Together with Anne Diamantidis of The Stinging Nettle, we continue our series series: “People who rock the translation industry!”. We are interviewing people who have made a positive contribution, no matter how small or large, to the translation industry – at the international, national or local level. Meet, or get to know better, a translator and brand specialist Valeria Aliperta.
Hi Valeria! To start with, tell us a bit about your personal and professional background.What were the turning points in your career that got you where you are now?
While at uni, I was accepted for a EU-funded Leonardo work placement both in Spain and in the UK and I opted for the London-based – even though at the time the pound was ridiculously high compared to the Euro and it was a real struggle to live in the Big Smoke for 6 months. Penniless but happy, I have to say as that’s where I re-discovered the passion for my other work language – before that, I was practically a Spaniard – and I learnt a lot of my soon-to-be profession.
It did help that later on my fiancé started working in the UK so moving here with him seemed an easy bet. Graduating from an Italian university can give you the advantage of a wide-range and varied training – the learning approach is knowledge-based, even though it’s often quantity over quality so the notions you pile up are many. On the other hand, that approach – at least in my experience – is very poor on a practical side, something that especially Northern countries are instead very good at. So after my practical, hands-on training in a translation agency, I put my back into it and to sharpen my edge, I worked on the practical side. I decided to give myself 6 months to become a freelance and considering there was the most terrible recession ever just round the corner, I am proud I did make it through that 6-month goal. The biggest turning point was certainly networking and writing articles: the more contacts you have, the more chances to find work, it’s as easy as that. But also a good mix of expertise, right language combination and luck is essential.
You’re standing for elections to the Institute of Translation and Interpreting Board this year. Why do you think we should get involved with professional organisations?
When I graduated, I immediately felt the need to ‘belong’ to an organisation of professionals who could share my views, my goals and of course – and especially – my worries or fears. As architects or nurses join a register, I believe that being part of a group of peers can enlighten you on how the industry worked, how to be part of it proudly and how to improve yourself – also on a personal level, because you never stop learning. These are also the reasons I’ve mentioned in my candidature proposal and I hope that soon I could be your ITI Associates Representative! Fingers crossed 🙂
You’re sharing your knowledge on branding with colleagues around the world. How did you discover it was something you are good at?
Well, I’m not too sure how it started and it’s funny, because even though as a kid I always liked drawing, I was very good at ‘reproducing’ rather than inventing stunning illustrations from scratch. Creativeness, though, can be expressed in so many ways and translation is certainly one – especially when it’s transcreation, one of my favourite fields of expertise. As a simultaneous interpreter, as well, I need to choose the best solution in a split second most of the time and with branding, it’s kind of the same: you try and choose what is the best image to convey a given message. Of course, it does help that my other half is a visual designer: I am constantly overwhelmed by design-related things and products and books, or exhibitions to see and websites to discover. Playing with all this inspiration, coming from different sources, is fun and if it makes sense for business, well, even better. Not to mention I like gadgets and technology, too….
Would you recommend others to look for their hidden talents, other than translation, and to explore the opportunities?
I could not recommend anything more than ‘finding your direction’. As in branding – those who attended one of my talks will find a thread here – you always tend to have a ‘penchant’ for something. Mine is brands and communication in general, but for others it may be cupcakes. So why don’t you turn your skill into something viable, like translating for the food sector? Interpreting for Jamie on one of his trips to the Bel Paese may be a long shot but who knows! My other passion is – alas for my finances – fashion and beauty so when I was hired for a recent hairdressing interpreting assignment I didn’t even have to prepare… it was like being at the playground! So, once again, if you can make your passion work – a little bit, at least – for you, that’s certainly a plus. And when you’re loving what you do, it shows.
Your own brand, Rainy London Translations, is a great success. How did you come up with the logo and identity? How do you raise awareness of your brand? What do you do to share it?
Well, thanks, I’m flattered! Something that really made the difference for Rainy London was first of all ‘being’ in London. It’s unbelievable how many contacts and how many more opportunities I could tap into since I relocated in 2011. And it’s priceless when someone you meet then goes ‘Oh, so it’s you behind the famous Rainy London! I’ve read all about you and I follow you on social media’. (I always blush).
The logo and identity came up after a 3-day brainstorming – the hardest part of all for everyone who is thinking about going into business and do not want to trade under their own name. I asked anyone I know and after sieving carefully between the bad and the ugly, the good came to the rescue, as in a true spaghetti Western story. By accident: rainy London was a nickname I used in the now-gone MSN Messenger chat back in 2006. In my talks I always say that you should find a direction for your business, and from there start brainstorming, to eventually come up with a suitable option. Read, watch TV, discover signs on the street, browse magazines. Inspiration can come from anything.
Brand awareness can be built by joining an association, by putting yourself forward to do things for the community of your industry or even by a savvy use of social media – you have to make sure you work towards a brand that is easily associated with you and you only. I’m still working on it but I hope we could one day use the verb ‘to rainylondon something’ as we do for Google. 🙂
You obviously spend plenty of time and energy on promoting your brand. Are you happy with your return on investment, or simply put: does it pay back?
I think that a very tricky question as it’s hard to ‘quantify’ but I will give it a go. Having a strong identity puts you ‘out there’: online, on print, etc. And when you’re good, it does give you an advantage because potentially clients can ‘find’ you before they find your competitors – it’s all about the trust in the brand. It does take time, but I never said it was easy, did I? Visibility can come in the form of blogging, article writing or even referrals and it’s a combo of those that can really work wonders. I probably got more return from social media word-of-mouth and being a part of a professional body than from just showing my qualifications. Of course, without those you don’t go far: no quality, no gain.
The next big thing you’re involved in is The Freelance Box. Can you tell us a bit more about the project?
The project came to mind because I really love people and as it happens, I love giving talks. The main underlying reason may also be that the more colleagues and aspiring translators I met over the years, the more questions I was asked about how I started or how I handled files or even organise work load. Not that I am a know-it-all so I was surprised. But it took a second for me to think ‘why not sharing my experience with a wider audience and show them it’s not so hard or complicated?’ I knew that with the right partner I could do much more, so that’s where Marta from Wantwords (thank you Val! – Marta) popped to mind. A driven, business-savvy colleague who can complement my knowledge was spot-on so in front of an espresso, we came up with The Freelance Box. TFB is a virtual space (a box) where many other small boxes can fit in the form of short courses, seminars, workshops designed for the translation and interpreting industry but not only. From basic to more advanced, we are looking into offering short or even 1-day long in-person affordable workshops to tackle every freelancers’ doubt or need for CPD, mainly focusing on the practical side of the business ie. admin, workflow, technology, finances, software. And with Fabio from Artscode and Websites for Translators also on board, we were halfway already towards a proper identity and site. The project is to be introduced today and a website is going to be live in March… so stay tuned.
What piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?
The usual: never give up, and make ‘yes, I can’ your mantra. You should be the first person who believes in you. Of course gloomy days do occur – and in Rainy London the sun is something of a gift! But try harder. It sounds like a cliché, but never underestimate the power of:
contacts – give your card to anyone, who knows who they’re married to or whether they need translations and didn’t know it yet;
politeness – because I still believe that being kind can open doors. Well, kind, not naive, but you know what I mean; and
favours – which kind of goes hand in hand with the previous point. Something that means nothing for you can mean a lot to someone else and if you’re remembered as a problem-solver, you’ll gain immediate advantage.
Try and don’t be shy: always listen to others just as you’d like to be listened to yourself. And then never stop learning: inspiration comes in many shapes.
In your opinion, what does the future of our profession look like?
Despite the crisis, machine translation advances and the typical feast-or-famine concept that every one of us freelancers is very familiar with, I believe there is still a huge market for translation and interpreting. It’s a question of niche and availability – and above all of recognition. It’s a question of niche and availability – and above all of recognition. Costs are a huge factor for businesses, of course; but while many companies are forced to cut down expenses, there are still many who do give value to quality translation. I’ve read somewhere that there’s in fact no (good or bad) quality translation but only different translation style choices, price thresholds and opportunities for different freelancers – it’s up to us to tap into them and I see how it is hard to do it. I am a convinced advocate of fair pay and professional recognition – I am an Associate member of ITI, a member of IoL, Asetrad, IAPTI – as well as a fan of being able to say ‘no’ – especially to slavery-like offers so I see a bright future in this profession provided there is recognition for the importance of what we do and how we do it. Of course, I always recommend to adopt a humble, anti-snob, ‘I-can-help’ approach because what goes around comes around.
Thank you, Valeria! You’ve been awarded our You Rock the Translation Industry Badge! Well deserved. Do you have any comments or follow up questions to Valeria? Use the space below!