Professional subjects from a personal perspective

Specialisation according to Percy Balemans

Today’s post features a translator who is very well known for her specific areas of specialisation.

Percy Balemans, German and English to Dutch translator, specialist in creative and advertising industries

Percy Balemans specialises in the advertising and creative industries, with significant experience in fashion (living the dream, in my opinion!). Percy recently updated her interview answers, adding some excellent advice for developing specialist knowledge.

Here is Percy’s interview:

Why do you specialise? What are the benefits and drawbacks of this approach?
Although one of the fun parts of being a translator is that you get to translate texts about a wide variety of subjects, I also like delving into a subject and learning as much about it as I can. So that’s one reason I specialise. But I find it also helps me to market my services better: clients who have texts about specific subjects will look for a translator who specialises in that subject and people (clients, but also colleagues) seem to remember you better if they can associate you with a specific specialisation. I know some translators are worried that if they specialise, they will lose out on other business, but that is not my experience. Even though I focus my marketing on my areas of specialisation, I still do other jobs as well.

Do you feel that marketing yourself as a specialist allows you to charge higher rates?
I think that specialisation does allow you to charge higher rates. After all, you are able to offer clients not just translation and writing skills, but also subject and terminology knowledge. However, rates also depend on the industry you work for.

How and why did you select your specialist field(s)?
To be honest, I didn’t really choose them, I ended up translating in these fields and liked them! A couple of years ago I was asked by an advertising agency to do a couple of small transcreation jobs for them. I enjoyed doing them and they were happy with my work and the rest is history. One of my main transcreation end clients is a high-street fashion brand, and working on their texts required quite a bit of research on the subject of fashion, so that led me to specialise in that field as well.

How would you go about adding another specialist area?
I would definitely pick a subject I am interested in. I don’t really believe in choosing a subject just because there is a high demand for it; you are going to spend a lot of time studying the subject, so you’d better find something that interests you!

I’m not sure there is one way to go about specialising, I think it very much depends on the subject and the kind of information and resources that are available for the subject. Just to give you an idea: when I decided that I wanted to specialise in fashion, I first started reading fashion magazines, both in my source languages and my native language. This helped me keep up to date with the latest news and trends and with the writing style and terminology used. I also started looking for books on fashion: by now I have a small collection ranging from fashion dictionaries to books on fashion history and biographies of influential people in the fashion world. Another great way to delve deeper into this particular subject is visiting museums: there are several museums in the Netherlands (the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague and the Groninger Museum in Groningen) and in the UK (the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and the Fashion Museum in Bath) which have excellent fashion collections (and great bookshops!) and regularly organise fashion exhibitions. I was also lucky to find an evening class on fashion history which was taught in my area and which turned out to be very useful and a lot of fun. Finally, last month I attended my first fashion conference, a one-day event in Antwerp organised by the Flanders Fashion Institute featuring fashion journalists, fashion designers and other influential names from the world of fashion who gave their views on the future of the fashion industry. It was a very interesting event and a great way to test my knowledge and get more in touch with the fashion business.

Percy Balemans:
Percy is an English-Dutch/German-Dutch translator specialising in advertising (transcreation) and creative translations, mainly on the subjects of fashion, art and travel and tourism. Visit her website for more information: