Who doesn’t dream of someday writing a book? I know I do — my ideas bounce between a meditative reflection on the nature of life and death and a nail-biting supernatural tale that could make Stephen King crawl under the covers. Just in case you’re guessing, a few notes and some brilliant ideas about cover design do not equal “published.”
So count me envious to learn that a fellow industry woman, Sara Colombo, has gone ahead and written — duh! — about her experience in translation and localization.
Now why didn’t I think of that?
For today’s Motivational Monday, I decided to invite Sara to talk about her work and, naturally, the book — the aptly titled “Balance Your Words.” The book is described as:
Stepping in the translation industry is often regarded as an insane choice: long working hours, late nights, fugitive clients, stuck in front of a sad computer (or a Mac, but it doesn't really matter. After 10 hours technology can be boring, and sad. Believe me.), and no social life.
Well, think again.
Translating is like doing yoga: it's motivational, requires a lot of energy, keeps you fit and...well...it's sexy!
Sara's first book is a professional, yet intimate and honest collection of hands-on articles that will tell you how to set up your business, work, enjoy your job...and well...maintain a healthy (and productive!) work-life balance!
So here’s how Sara bridged the difference between dreaming and doing.
Q. Why did you decide to write this book?
Sara: “Balance Your Words” was originally just a collection of unpublished articles and posts from my blog. A friend, tired of hearing me hinting at the project, said it was time to just give it a try. The blog and the book share the same purpose — that is to inspire young translators and students to step into the language industry and market their services.
Q: How is this different from your blog?
Sara: Unlike the blog, “Balance Your Words” contains excerpts from a personal diary I always carry with me. Yes I have one! Along with recorders, it’s very useful for catching brilliant and not-so-brilliant ideas.
It’s made the book a mixture of the unpredictable — ideas-on-the-go that are part euphoria, part romantic, part alcohol and, therefore, not so clearheaded the day after — and the professional.
With the book, I wanted to share my experience with other young translators and give my personal, honest, and clear insight into some features of this industry.
Q: Why did you decide to become a translator in the first place?
Sara: I am an Italian freelance translator living between Italy and the UK. I earned my degree in foreign languages and a postgraduate degree in translation. I’ve been working in the industry for six years now.
Languages have always been part of my life — I was raised in a multicultural family (Italian-Israeli-French) and I was always encouraged to freely explore. While the idea of being stuck in front of a computer bored me, the other part of being a translator — like working with clients from all over the world or being my own boss — really appealed to me.
When I graduated, I had a bunch of ideas and little translation experience. I was convinced that freelancing was an insane choice, so I decided to take a permanent job in a company. It was interesting, but I felt like there was something missing. I wasn’t working with languages enough. I could not turn ideas into practice. And, honestly, I felt a bit powerless.
So I left my office, took my bag and a plane, and, well, started to freelance!
Q: What do you share in the book about the translation profession and our industry?
Sara: Linguists are among the few — the lucky! — who are able to recognize and understand how intricate and interconnected the threads are between technology, society, culture, and business. They understand that language itself can’t win a client, because clients need people who are able to understand languages and how to use them in context, within the whole communication process.
We have to interpret communication as a whole: whether social media, blogging, writing for marketing or journalism, or even music and photography. For example, to create “Balance Your Words,” I used social media and modern technologies to transform my blog into a book, while sharing, connecting, and playing with online marketing tools. That is, I listened to the world and gave it my interpretation.
I believe that clients, as well as the language industry, need this kind of dynamic and determined communication and professionals — those able to act fluidly, flexibly, ready to change, and willing to broaden and mix their skills.
Q: I recently blogged about Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s experience as a businesswoman. What’s your take on the challenges of being your own translation & localization industry businesswoman?
Sara: This industry can seem quite complicated, unregulated, and often harsh. Dealing with an overcritical client is not really difficult, but to do it alone and to be perceived as too young or “too freelancer’” makes it harder.
Still, I truly believe in determination, courage, and balance. You may have to try a million times before reaching a certain goal, improving your skills, learning a new language, coping with “famine periods,” etc. But if you are willing to do something and determined, you will be able to cope with difficult days, face a difficult client, and even stick to attending all your new foreign language classes.
Finding what motivates you is not easy. It is often hidden under layers of fake values and imposed ideals. The problem is finding a way to take away each of them and get to the core, the fire fueling a certain passion or interest. And courage means pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones.
I am not saying one should act wildly, but overcoming fears opens new possibilities. People entering the industry should be willing to experiment or even expose themselves.
Q: And balancing that with a home life?
Sara: Balance is a positive concept — one that I have only recently started to appreciate. This job requires real effort and focus, so one needs to re-balance everything once the day is over. I practice yoga. Work-life balance, mood balance, psychological balance, physical balance: these are all important when you do yoga. Yoga itself is a very reinvigorating, de-stressing, and resourceful discipline.
In any case, I suggest sport as the best balancing tool for always-sitting translators. We need to move to fight back problems but also high levels of stress. It can help you maintain a clear vision of your priorities, needs, and what you really want to do.
Q: Now that “Balance Your Words” is finished, what’s next for you?
Sara: I was asked to join Sharp End Training and to give a series of webinars and online training courses on marketing for freelance translators. I am in Brussels now, but will fly to the UK and L.A. over the summer. Then it’s time to start thinking about a new business year: website updates, a new partnership, more training, events, and maybe a second book. Who knows!
Are you a freelancer with your own take on the industry that you’d like to share? Do so in the comments!