Category: For Individuals

How to sell online in France – 6 tips for companies wanting to enter the French market

France is one of the world’s largest e-commerce markets. In 2019, it ranked as the sixth biggest e-commerce market in the world valued at $43 billion. Selling online may be also a good first step to test the waters before launching a full-fledged branch for your brand in one or more French cities. French customers are technically savvy and benefit on the whole from a high-speed internet connection. Like everywhere else, online shopping has become the new normal since 2020. There are, however, some important points you should bear in mind if you want to effectively sell online in France:

  1. You have to sell to the French in French. Don’t get influenced by your impressions and experience of France as a tourist, where everyone tried to speak to you in… your language. You were a customer then. When the French are customers, they want to read content, product descriptions, and terms of contract in French. People prefer to shop in their mother tongue, even if they know another language (and yes, there are many who speak excellent English). This attitude is largely in line with the “Can’t Read, Won’t Buy” market analysis published by CSA Research. The report highlights the importance of “engaging the global audience with a full language experience that conveys their brand, reputation, and trustworthiness”.
  2. Clarity and transparency. French customers appreciate respect, politeness and clear information about the products or services they are buying. You should be able to justify and rationally explain the value added of your product or service through clear description. The pure commercial praise is not enough.
  3. Pricing. French customers are not necessarily bargain hunters. They don’t mind paying a higher price if the quality is excellent and the perceived value is unique. There are specialised consumer protection magazines, tracking and comparing pricing and quality, and publishing consumer surveys on virtually any type of product. One of them, “60 millions de consommateurs”, even has a status of an EPIC. (Literally: “a public establishment of an industrial and commercial nature”, meaning a state-controlled entity of an industrial or commercial nature, such as research institutes and infrastructure operators.) A good review in this magazine (or in its competitor “Que Choisir”) will boost your reputation. A bad review, or—God forbid— a label of “arnaque” (scam) can destroy it.
  4. Be subtle about your advertising and CTA. Shouting “Buy now!” and “Click here!” at your customers can be seen as pushy and off-putting.
  5. Security of data. Make sure that you are transparent about what you do with your customers’ data and how you store them. Offer payment options that allow them to avoid entering their credit card details in full on your website.
  6. Provide an outstanding delivery and after-sales service.  French consumers are particularly sensitive to a good after-sales customer service and appreciate a prompt and reliable delivery. Reassurance about delivery, tracking goods and receiving all the relevant information are very important in France, more so than in the UK. 85% of French consumers are happy to track every order, rather than just high-value items, compared with only 60% in the UK.

Final point: in case of any queries or unexpected problems you should be ready to respond in French! Speak to a native French translator, preferably resident in France, to have your website and content translated and SEO optimised for the French market. They will be aware of the latest consumer and business information at home and will be able to localise your content so that it attracts customers in France.

If you want to learn more about effective business communication in France, read my blog post Effective business communication in France.

What is a translation style guide and why is it important?

Has your translator ever asked you: “Do you have a style guide?”

And you wonder: What is a translation style guide? Why do I need it?

If you are building an international marketing strategy to expand your customer base, you need to communicate your unique brand identity to connect with potential consumers in new markets.

A successful international campaign means the consistency of your message across all channels. This in turn means the same tone of voice in any other language as your source language and local markets.

A translation style guide is a set of guidelines which outline your company’s preferred tone, register, and style to be used in translation. It is important because your translated content should match the way your company presents itself textually, but also visually. A professional translator should discuss your preferences with you at the start of the project as this is part of their essential research and preparation that you pay for. (You can read more about what the translation service includes here.)

Let’s see what a style guide includes and what the benefits are.

What do you need to include in a style guide?

1. Target audience

Firstly, tell us who will be reading this content. Think about your audience and the type of users.  What are their interests, age, education level, lifestyle indicators? What is their purpose when they use your product or content?

Are they university professors, customers installing their websites on your hosting servers or gaming users?

Established law firms or tech start-ups?

Will your content be consumed in a corporate boardroom or a school classroom?

2. Tone of voice

Every brand has its own unique tone of voice corresponding to its values. This voice has to come across in your translated copy.

Facebook, for example, uses a straightforward, conversational tone in all of its writing. And if you publish on Facebook, you write in an informal, playful, and engaging tone of voice, and aim to be personable, friendly, and even humorous.

Note these things in the translation style guide and use plenty of examples from your existing publications:

  • Do you want formal or informal language?
  • Do you prefer active or passive voice?
  • What about colloquial expressions, jargon or even slang?
  • Do you use inclusive forms of language, such as choice of pronouns (they), or forms of address (Mr, Ms, Mx)?
  • If the content is going to be published on social media, which ones? (see the comment above about Facebook)
  • If the content is for your website, what forms do you use in your CTA buttons? The imperative form? (“Upload file”, “Contact us today”.) Or more descriptive infinitive form? (“To subscribe, click on X”.) Also bear in mind that the CTA buttons will be localised. For example: in the American culture they tend to be more direct that in the French culture, where “Contact me today!” style of button may be perceived as too aggressive.

3. Formatting preferences

The translation guide is the right place to share the preferred formatting or punctuation. You should include preferences about the use of:

  • spelling locale (think US and British English)
  • acronyms or abbreviations,
  • capitalisation of bullet points,
  • use of punctuation in bullet points and after units of measure,
  • favourite fonts.

Specify units of measure, currencies, addresses, phone numbers, and any words that should not be translated. Typically, these will include website names, branded names, usernames or email addresses.

4. General brand style guides

If you have these, do not hesitate to share them with your translator. They provide us with essential and invaluable insight into your company’s personality, vision, and core values, and tell us how you wish to communicate them in your new language markets. Applying these guidelines in your multilingual content will avoid the fracturing of your brand’s message in any way.

brand-vision-and-guidelines

Terminology glossaries

Consistent and clear terminology is a key factor in your public persona, or that of your clients. Terminology glossaries are databases of key terms that must be translated consistently or not at all. Choose terms that are business-critical words used by your industry and your own, company-specific ones (e.g., your copyrighted or trademarked terms that should not be translated). Also consider audience-specific words to ensure relevance and engagement. For example, vegans like to use slang words such as “Buddha bowl” and “flegg”. Gaming fans read about “RendeZook” or “scratch damage”.

If you do not yet have a single term base, the translator can help you with this task. Using professional tools such as SDL Trados Multiterm, we can import your existing file and consolidate, clean and manage the data for the future.

Should you use both glossaries and style guides?

Terminology glossaries are important tools for industry relevance and the consistency of terms and product names. Your localisation expert will use their linguistic skill, cultural awareness and your translation style guides as a reference point to decide how best to address your audience. As a result, your translated content will resonate with consumers the way you wanted it to.

Why should you invest in a translation style guide?

A true investment – saving your time and money

Style guides are often neglected because they are viewed as time-consuming. They need the business to be acutely aware of its own unique branding style.

They are, however, a real time-saver during any localisation project. The guidelines will immediately answer standard translation questions and eliminate the need for lengthy and repetitive calls or email chains. You can get on with your job, whilst linguists can set about their task with your brand context and preferences already in mind. The guides will also remove the risk of linguists attempting to “guess” what your brand voice is from the existing content. 

The main causes of high translation costs include countless rounds of corrections or re-translating previously translated material, completed by another service provider. A translation style guide will help you eliminate costly mistakes, frustration, and disappointment during the international marketing process.

In conclusion, consider translation style guides as an investment that offers a great return for your business, allowing your international marketing strategies to reach their full potential.

Effective business communication in France (or how to avoid being another Emily in Paris)

Have you seen “Emily in Paris”? Did you find it funny, cringy or infuriating?

I must admit I found it rather funny. Yes, the clichés are lazy and the way they are used cruelly lacks nuance and subtlety. I am not offended, though. Like many other French Netflix users – tired and anxious under the second Covid lockdown this autumn – I binge-watched the entire Season 1 at the weekend purely to relax.

Paris is definitely shown as a white-washed postcard (where is its real ethnic diversity?), and far from its usual chaos. And the series’ obsession with infidelity in relationships is just sooooooooo over the top. Many things are also factually incorrect, such as smoking in offices (restricted in France since 1991, strictly forbidden since 2007).

Whether you loved it or hated it, the series is an interesting springboard to talk about cultural misunderstanding.

Obviously, you don’t want to be another Emily in Paris when you do business in France. She managed to ruffle a lot of feathers.

So, what should you do and what should you avoid?

Emily-in_Paris-in-the-bakery
(Netflix)

Here is my list of 12 tips for effective communication when doing business in France, whether you can speak fluent French or not:

  1. We love our language, but we also know how difficult it is, and we don’t expect everyone to speak it fluently. However, try to use the basic French words: “Bonjour”, “merci”, “au revoir”, “enchanté.e”, “pardon”. “Bonjour” is particularly important, whether you enter an office, a bakery or your hotel on the first night in Paris. (If you watched the series, do you remember Emily in the boulangerie? She doesn’t say “hello” or answer the baker’s greeting. This is a big cultural mistake, far more important than her mispronunciation of “pain au chocolat”. She might be smiley and sweet, but according to the French culture she is simply rude.) 🤦‍♀️
  2. You only say “Bonjour” once a day, the first time you meet a person. Remember this if you work with French colleagues or project partners. Repeating this word during the day may look like lack of respect (as if you forgot you met them earlier). If this happens to you, don’t panic, but present your excuses.
  3. Address your counterparts by “vous” if you communicate in French. The English “you” is both formal and informal, but the difference in French is crucial.
  4. We like to shake hands with colleagues every day, not just at first introduction (although Covid changed this a bit). Kissing on the cheeks is definitely only for close friends and family.
  5. When you introduce yourself and your company, do not boast or show off. Confidence means humility.
  6. Whether you sell a product or manage a project, be prepared to explain and justify your decisions or reasons. The French think of themselves as “Cartesians”. We like to know the reasons why your product is really the best, what value added it will bring to us, or why you took a decision (when you manage French people as part of your international team).
  7. Accept a different perception of time. A decision to buy from you may seem longer, and you can expect to have to visit your prospects more than once. In France people like to get to know their partners before they do business with them. More than just your product or service, they like to know YOU. It is a human-centred culture.
  8. “Stop eating. Have a cigarette”. This quote from Sylvie, Emily’s boss in the film, is total nonsense. Food and lunch are sacred. Business lunch is a great opportunity to get to know your business partners. Eating is a social moment to exchange, to debate and get to know each other. It is not a moment to talk about business, but to talk about yourself. Prepare topics to talk about. Culture, art, food and wine, or travel will be very welcome. You can also discuss private topics as they make you look more open.
  9. We have a saying about topics to avoid in a conversation: “Dieu, l’argent et la politique”. Religion and money are seen as very private matters. Never ask how much money people earn. Money flaunting is considered bad taste and nouveau riche. And politics can quickly become a very polarised debate, so avoid it.
  10. French people can spend considerable time in meetings (the time perception again!). They are occasions to exchange ideas and brainstorm new ones, so don’t expect that they will always lead to taking a decision right away. Also, avoid coming to a meeting with a fixed agenda.
  11. Opinions and critique are given indirectly. Instead of a “no” you might hear: “c’est compliqué”. It means “no”.
  12. Don’t overdo the enthusiasm. Oh, I can hear you say: a smile and a positive attitude are universal values! Unfortunately, in France, people who present their products or services with excessive smiling and enthusiasm, come across as perhaps not 100% honest or serious. So, I hate to say this, but… smile a bit less.
Paris-eiffel-tower

Need a conversation starter for your next trip to France?

Take a look at the photo of Paris above. I am sure you know the name of this river.  

But… do you?

Strictly speaking, Paris is situated on the river… Yonne!

Montereau-Fault-Yonne, south-east of Paris, is the point of confluence of the Seine and the Yonne. At this point the Seine has an average flow of 80 m3/sec for a drainage basin of 10,100 km2, and the Yonne has an average flow of 93 m3/sec for a drainage basin of 10,836 km2. So, according to the rules of hydrography, the Seine is the tributary of the Yonne. However, druid legends made the sources of the Seine sacred. Then Romans declared it a deity, which also served the purpose of asserting their power. And so, the name Seine won over the Yonne…

Something to talk about during your next business lunch in France! 😉

Enjoy!

Further reading

You can read more about intercultural understanding in my other publications:

https://www.linkedin.com/posts/elzbietadubois_culturalawareness-translation-culturalintelligence-activity-6729694195239452672-COXo

https://www.linkedin.com/posts/elzbietadubois_digitalmarketing-internationalmarketing-globalbusiness-activity-6727545419821330432-Mqnq

https://www.linkedin.com/posts/elzbietadubois_why-the-french-dont-show-excitement-activity-6647871536663412736-MY02

IF TRANSLATORS WERE CAR MECHANICS…, or 4 common questions to ask before buying a translation service.

“Can you repair my car? I need it for tomorrow.”

“Can I see it?”

“No. Not until you tell me if you can fix it.”

“Um…What kind of car is it?”

“A blue one.”

“I mean the manufacturer and model.”

“That’s personal information I don’t want to disclose. When will it be ready?”

“Well…what noises has it been making? How old? Mileage?”

“Questions, questions! Am I supposed to tell you how to do your job? Just tell me how long it’ll take to fix it.

Oh, and I can only afford €X.

And I want you to use these complicated, old, rusty tools of mine.

I’ve also started to tinker with the car myself, so you should give me a discount now that you only have to finish off the job. And fix that leak I made while tinkering.

Here’s a blurry photo of it to help.”

(Curtesy of Gary Smith **Confessions of a Freelance Translator: Secrets to Success**)

I hope that this story made you smile. Of course, it is a bit of a caricature.😉

Like many other professions: car mechanics, plumbers, builders, dentists, doctors, lawyers…, translators need to see the product that they are asked to work with. We are “wordsmiths”. Our job is not about: “just tell me what this means in [language]”.

When you ask for a document or website to be translated, a professional will discuss with you these 4 common questions:

1. What is the language you would like us to translate into?

Like any other professions, we have a bit of jargon lingo. The language your text is originally written in is called “source language”. The one we translate into is called “target”.

A good translator is a linguist with a thorough knowledge of the “source language”. This allows us to understand your text well. For example, I have proofread in the past a financial text translated from English, where the linguist mixed up the English and French meaning of “billions”! However, a pro will never offer to translate into their “second language”, unless they can offer you a native-speaker review and proofreading as part of their service. You want your translator to have a perfect knowledge of both the target culture and language, because we translate meanings and messages, not “just words”. Only a native or fully bilingual translator can ensure this.

2. Do you know about…?

Just like car mechanics, you have generalists and those who specialize in brands. We also have specializations, e.g. texts about medicine, law, agriculture, finance, marketing. In my case, the specializations come from the professional experience in software houses and the financial industry. I also keep learning, reading publications and participating in webinars or online courses in my specializations. Just like doctors, lawyers or engineers, specialized translators have an in-depth knowledge of the concepts, terminology, and specificities of their field.

3. When will it be ready?

Typically, translators translate between 2000 and 3000 words a day. I would approach with caution working with anyone who promises you tens of thousands of words per day. It is likely that they will just put your text through a machine translation engine and do a bit of editing (or not). In that case you are wasting your money.

However, the turnaround and deadline are not synonymous. Like for any professional mentioned above, your deadline will depend on translator’s availability, the type of document and area of specialization, availability of any reference materials.

4. How much does it cost?

Translation rates depend on a variety of factors: the type of document you need translated, the area of specialization, the source and target languages, the urgency, the volume.

Rates are often calculated per word, but some translations are charged per hour because of the extra work they involve, e.g. layout work for a non-editable PDF or extensive linguistic and SEO research for marketing texts.

(Imagine translating the message behind “Just Do It” – it is more than just 3 words!!)

Proofreading work is usually charged per hour.

Some translators charge a minimum rate, others will offer you a more comprehensive solution that can include translation, proofreading, and testing. It is always best to ask for a free quote, which they will be happy to offer.

Would you commission building a house and ask for a terrace and a pool half-way through the project? Communicate the scope of work and request any auxiliary services at the start. If you don’t, you might end up stuck with an unfinished project, or worse, a set of unbudgeted charges.

 

In addition, if you require a service in marketing or digital branding, you must have a discussion about your brand’s tone and voice, your audience and its demographics, your product’s features and benefits.

 

Do you need professional translation for your document, website or application into Polish or French?

You can order my services or ask for a free quote here: https://edittranslations.com/contact/.

 

7 tips for translating a website

Are you thinking about translating your website, especially after the Covid-19 crisis has left our in-person life and business so constrained?  Whether you want to respond to this new reality, or simply expand onto international markets, you know that a multilingual presence is essential.  (Just in case you need any convincing, you can read about why it is a good idea in my blog post here.)

Before you even start looking for a translation service provider, you need to know your target market.

Using tools such as Google Analytics will help you determine which countries and languages will bring you the most sales. For a more comprehensive list of tips on identifying markets and the best product-market fit I recommend this article by Nataly Kelly, VP Localisation at Hubspot, where she says:

“You want to ideally choose markets where you’ll have a high degree of success. This means you want countries where you can achieve product-market fit — but ideally, without having to make too many significant adjustments to your product or your go-to-market strategy.”

Finally, you are ready to embark on the website translation journey and you want to entrust your content to a professional linguist. Now what?

Here are 7 practical tips to help you manage this process:

1. What are you asking your translator to do? To translate or to localise? Translation will transfer the meaning of your content into another language. But what is localisation? The term “localisation” actually comes from the term “locale”, which refers to the combination of the language a user speaks and the place they are from. So, in other words, it is making something appropriate for a given locale. It deals with the technical needs of each locale such as postal addresses, currency, pricing, units of measurement. It also means culturally adapting the text making it appropriate for the target audience. For example, if your website is in American or British English, your CTA (call-to-action) will probably be too firm and compelling in France, where a subtler and softer message is necessary.

2. What technical process will we be using?

  • Word or Excel files. If you create all of the new content for the website in MS Word, this will mean a rather simple process for the translator: they will process the files in Word or in their CAT (computer-aided translation) tool for consistency purposes and send them back in the same format. However (a BIG “however”), this means that your web design team or firm will have to insert all of the bilingual content into your page templates. Then your QA staff will have to proofread every single source page, and the translator can proofread every single target language page. This is laborious and time-consuming. Do not run the risk of having the words translated, but not the overall message. Make sure that you share the context with the translator.
7 tips for translating a website - use a plugin such as TranslatePress
  • Translating directly in a CMS. If the website is in WordPress or Squarespace, it can be helpful to use a plugin like TranslatePress (picture above) or WPML. The translator can work in the front end of the website and no one has to paste text. We can immediately see how the text fits on the page. The French language is longer than English so this method can quickly flag any placement or font and box size issues. This method saves time but can also add another technical layer to the project, so you need to be comfortable with it.
7-tips-for-translating-a-website-text-size-matters
how the same text box length can vary in different languages
  • Complex releases. If you want to run your website in several languages and manage multiple updates, a proper localisation management tool will be a worthy investment (such as Lokalise or Phrase). Not only you can see and edit your translated text in real time, directly in the front-end, but without it, managing the translation workflows in spreadsheets would be a logistical nightmare.

3. Who will be doing the proofreading and QA? Is it the translator or do you have linguistic resources to do this at your end? If it is the translator, ask for the cost upfront. It may be a separate item on their quote, or it may be built in their hourly rate (check that). The entire site must be proofread before it goes live. QA is vital: if you think that having a typo in a document is bad, how embarrassing will it be if there are typos on your website for the whole world to see! Your top-notch products will not look professional. And do not think that only linguists laugh at language mistakes. The media is full of photos and articles, written by clients about embarrassing goofs in museums, famous tourist attractions or on e-commerce sites.

4. Do you have a style guide or a glossary? It is important that the new language version carries the same appeal and style (e.g. friendly and relaxed or formal and professional). When you think about formality, you also think about inclusiveness. Consider your audience’s age, background and business environments. Deciding between the formal and informal “you” in certain languages — “vous” in French, “du” in German or “tú” in Spanish — will allow you to convey an inclusive, clear, and courteous style. If a translator is part of a localisation team (e.g. working with QA staff on your site), sharing these guidelines and technical terms with everyone involved will help to keep the terminology consistent. And if you make further updates, next time these resources will make the process faster and more accurate (not to mention the eternal gratitude from your chosen translator😊).

5. What about images? They say a picture can be worth a thousand words. And it is true! In the era of digital marketing, imagery plays a part so important that it would be your loss to ignore it. Make sure all images have appropriate translations and that they have been adapted to fit the local culture because they may carry different meanings. Additionally, links, headers, and titles should not break when users switch between languages, so including this in your QA process is vital.

6. What will happen after? So, you have a new, shiny webpage in Spanish, French or Polish. Congratulations! Your multilingual website is likely (let’s hope!) to generate inquiries from people reading the site in languages other than the original. What now? How will you follow up on inquiries in other languages? If you sell physical products, maybe this isn’t much of a consideration. A multilingual ordering interface will simply allow clients to place orders in their language that are then fulfilled like any other order. Even then, you may get questions from your potential clients about the technical details or features of your products. But what if your business is a hotel, a spa or a ski resort? What happens when you start getting reservation inquiries in French? Will the French website create a demand for French-speaking staff, and can you fill that demand? This is where continuous support and relationship with a freelance translator might help.

7. You received some quotes, but in the end you don’t think you can afford a translator. Before you decide to quit and go with a free tool, consider some other options:

  • Do you really need to translate everything? Maybe just a landing page will suffice.
  • Can you prioritise the content to be translated?
  • Can you send the content in chunks for translation rather than wait until the entire catalogue of products or online guides is available?

Please consider this before you go with a machine solution: Language complexity can only be handled by a human.

WordPress like TranslatePress will offer to integrate with automatic tools such as Google Translate and DeepL. Whilst no human translator can compete with the machine speed, beware. Translation is not only about changing the words. It is about the overall message. Local idioms and cultural references, based on cultural and socio-economic factors, are equally important. And so far, in spite of huge progress in NMT (Neural Machine Translation), only humans can do this. For example, if your website copy contains slogans that rely upon a cultural reference, joke, or idiom in your native language, the translator will have to find an image in their native culture which has a similar effect. References to sports are notoriously difficult: no one understands baseball outside the US or cricket outside the UK and the Commonwealth countries. The meaning will be totally lost unless a reliable localisation (adaptation to the target culture) is applied. Here is an example of a successful cultural adaptation: Slack communication tool shows friendly messages when you’ve read everything in your “All Unread” section. In English, this message appears: You’re all caught up. Here’s a pony. This copy works great in English but would not really make sense in Spanish or French. The Spanish copy says: Has leído todo. Aquí tienes un caramelo de regalo. (Literally: “you have read everything, here is a free sweet”.) To successfully localise, you adapt your voice to other cultures. This cultural adaptation cannot be done by even the most advanced NMT engine.

These are just some tips that you need to consider when you decide to have your website translated.  

Want to know more? Have questions?

Drop me a line or post your comment below.

Old translator – young entrepreneur, or how I launched my independent translation business

Happy first birthday to edIT Translations!

A year ago, I took the plunge, took French leave 😉, jumped ship [insert your favourite image here] and became an independent business owner in translation, proofreading, editing and language coaching services. And what a journey it has been!

This time last year I was leaving a permanent job, which I was quite good at, but which also sucked all the energy and creativity out of me. Although my first freelance translation adventure had started back in 1994, I had to interrupt it and move to the UK for personal reasons. Luckily, I continued to use my language skills in my IT and educational roles. My inhouse roles included translation, software localisation, or proofreading of millions of words. Now back in France I run my own business again.

If, like me, you are a self-driven, self-motivated hustler, or you are frustrated with working for someone else, here are some thoughts on how I prepared and what I have learned before I launched my business and in the first year of its existence.

Stage 1: the side-hustle

Whilst still employed full-time, I spent every free moment at weekends or holidays to work on my future business and this is what I learned:

edITTranslations-branding-exercise
edITTranslations-branding-brainstoriming-exercise
  1. Branding and specialisation. You cannot be a jack of all trades. In order to be really professional, you need to narrow down what you know about and what you like and read, read, read. Although in my career I learned a lot about say, financial software and banking regulations or compliance issues, my inbox fills up every day with Fintech, EdTech, and business news and subscriptions. Branding involved spending several weekends brainstorming themes and keywords derived from the areas of knowledge, priorities, things I like doing. Then I converted them into the definition of who I am and what I have to offer. 
  2. Learning CAT tools. Since I left the corridors of the ITIRI in 1994 (Institut de Traducteurs, d’Interprètes et des Relations Internationales de l’Université de Strasbourg), with the master’s degree in my pocket, the world of translation has changed enormously. One of the biggest changes is the widespread use of Computer-Aided Software, especially if you want to work with agencies. I invested time to learn and money to purchase a licence of a CAT tool. Today this tool makes my translation deliverables faster, more consistent, more professional, and more accurate.
  3. Membership of community groups, essentially on social media. Translation can be a lonely profession. Luckily, modern social media are full of supportive groups and forums, where translators share their thoughts, tricks and tips, or even do business together. I feel I’m not alone.
  4. A ProZ profile. This was actually my first investment. I paid an annual fee to feature on the platform and noted names of agencies every time they posted a job on ProZ in my specialisation. The platform’s Blue Board is a particularly useful feature, worth paying the annual fee for. It provides practical information about payment and communication practices of clients offering jobs on the platform. The opinions about this platform vary hugely in the freelance community, but I can say that I found (and was found by) paying clients.
  5. Hire a good coach, especially if you have never run a business. Being good with words is one thing, but turning it into a profitable venture, selling and marketing your services is another. I felt I needed advice on this, and I don’t regret this investment a single day. As my mentor lives in California and helps a whole group of translator entrepreneurs, I feel part of a global family.

Yes, I have been a busy bee at this stage. One important thing to bear in mind about side-hustling: you cannot really fully commit to your clients and their needs if you have a full-time commitment elsewhere. At some point, you have to jump ship.

Stage 2: the launch

hustle
why you should hustle

A. There is no mystery here. Hustle. Hustle hard. In the first 9 months, I contacted more than 100 agencies to land 11 clients. Today 4 of them send me regular work and I could afford to say goodbye to one of them, as our ethics and price brackets were not aligned.

B. Develop productivity systems:

  • I have one spreadsheet to enter and follow up on prospects (my own alternative to a CRM tool like Pipedrive)
  • and another one to track revenue and expenses (much less fun, but hey, has to be done!)
  • Google Calendar or Remember the Milk – to maximise the time and tick off the to-do lists

C. A game-changer: be flexible and ready to accept work when others are enjoying holidays (weekends or Christmas). I started to be really busy in January 2020!

D. If you can afford, invest in a website, and update it regularly. Direct client enquiries come into my info@edittranslations.com mailbox on the website.

E. Be present on social media and be consistent with it. I tripled my LinkedIn network this year by interacting with other people and sharing my thoughts on the industry. It takes time to be read and visible, though, so patience and resilience are key!

F. Continue to learn. CPD has a reserved place in my planning and budget. Over the course of last year, I attended several webinars, masterminds, and courses about a variety of topics, including marketing, sales and branding, business planning, SDL Trados Studio, Leveraging LinkedIn, SEO, software and website localisation.

What next?

I could never have imagined that I would celebrate this first business anniversary in a world of almost total lockdown, the epidemiological emergency state, and a looming economic crisis. But in spite of these challenges, I remain optimistic.

Here is why.

Recently I attended a very good online conference about the language industry by Smartcat.ai (you can see the videos of this event here: https://bit.ly/2yAjmY5). My most important takeaways were these:

  1. The world will rebound. Most economic models in our industry show a “Nike” kind of curve, that is a sharp contraction followed by a longer but steady rebound by 2024.
  2. Language Service Providers solve pretty complex problems, and this will not allow us to die anytime soon. No MT or AI can kill us, and by the way, the machine translation hype that every human translator was trembling about, is slowing down and its perceived benefits have plateaued (Renato Beninatto, Nimzi, https://bit.ly/3bjpnp6).
  3. Humanity has lived through worse, so keep a balanced mental approach. Most importantly, “make good lemonade”, because marketing is not everything (Martin Klinger, Language Transactions, https://bit.ly/2zmHD3R). If you provide quality in everything you do, then with time your reputation will follow, even if it means having to work harder and smarter to achieve the same results.

Do you want to share your journey, or do you have questions about any points in this article?

Feel free to reach out!

Does your translator ask questions?

Why should a good translation provider ask you questions? From very generic ones before the project starts, such as asking you about the purpose and audience of your content, to more technical ones, such as preferred terminology or style, questions are a sign of a professional approach. This is the equivalent of the gathering of requirements in business analysis speak.

Have you ever sent a file to translate and you felt that it disappeared in a big black hole? This is indeed a dangerous situation. This may mean that your translation provider is making assumptions.

“Yes, but”, I hear some say, “you are asking your clients to do your job for you.”

“Isn’t searching for information part and parcel of translators’ or translation project managers’ job?”

Absolutely yes.

If reference material exists and is easily available, translators should refrain from sending the client every single question that might come to mind. They should also read the WHOLE text you sent before asking about that ambiguous term on page 1.

But if your software is still WiP and it only exists in a demo version, a manual, a specification or access to that demo will provide invaluable insight to your internal terminology.

 The questions that your translator asks can reveal errors or inconsistencies in your source files, and consequently help improve these documents.

Questions can save you legal issues in the target market. For instance, a translator may ask you whether you considered including relevant allergen information when they adapt a marketing copy for your food product.

Dealing with questions can be time-consuming. It can be frustrating, especially if you are swamped with them every hour. A good translator will batch them for you and communicate regularly.

Pertinent questions, transferred to a qualified person in your organisation, answered willingly, are crucial for a good end result. This communication flow will ensure that everyone gets the right information without wasting time and can meet the expected quality level.

 What is your experience? Have you been frustrated by lack of communication or, on the contrary, lack of autonomy of your translation provider?

Fellow translators, what pertinent questions have made a real difference to your client and their project? Have you solved their pain points?

Too much “thank you” in France puts you in the position of inferiority

When I lived in the UK, I often heard a judgement about French businesses, restaurants or commerce that the customer service is rude and unhelpful.

It is true to say that phrases such as “I’m afraid we don’t…” or “I am really sorry, but” are not really part of the French language. The excessive use of sorry, please and thank-you is unnatural. We simply follow other codes to express the same tone and message. (Hint: try to start your conversation in a bar or a café in Paris with a “Bonjour” instead of “Excuse me” and see the difference.) There are actually business coaches in France who actively discourage salespeople from starting a pitch with a “thank you for receiving me today”, because, they argue, this puts them in a position of inferiority. And this is in a country where selling in just one meeting with a prospective client is notoriously difficult! You don’t want to look like you are asking a favour when you want to affirm yourself as a potential business partner. When you sell, you actually solve somebody’s problem, so who should thank whom in the end?

Here is what the French professionals say

For the past year, I have been teaching business English to many professionals in Normandy. They are all business owners or sales staff, with many years of successful careers in industry, retail or e-commerce under their belts. Some already work with international clients or suppliers, e.g. in Germany or Italy. They are all stunned when I show them British or American business writing or play telephone conversations. Their typical reaction is: “Why do I have to thank people at the start AND at the end of the letter (conversation)? I have already done it!”

Yep, you got it: helpful, but proud.

Less is more

So, do we not thank people for their business, or for queries or enquiries?

Yes, we do, but… whilst we would say it once, it’s not going to happen more than that in a phone call or a letter. In France, we serve customers for sure, but we do not grovel.

If you complain to a French company, do not expect a response starting with “Dear Mrs Dubois, thank you for your letter about your compensation claim”. A customer is being difficult? We respond to their query or complaint, but we do not thank them for being a pain in the backside.

Status vs. money

The priorities are somewhat different. In the so-called Anglo-Saxon countries, the customer is the king. Not so much in France. Status and dignity are more important than money. A professional you do business with (or a Parisian waiter, for that matter!) wants to be treated as an individual in an equal-playing field, not like a serf. Salespeople will not bend over backwards to you to get a sale.

High vs. low context culture

The French culture is also more “high context” than say, British or American. The meaning is more understated. We don’t tend to repeat information or summarise action points at the end of a business meeting. The cues in communication tend to be more implicit (the famous sous-entendus). If you repeat the same information or recap constantly, you may run a risk of offending your audience. They may think that you patronise them, or worse: that you don’t trust them.

The other meaning of “thank you”

If you have ever travelled around France, have you noticed how often in French we say “thank you” where an English speaker would say “please”?  It makes an instruction sound more assertive. So, where an English sign would say “Please do not park here”, in French it will say “Merci de ne pas stationner”. The same rule applies in business writing. An English email would say: “Please confirm your availability.” In French, we thank instead: “Merci de confirmer”. “Thank you” is an assertive “please”

(Here comes a side note, but I can’t help it: You can see in France poor, but alas frequent translations like this one: “Thank you for not parking here”. I have seen many of these in Normandy and even in a well-known museum in Paris😮. It is high time that tourist boards or local authorities stopped using machine translation for tourist information, but that is another topic altogether. Rant over.)

Too much “thank you” in France puts you in the position of inferiority. How not to translate the affirmative "merci" into English or Spanish.

Working in multicultural contexts

I must say that even after 22 years of living in an English-speaking country I have remained French in many ways. My translation business coach, Jenae Spry, invariably starts every webinar or Q&A session with: “Thank you guys so much for hanging out with me, I know you guys are so busy”. And every time I cannot help thinking: “Why are you thanking me again? I am paying you for this service, so of course, I am tuning in!” 😊

Straightaway though, my little culture-awareness voice answers: “Yes, but she is American, and this is the way she manages business communication with her clients. She sells me a coaching service and she thanks me for the business”.

If like me, you like the topic of cultural differences, I highly recommend the fabulous book by Erin Meyer: “The Culture Map” ( https://www.erinmeyer.com/book ). That map is very complex, but the most important lesson I have learned from her book is this: try to put yourself in other people’s shoes and understand their perspective. What may seem rude or cold in one culture may be a sign of respect and self-respect in the other.

Advances in technology bring people closer

On the International Translation Day, 30 September, I read the recent ProZ report by Henry Dotterer and Jared Tabor about the changing face of our industry and the human response to technological innovation. (https://www.proz.com/industry-report/2019_human_response). According to the authors of this report, the translation industry changes can be categorised into three areas: AutomationIntimacy and Scale.

 

Automation includes technological changes such as translation management systems, AI and machine translation.

 

By Scale we mean the ever-increasing size of LSPs, freelance databases, broader quality spectrum and the sheer amount of source content. It is worth noting that the increase in scale favours specialisation, a trend that most translators embrace.

 

The one I find most interesting is Intimacy. In this automated and machine-embracing world “many clients are leaning towards direct contact with freelancers and knowing who is translating their content” in the interest of quality.

 

A recent example comes from the hotel guest acquisition platform Siteminder. Their Head of Localization, Matthias Borngrebe, says that he works with a pool of 15 translators and copywriters. Asked to describe their outsourcing approach, Borngrebe said that they “don’t work much with ‘anonymous’ translators from agencies. Working directly with freelance translators makes it easier for us to ensure quality.”

 

Freelancers are being called on to understand the clients and markets they are serving more intimately. As this intimacy increases, those who cultivate soft skills and who are business savvy are the ones who will come out ahead. For many freelancers, work with direct clients can prove both (mutually) satisfying and economically attractive.

 

It seems that advances in technology actually bring people closer and make us want to develop a closer relationship.

 

Is this your experience as well?