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 Vadim Kadyrov from Ukraine.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Vadim Kadyrov (Zaporizhia, Ukraine). I am a native speaker of Russian with 10+ years of professional English/Ukrainian -> Russian translation experience in various fields, with M.A. degree in linguistics and translation studies.
Having been an amateur radio operator of a club station for almost 12 years, I have a lot of experience in electronics, electrotechnics, telecommunication as well as physics in general. And after spending 2 years at a construction site of one of steel mills in Ukraine with foreign specialists as their interpreter, I have become an expert translator in this field too (metal production, engineering practices and procedures etc.).
My experience also includes several years of extensive involvement in the IT industry as a SEO specialist and translator. DTP is another service I actively offer.
I am a proud member of RPOZ.com list of 20 top English-Russian translators in Ukraine - http://bit.ly/1cFiiwZ. I also have my own blog – http://engrutra.wordpress.com, where I regularly (well, semi-regularly) post my thoughts about the translation industry. My “business card” is here – http://engrutra.com.
My career started in 2004, when I (as a student of linguistics and translation studies department in Zaporizhia National University, Ukraine) a bit accidentally came across my first client. I instantly fell in love with the activity. For several years afterwards I worked for national translation agencies in Ukraine and Russia. In 2010 I discover PROZ.com and the world of international translation agencies. That was a major turn in my career. Now, after dozens of marketing-related books and materials devoured, I have a solid clientele – both international translation agencies and direct clients. I also have a small news agency on Twitter where I post news of the industry - https://twitter.com/VadimKadyrov. Some 500 followers start their day reading the news I post every day.
How did you decide to become a translator?
As a child I felt fascinated by the way foreign languages sounded. The same people with the same number of legs and hands produce completely different sounds you don't understand. Why? It was only natural that in school my favorite subject was English. As a result, translation department of local university was a natural option to me.
After graduation I tried to find an in-house position. Having changed several employees and having gained (as a result) a lot of experience in the fields which are now my core specializations, I finally decided to go freelance. And I never regretted that decision.
What are good or bad things about freelancing?
Translation for me is first a way to earn a living, if you like. Like any other trade, it is sometimes boring, especially when you have to translation long lists of spare parts, for example. This activity is sometimes tiring, especially when you have to sit in front of your computer for 10 or 12 hours. Moreover, in many countries (including mine) the importance of both a good translation and good translators is not recognized. Like in many countries of the world, people tend to believe that any person who speaks foreign language can translate information both ways, which is of course not true.
Anyway, I would have already abandoned the trade if there had not been much more positive characteristics of the translation process. You create absolutely new text in your target language, which resembles the work of a watchmaker. This is an awesome feeling! By the way, almost any text is filled with riddles you have to solve. You get the picture word by word.
Another plus of the translation process is that you come in contact with different texts. Although 90% of them are contextually isolated parts of bigger documents, 10% are fully independent materials describing notions or items which are absolutely new to a translator. You are being educated while earning your money!
The last positive result of the translation process I'd like to mention is the ability of this process to literally sharpen your oral language skills. As a result, after 10 years in the industry I can speak about any subject for hours without any preparation, which is a very useful skill.
In self-marketing, which factors have helped out the most so far?
Marketing is the basic activity any freelancer should master. You simply can't go without marketing. Without one you will have to accept any work you come across – just because you don't have much of it. While a lot of freelancers tend to use their rates as the main differentiator (in other words, they try to offer the lowest or “most competitive” rates), smarter freelancers try to work less and get more. They find clients which don't ask about the price right from the start, if you like. Here comes marketing. These freelancers learn ways how to get such clients, how to make them accept the conditions.
You have to show that you are an expert. Not THE BEST translator in the world, but the one who is an expert (who is the best NHL player? No one knows. There are some 100 of them – they all are THE BEST players). Your name should be heard. Your business card should touch hands of proper people. Your direct e-mails should land proper people. You also have to tap your network and go deeper with existing clients. They should be happy with the work you provide.
A very helpful technique is to brainstorm marketing ideas with a pen and a sheet of paper.
Which of the social networks do you use most successfully for customer acquisition, which ones more for interaction with others in your industry?
Well, social networks have profoundly changed the way people sell things and services. First, these are very time-consuming things (you can end up spending a lot of time on-line). That's why I don't use Facebook (which is too complex compared to Twitter, for example). I use Twitter as the main “megaphone” of things I “broadcast”. You can choose any other social media, but there are two things to remember. First, you have to find people who will be interested in what you are talking about.
Second, you have to have something to say to people who are the same as you. If you don't have right people (in my case – translators, translation agencies, direct clients who are interested in my areas of specialization) around you, or in case you don't have anything to say, you will waste your time there.
The last thing: don't expect miracles. Social media alone won't bring you too many clients. Your marketing strategy should be comprehensive. Direct contact with people at shows, fairs, direct mail campaigns, etc. should be accompanied (not replaced by) social media.
In your work with clients and partners, what are you doing differently today in comparison to the early phase of your career?
Well, CAT tools are a must now. We also did not count repetitions back in 2004. These are the most noticeable changes.
A lot of translators now use Google Translate to pre-translate files. This was unimaginable back in 2004. Now with Google Translate the speed of translation is much higher. MT engines I saw in 2004 in my language pair (English-Russian) were pathetic compared to Google now. “Thanks” to MT you now can see a lot of ads in the Internet where translation agencies are looking for MT post-editors (BTW, this has nothing to do with direct clients; another plus of working with them).
Third, Google search engine is now a very helpful tool used for searching different terms. In 2004 search engines were far less intelligent.
Where do you find inspiration for your blog?
Well, although I don't blog too frequently, I try to stick to a certain schedule. Frankly speaking, it is quite difficult for me to produce words on paper, first because English is not my native language (it is quite natural, I believe. You write much quicker in your native language).
Anyway, I believe that marketing is one of the most important areas freelance translators have to master, and that is the exact reason why almost all my blog posts are about marketing. Where do I find inspiration? Well, the source is everyday life. The thing is that every day you encounter people and businesses who either employ or don't employ various marketing approaches. Sometimes you wonder how on Earth they make money! That's when I switch on my computer and tell people how things shouldn’t be done.
I write a lot about the relationships between outsourcers and translators as well. Sometimes I am shocked to see how some translation agencies treat people who make money for these translation agencies. That is another subject I cover.
I also give a lot of valuable recommendations to my colleagues. Once again, this is my experience, and I believe that translators can and should make their contribution in order to change the industry.
Which online and offline resources do you read on a regular basis?
First, Twitter posts of other translators and marketing gurus. Every day I read through dozens of blog posts. Some of them contain absolutely obvious information, but some reveal facts and opinions which are sound and useful.
I also buy books regularly, if I see that they are worth buying. They are not always about translation or marketing. I read a lot about physics, electronics, engineering, construction, etc. as well. These are my core specializations.
Third source of information is Internet. Every day I try to read several editorials about economy of my country, news, etc. This also helps to sharpen my language skills and stay fit. It is a must for any translator to literally devour tons of information regularly.
These are most important sources of information I use.
How does your average working day look like?
It starts at about 8 hours. I check my inbox, various social media accounts, read news. Then I spend 30 minutes updating my Twitter account, retweeting various people, and posting translation industry news.
If I have something to translate, I do my job. If not, I spend most of the day reading blogs and books, answering emails and phone calls of clients.
I love the way freelancers work. Almost every day I spend 2-3 hours with my son (who is almost 2 years now). It is incredibly interesting for a linguist to see how a child starts to speak.
Generally speaking, there are certain activities I have to do, irrespective of any other circumstances. But when things are done, you are free to spend your time with people who surround you. For instance, it is only pleasure to visit malls at 12 or 13, when they are almost empty.
Well, I think any freelancer will understand what I mean.
If you could change something in your work environment, what would it be?
A more powerful computer – you always think that it is too slow. Sometimes I also wish I had a separate office, as my son is sometimes too intrusive. But generally speaking, I am quite satisfied with my work environment. I have two screens, fast Internet, and powerful smartphone to stay on-line when not at home.
Are you a desk person or more of a mobile worker?
I should say that most of my work comes online. I rarely visit different conferences or fairs. That's why I think I am more of a desk person. The main reason is not my character, but the fact is that clients in my country do not pay rates I offer. That makes direct contact with them here a waste of time, if you like.
If some day I move to another country, where the rates I offer will be acceptable to local business, I will be glad to cooperate with clients in person. Although Internet is now everywhere, it will never replace personal conversation with your clients. And this is the exact reason why these personal contacts become even more valuable.
What are CAT tools missing today, how would you envision the CAT tool of your dreams?
This is my favorite question. Well, CAT tools are expensive. That's OK, but the number of glitches you come across is annoying. Why on Earth do you have to pay 900 EUR for an application which crashes frequently? I am sure that this is acceptable for freeware applications, but is abnormal when we speak about things people pay for.
Even the most expensive tools can't open certain popular file formats, although they allegedly have to.
Simplicity is another characteristic most CAT tools lack. I also believe that such complex applications which use a lot of other programs you have to install beforehand are doomed to crash frequently. Simple systems don't crash.
What would you pass on as personal advice to translators new to the industry?
Frequent mistake many newbies make is that they don't choose their specialization. Jack-of-all-trades is a myth. And that is a very bad signal to your potential clients.
Another mistake people do is that they try to compete on price. Once I heard a statement that when you compete on price you have no choice but to be the cheapest. And, once you start to compete on price then you can count on there being somebody coming along who'll beat your prices, even if doing so ultimately bankrupts them. That's a law. BTW, people and/or translation agencies who try to find the cheapest translators won't stay too long with them. It is another myth that you can charge superlow rates and at the same time count on long-term cooperation with this outsourcer. Marketing is there to stop getting low rates.