Professional subjects from a personal perspective

Specialisation according to Ewa Erdmann

This week’s interviewee is Ewa Erdmann, an English-Polish translator and interpreter based in Dorset, England.

Ewa Erdmann, English-Polish translator and interpreter

Here are Ewa’s thoughts on specialising:

Why do you specialise? What are the benefits and drawbacks of this approach?
Specialisation allows me to be seen as an expert in translation of specific fields, which in my case are law and marketing. Many of my colleagues take similar approach and specialise in up to three areas they are experts in. If communicated correctly, this practice attracts clients that operate in those fields, which gives me plenty of joy, since these are the projects I aim to receive. I constantly develop and work on my knowledge of the areas I chose as my specialisations, which means that when I receive a project, it will be a job well done. You can’t really be good at translating everything, so it is reasonable to focus on a few specialisations and excel at them. The only drawback I can think of is probably that when choosing just a few specialisations, you lose projects in other fields, but then you can turn this into a positive by recommending other colleagues who work in this particular area. This way, you probably won’t lose the client and you may be recommended in reciprocation.

Do you feel that marketing yourself as a specialist allows you to charge higher rates?
Yes, by all means. Since you will be seen as an expert in a particular field, you are allowed to charge your client an “expert’s rate”.

How and why did you select your specialist field(s)?
In my case, it was initially passion that lead to pursuing academic education and experience in my chosen fields. My main specialisations are legal and marketing translations. I am fascinated with both of them, especially from linguistic point of view, and this is the main reason why I enjoy translating legal documents and marketing texts such as website content, company and product descriptions, press releases, etc.

How would you go about adding another specialist area?
I would probably take on a university course or decide on one organised by Coursea. Otherwise, I would just read a lot and try to self-educate to the highest level possible enabling me to create flawless translations.

Colleague profile:
Ewa Erdmann (Transliteria) is an English-Polish translator and interpreter specialising in law and marketing. She is also a journalist for a Polish magazine MagazynPl issued in the UK. Ewa has an academic background in law, experience in marketing and a passion for languages. Always open-minded and enthusiastic about translation – this is what she does best.

Find Ewa on her website, Twitter and Facebook.

Specialisation according to Nicole Y. Adams

It’s here! Welcome to the first post in my new interview series. Earlier this year, I started to gather advice and information about specialising from colleagues and now I’m ready to share it with you. Enjoy!

The first of my interviewees is a colleague who has forged a great career out of her expert knowledge in distinct areas.

Nicole Y Adams, German-English matketing, corporate communications and public relations translator

Say hello to Nicole, who translates between German and English in the fields of marketing, corporate communications and public relations from Brisbane, Australia.

Here are her thoughts on specialising:

Why do you specialise? What are the benefits and drawbacks of this approach?
You know how the saying goes: Jack of all trades, master of none. First, I don’t believe that generalists will be able to survive in this day and age. Delivering ‘quality translations’ and a ‘professional service’ are no longer enough to distinguish ourselves from the competition in this crowded market. They are a given. So to stand out, we need to specialise and make a name for ourselves in a very distinct niche. As a result, you’ll

a) only translate projects you’re genuinely interested in and that you enjoy,

b) translate a lot faster and thus earn more money, and

c) be able to charge higher rates because you are presenting yourself as an expert in a particular field rather than just a generalist who only translates in this area every once in a while.

Of course, specialising means turning away clients and turning down jobs – a lot of them! – which can be quite scary initially. But I’d rather turn down a project and lose out on a few dollars than spend an age trying to do a job that’s not within my areas of expertise and then potentially deliver a sub-standard product. It’s just not worth it.

Do you feel that marketing yourself as a marketing and PR specialist allows you to charge higher rates?
Absolutely. Clients are definitely more willing to pay good rates if they feel they are getting value for money. And an expert in a specific area is more likely to provide such value than someone who doesn’t specialise. If you needed a root canal treatment tomorrow, would you go to a specialist who does nothing but root canals all day long, although it may be a little bit more expensive, or would you choose a general dentist who only does one of them every couple of months? I certainly know who I’d choose!

How and why did you select your specialist field(s)?
When I first started out as a freelance translator, I made the classic beginner’s mistake: I took on work in all kinds of areas and even struggled through the odd technical text. Needless to say, I worked out pretty quickly which types of text I enjoy and which ones I’m not too keen on. I used to work in-house as a marketing assistant for a short period of time and always had an interest in marketing, and I realised that I really enjoy translating company magazines, marketing copy, presentations and press releases. Over time, as my confidence and experience increased, I started to take on more and more assignments in these areas and declined more and more translations that didn’t fit the bill. In addition, I completed a diploma in marketing communications and became a public relations consultant via distance learning to acquire the necessary theoretical background as well. These certifications, coupled with my increasing practical experience, allowed me to narrow down my areas of specialisation more and more, making my work so much more enjoyable (and profitable).

How would you go about adding another specialist area?
I don’t think I’d add another specialist area any time soon because I believe two to three is just the right number. But with all the CPD available for translators these days, and all the distance learning courses and webinars we can choose from today, I’d start by learning more about the subject in question to understand the theory, and at the same time I’d start practising by translating a lot of relevant texts in my spare time and then have them checked by an expert in that field to get some expert feedback. This would also give me an idea if the subject really suits me or not.

Colleague profile:
Nicole Y. Adams runs NYA Communications, offering translations between German and English, language consultancy, translation workshops and mentoring sessions. Translation-wise, she specialises in marketing, PR and communications.

NYA Communications website:
Twitter: @NYAcomm

Tools for planning

Following on from my last post about getting back into the swing of things, I’m now at the planning stage.


Last week, I sat down with a mid-morning snack and asked myself a series of questions:

What am I going to do with my time (after finishing my Master’s degree) until I have a full schedule?

What new skills can I learn?

What existing knowledge can I build on?

Where do I want to be?

And, most importantly:

How can I get there?


So what tools are out there to help you map out your ideas?


Free, but pretty basic.


Free and paid options, depending on your intended usage.


Generally used for presentations, but it can be a great visual tool for brainstorming. If you want to try it out, here’s a handy template for using Prezi as a mind mapping device.


Want something a little different?

*Good ol’ pen and paper

There’s a lot to be said for online tools, but I do love to map out my ideas by hand. I learn best by seeing and/or doing, plus I love an excuse to dust off my coloured pens…

I also love this free printable brainstorm sheet:

Free printable brainstorming sheet via

Free printable brainstorming sheet via

What’s your favourite way to organise your ideas?

Back in business!

Hello, blogosphere! It’s been a while.

Those of you not following me on Twitter or Facebook might have wondered if I’d disappeared, so I thought I’d briefly explain what I’ve been up to recently. Those of you who do, I apologise!


*Submitting my final MA assignment

Speech Marks Translation - MA in Translation

For the past two years, I have been completing a Master’s in Translation on a part-time basis. As I’m sure many of you know from personal experience, mixing studying and starting a business is a serious undertaking, and I’m really relieved to have it finished. The first 18 months of the course was not too demanding in terms of time, but the past few months have involved self-directed research, extended translations and commentaries, which have had much more of an impact on my professional life. Now I can focus more of my time and energy on building up my business, which is still pretty young, and having some kind of a social life!

*Professional development

Since ITI first announced its plans for a new membership structure, I have been considering applying for MITI status. I sent off my application a short time ago and will be doing the exam before the end of the year. If you want to know more about the membership categories of ITI, take a look at this guide. For more information about taking the exam, Rose Newell and Emma Goldsmith have written about their experiences in great detail.


After all of this excitement (!), I’m taking a few days to carefully map out my plans for the rest of 2013 and beyond:

Speech Marks Translation - business plan for the rest of 2013

*Drumming up business

Being out of action for a while means that my earnings have taken a bit of a hit recently. The day after I gave my final piece of work in, I started contacting my clients to let them know that I’m available again. Finishing my course has energised me and renewed my excitement about growing this little business. From next week, I’ll be reaching out to new potential clients, based on the excellent advice in Marta Stelmaszak’s recent posts on market research (1, 2, 3 and 4).

*Strengthening local contacts

Now that I have more time, I am making a big effort to connect with other local businesses, both online and face-to-face. Although I live in a pretty rural area, there are lots of local networks and I look forward to playing a more active role in them, particularly the Inspire Herefordshire network, which I joined earlier this year.

*New blog series

You’ll be hearing from me more often again here, as I have a new series of posts on specialisations. Although, calling it ‘new’ is a bit misleading – I have had the mini interviews ready for quite a while now! Look out for the posts.

So what have I missed over the last few months? Let me know of any recent posts/articles/discussions in the comments!