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.



10 Tips To Make The Cover Of A Magazine


What better way to promote your translation business than to feature on the cover of a magazine? It could be a translation magazine, or a magazine aimed at your target market. You may think that your chances of featuring on a cover are next to none, but it actually happened to me last month, unexpectedly. In this post, I’m sharing the steps that led to this outcome to hopefully inspire you to write for publications. You never know, you may end up on a cover too!

(The following post was originally published on a blog aimed at freelancers and other passionate people.)


The ATA Chronicle, Sept./Oct. 2016


Who hasn’t daydreamed about making the cover of a magazine? Admit it. Most of us have done it at some point in our lives, perhaps to momentarily escape the routine or the stresses of daily life, or simply out of curiosity to try and imagine what it would be like. Perhaps you saw yourself as a movie star, a writer, a political leader or an inventor, and for a few moments you dared to dream.

What if this dream could come true? From trade publications to arts & crafts magazines to local newspapers, the world abounds with publications that are keen to share inspiring, thought-provoking stories and ideas. Opportunities to be visible and share your stories and ideas are just a few steps away.

Such an opportunity was given to me a few weeks ago, when the ATA Chronicle — the official publication of the American Translators Association (ATA) — asked for my permission to use one of my photos on their cover. This was an immense honour. With readers in over 100 countries, the magazine instantly raised my profile in the industry and recognised over a year of work on a topic I feel passionate about.

I hadn’t planned to appear on the cover of a magazine, but with hindsight I was able to identify the various steps that led to this fortunate outcome. I’d like to share these steps with you today to help you to make your own mark with your own stories and ideas, be it locally, nationally or perhaps even internationally.





Sometimes it pays to be a big fish in a small pond. It’s certainly a valid business model, and it applies here too. Targeting a specific audience or “tribe” will make it easier for you to stand out from the crowd, establish yourself as an expert, build trust and make yourself heard.

After working for 15 years as a French translator, I decided to follow my second passion and qualify as a coach. Rather than offering my coaching services to everybody and anybody, it made sense for me to target freelance translators as my tribe. Just 6 months after starting a blog, I received an invitation to talk at a translation conference in Norway. This was quickly followed by other invitations to talk around the world, which soon led to the cover illustrated above.

My tribe has now expanded to include other freelancers and passionate people, but it remains a tribe. What is your tribe? Who do you share ideas and values with?

For more information about tribes, see Seth Godin’s TED Talk.



Story-telling is intrinsic to human communications. We told stories and learned from listening to stories long before we could read and write. In today’s information age, story-telling is still in our DNA.

Telling a story will help you to connect with your readers and inspire them, especially if they can relate to it on an emotional level. In the first few paragraphs of the article that made the cover of the ATA Chronicle, I tell my readers about a night I spent thinking about becoming a public speaker. I chose to tell a personal story, but your story doesn’t have to be personal. It can be the story of someone you know, a well-known figure, or a case study.

What has surprised you or inspired you lately? What can you tell us about it?

For more information about the secrets of story-telling, see Carmine Gallo’s Talk at Google.



Today’s world is bursting with information. From official news sites to blog posts and tweets, information pours into our lives throughout the day, and even the night. How can you make yourself heard in such a noisy environment? How can you catch people’s attention?

One way to attract a large readership is to write about a topical issue, i.e. a topic everybody is talking about within your tribe. However, this alone won’t make you stand out. The Internet is full of posts that are simply saying the same thing over and over again. To stand out from the crowd, you need to offer a new, unexpected angle.

I chose to write an article about change in the translation industry, including change brought by machine translation (MT). This hotly-debated topic among translators is widely covered by blogs and articles that tend to either promote the latest advances in MT or ridicule them. As a coach, I approached the issue from three different angles: the technological side of change, the human side of change and the business side of change. As far as I was aware, no one had done it before.

What is your tribe talking about? What are they interested in? What new perspectives can you bring to the debate?



“If you can’t please them, upset them”. This piece of advice is often given to people who want to make some noise and get noticed, but I wouldn’t recommend you upset people deliberately. Having said that, don’t be afraid to upset or anger a few people with your ideas. Writing banalities and clichés won’t get you anywhere. Besides, you can’t please everybody. Some people won’t like what you say but as long as you say it in a manner that isn’t meant to be offensive or hurtful, it’s OK.

Writing about MT was slightly risky. This topic angers quite a few translators and, as expected, I received a few negative comments. That’s absolutely fine. I don’t claim to be the truth-bearer, I’m only interested in introducing people to different perspectives. They have a right to reject my ideas.

What ideas might stir up some emotions among your readers? How can you present them in a way that encourages a constructive debate?



It goes without saying that your article should be well written. If writing isn’t your forte, you can either ask someone who can write to edit your copy, or ask someone else to write it for you (depending on how much work they put in, it may be appropriate to mention their name as the author or co-author of the article). In most cases, your article will also be edited by the publication’s editor who will send a revised copy to you for your approval.

One of the challenges of our time is information overload. Conciseness is widely appreciated. Keep your paragraphs short and to the point, and structure your article in a way that makes it easy for the reader to follow your thought processes. Let someone read your article before you submit it, and ask for feedback.

Who could help you to write your article? Who would be happy to read it before you submit it?



“Image is everything”. This may not be true, but when it comes to making the cover of a magazine, image is certainly important, and it isn’t limited to what you wear. Your body language, your posture, the tone of your voice (and of your text), everything will need to reflect what the publication is looking for.

Of course the clothes that you wear are important too, and the occasion will usually dictate the dress code. One of the benefits of writing for your tribe is that your style is likely to match theirs. If you write for a gardening magazine, casual clothes, and perhaps a pair of wellies, will do the job nicely!

How would you describe your image? Does it match the style of your tribe? Of the magazine?



Another way to catch readers’ attention is to provide images with your article. Ideally, your photo will show you in action. It is so easy to take snaps these days, but for your photo to be selected for the cover of the magazine, it will have to be of a professional quality. The resolution will need to be high enough to allow printing on an A4 cover, or in any other format.

If someone else took the photo, you will need their permission to publish it. And if other people are in the shot, you will need their permission too.

What kind of shot will best illustrate your article? How can you ensure it is of a high quality? Can your photo be easily cropped for printing on a cover?



Magazine editors receive a lot of emails and have to work against tight deadlines. Submit your piece on time, follow any guidelines, approve the edits unless you have a valid reason not to (in which case explain politely why you’re rejecting them), and check the final proof promptly. If you can, provide your own photos, as this will save them having to pay for stock images.

This will go a long way in helping you to build a strong and long-lasting relationship with the magazine and be selected for a cover feature.



“Rome wasn’t built in a day”. It may take a few months before your article is published. This is because the magazine may have specific topics they wish to cover with each issue.

I was given a deadline for publication the following month. However, by the time the issue was published (without my article), I still hadn’t heard back from the editor. I emailed him to let him know that I was considering publishing my article on my blog if my chosen topic wasn’t suitable for the magazine. No answer. I assumed my piece had been rejected.

I prepared to publish my article online, but then decided to wait. Thank goodness! Two months after the submission date, I finally received an email from the editor. He wanted to use my article as a cover feature for the next issue. Had I rushed into sharing it online, I might have ruined my chances of making the cover.

If your article is rejected by a magazine, this isn’t the end of the world. Don’t give up. Write more articles, submit the same article to another publication, or publish it online and promote it via social media. Your tribe will appreciate your contribution.



Things often fall into place in an unexpected act of serendipity. You’re in the right place, at the right time. A chance encounter leads to a fruitful collaboration. A door closes, only to let a better one open.

I hadn’t planned to write an article for the ATA Chronicle. I had in fact submitted a proposal for a talk at the next ATA conference, where over 1,500 delegates were expected. It was sadly rejected, and the committee suggested I write something for their magazine instead. Disappointed, I nonetheless obliged, deciding that it was better than nothing.

I had already given the talk at another conference in Prague, Czech Republic, where the organiser had arranged for professional photos to be taken for marketing purposes. I sent one of the photos to the magazine in case they might want to print it with the article. Then I completely forgot about it.

As it turned out, the ATA had asked the magazine to use photos of real translators on the cover whenever possible. My photo fitted the bill perfectly, and with it three parties were granted their wishes: the magazine featured a real translator on its cover, the organiser of the Prague conference was delighted with the exposure, and I was introduced to over 10,000 readers — far more people than I would have reached through a talk. It was as if Life had had a better plan than mine all along.

When did you last experience serendipity? What happened? What could you do to increase your luck?



If you would like to read my article in the online version of the ATA Chronicle, please click here.

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. I look forward to seeing you there!


This post was originally published in Passion To Fruition.

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.

The Translator’s Success Wheel

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a video about the Translator’s Change Management Wheel, and I’m pleased to say that it’s reached quite a large audience thanks to shares on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms.

At the end of that video, I announced that the Translator’s Success Wheel would be coming soon, and here it is! This short video explains why, when it comes to success in self-employment, knowledge, experience and expertise are essential, but not enough. Other skills in areas such as decision making, planning and time management are vital too.

I’ve created the Translator’s Success Wheel to help you to navigate your way to success as a freelance translator and/or interpreter. It will help you to think about your strategies for the future. I hope you like it.


The Translator’s Change Management Wheel

As a picture is worth a thousand words, I have created this graphic as well as a short video presentation to introduce to you a concept I have been working on for the past nine months: the Translator’s Change Management Wheel.

The aim of this wheel is to help you navigate more efficiently, and with more confidence, through times of change. It represents the three key areas in which we, as freelancers, need to develop change management skills in order to future-proof ourselves.

This short video explains why. I hope you find it useful.

(You may also like the Translator’s Success Wheel.)