Lesson 116: How to find your translation niche?

Lesson 116: How to find your translation niche?

The more I look into the topic of experts, the more fascinated I become. Today, when preparing to write this article on translation niches, I came across the following explanation:

“The power of the niche is the old “big fish in a little pond” theory. It’s more likely that you’ll become well known for something when you focus in one small area.”

The way I understand it (supported by other sources), the idea behind niches is that it’s a subset of a market where you’re focusing. In other words you’re focusing with a specific service aimed at satisfying specific market needs.

Recently, I’ve been focusing on developing my own niche for my translation services and language services and here are a few steps that really helped me.

1. Make a wishlist of clients


I started browsing the internet first in search for some resources to find out more about my potential niche, and soon I ended up looking at pages of companies I would really like to work with. I could see that they needed my help, that they were in the right market, and that I was able to offer them solutions. I started writing down the names on my client wishlist.

2. Focus


As scary as it may seem, cutting down the areas I work in is an inevitable step for me in 2015. I used to do a lot of legal, business and marketing translations, but now it’s time to narrow down only to Polish-English online communication. This is going to be my main field. During the preparation for this cut, I came across some useful tips on how to find your main point of focus, for example:
– Make a list of things you do best and the skills they’re based on,
– List your achievements,
– Look for patterns in your work.

3. Take the customer’s perspective


The key point in targeting clients in my target niche lies in identifying their real, specific needs. If you haven’t done this type of research before, here are some quick tips to get you started. Assuming you want to research the problems that UK lawyers have when comes to language, start by 1) looking for information on lawyer blogs and on their Twitter accounts – what are their frustrations? Do they talk about them?; 2) Write to 5 people from this segment and ask if they have had any problems or if they can think of any; 3) Ask on 2 lawyer groups on Linkedin; 4) Talk to an expert.

Every business, service or product starts with a customer’s problem. Have you ever thought about translation from this perspective? I haven’t from the very beginning and it was only one of the courses I took in 2012 that made me think like this.

4. Synthesise


With my new translation niche taking shape, there were some useful pointers that I found out to make sure I’m on the right track. Make sure that your niche:
– Is in line with your long-term vision
– There is a market for it
– Your niche and strategy is planned
– It’s one-of-a-kind service

5. Test and evaluate


The most important part of the plan, something I’m implementing now in January, is actually putting the niche and idea to test. This means investing some time and money into developing the initial offer and sending it out to prospective customers. This is, of course, an essential step before diving into the niche.

Here are a few points of homework I’d recommend if you’re interested in finding your niche.

  • 1. Browse through your clients’ websites and make a wishlist of who you want to work with.
  • 2. Focus on a specific service for specific needs (“For example, a retail clothing business is not a niche but a field. A more specific niche may be “maternity clothes for executive women.”)
  • 3. Do customer research.
  • 4. Synthesise your vision.
  • 5. Test and evaluate your niche.


  1. Thierry Boudjekeu , on Jan 8, 2015 at 22:10 Reply

    Always very logical and systematic. It ties with what I read about with a more concrete approach.
    Thanks Marta.

  2. All Graduates | Translating Services , on Jan 9, 2015 at 06:45 Reply

    This is a great post for finding a niche in translation. With so many areas to consider, it is difficult to even figure out how to start. Tip #2 especially can be pretty scary as the thought of cutting down a great number of available clients can result in reduced revenue. However, once a translator has figured out what he or she does best, clients are open to paying more.

  3. Lukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz , on Jan 13, 2015 at 18:17 Reply

    Well, Marta, to be honest, I have a problem with the whole expert/specialization mentality.

    Specialization is all right when it brings benefits, but you can’t really be a maternity-clothes-for-executive-women translator unless you effectively become a business/management/marketing/PR generalist to generate, channel and leverage demand for something like that, create, maintain and publicize the branding.

    Translator already is a specialist skill. Becoming a self-taught biz generalist in order to become a narrowly focused translators is not only counterintuitive, I believe it’s just simply not right. Something is simply wrong with the modern world.

    Besides, what kind of translator could be someone who only ever did maternity clothes for executive women?

    Besides, there are many ways to specialize. You don’t need to narrow down your target group or your subject field — and if subject field, then from which perspective? Would you do all of: law, biz, marketing, accounting and marketing translation (essentially anything and everything) for executive maternity outfits? How would that be more specialized than your previous/current law + business + marketing mix?

    I think we could just simply narrow it all down to the relatively simple observation that you probably can’t appeal to everybody, and narrowing your target in order to create a better fit is probably more advantageous to you (better fit for clients’ needs, less competition for you).

    Plus, ‘expert’ is an abused word to a point where it borders on becoming a humiliating pat on the back. The old way of becoming an expert consisted of a mixture of many years of study and practical experience, maybe some talent and investments. Nowadays we have strategies for becoming experts upon graduating university or something else like that. It will inevitably — or already does — lead to inflation of expertship, where the result will be opposite to intended. When money loses value, shop prices go up to compensate. What makes business gurus think that client requirements won’t do the same? Or that entire industries will not collapse if everything becomes so murky (non-transparent) that you just can’t tell?

    Going off topic now, but I think part of the problem is that we, as in modern people, keep trying to game the system and somehow get the rewards without investing the effort. We no longer write or speak, we (try to) elicit specific reactions from the audience, even program them. Where our ancestors had CV to reflect their education and experience, we built CVs and profiles now and focus more on that than on the real thing. Same way, we no longer just do business like normal. Actually not wasting energy on game theory and practice could perhaps make business healthier.

    If we could just simply work — whether as employees or service provider — and be paid good wages for it (this expectation is *not* the same as the reward-without-sowing expectation I mentioned before) without having to resort to soft shenanigans, i.e. non-dishonest but still gamey things, things would be better.

    Overpromotion of specialization, ‘expert status’ or even the concept of niches may well be a fad that will eventually pass.

    This said, it’s obviously easier to appeal if your appeal is more on-target, and it’s good to know where your career is going and give it some conscious direction.

    • Marta Stelmaszak , on Jan 19, 2015 at 07:23 Reply

      Thank you for your comment, Łukasz. Perhaps it’s all a fad, perhaps “expert positioning” is just another tool to promote your services, to the same extent as social media or having a website. These ideas come and go, work for some and not for others, but don’t you think it’s fair to test them?

  4. Really useful - Thanks! , on Feb 1, 2015 at 12:13 Reply

    Hi Marta
    Nice start in 2015 with that great post. Thank you !
    I will explore this topic in the coming months in detail and
    I have a small request. Could you share
    some links which were useful to you please? You
    used to do that before and I found that both extremely
    helpful & very generous.
    Thank you again & I wish you great success in this new
    project in this New Year. Good luck!

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