5 1/2 LESSONS ON WORKING AS A
STUDENT CASE STUDY
I don’t know of any testimonials more
comprehensive than students’ case studies.
That’s why I asked Julia Graham of JMB
Translations (a great UK English proofreader,
by the way) to tell you something about
her time at the first edition of the course in
First, Julia, we’d like to know how your situation
looked like before taking part in the School. How did
you see your business? What were your biggest problems? How did
you feel in the translation industry?
“Before taking part in the School I did not consider myself to be running a business, and
I was not even aware of the global network of translators that was out there. In short, I
did not associate being a translator with being an entrepreneur.
Consequently, one of the main problems I encountered was my mind set. I found myself
working for bottom-feeders who did not care about quality or all of the research I put
into my work. They just wanted a job done quickly and would
inevitably send me a variety of different types of
texts, which would often be in an uneditable
format. As a result, I was falling into the trap
of being a ‘Jack of all trades’ translator rather
than taking the time to hone a specialism.
I also discovered that my way of
translating at the time was not providing
job satisfaction. While I was working
evenings, weekends and late nights for no
surcharge just to get the project in for an
unrealistic deadline, I kept thinking: “This
is not what I signed up for!” While I had the
relevant translation skills, I quite simply did
not have the business expertise to negotiate
with and present myself to clients.
Let’s move on to the moment you found the School course. Where did
you first read or hear about it? What were your first thoughts? What
made you interested in it?
I first heard about Marta when I read her article in Vol/51 Iss/6 of The Linguist
(publication of the Chartered Institute of Linguists). She immediately struck me as
someone who was determined, professional and knew what she was doing, all of which
were perfect qualities for a mentor. Her achievements were very impressive, and I found
the blog posts on her website inspiring. It was from the CPD listed on her CV that I found
out about eCPD webinars – an online training platform for translators – and from there,
the School. The course schedule seemed to cover all the aspects of freelancing, such as
rates, invoicing, marketing and cover emails, that I was not confident in. It was as though
the lessons were tailored to my situation, and I decided to book straight away.
What hesitations did you have about taking part in the course?
I can honestly say that I did not really have any hesitations about taking part in the
School. Marta’s online presence and experience speak for themselves, and I wanted to
learn from the best. It is normal to be apprehensive about spending money on a course,
especially if it has not run before and there are no reviews to read. Having said that, I
felt that the number of contact hours, materials, Skype session and feedback involved
represented good value for money. The course fee has without a doubt been the best
investment in my business.
What changes have you noticed in your business, in terms of your
mind set, but also clients?
I have now taken a more professional approach to running
my business and feel like I now have my business hat on.
Before taking on any work, I know how and where to
research the company to make sure they are bona
fide and have a good payment track record. When
it comes to job offers and corresponding with
translation agencies, I know the best way to present
myself and clinch the deal. This also means being
sensible when it comes to money matters:
Agency: “Yes you can go ahead.
It’s being very busy here and I did not have the time to
work on your PO.
I will this afternoon. Consider this email as my
confirmation and Go-ahead thanks”
(A few hours later and the PO has not arrived.) Me:
“I understand you’re busy, but given it is such a
large job and I have never worked for you before
I would appreciate a PO.
(immediately) Agency: “Yes you are correct
Doing it now. Best regards,”
Me: “Thanks, X. I do appreciate it.”
Agency: “Let me know if this is correct thanks”
Just as importantly, I have learnt to say “no” to requests that
would not be in the best interests of my business. I also have the confidence to approach
direct clients and am aware of the research. For example, with the help of my newly
acquired skills, I attended a tour of a manufacturing unit of a sound system producer I
had identified as having a need for translations. Not only did I learn a great deal of in-
house terminology and gain a better understanding of the processes involved, I also had
the opportunity to meet the head of marketing, who was very interested in my services
and requested I get in touch.
Having a dedicated office space in my house, professional indemnity insurance, terms
and conditions of business, Associate membership of the Institute of Translation and
Interpreting (ITI), a price list and office hours have also helped me to move forward with
my business. I now find that the clients I work with are more appreciative of my work
and are more pleasant to deal with. As a result I want to go out of my way to help them,
so providing added value feels like a natural process rather than extra work.
What specific feature did you like best
about the School?
I particularly liked the community spirit of the
School. The feeling of being part of something
gave me a great deal of enthusiasm and
motivation. I always felt a positive buzz after
our weekly webinar lessons.
Other highlights included:
• tips to clinch the deal (such as the idea of
turning features into benefits)
• Marta’s no-nonsense approach (There
was no waffle or jargon, just practical advice
and handouts and homework that allowed
me to set attainable goals during and after the
• a personal approach through individual
feedback and a Skype session that allowed
Marta to address every course member’s
How have you benefited from it?
Would you recommend the School course? If so, why?
Yes, I already have and will continue to do so. What is so special about the School is
the fact that there is no other course like it. Marta combines her own experience of
becoming a successful entrepreneurial translator and interpreter with her background
in marketing and IT. She obviously cares about what she is doing, has put a lot of time
and effort into this project and wants you to succeed.
In my opinion, the School should be an integral part of translation courses, as it would
provide translators with core business skills from the start of their careers. This would
not only be advantageous to them but also the industry as a whole. The School equips
you with the tools you need to be successful in the industry; the fact remains that having
a master’s in translation alone is not enough.
Is there anything else you’d like to add here?
I am so glad I attended the School at the beginning
of my freelance career rather than finding it after
having spent years making business mistakes. It has
set me on the right path from the start. Thank you,
Now, thinking of your current situation, some 3 months after the end
of the School course. How do you see your business? What are your
biggest challenges now? How do you feel in the translation industry?
I feel positive about my business and the future. I now focus on adding value and
searching out clients I would like to work for rather than jumping at any translation
request. I am also always on the lookout for opportunities (networking, potential direct
client contacts, potential agencies to work for, situations where there is a need for
I would say that my biggest challenges now are in:
• creating my website
• working on my branding using the hints and tips from the School
• continuing to expand my client base.
The difference is that I now feel I have the skills to accomplish these challenges; they are
no longer an impossible task.
In addition, I feel more involved in the translation industry through social media
(Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn), reading industry books and blogs as well as by being a
member of the ITI and local networks. It is great to have the support of a network of
other translators, as it makes me feel less isolated and provides an outlet to discuss
any issues that arise. Attending the 2013 ITI Conference proved to be both inspiring
and useful, as I was able to pick up some handy tips and meet translation colleagues in
Thank you, Julia, for sharing your story. I sincerely
hope your career will continue growing as
successfully as in the last few months. Thanks
for great photos, too!
If after reading Julia’s story you’re
interested in joining the course, book
here. In case of any questions, drop me
PS I met Julia in person a few months after
she took part in the School. I’m on the left,
Julia is on the right, and we’re here with Meg
from Websites for Translators.