Learn from somebody who has been there and done that - Interview with Nicole Rodrigues
Welcome to a new entry of our series of interviews with translators from all over the globe. Translation is a very diverse industry – we want to introduce some of the people behind making the world a more multilingual place. This episode is an interview with Nicole Rodrigues from Brazil.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am a 31-year-old Brazilian citizen who has been living abroad (Sweden, Scotland and now Ireland) for 6 years. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Advertising and I have also studied Literature and Translation. I have been working as an English to Brazilian Portuguese translator since 2008 and I am specialized in transcreation of advertising campaigns and localization of mobile apps and user interfaces.
How did you decide to become a translator?
I moved to Sweden in 2008 and due to the lack of job opportunities – I could not speak Swedish, and it would take me a long time to learn it well enough to work there – I decided to invest in my English language skills and learn how to translate so that I could offer my services online. I had studied English for over 10 years in Brazil and was giving English lessons prior to moving out of the country. So I had the language proficiency but did not know much about the industry and translation techniques. I decided to learn everything I could about it and to become a translator. After almost a year of immersing myself in books, blogs, courses and online resources, I felt ready to start offering my services in a few areas related to my academic background.
What are good or bad things about freelancing?
The main good thing for me was always the possibility of controlling my working hours according to my physical or emotional disposition. The financial demands were always taken into consideration as well, but I always loved the idea of being able to choose the time of day when I have more energy to work. The chance to choose the projects I was going to work on so that I could actually enjoy them also appealed a lot to me. On the other hand, not knowing how much work or money I would have at the end of each month led me to experience a huge amount of stress. I started my own company, managed to find a handful of great direct clients and to pay my bills and my taxes properly, but it took the life out of me. When you are a freelance translator and you have your own business you have to run everything yourself. Everything from sending CVs, requesting reference letters and continuous professional development, to prospecting clients, managing clients, providing quotations, translating and delivering files and sending invoices. Often we don’t have the money to pay an assistant or a proofreader – although I strove to ensure I always had the latter – so we end up doing everything ourselves and it takes so much time, effort and energy that it can take its toll.
In self-marketing, which factors have helped out the most so far?
Getting my first reference letters and creating my online portfolio – a blog where I curate and share content about translation, transcreation and linguistics – were the two factors that changed many things for me. Both boosted my confidence, made me believe that I was actually doing a good job as a translator and granted me more visibility in my language pair.
Which of the social networks do you use most successfully for customer acquisition, which ones more for interaction with others in your industry?
LinkedIn is the social media where I got most clients. It took me over two years to build a solid profile with finely tailored and significant content showcasing my work experience, but after engaging in several relevant groups and even creating some of them, direct clients started to find me there and my career took off. When it comes to interaction, Twitter has proved to be the best platform for me. There I had the privilege to interact with clients, fellow translators and with authors of books and blogs about translation, whom I admire a lot. If used well, it can be a game changer in terms of networking.
In your work with clients and partners, what are you doing differently today in comparison to the early phase of your career?
It is a bit hard to say, because now I am on a different path. Last year I found myself working up to 14 hours a day with very little time or energy to do anything else but to work. I was not happy at all and I had lost all the enthusiasm for my career. I just reached a point where I needed a big change. It was time choose: to expand my own business, to hire an assistant, to find a business partner to share the big translation clients I was managing alone, or to find an in-house job and experiment with a life-style where salary and working hours are more defined. I applied for three jobs I was interested in and got one of them. Now I am a Community Manager at Google. I moved to Ireland and started over earlier this year. There I am responsible for managing online communities of users of Google products in Portuguese markets. I don’t work directly with translation anymore, but I get to work with both my languages, English and Portuguese, on a daily basis. I also use everything I learned running my own business in this new job and that made me realize how many skills are necessary to make a living as a translator. This realization only increased my respect for this profession and I am so grateful for the things I had to learn to become a translator, which, if needed, can be transferred to so many other working areas.
Where do you find inspiration for your blog?
Everywhere. I am a very curious person. Always have been. And for every subject that ever interested me deeply I created a blog. I have six blogs. And one of them is about translation. Creating a blog became a way to register my path as an explorer of the things I am interested in. So every time I come across something that is somehow connected to these subjects, they end up in my blogs. It is a seamless, continuous and organic process. I don’t really need to stop what I am doing and search for content so that I have something to post. I just have to go on doing, reading and keeping an eye on the things I like, and I will find the content. Then I store it all in a folder in my computer and, whenever I have the chance, I combine, filter and comment on this content in my blog.
Which online and offline resources do you read on a regular basis?
I love books. Paper books. So I am always on the lookout for new books on the matter and I share all the ones I have read and that I would like to read, in the library section of my blog.
I am also equally passionate about blogs, so I read many blogs about translation. There is something very special about learning from people who are actually doing this job and sharing their real-life experience with us, instead of getting stuck only reading translation theory – which, no doubt, can be helpful too, but only when it comes to translation itself and not so much on the task of running your own business as a translator. Some of my favorites are: Guia do Tradutor by Fabio Said; Thoughts on Translation by Corinne McKay; Translation Times by Judy and Dagmar Jenner; and The Tool Box Journal by Jost Zetsche. And for fun (which is just as important) I visit Mox’s blog by Alejandro Moreno-Ramos.
Are you a desk person or more of a mobile worker?
I am definitely a desk person. If I am blogging or reading my Twitter feeds or favorite blogs, I can do it in bed or on the sofa, no problem. But if I have to write, proofread or translate anything, you will always find me at my desk.
What are CAT tools missing today, how would you envision the CAT tool of your dreams?
I am the last person on Earth to talk about CAT Tools. I never really got to use them. I used Poedit for two-and-a-half years when I was working mainly with string files, but that was pretty much it. My work was mostly in creative areas, such as advertising, so I never really had to use or master CAT tools. The level of repetition was always very small in the texts. It was all about slogans, tagline, punchlines, metaphors… You could work with the same client for years and never get the same sentence twice in a text.
When I started working with IT texts this changed, of course, but I managed to find direct clients who did not force any CAT tools on me. As long as I could define and maintain the terminology throughout the job, they would be happy. I always started the jobs by creating glossaries, even if the client did not request one, and I would work hard to keep track of it. It is interesting to notice that, at least for me, the pressure to use CAT tools only came from translation agencies. Once I started working mainly with direct clients in 2011, they would not request any CAT tools. Sometimes they would ask about it, but if I said I did not work with them and that I needed the file in a different format, they would simply get back to me later on the same day with the new version, because they would be more interested in my experience as a translator and the quality of my work and not in repetition discounts. I am sure that more technical areas present a different reality and request these tools much more often, which I completely understand. It was just not the case for me. Despite this, to be honest, in my last months as a translator last year, I was starting to feel quite bad about not mastering any CAT tool after five years working as a translator, because I would see these two words – CAT tool – everywhere. If I hadn’t changed career paths, I would probably have learned one of them by now, because this was top of my to-do list for 2014, before I got the new job. If I ever get back to translation, and I might, it will be the first thing I will do.
What would you pass on as personal advice to translators new to the industry?
I mentioned these before in an interview to the All Things Linguistic blog, but because I really think they are the best advice I could give to anyone who wants to become a translator, here they go again:
1) Find a mentor. Learn from somebody who has been there and done that. There are many people in the industry willing to share their knowledge. Take advantage of it, establish partnerships, swap favors, share resources and learn from their experiences.
2) Specialize. Don’t be a “general translator” – a translator who knows a little bit in every area but not a lot about anything. When we look for a doctor or for a lawyer, we look for a specialist. It is the same with translation. There is a big difference between translating poetry, a rental contract, a medical history or a financial report. The sooner you acknowledge this difference and search for in-depth knowledge in the areas you are passionate about, the sooner you will become a great translator.
3) Learn business skills. Knowing a second language and how to translate is definitely not enough. To survive and be successful as a freelance translator it is also important to have excellent skills in project management, relationship management and time management. It is all about entrepreneurship.