Hello, Nicole. Many thanks for taking the time for this interview. First off, how did you get into German translation?
Hi, Joanna. First of all, many thanks for inviting me to take part in your interview series. I appreciate it.
I've always been really into languages, but for many years I did not realise that there was such a thing as a freelance translator.
I eventually started my freelance translation business back in 2003 after noticing by chance an agency ad looking for someone to translate a short text and realizing immediately that this was what I was meant to do.
I worked hard to get established whilst still working in-house as a German/English quality manager, before taking the plunge and going full-time as a German to English translation service provider a couple of years later. Needless to say, I haven't looked back!
You are a very good example of a translator who has truly understood the importance of presenting German to English translation service in a business-like manner online. You’re also actively engaged in the online translation community, winning awards for your blogging and tweeting. Are you exceptionally active, or is this a sign of the way the industry is moving in general?
I definitely don't see myself as being particularly active on social media, and in fact I was a very late adopter. But there came a point when it was impossible to deny the obvious benefits for freelancers (or solopreneurs as I like to call us) of engaging with others on social media.
Today, even my brand of cornflakes has its own Facebook page, so it would be foolish not to be represented on the major social networks. If a potential customer can't find you on the web, you don't exist in their mind, and they'll take their business elsewhere.
Of course, networking with peers and colleagues is also a huge plus of social media. There have never been more opportunities to exchange information, arrange meetings, have discussions, share knowledge and simply have fun with colleagues than there are today.
I can't imagine sitting in my office for ten hours a day without at least briefly engaging with others on Facebook or looking for the latest industry news on Twitter.
What tips do you have for other translators trying to establish their own online presence? Is there still room in the translation blogosphere for newcomers?
Absolutely. Admittedly, a few themes are starting to become a little repetitive, but there'll always be room for fresh content and new ideas.
What is important is to make a proper social media plan before you start out. Simply setting up a blog or Facebook page and then posting only once a month will be more detrimental than useful.
Dedicate a certain amount of time to social networking
and online marketing each day, even if it's just ten minutes. You'll be
surprised how effective a dedicated burst can be!
In the end, how useful is your online activity in translator and career forums in actually getting clients for your German to English translation services? I don't know about Australia, but Austria is famous for “Vitamin B” (B = Beziehungen, i.e. word of mouth) as a means of getting business. Is this how you find your best clients?
I have found a couple of clients through social media (Twitter and Xing), but most of my best clients have come from word of mouth recommendations.
Having said that, I have received a surprising amount of business from old classmates who happened to see on my personal Facebook profile that I run a translation business and then asked me for a quote to translate their company websites or brochures.
So it definitely pays to represent yourself professionally on all channels and tell everyone, including your friends and family members, what you do for a living. You never know where your next client may come from!
Now you’re a very good example of a translator who also provides additional, related services - in your case consultancy, mentoring and training for other translators, helping them develop their own freelance German to English translation service businesses. Is there a growing demand for your services?
This is directly related to what we just said about social media.
Today new translators have so many more opportunities to look for help and find coaches or mentors, be it in person or online. Just ten years ago, these options simply didn't exist. I believe many new translators who enter the market today understand that business and marketing skills are essential if they want to survive and excel as freelance translators.
Many university courses still don't offer the right blend of skills beginners need to set up their business, so new translators increasingly make use of coaching and training opportunities.
I think this is very encouraging and should make for interesting times in the industry five years down the track. I certainly wish coaching or mentoring programmes had been available when I started out – I would have jumped at the chance!
Some of you may already recognise Nicole as the author of the excellent Little Book for Translators series, with titles on PR, marketing, social media and networking. What was the inspiration for the series? Is translator-support a new market that hasn’t yet properly been discovered and exploited?
To be completely honest, the series wasn't planned and happened more or less by accident.
I noticed that there was a gap in the market when it came to PR activities. Everyone talks about marketing and selling, but hardly anyone focuses on PR, and I think there's a big opportunity here. This was the reason for the first in the series, Little Book for Translators.
Once it was published, I thought it might be a good idea to offer bite-sized information on other subjects too, so I went ahead with the rest of the series.
We are seeing the first translator branding and translator website design specialists emerging, and I am convinced there is room for other dedicated support services for translators, such as PR services.
My interview with Nicole Y.Adams, German to English translation service provider at NYA Communications, continues here...