BOOK REVIEW: Diversification in the Language Industry

NYA Book

As the title of this book by Nicole Y. Adams suggests, its content is all about diversification. What is it? Is it today or will it soon become a necessity? How can a translator diversify? Dozens of professionals in the language industry share their experiences of diversification in a collection of essays and interviews.
When the book was published back in 2013, diversification was a major issue. Today, I feel, it is even more of a reality for many language professionals around the world. Regardless of whether you’re a newcomer to the profession or an established language professional, this book is a good read. It is also worth your while even if you feel you are better off doing only translation work forever. You might come up with interesting ways to diversify that you would never think of. You never know.


Why diversify?

Translators often work by themselves with little human face-to-face contact. This book gives you a wide range of ideas of language-related services that allow you to get out of the house and meet new people. You can also feel like diversifying because you’ve been freelancing for long and would appreciate a change of scenery. Or you’ve found a way to monetize your language-related hobby.

Nicole believes that

careers evolve, new personal interests develop, markets change, new technologies emerge all the time and, most of all, why would you want to put all your eggs in one basket? It is prudent to have a risk management strategy in place, and diversification certainly lends itself to this purpose.


How to diversify?

I randomly chose some examples of diversification cases mentioned in the book:


TEACHING – having been an EFL teacher myself, I couldn’t help but write about this one first.

In Nicole’s book, Vanda Nissen, an English-Russian translator, shares her experience as an online language teacher. Teaching languages online is, according to Vanda, “becoming more and more popular due to its effectiveness, lower cost and use of new technologies”. Because she already had teaching qualifications, when the opportunity to provide language lessons arose, she took it. Teaching business people and children via Skype for different schools proved to be “a valuable experience”.


COPYWRITING – Italian translator Alessandra Martelli also believes in the importance of offering complementary or additional services. This is mostly because we’re in a “crowded and messy marketplace”. Alessandra says she found a balance between specialization and diversification, which she calls “re-specialization”. What this means is that you take a set of core skills and successfully adjust it “to fit new requirements and generate new business opportunities.” Professionals can take the skills they already possess and, by adding new knowledge, make new combinations and offer new services. This is how this professional translator got into copywriting. By making suggestions to better her clients’ promotional texts, she started getting asked to write their presentations and press releases.


TRANSCRIPTION – Another contributor believes that translators should find their “interests and marketable skills” and add another service to their offer, right from the start. When offered transcription work from a former employer, freelance translator Karolina Kastenhuber saw no reason to decline. She was given training in transcription software and in the use of foot pedals and has since completed transcription assignments for several clients in different fields. Some of those transcription clients have later hired her for translation and editing services too.


ONLINE TRAINING COURSES – For Désirée Staude, diversifying is a must and no one can say that they don’t have the skills. After all, you can read blogs, books, take courses, ask colleagues, etc. So just think of something that you would really enjoy doing. In her case, it was online training. Why? For the extra money and to help other translators, the same way fellow translators had helped her with their courses. She invested in improving her live presentations by listening to the recordings, making notes and rehearsing a lot. Despite the hard work and the time it takes to prepare the training sessions, she feels it’s all worth it.

You are only limited by yourself. But you do not have to limit yourself; dare to dream and whatever you put your mind to you can achieve – no matter how difficult the obstacles and odds of life!


BLOGGING AND SOCIAL NETWORKING – Don’t we all just love blogging and being on social media? But isn’t it all just for fun? According to Greek translator Catherine Christaki, freelance translators also need to be good marketers, bloggers, social media users and more. After nine years as a successful translator without a website, blog or social media presence, Catherine decided to get all those and created a brand. Her Twitter account was very successful from the beginning and so was (and still is) the blog.


Catherine believes blogging and social media can be a great way of finding new clients. Plus, you gain extra knowledge from all the articles and posts you read and share online. The bonus? You get to interact with colleagues and like-minded people who “fully understand your daily trials and tribulations”. They might even request your services or recommend you to their clients.


Now, if none of these ideas attract you, you can always follow Anne-Marie Colliander Lind’s recommendation and differentiate. Her advice:

– Add a new language pair.
– Add another domain of specialization.
– Become the expert and make sure that your clients and colleagues see you as such.
– Embrace technology. “You need technology to do the bulk of the repetitive work”.
– Build a community. As the saying goes: “Sharing is caring”.
– Collaborate. Translation colleagues “are not your competitors; they are your potential co-workers”, says Anne-Marie.
– Make yourself equal before you differentiate. Make sure you can do what everybody else is doing and then supplement your skills with value-added services.
How’s that for great advice?
Bottom line, you don’t have to stick to translation alone if you have other interests. There’s a lot more a translator can do professionally. But whatever path you choose to take your business, make sure you enjoy every minute of it!
Have you read the book? Any thoughts or comments? I would love to hear from you in the comments section below!

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