Risks and Rewards

As the end of the year approaches (time flies, doesn't it?) we wanted to discuss, very briefly, something that is near and dear to every entrepreneur's heart: risk. You can't be an entrepreneur and move your business forward without taking any risks, but oftentimes we see ourselves as linguists first and entrepreneurs second, and we've always proposed doing it the other way around. Now, what kind of risks are we talking about here? Allow us to elaborate.


  • New clients. While keeping the status quo is always easier and a lot less work, sometimes you might have to take a risk to get better clients if you don't already have them. This might be risky because you'd invest time looking for better clients than taking work from, say, lower-paying clients (the safe bet), but in order to get better clients, this is a risk you need to take. You won't get better clients (and you can define "better" in a variety of ways) just by wishing for them. There's always a downside to risk, but there's also a downside to not taking it.
  • Investments. At some point in your career you will have to make relatively small investments to further your business. We are in the lucky position that we have no hard labor costs, no offices, no expensive capital investments, etc., but there will be some things you need, such as specialized software or perhaps a public relations service to increase your company's profile. You don't always know ahead of time if these small or large expenses will work out for you, because unfortunately you don't have a crystal ball, but there's only one way to find out.
  • Networking. This may seem like a small issue, but oftentimes we hear of linguists who don't want to take time away from a busy work schedule to carve out time for networking and meeting new people. It might seem counterintuitive to give up paid work to head to an event that might or might not result in new clients, but continuous client acquisition is something you always have to do. The risk here is relatively low, and all you'd be potentially giving up is a few hours of work, but thanks to the nature of our work, you might be able to make up those hours after you return home.
ONe of our main points here is: if you don't like something in your business, you need to work on changing it. Complaining to your colleagues about it might be therapeutic in the short run, but it doesn't change your situation. So go ahead, take baby steps and take a small risk today. We hope it works out -- but not all of it will, which is just the nature of risk. Best of luck!

Job Posting: In-House at Epic (German)

Today's brief blog post is a job announcement that we received because the company in question, Epic, was asking if Judy would be interested in applying. As you might expect, we are not looking to transition from business owners to in-house translators, but there are many advantages to working in-house (been there, done that). First and foremost: a steady paycheck and benefits. Full disclosure: we have absolutely no ties to Epic (a leading healthcare software company), and we are posting this job announcement here for them as a courtesy in the hopes that readers of this blog will perhaps find it interesting. We'd love to know if you applied for the job and/or get it. Please keep us posted! These positions are located in Madison, Wisconsin.

Here are the details:

We're hiring a team of full-time in-house German translators at Epic (all will be based in Madison, WI). 


Here’s a little more about working at Epic and info on the German Translation openings

Should You Wear a Suit?

Happy Friday, dear colleagues! Today's quick post is meant for interpreters, especially court interpreters, and the answer to this very simple question should be: yes.

We put on suits for you. Photo by Ulf Buchholz.
Oftentimes in our profession we battle with the fact that we might not be perceived as true professionals by others, which is disheartening. However, we haven't always done ourselves a favor by not sticking to some basic rules of business, and one of them is professional dress. We've seen plenty of underdressed court interpreters, or interpreters who reveal too much, or interpreters who wear clothes that are too tight or simply inappropiate for professional situations. One of the ways we can ensure that outsides to the industry take our profession seriously is by dressing professionally--we have to advance the industry from the inside out. And dressing professionally is something that we can very easily do. You don't have to spend a fortune to look good, and just get a few suits that fit well and have "court" written all over them. In fact, you do want to get mistaken for an attorney, as that is usually a good sign (Judy gets addressed as "counsel" at least once a day).

So what say you, dear colleagues? How about we advocate for the professionalism and importance of our industry without having to say a word? Clothes might sound trite in the big scheme of things, but they are key and also very much contribute to first (and second, and third) impressions. So the next time you ask yourself the "Should I wear a suit question?" we have an answer for you: yes, put on that suit and go interpret and conquer. Save the comfy outfits for home and the tight and revealing choices for a night on the town.

We'd love to hear your comments.

Celebrating Each Other: Happy International Translation Day

Congratulations to all our lovely friends and colleagues around the world! September 30 is International Translation Day, and we celebrate St. Jerome, but of course that includes interpreters as well.

Instead of announcing some cool new conference or celebration, may we suggest we all do something very simple to strengthen our community and our profession? It goes like this:

1.) Find a colleague who happens to be in your city permanently or on business/vacation. Pick someone you have never met before or someone you don't know well.
2.) Drop him or her an e-mail (or call!) and extend an invitation. It can be for coffee, for dinner, for drinks--whatever works. 
3.) Meet up, enjoy, and network! You will have probably made a new friend, and if not, a new colleague. There's nothing quite like breaking bread, sharing a glass of wine, or just talking with someone you don't know well (yet), but who is in your same industry.

Judy has started with this and has invited a lovely colleague who's visiting from Argentina to stay at her house for a few days--it should be a lot of fun.

What do you think, dear colleagues? Will you join us in celebrating our profession and each other?

Let's Talk About Rates

Image created on www.canva.com
Our lovely colleague Jo Rourke of Silver Tongue Translations in the UK is hosting a live chat to discuss something that's very near and dear to all translators' hearts: rates

It's oftentimes not discussed enough, mainly due to restrictions on doing so (price fixing), but these are important conversations to be had, especially for newcomers to the profession. The live chat is completely free, but is limited to the first 100 linguists who sign up. It will also feature some give-aways! Here's the link. There's even a cool video! Please join Jo for this awesome-sounding event on Wednesday, October 5th at 8 p.m. London time, which is 12 pm Pacific and 3 pm Eastern here in the U.S. We just signed up ourselves.


Business Pitfalls: The Trouble With E-Mail

It's Labor Day here in the U.S., and while we are not working that much today, we wanted to leave you, dear readers, with a brief post about business practices.

For better or for worse, the vast majority of business communication most of us do is via e-mail, and while as translators we know that the written medium is a fantastic choice for many things, it also has myriad limitations. People could read things into it that you did not mean, the tone can come across differently than you intended it to (especially if you have a quirky writing style and the other person does not know you well), you can come across as too direct or not direct enough, etc. In spoken communication, especially when we are actually looking at each other, things are easier because non-verbal communication is an essential part of communication that makes it easy for humans to decipher the other's intent by evaluating tone, body language, pitch of voice, etc. We don't have that in written communication, and we need to be aware of this fact. By that we don't mean adding emoticons to business e-mails (we actually highly discourage you from doing so), but we mean that you should be very careful about what you put in writing.

We recently worked on a large legal case that included a government subpoena and some 1.1 million e-mails, and we bet that none of the people who wrote those e-mails ever expected anyone other than the recipient to read them--this in spite of the well-known fact that e-mail is never truly private. We think it's essential to keep in mind that you should never put anything in writing that you wouldn't feel comfortable seeing on the front page of the newspaper the next morning. This is a little internal test that we use quite frequently, and it works for us.  Here are a few other e-mail tips you might find useful:

  • Don't send e-mails when you are angry. It's fine to write them, but just don't hit the "send" button until you have let some time pass. Let the message sit for a few hours or a few days (as long as it's not urgent), and come back to it later. Keep in mind that you usually can't take back what you have written, so think before hitting "send."
  • Have someone give you a sanity check. For very important communication via e-mail, we look over each other's e-mail to make sure the tone is right. It's good to have someone double-check your messages, especially if you have any doubt about whether what you are writing is appropiate. Of course you shouldn't need to do this very frequently, but probably just a few times a year or so.
  • If you have any doubt about whether you should send the message or not, don't send it. Your instincts are probably good, so delete the message and start over.
  • Be brief. Judy has a tendency to write e-mails that are too long for everyone, so she's worked hard on changing that, and has also tried to learn from her lawyer husband who's fantastic at writing succinct messages. Read through the message again before sending it and see if you can strip out unnecessary sections. It's a sign of good writing, and your e-mails are also more likely to be read that way.
What about you, dear colleagues and readers? Is there anything you would like to add to this non-exhaustive list? We look forward to reading your comments. 

ATA Annual Conference: Advanced Skills & Training Day

Time flies, doesn't it? Our favorite week of the year is almost around the corner, and readers of this blog will know that we are talking about the annual conference of the American Translators Association (ATA). This will be the 57th conference (amazing, huh?) held in gorgeous San Francisco, and as the organization is constantly striving to improve the conference, there's something somewhat new this year. 

What used to be the pre-conference is now a full day of three-hour courses taught by the most popular ATA speakers and it's called Advanced Skills & Training Day. This year it will be held on November 2, and Judy is delighted to have been invited to present a three-hour session titled "Seven Ways to Actively Market to Direct Clients." It runs from 8:30 am to 12 pm and includes a networking break. The session is language neutral and is limited to 25 participants. You will learn how to create a strategy to find those elusive direct clients and how to keep them happy. Come prepared to learn innovative client acquisition techniques you may not yet have thought of. 

Other fantastic sessions include:

These sessions are $150 each and are in addition to your ATA conference registration. Caveat: the ATA requires that attendees sign up for the entire conference in order to be able to attend AST, you must sign up for the entire conference. See you in San Francisco, dear friends and colleagues?

Tuesday Laughs: Voice Recognition Meets Scottish Accent

Happy Tuesday, dear readers! We know there's a lot happening in the world of voice recognition, and here's a humurous take on it. Many thanks to our lovely colleague Willy Martínez in Argentina for sending us this gem. Enjoy!

Packing Technique: Carry-On Only

Both of us travel quite a bit for both work and for fun, but mostly it seems that we are on the road for work these days. Judy greatly prefers to travel with carry-on only, and most her trips involves getting on an airplane, while Dagy takes a lot of trains in Europe. In the last eight weeks, we've been to: Mexico City, Boston, Reno/Tahoe, Vegas (for Dagy, as Judy lives here), Houston, and Washington, D.C.

Judy's masterpiece in Washington, D.C.
A few years ago, we learned a very easy packing technique that we cannot live without: the rolling packing technique. It involves rolling all your clothes because it allows you to fit an extraordinary amount of clothes into a carry-on. Typically, we are able to fit all of this into our trusted carry-on using this techinique:


  • Up to 5 dresses and/or skirts (summer dresses; winter is an entirely different issue)
  • One business suit (we don't roll the jacket and rather fold it on the very top; can get a bit wrinkly)
  • Up to 6 tops (short-sleeved or without sleeves)
  • Running shoes, pair of dress heels for work, flip-flops
  • Packing cube with underwear, scarves, socks, etc.
  • Packing cube with laptop charger cables, other chargers, etc.
  • Laptop (oftentimes we have to fit the laptop in our rolling carry-on because otherwise, with a laptop bag and a purse, we'd have three carry-ons, which is one too many)
There's no way we would be able to fit this much without the rolling packing technique and yes, the right carry-on (here's our recent favorite). We don't have an elaborate technique for folding and then rolling--we just wing it (but there are plenty of experts on YouTube who will show you exactly how to do it). Check out this video about the rolling technique. We also like this packing guide

What about you, dear colleagues? Any travel secrets you would like to share?  

Interpreting and Flying: The Connection

At the tiny airport in Ixtapa, Mexico. Photo by Judy.
Today's quick post is about two of our favorite things: interpreting and flying. Yes, we love to fly, and we fly a lot. Neither of us knows how to fly a plane, even though Judy's recent Google searches include "private pilot classes in Las Vegas." We've often thought about the similarities between interpreting and flying, and if you think that's a stretch, hear us out.

Once the plane--no matter how big or small, a Cessna, a C-130, a Boeing 737 or anything in between--is in the air, there's only one way to bring it down safely: by landing the thing. The same is true for interpreting: once the microphone has been switched on, or you have simply started interpreting without equipment, the plane has left the runway and you have to keep on going. There's no turning back in interpreting, and only one way to land the proverbial plane: by finishing the job that you have started. Again, we've never flown a plane, but we've been inside thousands of them, and in a way, we bet the adrenaline one must feel getting behind those controls is not that different from a high-profile (or not) interpreting assignment. Something we've learned along the way, while interpreting at international events, for presidents, CEOs, judges, lawyers, doctors, defendants, diplomats and everyone in between, is that starting an interpreting job means needing to finish it, no matter how scary or difficult the assignment is. The same is true for flying: the landing might not always be pretty or smooth, but you have to do it to complete the job and keep everyone safe. 

If you are a new interpreter and are trying to get used to landing the plane, we'd like to suggest that you train your brain to keep on going by forcing yourself to interpret every video and audio file you have clicked on. Keep on going, even if it doesn't feel great and it's not a great "flight." It's important to get used to the fact that you have to keep on going, no matter what. If you are lucky enough to work in formal conference interpreting situations, you will have a co-pilot, err, booth partner, to come rescue you, but in all other interpreting scenarios (legal, medical, community), you usually don't. Happy interpreting and flying! 
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The entrepreneurial linguists and translating twins blog about the business of translation from Las Vegas and Vienna.

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