Five Common (And Surmountable) Barriers to a Fulfilling Career in Translation

Many of us embarked on a freelancing career in the hope of finding more fulfilment in our lives, only to discover that it isn’t as straight forward as we originally thought. Freelancing can be immensely rewarding, but also very demanding. In this article I discuss a few common barriers to a fulfilling career in translation, and share a few ideas to help you to overcome them.

1 – Lack of vision

Most translators translate because they like it. Not many of them see translation as a means to get to where they want to be. In other words, few translators start with a vision.

A vision is your 10 out of 10, your personal and/or professional life as you want it to be. Having a clear vision of what you want to achieve gives you a sense of direction and control over your choices. It helps you to decide what’s important and what’s not. In times of doubt, struggle or frustration, revisiting your vision helps to boost your levels of motivation and willpower.

What is your 10 out of 10?
How will your translation business enable you to achieve this?

2 – Lack of systems and processes

Many people go freelance because they love what they do and they do it well. Unfortunately, a large proportion of small businesses go bust within the first couple of years because their owners spend most of their time working IN the business (i.e. doing what they love doing) and not enough time working ON the business (developing systems and processes).

Systems and processes include, but are not limited to, filing systems, sales processes (from the initial enquiry to the actual sale) and customer service processes (including email templates). They boost your efficiency by eliminating the need to reinvent the wheel for each new client or project. This can in turn reduce the risk of burnout.

What systems and processes have you put in place for your translation business?
How effective are they?

3 – Working for the wrong clients

Have you ever regretted taking on a translation job? Or sworn never to work for a particular client again? You’re not alone. Sometimes finding clients, any client, takes priority over finding the right clients, especially if you’re new to the business.

Working for the wrong client doesn’t only mean working for someone who doesn’t pay on time or doesn’t reply quickly enough to your queries. It can also mean working in the wrong niche or specialisation, for clients you don’t have enough in common with. This can lead to spending too much time researching the right terminology or trying to understand concepts you’re not familiar with. Finding the right clients will boost your energy, your motivation and your productivity.

What specialisations and/or niche markets best suit you?
What areas do you enjoy researching and reading about?

4 – Overwhelm

Let’s face it, working as a freelance translator can at times be quite overwhelming. Especially if you’re having to juggle working from home and raising a family. And when deadlines are tight, keeping up with bookkeeping or filing a tax return can cause more stress than necessary.

Overwhelm can be overcome in several different ways, including chunking tasks down into small, manageable steps, delegating, outsourcing, and learning new skills (e.g. bookkeeping). Taking a moment to breathe and focus on the present, and not on future problems that may never occur, can also help to feel more grounded and in control.

What is the cause of you feeling overwhelmed?
What strategies can you adopt to avoid this?

5 – Undercompensation

Many translators worry about low rates in our industry but, while low rates are a valid concern, undercompensation is not limited to financial matters. It can also mean not taking enough time off to enjoy a quality of life that compensates for all your hard work and allows you to recharge.

Working long hours is sometimes necessary, but constantly working overtime is counter-productive. It leads to stress, irritability and loss of focus, which in turn leads to more mistakes and more work. Stress can also result in various illnesses and injuries.

Techniques such as the Pomodoro Technique™ can help you to take breaks at regular intervals with a view to maintaining high levels of energy.

How often do you completely switch off from work? Go on a holiday?
How do you reward yourself once you’ve completed a project?


How coaching can help

Coaching is a form of learning that promotes personal development, leading to action, change, and ultimately greater fulfilment in your life. The coach listens to you to understand who you are, what your current situation is and what you’re trying to achieve. During your conversations, the coach asks powerful, targeted questions to help you to gain real clarity, rise to challenges and overcome obstacles.

The coach encourages you to find your own solutions. Without telling you what to do, he/she helps you to understand your situation more clearly and to develop new ideas and approaches. By letting you design your own plan of action, the coaching process aims to boost your sense of confidence and accomplishment.

You may also like:

FREE Coaching Session For Translators And Interpreters (mp3 file)

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

The Translator’s Business Priorities Wheel

The Translator’s Stretch Zone

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

Time Management For Translators – Time Log Exercise

Coaching Tips For Translators (Video)

Success Mindset For Translators (Tess Whitty’s podcast)


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!

International Coach Of The Year and how coaching can help translators

International Coach Of The Year 2016

With Bev James, CEO of The Coaching Academy

On Saturday December 10th, The Coaching Academy celebrated the successes of its former students with a very stylish award ceremony held at De Vere’s Latimer Place, just outside London.

Awards were presented in 7 categories, including Best Newcomer, Life Coach Of The Year, NLP Coach Of The Year, Small Business Coach Of The Year, Executive Coach Of The Year, Coaching For A Cause, and International Coach Of The Year.

I’m very honoured and grateful to have been presented with the International Coach Of The Year 2016 award for my work with freelance translators and interpreters around the world, including the Future-Proof Translator webinar series, my article in the ATA Chronicle, and the various talks I gave across Europe and at the ATA conference in San Francisco just a few weeks ago.

A night to remember!

I didn’t know I was going to coach fellow translators and interpreters when I trained with The Coaching Academy, but by the time I qualified as a coach it had become clear to me that the language industry was going through a lot of changes and that it needed to adapt. I knew coaching could help.

Coaching is a process that empowers people to set goals, step outside their comfort zones, overcome challenges and take action. It also helps people to manage transitions as they say goodbye to their old selves and explore new ways of doing things.

Whether they wish to move to another country, target a niche market, set up an agency, go back to work after raising children or modernise with the latest technology, coaching can help translators and interpreters to reach their goals faster and more efficiently.

If you’re interested in coaching and would like 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 to subscribe to my blog, follow me on Twitter and like my Facebook page.



Time Management For Translators – Time Log Exercise

Have you ever thought that there weren’t enough hours in the day? Do you find it difficult to keep on top of your to-do list? You’re not alone. Despite all the time-saving technology now at our disposal, time management remains an issue for most of us. It is one of the main challenges freelance translators and interpreters have to face everyday.

On September 16th 2016, I will host an interactive time management workshop at the Institute of Translation and Interpreting in Milton Keynes, UK. I have asked all participants to prepare for it by keeping a time log, or activity log, for a few days before the workshop. To help you gain insights about your own time management, I am sharing this useful exercise with you in this post.

A time log is a written record of how you spend your time during the day, and in particular during your working hours. It will help you to understand exactly how you use your time, and to identify activities that are unproductive or of low value. It will also give you a clearer idea of the times when you are most productive during the day.


Keeping a time log

Keeping a time log for a few days (ideally for a whole week) can be quite eye-opening! To help you with this exercise, I have provided a template on page 2 of this free downloadable PDF. Please print this template as many times as you need, and add a new entry each time you start a new activity (e.g. emailing, translating, invoicing, making coffee, Internet, phone calls, etc.). Please include all activities, even if they are not work-related.

Note down a brief description of the activity, the time of the change, and how you feel (alert, tired, energetic, etc.). Then, at the end of the day, or at a convenient time, note the duration of each activity, as well as its level of importance (high, medium, low) based on how far it contributed to achieving your professional goals.


Analysing your time log

Once you have completed your time log, review it against your professional goals.

What aspects of your time management are working well for you?

How is this supporting your goals?

When are you most productive during the day?

When do you feel most alert/energetic?

What aspects of your time management are not working for you?

Which activities were of low importance?

Which activities didn’t help you to meet your goals?

When are you least productive/alert/energetic during the day?

What insights have you gained about your own time management?

Which activities could be eliminated?

Which activities/tasks could be delegated?

Which activities could you do at a more suitable time? (Think about scheduling challenging/important tasks for the time of the day when you feel your best, and lower energy tasks, such as replying to emails or returning calls, for the time of the day when you feel less energetic.)

Which activities could/should take less time?

What could you do less often? What could you do more often?

What will you commit to doing differently as a result of this exercise?


What next?

If you would like to learn more time management techniques, come and join us in Milton Keynes on September 16th, or contact me here to discuss the possibility of organising another workshop near where you live. I promise it will be time well spent!

You can also like my Facebook page or subscribe to my blog by clicking on the Follow button on the right at the top of this page.


You may also like:

The Translator’s Business Priorities Wheel

The Translator’s Stretch Zone

The Secret To Time Management

Coaching Tips For Translators (video)

The Secret To Time Management


In this summer’s issue of the ITI Bulletin, I introduce the idea of self-management as the secret to time management (see below). Time management is one of the main challenges freelance translators and interpreters have to face everyday, especially if they have a family and work from home. And it seems that, despite all the time-saving technology now available to us, time management still remains an issue for many of us.

Coaching goes deeper than any time-saving trick or gadget, and helps to develop self-management skills that in turn make time management easier. I have discussed some coaching principles in the following interviews and blog posts:

Coaching Tips For Translators

The Translator’s Business Priorities Wheel

The Translator’s Stretch Zone

If you would like to learn more self-management techniques, come and join us in Milton Keynes on September 16th or contact me here to discuss the possibility of organising another workshop in your country.

ATA57 Translation Conference – Finding and Targeting a Niche Market


Would you like your translation business to be in the spotlight at ATA’s 57th annual conference in San Francisco this autumn?

It’s official, I have been selected as one of the speakers for ATA57, which is going to take place in Everybody’s Favorite City on November 2-5 2016. The topic of my session will be “Finding and Targeting a Niche Market”, and I need your help.

I am looking for freelance translators and interpreters who are working for a very specific niche. Do your clients belong to a market that is considered narrow, highly specialised or perhaps unusual? If so, I would love to interview you and maybe mention you as an example or a case study during my session.

Interested? Simply get in touch by filling in the form below. I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you!

Coaching Tips For Translators

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of being interviewed on Blabbing Translators by Dmitry Kornyukhov and Elena Tereshchenkova. The recording of the interview is now available to everybody on YouTube.

In this interview, I answer many relevant questions about coaching and share a lot of coaching tips for translators and other freelancers. We discuss vision, goal setting, confidence, selling, and many other interesting topics.




6 Steps To Continued Success As A Translator


We may be tempted to think that the answer is to focus on what we know and do best – translating – but focusing solely on our core skills isn’t enough to ensure sustainability.

As professional linguists, it is vital for us to develop and maintain skills in other key areas as well. We need to work both “in the business” and “on the business”.

The 6 steps I describe in my recent guest post for eCPD Webinars highlight 6 areas that need to be included in all our business strategies. Together they create a roadmap to help us navigate our way to continued success.

To read the full article and discover what these 6 steps are, please click here.

BP16: See You All In Prague


After Budapest and Zagreb, Prague is going to host the next “business + practice” (bp) translation conference on April 15th and 16th. bp16 is not only a great opportunity for freelance translators to network and relax in a gorgeous city, it also offers dozens of informative sessions on topics related to our industry.

And there is one more reason why I feel excited about bp16: I have had the honour of being invited to present one of the sessions, and to talk about a topic I have been working on for many months and feel passionate about. It will be an absolute pleasure to share my ideas at this popular event and to hear what others have to say. And I hope to meet some of you there too!

Here are some details about my session:

Translation in Transition

The only constant is change, both in life and in business. Not only is change inevitable, it is essential to our renewal, sustainability and continued success. Yet, we resist change as we instinctively fear chaos and uncertainty. To adapt and thrive in a world that is evolving at an ever-increasing pace, business owners such as translators and interpreters need to overcome this fear and to develop vital skills in change management.

This session will explore change from three different angles: the technological side of change (what is changing and how fast), the human side of change (how we react to it and how it affects our performance) and the business side of change (when to start something new). Understanding these key aspects will help translators and interpreters future-proof themselves and deal more efficiently with the changes our industry will inevitably undergo.

For the full conference programme please click here.

See you in Prague!



Podcast with Paul Urwin: Coaching and the Future-Proof Translator


On Friday, I had the honour and the pleasure of being interviewed by Paul Urwin of 100 Percent Translations. In this lively and engaging podcast, we talk about coaching for translators and about the Future-Proof Translator webinar series, which starts on December 1st. What can we do to adapt to changing market conditions? To find out, simply click here to listen to the interview.


Why machine translation creates so much anger and how to deal with it


Earlier this week, I came across a number of posts and comments on social media in which the authors expressed anger towards changes that have been happening in the translation industry. While the authors had valid reasons to feel angry, I couldn’t help but feel disturbed by the intensity of their emotions and by the tunnel vision and barrier to dialog that it momentarily created.

I read these posts and comments while I was preparing slides for a presentation I am going to give in London on Saturday for the Interpreting Division of the Chartered Institute of Linguists: “Reinventing Yourself: How understanding the change process can help you take the leap”. I would like to share one of the slides with you, as I think it will help you understand what many of us are going through at the moment.

The model that I would like to share with you was developed in the 1960s by a psychiatrist named Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. Dr Kübler-Ross specialised in the study of grief. She identified the five stages of emotions which are experienced by people who are approaching death or dealing with the death of a loved one. Her model was widely accepted and it was found to be valid for other forms of losses, as well as situations relating to change (for instance, the loss of a job or of a familiar way of doing things). Her model has been used as a change management tool by businesses across the world.

The five stages identified by Kübler-Ross are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It’s important to note here that people don’t go through these stages in an identical, linear manner but often move back and forth between the stages, and sometimes skip some of them.

The first stage is denial. This stage of shock is a natural defence mechanism which helps us deal with disturbing news. It is usually quite short, from a few seconds to a few days, depending on the situation. Any longer than this, and you may find yourself clinging to the past and out of touch with reality.

The second stage is anger. This can be experienced as irritability, frustration and short temper. This is the stage where we look for someone or something to blame.

Then comes the bargaining stage, where you might start thinking about ways to postpone the inevitable. For instance, when people pray, they will often say things like “I promise I will do this or that if you save my son/daughter/family/business.”

The next stage is depression, which can be experienced as sadness, fear, loss of motivation, low energy, etc. This is the lowest point in the process and, as with all the other stages, the amount of time spent here varies from person to person.

Some people can get stuck in a particular stage. When this happens, they cannot see a way forward. For example, if you are stuck in anger, you are likely to go round and round in circles complaining about your situation, and you won’t be able to see a constructive way out. Talking to someone, in some cases a professional, will help.

The final stage, once the previous stages have been processed, is acceptance. Acceptance doesn’t mean that you agree with the change that has happened. For instance, you may still believe that machine translation is a bad thing for our industry. However, you accept that it is here to stay and that it will continue to develop. You are prepared to reinvent yourself to adapt to the new situation – which doesn’t necessarily mean that you will embrace MT or any other form of technology. Successful businesses continuously reinvent themselves to adapt to new market needs and demands. As businesspeople, we need to do this too and it doesn’t have to be as daunting as it sounds.

Understanding the Kübler-Ross five stage model helps to manage change both in our personal and in our professional lives. It helps us to understand that the emotions we are feeling are perfectly natural, while enabling us to determine whether we are stuck in a particular stage.

I will discuss this model as part of wider change-management model in module 2 of the Future-Proof Translator, which I will be presenting with eCPD Webinars on December 1st, 8th and 15th. In module 1, I will give you an overview of the technological changes that are happening in our industry, while in module 3 we will discuss our options (not all of them involve technology) and the best time to reinvent oneself.

You may also like:

The Translator’s Change Management Wheel

What Does The Future Hold For Translators

Future-Proofing Your Career As A Translator

Riding The Wave Of Technological Change As A Translator