Some thoughts on networking events and using an ‘elevator pitch’

By Claire Harmer

Last week I attended an LRG networking event held in central London. The committee has held similar events before but this one had a special focus: creating an elevator pitch. Nathalie Reis, the LRG’s publicity officer, hosted the event and spoke about her experience of using an elevator pitch at various networking events (more details below). Working in groups, we looked at the different elements that should be included in the pitch, which sparked some very interesting conversations! I wanted to share some of the things we talked about and it would be great to hear your thoughts on what you find works well (or not so well!) when meeting new people at a networking event.

I was interested in attending the LRG event as I’d been in several situations before where I felt like an elevator pitch would work really well, such as at trade fairs, networking events, or business gatherings, but I’d never had anything rehearsed to say. I thought that being able to introduce myself in a concise, confident way would be a good skill to have, and that having something already prepared would help me to do just that.

A few things to think about when putting together an elevator pitch:

  • Focus on what will interest your potential client: language combinations, areas of expertise, services offered, etc.
  • Touch on the problems faced by your potential client and explain how what you are offering would help them to solve these problems. The aim of this is to pique their interest so they will ask you more questions afterwards.
  • Include something memorable about yourself. It is likely that the person you are speaking to will meet lots of new people that day (particularly if they are on a stand at a trade fair) so having something memorable in your pitch will make you stand out.

One of the discussions that took place at the LRG event revolved around how far you should go to educate a potential client. The verdict was that if you were meeting them for the first time it was best to answer their questions politely and try to inform them about the profession. Most of us had experienced people saying things like ‘oh, so do you work in a hospital/booth/court room’ at some point in our careers, i.e. mixing up translators and interpreters. With this issue in mind, I added the fact that I help companies with their ‘written documents’ into my elevator pitch. Here is the one I came up with at the event… it’s a work-in-progress!

Hi, my name is Claire and I am a London-based translator specialising in the medical, pharmaceutical and packaging sectors. I work from French and Spanish into English (which is my native language) and work with companies from French and Spanish-speaking countries to transform their written documents into idiomatic, fluent English. By doing this, I help these companies to increase their chances of success in English-speaking countries such as the UK and the US.

We also discussed how to deal with comments like ‘some people in our office speak English, so they take care of the translations’. The consensus was mixed in my group; some stressed that we should inform them of the dangers of this producing an inaccurate translation (particularly when carried out by non-native speakers of the target language!). While myself and a few others thought that if they didn’t know why this would look and sound unprofessional, they probably weren’t the best people to do business with. A few of us mentioned that the ITI translation guide for buyers: ‘Getting it right’ would be useful here, but we weren’t sure when giving it out would be appropriate. Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

 

I’ve compiled a list of the general networking events and groups which were mentioned at the LRG event, in case any readers are interested:

Apparently this is ‘the most successful business networking referral organisation in the world’! Members are part of a ‘word of mouth’ programme whereby they can develop relationships with other professionals. They have branches or ‘chapters’, as they call them, all over the world, with each ‘chapter’ allowing just one representative from each trade or professional to join the group, so there is no competition between members. It also means that there is a wide variety of professionals at their events and not 10 accountants at one meeting, for example! The downside is the expense attached (around £400 yearly subscription fee plus registration costs) and it’s a fairly hefty time commitment – most chapters meet on a weekly basis and attendance is mandatory.

  • Chambers of Commerce

www.ccfgb.co.uk (as an example, this is the French Chamber of Great Britain)

People at the LRG event seemed to have varying reviews of COC events. The main point that came up was that most of the other individuals attending the events were in finance, so it wasn’t great for those wishing to network with people from a variety of trades. On the other hand, perhaps it would be a great networking opportunity for financial translators!

London-based networking group, although there are lots of groups like this out there, particularly in and around big cities. Any individual/company can attend two events as a non-member before deciding whether or not to join. The events are fairly low-cost (around £25 for London events) and unstructured, i.e. they don’t follow a fixed agenda, unlike the BNI events. I’m planning on going to one of their events next week. I’ve not been before so I’ll let you know how it goes…. watch this space!

  • Speed networking

Trade fairs and exhibitions often run speed networking sessions alongside them. I recently found out that www.meetup.com has groups specifically for speed networking, but I haven’t managed to get to an event just yet. You often only get 60 seconds to explain your business and introduce yourself; a perfect opportunity for trying out your elevator pitch! Speed networking means that you’ll meet lots of people in a short space of time, and the cost of these events is generally low. Some people argue that 60 seconds isn’t enough time to build a relationship with a potential client, but since people tend to hand their business cards out to each person they meet during the event, they can always contact you later.

If you’ve been to any of these, or any other networking events for that matter, what did you think of them? It would be great to get your feedback!

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The LRG event I attended, held at the Devereux pub in London.

Courtesy of Nada Photography

My first Jelly

by Katharine Mears

A couple of weeks ago I attended my first Jelly; an informal co-working event where freelancers and small business owners can bring their laptops, and work, chat and collaborate with others. The UK Jelly website defines co-working as, “Meeting up with like-minded people to work together in a different environment, to exchange help and advice, and maybe come up with a new idea to collaborate on”. It differs from a networking event in that the primary purpose of a Jelly isn’t to find new clients or promote your business, although of course this often happens indirectly.

The Jelly I attended was held in a local pub in St Albans (which is, conveniently, the city I live in!). It was free to attend, in line with Jelly’s ethos that their events are accessible to all. We had our own room allocated to us so we weren’t disturbed by other customers and we were given free use of the Wi-Fi. The only thing that needed to be paid for was food and drink.

So, how did I find it?

The highlight for me was undoubtedly having the opportunity to meet other local freelancers and getting to know them as we worked. Any co-working I have undertaken in recent years has been solely with other translators, so I did wonder whether there would be as much scope for discussion with freelancers from other fields. I couldn’t have been more wrong! There were around ten people at the Jelly, including the founder of Popdance, an IT consultant, a PA and a children’s outdoor activities coordinator. I was also pleasantly surprised to see another local translator that I had recently met, as well as an old friend I had worked alongside in my previous career in the charity sector. A friendly and chatty atmosphere quickly developed between all of us. There are so many advantages to freelancing from home but this event really made me realise how much I’d missed having colleagues to chat to on a day-to-day basis. It was also clear that some real friendships had developed among those who had been attending for a while.

St Albans Jelly event

It wasn’t only the social aspect and the novelty of getting out of the house that appealed to me. I also found I learned a great deal from others that may prove to be of use to my business. I was introduced to Periscope, a live video streaming app, and we even conducted a live Periscope broadcast from the Jelly! I also found out about an active Facebook page for local businesses in St Albans and about other Jelly and networking events. Tapping into this local knowledge was extremely useful and something that can be hard to come by at translation events.

The only downside to the morning I spent at the event was that I only got about half the amount of work done that I would normally have achieved. I think this was partly because it was the first Jelly I had attended and I was keen to get to know people. There would have been little point in going if I had just tapped away on my laptop all morning without speaking to anyone! Should you decide to go along to a Jelly near you, I would recommend having an admin day rather than taking along a translation you really need to focus on or working to meet a deadline, as it can be difficult to concentrate. That said, perhaps I have just got too used to the silence!

What about you? Do you attend co-working events? Is there anything similar on offer where you live? Let us know in the comments below.

For those interested in a more regular co-working arrangement, take a look at Claire Harmer’s blog post on the subject from back in April.

TIME MANAGEMENT FOR TRANSLATORS

by Claire Harmer

For translators, time management can be a difficult task, particularly when we have large projects on the go. A few weeks ago I delivered a large (20,000 word) translation which left me feeling overwhelmed and overworked, so I decided to do some research on time management for translators. I’m hoping that I can use this research to implement some rules for myself and learn to manage my time better in the future.

One particularly helpful resource I came across was one of Tess Whitty’s Marketing Tips for Translators podcasts: ‘Simple time management tips for translators’, in which she interviews David Rumsey of North Country Translations. You can listen to the podcast at bit.ly/1duIlef.

Some things I learned about time management while I was researching:

Smart phone tips

For most of us, our smart phones mean we can respond to queries or project enquiries when we’re out of the office, which is great, but it also means that clients can contact you at any time of the day or night! If you work with clients across several time zones, this can be particularly difficult as some may assume that you have read their message even if there is a nine or ten hour time difference.

  • I normally leave my phone on silent when I’m working so I don’t get distracted by instant messages, texts and phone calls… basically anything that’s not translation-related.
  • I tend to leave my email open while I work so that I can see when a new message comes in. However, I’m thinking about changing this and only checking it on the hour or every 2 hours instead. This means I won’t be as responsive, but I believe it will be more conducive to work. Does anyone else manage their email in a similar way?

Business hours

In Tess’s podcast, David Rumsey explains that many translators don’t feel like they can stick to pre-fixed business hours because they’re worried that if they don’t respond to every single email, LinkedIn request, Skype message, etc., that people will go elsewhere and they will therefore lose clients. He maintains that it’s important to set out what it is you want to achieve and how you want to work, and stick to this.

I completely agree with this and often wonder ‘how are my clients going to respect my working hours if I don’t respect them myself?!’

Further to David’s suggestion, I’m thinking about telling my clients that I’m trying to stick as closely as possible to my scheduled work hours, as well as setting an out of office auto-responder for non-work hours (i.e. any time that’s not 9am-6pm).

Does anyone do this already? Has this change been well-received by your clients?

Inundated with emails?

If you open your email after the weekend and have tens (or even hundreds!) of emails waiting for you, it can take hours to sort through them, which can prevent you from getting your actual paid work done!

Here are some key things you can do to reduce so-called ‘email stress’:

  • Create subfolders in your inbox and sort your emails into these folders so there’s not a long list of them staring at you! You can programme most email applications to do this for you automatically, which I only found out recently. If you use Gmail, this link shows you how to use messages to create filters: bit.ly/1rMougX
  • Send short, concise messages. If your email message is longer than 2 paragraphs long, perhaps it would be easier and less time-consuming to call the person instead? A phone call might even be more effective, as many people don’t read lengthy emails anyway (and if they do, they often skim read them)!
  • ‘If you want to receive less email, send less email’. David mentions that we should think about who the message really needs to go to before we send it. Don’t copy people in to emails unless they really need to be copied in, because you’ll probably get responses from everyone, which means more messages for you to read!
  • Create email templates for responses you end up writing a lot, for example you could have a ‘thank you for your enquiry, I am currently booked up until [insert date]’ template, or a template for responding to questions about rates, Trados discounts, etc.
  • Unsubscribe from emails you never read. I have subscribed to a huge number of websites over the years, so this week I’m planning to get to grips with the email management tool Unroll.me and assess which ones I still want to hear from. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Planning your work for the week

This tip is from David via Tess’s podcast and I’m going to do my best to implement it in my own work schedule!

Take time out, whether it’s 15 minutes or an hour at the start of the week, to create a to-do list, and organise it into the following categories:

  • things you have to accomplish this week,
  • things you want to accomplish this week,
  • and things you would like to accomplish this week.

Focus on the have to list first, and don’t move on to the want to list or would like to list until the first list has been completed. If you stick to this system, you can free yourself of the biggest tasks first, leaving less urgent and therefore less stressful tasks for later. Try to keep the have to list to a minimum: it needs to be achievable and not overwhelming!

Procrastinating

  • If you take on work that you actually enjoy doing, you’ll procrastinate less. So if you like working in a particular area or for a particular client, seek that kind of work out, rather than taking on everything that lands in your inbox.
  • Identify what time of the day you’re most productive and schedule your work accordingly. Some people are early birds and some are night owls. I’m still trying to figure out which one I am… it seems to vary depending on the weather!
  • The following idea was mentioned during Marta Stelmaszak’s Business School for Translators, and is particularly good for when random things pop into my head when I’m working and I think ‘oh yes, I need to do that!’ but the actual task isn’t work-related. Whenever something like this tries to invade my translation space, I jot it down on a post it and put it in a box in the far corner of my desk. That way it’s out of sight so it doesn’t distract me from my work, and the worry of forgetting about it altogether goes away. I check the box at the end of the week if I have time and go through everything. Before using this method I honestly used to spend about an hour a day procrastinating on these tiny things. Thanks for the tip, Marta!

Some apps that might help

Pomodoro – Sandra, a fellow blogger at The Deep End, introduced me to this tool and it has been a huge help, particularly when I’m working on large translation projects. It breaks your work time into manageable 25-minute chunks and ensures that you take regular 5-minute breaks after each one, followed by a longer 20-minute break after you’ve completed four 25-minute chunks. You can buy the timer or invest in a Pomodoro course at the official website, but so far I’ve just used one of the free online versions.

Wunderlist – Personally, I prefer a good old-fashioned paper list, but Wunderlist is great for people who love apps and have various different to-do lists.

Toggl – A useful tool for recording how much time you spend on different tasks.

Trello – Helps you to manage projects easily. For each project you can create tasks and sort these into categories: ‘ideas’, ‘to do’, ‘doing’ and ‘done’!

What about you? Can you recommend any time management techniques that have helped you to become more productive? If you have any, please share them in the comments section below to help us all avoid ending up like this…

Utilising keyboard shortcuts

by Katharine Mears

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the workshop ‘Advanced Word course for Translators’ run by Galician translator, writer and broadcaster Xosé Castro Roig. This formed part of an ITI Spanish Network training event, which incidentally also proved to be an extremely fruitful day of networking and a great opportunity to put my spoken Spanish into practice!

The Advanced Word session immediately appealed to me as I am the first to admit that I have never progressed far beyond the essential skills required to operate Word as a working translator. It goes without saying that Microsoft Word is an indispensable item (for Windows users) in a translator’s toolkit so it was a no-brainer to take up the chance to master it further.

It will not be possible to cover all the material from the workshop here, so for the purposes of this post I will focus on keyboard shortcuts. Prior to the workshop, I was only making use of five of the most basic shortcuts at the most. As soon as I returned home, armed with many, many more, I decided to make a concerted effort to memorise those I considered most useful. This has proved invaluable to me for two reasons. Firstly, I have recently started to suffer with a painful hand when working a lot with the mouse (despite using an ergonomic vertical model) so I hope that by limiting the use of the mouse as much as possible, by getting to grips with these shortcuts, I will start to see a noticeable difference. Secondly, and something I hadn’t fully taken on board until Xosé pointed it out, is the huge amount of time spent on word processing (rather than translating!) that these shortcuts save. Obviously, the more that can be memorised, the greater these benefits will be.

I have highlighted my top 10 keyboard shortcuts from the session below:

Key combination Action
F4 Repeats the last action taken
Shift + F5 Returns the cursor to its last three positions
Ctrl + Alt + S (Alt + Shift + C to remove split) Splits the document into two windows (so you can view another page immediately above/below)
SHIFT + left arrow/right arrow Selects a character to the right or left of cursor (continue to press arrow key to highlight additional characters)
Ctrl + Shift + left arrow/right arrow Selects a word to the right or left of cursor
Ctrl + Shift + up arrow/down arrow Selects a paragraph
F8 Selects a word (when pressed once)Selects a sentence (when pressed twice)Selects a paragraph (when pressed three times)
Ctrl + K (after highlighting text) Inserts hyperlink
Shift + F3 (after highlighting text) All upper case (when pressed once)All lower case (when pressed twice)Initial letter capitalised (when pressed three times)
Ctrl + Alt + M Inserts a comment

Memorising the shortcuts was far easier than I expected as once I had made the decision to use a certain number on a regular basis and started putting them into practice, I found that I no longer needed a prompt after the third or fourth attempt.

And how about you? Do you make use of keyboard shortcuts and do you have any favourites to add? Let us know in the comments below!

The Entrepreneurial Linguist and meeting direct clients

By Claire Harmer

In October 2013 I attended a workshop organised by the ITI’s London Regional Group entitled ‘No Pain, No Gain – Active Marketing to Direct Clients’. The workshop was given by Judy Jenner, who was a truly inspirational speaker. Together, Judy and Dagmar Jenner make up Twin Translations, a boutique translation business which operates from Las Vegas and Vienna, where Judy and Dagmar respectively live.

I bought Judy and Dagmar’s book, The Entrepreneurial Linguist, just after attending the workshop in 2013 and have found it to be an invaluable asset since I started my freelance career in 2012. It provided me with encouragement and motivation during the difficult times (both financially and in terms of morale) when I had not long started my business and it was taking a while for things to get off the ground.

In this blog post I would like to share with you how the twins’ book gave me the confidence to go to trade shows and talk to prospective clients – something I would normally have struggled with and shied away from. I learnt a huge amount from The Entrepreneurial Linguist and from the workshop Judy gave, and hope to summarise some of the things I’ve found most useful when marketing my business to direct clients. These tips only cover a few pages of their ‘Business Development’ chapter, and this post focuses on what they call the ‘trade show strategy’, just one of the five client acquisition strategies Judy and Dagmar discuss in their book.

  • Research the vendors

‘It is not very time effective to simply go to the [trade] show, wander around, and approach random booths. It will not make you look very professional, and it is not the best use of your time’[1]. I booked to go to a trade show in Paris earlier this year and unfortunately, due to work commitments, didn’t have any time to research the vendors beforehand. I still went along as I didn’t want the ticket to go to waste (plus I’d already booked my flights and accommodation!), but I didn’t have the confidence to speak to the people I wanted to since I didn’t know enough about the companies. The trip wasn’t wasted, as I still met some interesting people and managed to fit in some sightseeing (!), but I now know just how important it is to make time for research beforehand!

  • ‘Pre-qualified contacts’

For companies you’re hoping to make contact with at the show, try to get in touch with their marketing director or communications manager via LinkedIn before you attend. Judy and Dagmar mention that ‘if you have a contact in common, the person you are trying to reach will be much more inclined to talk to you’, so look out for 2nd connections on LinkedIn! The twins suggest that if you don’t have a contact in common, you can always try emailing the person, but the chances of you getting business this way are much lower.

How do I start the conversation?

  • Judy and Dagmar recommend checking whether the company you’re targeting is speaking at a session during the trade show. Perhaps this is something you can open up a conversation with? If you’ve contacted them beforehand, open up with that as a way of introducing yourself in person and thank them for replying to you if they did so.

Anyone for tea?

  • Another thing the twins suggest is taking vendors with whom you’ve already made appointments a snack or a tea/coffee. It’s a nice gesture when vendors are too busy to leave the stand or haven’t had a break in a while! In her workshop, Judy pointed out that sometimes vendors can’t actually leave the conference centres during their breaks, and since the food served at these centres isn’t always great, they might be craving a healthy snack!

Follow up

  • When I get home, I send a brief email to anyone I spoke to who seemed interested in working with me, to thank them for their time and for speaking to me. The Entrepreneurial Linguist recommends doing this within a week of meeting a vendor, and including something like ‘Follow-up: XYZ tradeshow from XYZ’ in your email subject line.

There’s a lot to be said for ‘learning through experience’. In addition to getting some great tips from The Entrepreneurial Linguist, here are some other things I’ve discovered about the process of meeting prospective clients:

Take notes to jog your memory later

  • I’ve found that it helps to write down anything that stood out about the person you spoke to on the back of their business card. Just after speaking to a vendor I jot down any key things that will help to jog my memory of them in future. They can also be used as talking points in a follow-up email. Examples of things I’ve written on business cards include ‘from Barcelona but works in Paris’ and ‘coming to London in a few weeks – go for coffee?’. I also take note of what their response was and whether they gave me any other contacts (I find that often people say ‘I’m not sure how our company deals with translations but you can get in touch with our marketing director *insert name here*, they should know’). In this case, make sure you ask them for the contact’s direct email.

Attend a show when it’s quiet (well… as quiet as it can be!)

  • I normally aim to go to trade shows in the morning/early afternoon. Exhibitors sometimes rush off a couple of hours ahead of the official closing time, so you may miss them, and a lot of them are busy packing up their stalls if they’re still around.

Business cards

  • When giving someone your card, ask if you can have theirs too, so you can follow up with them when you get home. Although it may feel weird for you the first few times (it certainly did for me!), this is standard practice at this kind of event.

Take a motivational pick-me-up!

  • Consider taking a motivational book with you (or just download something onto your tablet/Kindle if you find books too old-school!) in case you need a little confidence boost during the day. I take The Entrepreneurial Linguist to any trade shows, conferences or general networking events I attend, just in case I need some inspiration during a coffee break or something to keep me focused on the way there.

Finding trade shows

  • In terms of finding trade shows online, I’d recommend easyfairs.com and 10times.com. You can search for shows and conferences by country/date/industry on both of these sites, which is really helpful. Judy and Dagmar recommend signing up for RSS feeds from any local convention centres near you who put on regular networking events or trade shows (here in London I’ve signed up to receive RSS feeds from the Olympia and ExCel centres), as well as checking if your local chamber of commerce has any upcoming events.

To finish off this post, I wanted to share how, in her workshop, Judy mentioned that acquiring direct clients is a lot more time consuming than finding translation agencies to work with, and that the former is more like a long-term investment. ‘You may have to kiss a lot of frogs’! In other words, acquiring good direct clients is very much about trial and error: you may pursue several leads that don’t work out, but some will! Although Twin Translations work solely with direct clients, Judy pointed out that there is a place for translation agencies or language service providers (LSPs) in today’s translation industry, and that Judy and Dagmar’s business model is not for everyone! It certainly seems to work for them, though!

Translators and interpreters: have you attended any trade shows in order to meet direct clients? If so, what have your experiences been like? What do you think has worked when you have approached them, and what hasn’t?

Many thanks to Judy and Dagmar for looking over this blog post before it was published and for allowing me to talk about their book!

Judy speaking at the LRG event back in 2013: 'No Pain, No Gain – Active Marketing to Direct Clients’

Judy speaking at the LRG event back in 2013: ‘No Pain, No Gain – Active Marketing to Direct Clients’

Event attendees, a captivated audience

Event attendees, a captivated audience

[1] Taken from The Entrepreneurial Linguist. Unless mentioned otherwise, all quotes are taken from Judy and Dagmar’s book (with their permission, of course!)

Living the dream!

By Felicity Pearce

Helen Barlow, founder of A World of Words Translations is literally living the dream. The dream that many of us (myself included) have when we think about being a freelance translator. She is as free as a bird, traveling the world, translating and learning new languages as she goes. For this week’s post, we’ve been asking her a few questions about her Utopian existence.

FP: Helen, can you tell us a bit about your journey to becoming a freelance and traveling translator, and any experience you think really helped?

HB: I’ve always had a serious case of itchy feet which led to me working for 6 years as an English teacher overseas a few years after completing my BA in French and Spanish. I worked in France, Thailand and Peru, improving my language skills while traveling and gaining valuable cultural insights. When I was in Peru, one of the teachers gave me her CV to translate into English, and I really enjoyed doing it. I then had the opportunity to translate a travel guide about Lima, which made me think I could combine my passion for language and travel and achieve the freedom I craved by translating for the travel and tourism industry. I took a two-year online translation course with City University. After that, I threw myself wholeheartedly into making my location-independent lifestyle a reality and took the excellent Masters in Technical and Specialised Translation at Westminster University. Then I was ready to go!

FP: Although a dream shared by many of us, being a traveling translator can still be a daunting prospect. What advice would you give to those considering hitting the road? Was it a leap of faith or did you make the change gradually?

HB: After completing the Master’s course, I was impatient to start my new lifestyle, so I booked a one-way ticket to Brazil. I planned to work while learning Portuguese. In hindsight, I suppose I should have saved up some more cash and established myself more with translation clients/agencies before hitting the road. It wasn’t exactly easy at first; work slowly trickled in and I spent more time filling out countless agency forms and sending off CVs than actually translating. Good job the beach and street parties are free! After about 3 months, work became more regular. So, my advice is to head off once you’ve got your regular jobs and contacts all set up; well, that’s the sensible option!

FP: Getting back to palm trees and breath-taking views, where are your favourite places in the world to set up shop? What are some of the best views you’ve had from your “office”?

HB: I love Asia. I go to India and combine translating with yoga courses, taking in views of the Kerala backwaters, the Himalayas or the tea plantations. Bali is also popular among freelancers with its laid-back cafés and homestays overlooking the rice paddies. Latin America is also a firm favourite. Living in the vibrant historic centre of Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, was an amazing experience. Closer to “home”, I have lived in Lisbon which is really well set-up for freelancers and has excellent co-working spaces and a rich café culture. I loved taking my laptop along to one of the many miradouros where I had my morning coffee while gazing out over the mishmash of terracotta rooftops.

helen

A day at the office

FP: And on a more practical note, we know that you travel with your laptop, but what contingency measures would you recommend, in case there are internet issues, etc.?

HB: A local SIM card for your smartphone. Also, I have a “mi-fi”, or personal hotspot, which is a great back-up in times of weak or no wi-fi. It just requires a local SIM card. That’s about it.

FP: Finally, what is the single best thing about your job?

HB: FREEDOM! Being able to work from absolutely anywhere is such a luxury. I do work full-time and it’s not a walk in the park, but I’m trying to make my life as much as possible like a permanent holiday.  And not having to physically GO to work, there’s no commute and your office can be a park bench, a beach, the airport. And your work attire can be your bathing suit!

FP: And the hardest?

HB: Time differences. I was recently in San Francisco which is 8/9 hours behind Europe. I had to sleep with the phone glued to my ear and often set my alarm for 3am to check my emails. However, it’s a different story in Asia as you have the whole day before the emails start flooding in!

And as all freelancers will agree, those occasional job droughts can be scary and the extremely tight delivery deadlines are downright stressful.  I also miss having colleagues, that Friday feeling (but not the Monday morning one…) and after-work drinks! Still, I wouldn’t change a thing!

Thank you so much Helen for sharing you experience and insight with us. Bon voyage!

Helen Barlow is a traveling translator, budding travel writer and yogi who calls the whole world home. Her translation specialisms include travel & tourism, fashion, beauty, gastronomy, magazine journalism and cultural events.

A Review of The Sound of Music: an ITI Conference masterclass by Ros Schwartz

by Katharine Mears

The Tyne Bridge, Newcastle

At this year’s ITI conference in Newcastle, I attended the masterclass The Sound of Music, run by renowned literary translator Ros Schwartz. The aim was to explore the overlap between literary and commercial translation to give ‘non-literary’ translators (such as myself) the confidence to draw on their creative writing ability in their day-to-day work.

Ros began the session by talking about the difference between ‘source-orientated’ and ‘target-orientated’ texts, explaining that every translation falls somewhere different on this scale. One example of a source-orientated text is a book, where the author has given careful thought to every word. Target-orientated texts are those required to do a certain job such a selling something or getting certain information across.

We were then provided with some practical tips on how to improve our target translations, some of which I have highlighted below:

  • THINK ‘WRITE’ (as opposed to ‘TRANSLATE’): Highlight the key ideas to be expressed, put the source text aside and write the paragraph in your target language.
  • THINK AGAIN: Beware of complacency – don’t make do with the first solution that pops into your head. Lapses of attention result in “translationese”. E.g. don’t translate the French “produits que respectent l’environnement” as “products that respect the environment”. We have a specific word for this in English: “eco-products”.
  • PRUNE RUTHLESSLY: Beware of “padding words” that give rhythm to the source language but have no function in English, e.g. the French use of decided to. A literal translation of such a sentence might be “In 2013 the company decided to invest in…”, when what they actually mean is simply “In 2013 the company invested in…”
  • BREAK AWAY: Liberate the translation from the sentence structures of the source text.
  • LATIN vs ANGLO-SAXON: If you are translating from a Romance language, avoid using too many Latinate words, which can make a text feel awkward and be overly formal and academic. E.g. “consulter” should rarely be translated as “consult”, and such words can often be substituted.
  • DIFFERENT CONVENTIONS: Be aware of these, e.g. French uses significantly more exclamation marks; English tends to favour the imperative.
  • A FRESH LOOK: Take a break before doing the final read-through; always print out your translation, ideally in a different font, and check a hard copy; try working with a colleague and revising each other’s translations.
  • BE BOLD: It’s all about confidence. See yourself as a writer, not as a humble servant.

We then went on to look at three texts of varying quality that had been translated from French into English. In groups, we considered where and how we felt they could be improved, as well as any positive aspects, focusing in particular on the points outlined by Ros above and whether the rhythm and flow (music) of the text had been disrupted by their being overly meaning-orientated. This proved to be an extremely helpful exercise, which I have already started applying to my own translations.

The Sound of Music was an invaluable masterclass that has really made me reflect on my own translation work. I came away with a host of concrete tips that I have been able to put into practice immediately with the aim of injecting more ‘music’ into my translations. I would like to thank Ros Schwartz for such an interesting and practical session and hope these tips will be useful to you also.