Guest post by Juliana Pazetti
The translator’s life sometimes seems very lonely, a life torn between projects, exchanging emails with clients, cats (for some dogs), and the routine at home. There is rarely a real interaction between translators and clients, whether they are agencies or direct clients. Few translators will sell their service in the “field,” show potential clients they have what it takes to get the job done, what differentiates them from the rest of the market, and how they can help these potential clients.
Today, the translator works almost 100% online, and I believe most of us love it. There is no direct contact with the customer from the quiet of our home or in some cafe. Besides that, agencies often generate enough demand, even if they don’t pay the amount we consider fair. Why leave this comfort zone?
A few years ago, I attended a lecture at one of the ABRATES conventions that opened my eyes to a new perspective on my life as a translator. The speaker made a fascinating comparison between the behavior of translators and interpreters. Although this difference seems subtle, I was intrigued when he pointed out that most translators are introverts and interpreters, extroverts. At that same event, I had already noticed groups that met, hugged, spoke endearingly, and other quieter groups, much quieter, that seemed to be there simply to learn and not exactly to socialize, just like me, who always loved the “reclusive” life of a translator.
That day completely changed my whole perception of life and my career. I stopped to think about my life as a translator, the comfort of being able to work at home, without traffic, with my cat, my routine, and without knowing practically any of my clients, mostly international, and how I had settled for this social “protection.” At that time, the Brazilian market was almost at a standstill (even more so than today). Foreign clients were investing a lot less in Brazil, exchange rates were drastically falling, and demand for translations went in much the same direction. Introversion had to be put aside. I needed to search for my clients more actively.
That’s when I started a complete change in mindset. I needed to leave that comfort zone behind, stop thinking like a freelancer, and start thinking like a businesswoman. After all, I already opened a company that was able to issue notas fiscais (invoices) to Brazilian agencies and the few direct clients I already had. I already had a business website (though without any updates or attention given to it), but what did I need to do to market my business more professionally? Would I have costs for office space? Would I need employees? Would I need to have multiple software licenses?
There was no demand for those yet. That was not the time. I could very well have a solid business, even working from a home office.
With that in mind, I thought of two critical factors: although I didn’t have high fixed costs, I needed to create effective internal processes and partnerships. That’s when I started doing research. I read a lot of content from Corinne McKay’s and Marta Stelmaszak’s websites to better understand the translation business and marketing. I changed my company brand and created a more professional layout for my work orders and invoices. I stopped sending the value of my quotes in the body of an email and started sending them on letterhead in PDF format. I created internal processes. I started looking for partner translators who could help me with a possible increase in demand and to assist with clients looking for translations from peers with whom I don’t work, and more.
After all of this work began, I still had agency demand (which was falling sharply due to the crisis), and even with all of that work, direct clients still made up a small fraction of my revenue. I still had difficulty selling my services, showing the value of the professional translator, and my differential, my ideals, and then I thought back to the lecture. I’m an introvert, yes, but I can change that, right?
I went to work on this “difficulty” of mine (as well as others I had identified during this process) to get out of my comfort zone and overcome the barriers that I alone had created. I worked on this change of mindset effectively, set personal goals, and came to see the crisis we are going through as an opportunity to change not only my career but my life as well.
Today, after this long and rewarding process, I have my company established, I work with clients and potential direct clients in a much more intense and organized manner. I exponentially expanded my partnerships with other translators as my direct client base increased from 20% to 75% of my total number of active clients (about 40% of the company’s revenue). I am happy to keep up my work with translation agencies, which I always learn a lot from, and am delighted to do so. With all of this, I still managed to get through the political and economic crisis while increasing the credibility and revenue of my business.
Looking back, I see that all of this change was possible only because I recognized my limitations and sought to change. I sought quality partners not only in the area of translation, but also small- and medium-sized entrepreneurs looking for partnerships and interested in exchanging information, experience, and knowledge. I sought to specialize in areas that were not my expertise to attract more customers and make my business more visible. It’s not a quick or simple change, but it was my option to overcome the difficulties I was facing and change the outlook I had on my work.
Juliana Filippini Pazetti
Juliana was born and raised in Sao Paulo, a cosmopolitan city full of culture and information. She also lived in Rio de Janeiro, London, and Florence. She has a degree in business administration, specializing in finance, and a graduate degree in translation. Although she started her career in business management, she migrated to technical translation work 12 years ago. Seven years ago, Juliana founded Pazetti Language Consulting, a boutique business agency specializing in finance, marketing, and engineering.
This article was originally written in Portuguese.
Feature image by Pixabay