Lesson 1: Introducing business skills for translators

Lesson 1: Introducing business skills for translators

Hello everyone. I would like to start today with introducing two interesting translators: Marta and Magda. They’ve been friends for years, share the same interests and went to the same school. Now they both live together and they are both decided to do their own businesses in translation. Everyone say hi to Marta and Magda! (just to make sure: these are both my names, I’m not referring to anyone else than myself)

Now, we will have a closer look at what girls are like and how they see their businesses.

1. Communication skills

Marta loves writing and always tries to personalise every message or at least show a bit of her style in it. She always responds fast. When she has any questions, she just grabs her mobile and call. She’s a born networker: every other translator in town knows her, she’s active in two professional organisations. She also runs her own blog.

Magda loves writing as well, but she doesn’t consider writing an e-mail any true sort of writing. It’s just plain business communication. Before she responds, she takes her time to think what to write and to “show them she’s not on every call”. She takes phones, but only if they last over 3 ring tones. Networking? Well, only with people that she already knows.

2. Financial management

Marta decided not to have an accountant, but she did some reading on book keeping to be able to deal with the paper work. She’s also monitoring her income and expenses and planning her money throughout the year.

Magda doesn’t have an accountant either, but she is all mess with papers and she hates doing that. When comes to dealing with the tax people, she’s always stressed for a few days and can’t work. She usually spends all the money she has.

3. Services management

Marta is constantly monitoring her competitors and her clients. She’s adjusting her rates to be more competitive, but she also asks her clients about possible improvements in her services. Only recently she introduced a new SEO Translation service and it won her lucrative clients!

Magda doesn’t want to be like everyone else, that’s why she doesn’t even go to her competitors’ websites. She’s been doing translation and proofreading since she graduated, that’s what she knows and that’s what she’s going to stick to.

4. Business planning

Marta has a detailed, 6-months business plan that sets goals and allows her to develop her business. She knows how much she can translate per day to keep the same quality, how much time she needs to do proofreading and when to do marketing. She’s also being selective about jobs and she never accepts assignments that make her actually lose money.

Magda let’s her business drive her. When she has plenty of offers, she accepts them all. It very often ends up in stress and missed deadlines, but at least she has a lot to do. She’s not really sure what’s her daily turnover, but once she managed to do 7,345 words one day!

5. Marketing skills

Marta spends some of her working time reading about marketing techniques and she experiments with new marketing ideas. She usually spends half an hour a day writing to agencies, potential clients and other translators. She’s keen on IT, new technologies and creative solutions.

Magda is convinced that a single freelancer doesn’t actually need any marketing. Marketing is something for companies, but not for freelancers. Besides, she always says that she doesn’t know how to do that anyway. And there’s thousands of other translators out there doing that already.

We will be watching how Marta and Magda are doing with their businesses. They have also helped us to identify essential business skills that make the difference between an overworked and underpaid translator and a really successful freelancer.


In the comment area below, try to identify what areas of your business skills for translators need improvement and how do you plan to go about that. If you need any further help, get in touch!


  1. Sandra , on Oct 27, 2011 at 14:18 Reply

    Hi Marta, I can totally see myself in Marta, but I’m lacking confidence in my marketing skills, even though I read about marketing and selling strategies. Thanks for sharing these lessons!

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