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