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Languages used to be for people that a) found their niche at school and clung onto it for dear life, b) watched Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and wanted a life behind enemy lines, c) had enough of family politics and wanted to run away or d) wanted to travel and the only way they could afford to do this was to teach English as a foreign language. Nowadays, however, the world seems to be more primed than ever for those wanting to make their love of languages a full-time thing, especially those with an entrepreneurial spirit.
The world has gone global. People are working remotely, businesses are operating in a plethora of countries and the different pockets of the globe seem to be splitting at the seams as the global population grows. Ipso facto now is the ideal time to launch your own translation agency.
Now more than ever, companies of all shapes and sizes are looking to expand and grow and engage with customers at a more localised level, which is a result of consumers wanting things to be handed to them on their terms – it is part of the microwave-slash-Netflix society we live – and a big chunk of this own-term thingy is being spoken to in their native tongue (and quite rightly too, dude).
Of course, it takes more than just buying a FreeAd with the headline “World-Class Translator For Hire” because nothing is that simple anymore. That is where we come in. Below are our top tips on how and why you should take the leap of faith and get into language translation.
- Modern Tech Is Your BFF
Once upon a time, language translation used to be as cheap as running a nuclear reactor. The research, the travel, the focus on localisation, and everything else you can think of. It was a Jackson Pollock level mess. This, however, has been shunned by the arrival of modern tech. Now, this is by no means an exhaustive list (it’s almost 2018; we know you haven’t got time for exhaustive lists), so if you want to learn more, then click that blue hyperlink. To give you the cliff notes, though, tech has made over-the-phone and remote video interpretation possible, something that boosts productivity while simultaneously reducing overheads. It’s the double-whammy all entrepreneurs want to achieve. So, if you do one thing above all others, research what tech is out there to help you be successful and then get it. No matter what it costs upfront, it will be totally worth it. Period.
- Find Your Sweet Spot
With globalisation growing faster than Donald Trump’s popularity is dropping (that’s super-fast btw), the best way to get a slice of this pie is to find your sweet spot and know which industries are investing big. A huge one right now is ecommerce. Companies are expanding their ecommerce wings into new territories, which is tougher than you may think thanks to the language barrier. That is where you come in. It could be that you find out which countries have laws associated with this kind of expansion (for example, Canada has a law that states any company with a physical address in Quebec must have a Canadian-French language option on their website), or you could specialise in translating marketing messages so that they fit local nuances or risk an embarrassing launch followed by an uphill battle. So, find your niche and make yourself the leader on that front.
- The Code Of Patience
While there is a lot of software out there already, true success is going to come from your tweaking and tailoring your own software, something that requires investment, time, understanding, patience and effort. You see, those days of employing tons of language students to go through content line by line are now done and dusted. The future is in how you code your processes and the specialization you offer. That’s the battleground these days. If you are happy to start as a solopreneur and claw your way up the hard-fought way, then you can opt for tech that is already out there. If your ambition is to become an industry leader from the get-go, then investment is paramount. Of course, getting investment in this area of business is easier than ever. Why? Simple. Because the translation industry is projected to grow to $40+ Billion by 2018. Those kind of figures are attracting big players.
- The Battle Of Convincing Clients
This is probably going to be your toughest battle as a translator, but knowing your worth and knowing how to convince clients that you are worth your price is the only way you will get paid. A saturated market means prices can be negotiated down pretty easily. This is not good. Not for you anyway. So, to counter this, you need to know how to convince your clients, and that can be done by highlighting the cost of mistranslation. We mentioned marketing nuances that could be a major financial and branding setback, but this is only part of it. Let’s say you are negotiating with a medical supplier; this is a sensitive area of business and one that could see huge legal implications arise if a translation is not absolutely spot-on. The threat of being sued is a pretty good motivator. A lot of companies have moved toward machine translations, which is surely where the future is, right? (Darn robots!). So, you need to prove that you are a better value and that human understanding can’t be replicated, not at a local level anyway.
The benefits of getting in translation are amazing. Low startup costs, the chance to work from home, technological advancements, the chance to make significant profits and, yes, the opportunity to attack some pretty large markets (legal, commercial, marketing, medical, technical editing, diplomatic interpretation etc). But there are potential challenges too – computerized translation services, acquiring certifications etc – and these are the things you need to be aware of if you want success to be the language you speak fluently. That’s the aim of the game after all.