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 Tess Whitty from Sweden.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I will try to tell you things that are not mentioned in my regular online profiles and on my websites. I am an English-Swedish freelance translator living in the mountains in the Wild West, visiting the Stockholm archipelago as often as I can. I am married to an American and a mother of two teenagers (fascinating and challenging for sure). I love my job and my profession and share my love of it whenever I can through my involvement in American Translators Association as a grader and a committee chair for local chapters and groups, and through presentations, online and offline training and of course through my podcast. In my training and presentations I combine my background in international marketing with my profession and share marketing tips for freelance translators. When I am not translating I love to travel, primarily with my family, but also on my own. I also love nature and fascinating cities. I relax and keep my sanity by doing yoga and reading.
How did you decide to become a translator?
I did not decide to become a translator; this profession truly found me. I have always loved learning languages and writing, and when growing up I knew I wanted to do something international. Many people who knew me suggested journalism, but I ended up studying international marketing and six languages. When I moved to the United States with my husband, toddler and expecting our second child, I knew I wanted to find a job where I could spend as much time with my children as possible. Someone suggested I should consider translation and after doing some research I decided to give it a try. It was the perfect time to learn about the profession, since I could develop my new career as my children were also developing, and I have never looked back.
What are good or bad things about freelancing?
Many have mentioned these things already, and both the good and the bad have the same answer: liberty and flexibility. In order to enjoy the liberty and flexibility you also have to be dedicated, organized and hard working so that you are not subject to uncertainty and insecurity.
In self-marketing, which factors have helped out the most so far?
Here I think that my educational and professional background in marketing has helped me a lot, but I have social media and the Internet to thank for most of my best customers.
Which of the social networks do you use most successfully for customer acquisition, which ones more for interaction with others in your industry?
My website is my best tool for marketing to clients and I use it as my hub for all my marketing. I am happy to say that some of my best direct clients have found me instead of me finding them, mostly through my website and with the help of search engine optimization. But to recommend a social network that is valuable for finding customers, I would say LinkedIn. Other social media I use are Twitter (I have not explored customer marketing to its fullest potential through Twitter yet), Facebook and Google+. These I use mostly for interaction with peers and colleagues in the industry. However, we should not underestimate recommendations from colleagues as a marketing tool, and here these tools are invaluable to build the “like, know and trust” factor with colleagues I cannot necessarily meet in person.
In your work with clients and partners, what are you doing differently today in comparison to the early phase of your career?
After working as a freelance translator for over 10 years, I have learned a lot and have been able to develop my business gradually. The most important difference is that these days I try to only work with clients where there is mutual respect, with projects I truly enjoy. These days I am able to weed out clients and projects that do not fit this description. As a beginner freelancer I took on all the jobs that came in and was happy as long as I had work. These days I’d rather work on marketing and other things than on a project that I do not enjoy.
Which online and offline resources do you read on a regular basis?
I read Swedish newspapers online and many blogs within the industry. It is hard to single out particular ones. I have also started listening to books and podcasts more, since my available time to read has diminished. Most of my resources are online resources, but when relaxing, there is nothing better than a good book in paper format.
How does your average working day look like?
I get up early to check email since I have quite a few European clients that are eight time zones ahead of me. I try to start every work day with doing something to further my career or something I enjoy workwise. This can be to research or contact a new client, record a podcast or write something. I have noticed that I am happier in my work if I do these things first. These days, I try to work only when the kids are in school, and after 4 pm it is time to be a mother and a wife and to get my exercise in. However, as a freelancer the days can vary a lot and sometimes I do errands in the day or go for a hike, ride or such and then I work at night instead. Deadlines are also a deciding factor for how much and how long I work and my schedule changes drastically when the kids are off from school.
If you could change something in your work environment, what would it be?
I would like to work in a bigger and more international city, where it is easier to meet direct clients and colleagues. I do enjoy the mountains, but know that my possibilities would be much better in a big city. I also dream of working from a place where I can look out over the ocean.
Are you a desk person or more of a mobile worker?
I am both. I prefer to do certain tasks that require a lot of concentration, such as writing or proofreading and editing in my home office, where I can close the door and focus. Other times I enjoy working from a café where I can surround myself with other people and still be working. I think I would enjoy a co-working office, but there are none available at this time where I currently live. I also travel quite a bit and then I work from wherever I can and my laptop is my best friend. I also love my smart phone, which enables me to check emails while on the go.
What are CAT tools missing today, how would you envision the CAT tool of your dreams?
I honestly think that modern CAT tools are very good. Earlier I might have said that they lack interoperability, and that it would be nice to use whichever CAT-tool we like and not be restricted to the one a certain agency preferred, but this has improved a lot lately. Perhaps the possibility to add your own dictionaries and grammar rules could be improved a bit more.
What would you pass on as personal advice to translators new to the industry?
Read the books for freelance translators that are out there. I recommend my favorites on my website www.marketingtipsfortranslators.com. The books have invaluable tips for both new and experienced freelance translators. Other than that, I would recommend focusing on marketing to clients you would like to work with, specialize from the start, and do not let the price pressure from some agencies get to you so you start out too low when it comes to your prices. Focus on training and continuing education to improve both your translation skills and business skills. I could go on, but will do a little private marketing here and refer you to my new hub with marketing tips for translators for more tips: www.marketingtipsfortranslators.com.