5 Tips for Translators Who Want to Start 2016 Off on the Right Foot

2016 Marty

It’s that time of year again when the “New Year” reminds us that 365.2422 days have gone by since the last time 365.2422 days went by. Big Whoop!? Family gatherings, parties, Champagne, and fireworks are all not-so-subtle reminders that time passes and we can make the most of it if we choose to. So we make resolutions and renew our faith in new beginnings. “This year, I will seize the day,” many of us tell ourselves, and some of us actually do. So for the doers out there, here are five things you should most definitely do if you haven’t already.

1. Get your taxes and legal “stuff” in order: Nothing reads “amateur” like not having your paperwork in order. If you want to compete in the high-end market, you need to have your tax and legal situation under control. Register yourself and/or your business as required by domestic law, make sure your invoices are up-to-date and all mandatory information is properly displayed where it should be in accordance with local law, and double check whether you’re meeting all legal and tax requirements for doing business in your area.

2. Research your market: But “for real.” I’m not talking about reading the same old tired tips and posts by the same old winners of internet popularity contests. I mean really research your market. What market do you want to cater to? Who are the key players in that market? What entry barriers are there? What is expected of language professionals? How does that market play into your local economy? What I’m talking about is not reading superficial texts on marketing in general or translation in particular. I’m talking about serious market research.

3. Update/review your SWOT analysis: A good business plan (see next tip) starts with a cold honest look at ourselves and our business; our strengths and weaknesses; opportunities and threats in the business world. If you’re reading this post because you want to escape the hamster wheel and shift to a better market segment, then you need to know whether you have what it takes to cater to it in the first place. Though nowhere near enough, SWOTs and similar assessments are a good place to start; and if turns out you don’t have what it takes, they will help you figure out your shortcomings and how to overcome them.

4. Update/draft your business plan: I’m writing this post on December 26th, I expect to publish it on December 28th, if that’s when you read it and you haven’t updated your 2016 business plan yet (or what’s worse, you have nothing to update because you have no business plan at all) then get to it! You need to start 2016 with a clear sense of direction; and each business move you make needs to be consistent with that.

5. Plan your CPD: If you did a good job on your SWOT, then you’ve identified your shortcomings and/or areas of opportunity you wish to explore; and continuing professional development (CPD) is essential to both. Find and schedule relevant courses, webinars, conferences, etc. to develop and maintain knowledge and skills that are important for your business. At the risk of blatant self-promotion, if you’re a little lost as to translation contracts (NDAs, T&Cs, etc.), then you might want to add my e-CPD webinar on “Binding Agreements and Legal Principles for Translators” to your list.

4 thoughts on “5 Tips for Translators Who Want to Start 2016 Off on the Right Foot

  1. You lost me after SWOT analysis. I guess we’re now talking IPOs, EBITDA margins and other accountant-friendly acronyms.

    Let’s face it: we write translations for a living; the business side is just that, a side, a secondary activity. As translators, we do not need to take a tax, accounting or finance course to do our job. That’s why we pay an accountant to do that.

    The intelligent reader won’t see here any intent from me to ignore basic financial or business principles, so I won’t preach to the choir.

    The unintended effect of this brief article? Some translators, old and new, might surmise that they have to be well versed in MBA lingo to take away some benefit from your column. In addition, we get a surplus of Cosmopolitan-styled listicles in social media and in trade magazines (ATA Chronicle included) already. Please, don’t go that route.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comment, Mario. You are entitled to your opinion, of course; but I’m not in the habit of underestimating my readers, so I’m not going to dumb-down my post just because some translators are business averse. You don’t need an MBA to understand concepts like SWOT or business plan or to appreciate how they can be helpful.

      My post in no way implies that the business side of translation is more than just another side of what we do, but lest we want to work for peanuts, it’s in our own best interest to cozy up to basic business concepts, even if presented as “Cosmopolitan-styled listicles” (that last part was kind of mean, by the way, had I feelings, they could have gotten hurt).


      • Paula, avoiding cryptic acronyms such as SWOT is not dumbing down your writing, but inadvertently obscuring it. My comment about Cosmopolitan-styled listicles was not meant to hurt or demean, but to point to a truth: we are awash in a swell of lists of every category imaginable: 5 ways to do this, 12 ways to do that. After a while, it gets wearing.


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