Aug 20, 2010


Once in a while I find it useful to review the state of things in my life and business and consider what actions or tools have had the greatest positive impact. Ranking the effects is usually rather subjective, of course, but that's OK - we live by subjective impressions far more than most of us realize.

So I asked myself what has made the greatest positive difference in my translation business in the past year? In the past five years? In the past ten? It was fairly easy to narrow down the answers.

For the past year, the increased use of online management tools for project management, deliveries and invoicing has helped me the most.

In the past five years, two things have mattered most: greater collaboration with a competent partner (which made many projects possible which I would otherwise not have touched) and joining a professional translators' organization (BDÜ in my case) after passing the state exams in Berlin, Germany. That has brought in many nice referrals. I don't think I can narrow down the five-year factors any more, because the impact of all three actions has been huge, and all are rather closely related in various ways.

The greatest impact over the course of the ten years I have been engaged in significant volumes of translation has surely been the use of translation environment tools such as Déjà Vu, SDL Trados and memoQ (just to name the primary ones I work with). That's also why these are discussed so often in this blog. Properly applied, these tools can play a positive role in nearly any commercial translation business.

Of course, every translation business is unique, and needs and priorities differ. What has had the biggest impact for you in the past year, the past five and past ten?


  1. Hi Kevin. I'd have to say that joining the ATA was the single most useful action I've taken in terms of getting more approaches from better quality clients. I'd also say that starting a copy-editing diploma has been really useful in helping me stream my work more in that direction - although market forces seem to be pulling me more in that direction too. I'd also say that joining my local bike club has been a real positive; taking myself out of my garret and re-engaging with fellow humans has definitely changed my perspective. Oh, starting a blog has been a real bonus in terms of being able to externalize the "creativity" my everyday role doesn't permit

  2. @Andrew: The ATA rather than your local NAATI? I've heard very positive things about the ITI and some of its programs (well, "programmes" since they're Brits) from Marc Prior & others and thought about joining, though I question whether a British connection would really serve my interests. But I believe strongly in the support offered to new professionals that Marc told me about; continuing education seminars in the BDÜ are one of that organization's aspects that I respect most, even if I seldom take advantage of what's on offer.

  3. Thanks for the thought-inspiring post Kevin! Past year: actively working on my time management and efficiency has made a huge difference in my stress level and in the amount of time it takes me to do my non-translation work (processing e-mail, accounting, etc.). Past five: Becoming active in ATA and our local association and talking to translators who work at the very high end of the market has really opened my eyes to what the high end of the market is (and it's not 20 cents a word). And blogging and meeting all of you! Ten years: I've only been translating for 8, so I'll tell you in 2012!

  4. Great post! I have gotten the most out of: 1 - Being an active member of my national translators association (SFT in France); 2 - Working with a marketing consultant several years ago to support me in my move from all-agencies to a direct clientele (an investment of several thousand EUR that has yielded BIG dividends in terms of revenue and job satisfaction); 3 - Bringing in two new business partners, one a translator like me and one a project manager/business developer, for the teamwork and for the increased capacity it gives us; 4 - Expanding into copywriting (I specialize in marketing translation, so the jump was natural, if a bit scary at first).

  5. It's interesting that everyone else so far has had similarly good experiences with the professional translators' associations. I never expected the value I actually received, because my expectations were based on comments by ex-members or current members who were put off by the griping unprofessionalism of certain cliques. I think it's probably also important to find the right association for one's purposes. While I like tekom (one of the professional associations I was associated with almost since I arrived in Germany), its focus is really on technical writers and translation is truly an afterthought. I learn a lot of valuable things from that organization, but the lucrative referrals come from the BDÜ. But that's not the only professional association for translators in Germany, just the largest. I'm curious whether other more local groups like ADÜ Nord are more valuable in some circumstances.

    I'm also very encouraged by Andrew's experience with the ATA. One acquaintance of mine in Germany was less enthusiastic, but her qualifications and experience, while very good, are very different from his. In one way or another what you get from an organization will have a lot to do with what you bring to it, and nobody's formula will be a Universal Elixir.


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