what LSPs are).

The International Coach Federation (ICF) provides the following definition:

“ICF defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential, which is particularly important in today’s uncertain and complex environment. Coaches honor the client as the expert in his or her life and work and believe every client is creative, resourceful and whole. Standing on this foundation, the coach’s responsibility is to:

Discover, clarify, and align with what the client wants to achieve

Encourage client self-discovery

Elicit client-generated solutions and strategies

Hold the client responsible and accountable

This process helps clients dramatically improve their outlook on work and life, while improving their leadership skills and unlocking their potential.”

Through their conversations with their coach, clients develop awareness about their strengths, their weaknesses, their challenges and their opportunities. Increased awareness (including self-awareness) enables them to make better decisions about the actions that they need to take. For example, they may realise that they are capable of working with direct clients, and that in order to do so they will need to target specific networking events and to finetune their translation skills in the field they wish to specialise in.

The role of the coach is not to present solutions to their clients, but to elicit solutions from them. This is a fundamental principle in coaching, and the main reason why coaching differs from teaching, mentoring and consulting. Coaches don’t give advice, except for standard industry theory (e.g. “Putting systems in place will help you to save time”, “Translation conferences are great opportunities to meet experienced translators and learn from them”, etc.).

By empowering clients to brainstorm ideas and find their own solutions, coaching promotes focus, confidence and self-motivation, leading to increased productivity and a stronger sense of achievement. This stronger sense of achievement is directly linked to the fact that, having come up with their own solutions and developed their own action plans, clients truly own their results.


Coaching emerged in the 1970s, when Timothy Gallway developed what he termed ‘The Inner Game’ as a way to help athletes overcome their mental blocks and boost their performance. It quickly spread to the world of business and executives, with the emergence of the G.R.O.W. model by Sir John Whitmore and his colleagues in the 1980s.

G.R.O.W. isn’t the only coaching model, but it is one of the most established ones and it can be used to coach business owners, executives, small groups or teams, as well as private individuals through personal or life coaching. The core principles of coaching remain the same, only the content changes.

I was trained to use G.R.O.W. as a basis for my one-to-one sessions with clients, to which I add various coaching tools according to my clients’ needs. The G.R.O.W. model uses a structured methodology to maximise the goal-setting, problem-solving and action-planning efficiency of coaching sessions by taking clients through 4 stages: Goal, Reality, Options and Will (or Way forward).

In the Goal stage, the coach helps the client to clarify what they want to achieve (e.g. work with direct clients) and to break it down into inspiring, achievable steps. The reason why we start with the goal, is because it’s much better to think about what you want to achieve before you start thinking about the problems or the obstacles that you may encounter on the way. The energy and motivation built during this stage will boost the client’s ability to think creatively and find solutions later in the conversation.

In the Reality stage, the coach and client explore strengths, weaknesses, challenges/obstacles and opportunities to boost the client’s self-awareness and awareness of the situation. The coach will challenge the client’s limiting beliefs about their situation and their ability to achieve their goal (e.g. “I can’t work with direct clients because I’m an introvert and I don’t do networking”).

In the Options stage, the coach helps the client to use the motivation and sense of direction developed in the Goal stage, as well as the awareness raised in the Reality stage, to come up with creative ideas that will help them to move forward towards their goal. This is a typical brainstorming exercise.

Finally, in the Will (Way forward) stage, the client commits to an action plan that they design themselves from the options brainstormed earlier. The outcome of these actions will be discussed at the next session, where the G.R.O.W. model can be repeated with the same or a different topic. Coaching is a process, and the number of sessions required will vary according to the goal the client wants to achieve.

While the G.R.O.W. model can be used by anybody to create action plans, it isn’t enough on its own to make anybody a coach. Coaching requires other key skills such as deep listening (or Level 3 listening), reflecting back, evidence-based positive feedback, non-judgement (or unconditional positive regard), questioning, reframing, and other coaching models which can be included in the various stages of G.R.O.W. or form a session on their own. These skills can be acquired and developed through professional training.

Who is coaching for?

Many people can benefit from coaching. People usually hire a coach when they feel stuck in a particular situation and want to get unstuck. For example, several of my clients wanted to get better clients. They were very competent translators, and had read books and watched webinars on how to work with direct clients, but a lack of confidence or clarity about their goals stopped them from moving forward.

Another client (not a translator) was very creative and skilled, but he wasn’t very good at focusing on the “boring” aspects of self-employment. He wanted to grow his small business and needed someone to help him to focus and strategise. Coaching him every other week helped to break things down into manageable tasks and to keep him motivated with deadlines.

Other people struggle with work-life balance, especially when they have a family and work from home. Coaching helps them to prioritise activities, get organised and overcome challenges without feeling too overwhelmed.

It’s important to point out that, while there is an element of psychology in coaching, coaching isn’t therapy, and it isn’t suitable on its own in cases of deep anxiety, depression, or when events or circumstances are a source of distress. Coaching is best suited for individuals who are ready to take action and move forward.

Other services offered by coaches

As well as offering one-to-one coaching sessions, coaches often give talks, and teach webinars and workshops. These activities are different from coaching as they’re usually targeted at large groups of individuals. During a coaching session, the client does 70% to 80% of the talking. During a talk or webinar, the speaker/presenter does most of the talking. Workshops can be somewhere in the middle. Talks, webinars and workshops are therefore better grouped under the category of Teaching or Training, but they will be based on coaching principles and theory, and some of these principles and theory will be shared with the audience/participants.

How to choose a coach

If you’re considering hiring a coach, the first thing you need to ask yourself is: “What type of service am I looking for?” If you want someone to share their translation expertise with you and to show you the ropes, then what you’re looking for is a mentor. If you want someone to solve a problem for you and give you solutions, e.g. financial or marketing advice, a consultant will be able to help you. And if you want to clarify your goals, overcome barriers, strategise, get motivated, etc., then coaching may be the right service for you.

Some professionals offer a combination of services, such as mentoring and coaching, consulting and coaching or counselling and coaching. Together you’ll agree on a programme that suits your needs.

As I mentioned at the start of this post, the coaching profession isn’t protected and many people who call themselves coaches aren’t actual coaches. The following questions can help to ensure that you’re dealing with a professional: Are they qualified? Can they send you a copy of their Code of Ethics? Do they belong to a professional body such as the International Coach Federation or the Association for Coaching? It’s also important to pay attention to the way your initial conversation with your coach makes you feel. A consultation (often known as “Chemistry session”) will help you to establish whether coaching is the right solution for you, and whether there is good rapport and trust between yourself and the coach.

* Sir J. Whitmore, Coaching for Performance.


I hope this post has helped to answer a few of your questions about coaching. Should you wish to keep up-to-date with my latest posts and announcements, please feel free to use the links on the right-end side of the screen (or below if you’re using a mobile device) to subscribe to my blog, follow me on Twitter and like my Facebook page. I look forward to seeing you there!


Photo credit: rawpixel.com


Design Your Life As A Translator And/Or Interpreter

Did you know that only 20% of the population have a passion? Most people like many things but can’t identify a single one of them as a passion. So if you’re feeling unsure about what to do next or what direction to take as a translator/interpreter, if you’re unsure about what you should specialise in, you’re not the only one. And there is a solution to your problem.


In his two-part webinar series entitled “Design Your Life”, Bill Burnett taught his students at Stanford University how to use the “Design Thinking” technique to create a life or career that is right for them. The recordings of these webinars are now available online.

In the first webinar, you will learn how to recognise when you’re in “flow” –that state when time stands still and you feel a sense of complete involvement, inner clarity and focus.



In the second webinar, you will learn how to use the “Way Finding” method to create “experience prototypes” that will help you to decide what direction to take next in your life or career.



Out of all the techniques shared in these webinars, which one did you like the most? How will it help you to advance your career as a translator/interpreter?

You can find out more about Bill Burnett’s techniques in his book: Designing Your Life.


To discover other useful coaching tools, and to keep up-to-date with my latest posts and announcements, please feel free to use the links on the right-end side of the screen (or below if you’re using a mobile device) to subscribe to my blog, follow me on Twitter and like my Facebook page. I look forward to seeing you there!

Photo credit: William Iven